by Daniel Greenfield
The easiest way to tell that Obama has run out of things to do in the Middle East is his desperate pivot to the peace process. The never-ending peace process, which is now on its fourth administration and its sixth prime minister, is the gift shop in the museum of the Middle East. It’s the place you stop by on the way to the exit because it’s convenient and everyone back home expects some souvenir peace t-shirts.
In 2013, the West Bank and Gaza are more irrelevant to events in the Middle East than ever before. Like toddlers left alone in their high chairs, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have spent the last year whining that no one is paying attention to them. And no one in the Arab world is paying attention to them because suddenly killing Shiites has become more of a priority than killing Jews.
If in the past Western diplomats could claim with a straight face that peace would stabilize the region, after the diplomats tore it apart with the Arab Spring that line ought to come with its own laugh track.
If Arafat’s corpse rose from the grave to dance the Hora and Netanyahu learned to shout, “Allahu Akbar,” no one in the region would even notice. The Syrians, Turks, Qataris, Saudis, Lebanese and Iraqis are too busy fighting in the misnamed Syrian Civil War to even pretend to care about a peace process that they never really cared about even back when they were pretending to care about it.
Now they aren’t even pretending.
Obama’s trip to Israel to jumpstart another miserable round of non-negotiations between an Israeli side that wants a deal and a Palestinian Authority side that wants an excuse not to make a deal because it wouldn’t survive a day after signing an agreement was another international demonstration of his cluelessness.
Secretary of State John Kerry’s fumbling attempts to play peacemaker in Israel while the rest of the region burns is proof that the administration he works for has no idea what to do about the Sunni-Shiite civil war tearing apart the Middle East.
Iran, like Syria, has been offered another feeble face-saving agreement after hollow threats of action that no one, including the Syrians or Iranians, actually believed. Kerry had to be saved from humiliating his country by the French. And it’s the President of France who headed to Jerusalem to address the Israeli parliament, a task that Obama dodged to push a peace speech to a selected student audience.
After its intervention in Mali, its push for action on Libya, Syria and now Iran; France is far more relevant in the Middle East than Obama.
France isn’t right, but it is decisive and its leaders understand that nuance is a game for fools. The cheese-eaters that devoted liberal turophiles like John Kerry once looked to as a counterweight to the Texas cowboy have once again become the leading Western practitioners of cowboy diplomacy.
While Obama was making empty boasts about Al Qaeda being on the road to defeat, the French were actually doing something about it by going into Mali. It was the French who stopped Kerry from giving a blank check to Iran’s nuclear program. Now France’s nerdy bespectacled president is being received with cheers in Jerusalem while vowing to stand up to Iran, even as Obama’s visit is a fading memory.
Right or wrong, France has an agenda for the Middle East, while America’s Nero is playing second fiddle to François. France is rising as a regional power, while Obama’s America has become a running joke.
America’s relationships in the Middle East are over. Egypt is turning back to the Russians, Turkey is looking to China and even the Saudis are sick and tired of dealing with a government that can’t make up its mind about anything bigger than a presidential banquet. Israel, which seems to be the only country whose leaders actually thought Obama would do something about Iran, is angry and disgusted.
And those were the four countries in the region that American influence depended on.
France, for better or worse, has picked a side in the Sunni-Shiite split. Obama not only won’t pick a side, he refuses to recognize that the split exists. Instead his Iranian negotiations were taking place in some alternate universe in which the goal was a settlement, rather than a balance of power.
There’s only one thing that is going to prevent the Middle East from going nuclear, in more than one sense of the word, and that’s an end to the Iranian nuclear program. The Saudis, Egyptians and other Sunni powers are not going to stop their own rush to the bomb for Kerry’s “24 Hours to a Nuke” deal with Iran. And the Israelis aren’t going to stop mapping bombing runs from Saudi airfields over it.
But that wasn’t something Kerry could deliver. Clinton’s sanctions didn’t stop North Korea from going nuclear. Obama’s sanctions weren’t going to stop Iran from doing the same thing.
Kerry’s nuke giveaway only demonstrated American irrelevance in the age of Obama. The deal would have accomplished nothing except to give Obama a distraction from the unraveling of his disastrous domestic policies. And so the French, in their new capacity as leaders of the free world, slapped down the master yachtsman and sent him back to dogpaddle in Massachusetts.
It was an embarrassing setback, or would have been if a single American newspaper had done anything except reprint talking points from the administration and its supporters praising the deal, but in the Middle East, it was the final blow to American prestige.
John Kerry had taken the already low bar set by Hillary “Reset Button to Benghazi” Clinton and found a way to limbo under it.
The Middle East is still tearing itself apart in a Sunni-Shiite war. It’s an Obamageddon unleashed by the Arab Spring which broke along explicitly religious lines in Syria and is taking the rest of the region with it. As the Sunni axis of Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt prepares to collide with the Shiite axis of Iran, Iraq and Syria, the man who helped unleash it all stands on the sidelines and scratches his head.
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