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  • theresnobeachhere theresnobeachhere Oct 23, 2013 8:37 PM Flag

    Obama and the Middle East

    Never before has one person created such a train wreck so quickly. And this is just part of the mess.

    President Barack Obama meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah at the White House in 2010.

    The strange thing about the crackup in U.S.-Saudi relations is that it has been on the way for more than two years, like a slow-motion car wreck, but nobody in Riyadh or Washington has done anything decisive to avert it.
    The breach became dramatic over the past week. Last Friday, Saudi Arabia refused to take its seat on the United Nations Security Council, in what Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi intelligence chief, described as “a message for the U.S., not the U.N,” according to the Wall Street Journal. On Tuesday, Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former head of Saudi intelligence, voiced “a high level of disappointment in the U.S. government’s dealings” on Syria and the Palestinian issue, in an interview with Al-Monitor.
    What should worry the Obama administration is that Saudi concern about U.S. policy in the Middle East is shared by the four other traditional U.S. allies in the region: Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. They argue (mostly privately) that Obama has shredded U.S. influence by dumping President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, backing the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, opposing the coup that toppled Morsi, vacillating in its Syria policy, and now embarking on negotiations with Iran — all without consulting close Arab allies.
    Saudi King Abdullah privately voiced his frustration with U.S. policy in a lunch in Riyadh Monday with King Abdullah of Jordan and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the U.A.E., according to a knowledgeable Arab official. The Saudi monarch “is convinced the U.S. is unreliable,” this official said. “I don’t see a genuine desire to fix it” on either side, he added."

    Washington Post excerpt 10.23

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    • More unravelling. From the FT's

      "The Russian foreign and defence ministers will travel to Egypt next week on a visit seen as signalling a growing rapprochement between the two countries as the military-backed authorities in Cairo reach out for new allies and seek to lessen dependence on Washington.
      A Russian official spokesman said that Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, and Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, would discuss issues touching on “military and technical co-operation” – seen as a Russian euphemism for arms sales.
      Cairo’s relations with Washington, its primary aid donor and military supplier for four decades, have frayed since the coup in July that ousted the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected president."

    • Article in today's NYT provides some insight into the apparent course change in the Middle East. I would argue that while it may seem pragmatic to avoid all these conflicts, if the US disengages too much, we're likely to see crises erupt that will cross the threshold for our military involvement. Even energy independence at home, only buffers but doesn't eliminate this. I see so many parallels to the end of the European monarchies at the end of the 19th century and flowing through WWI, the peace of which was so poorly managed that it gave us WWII and ironically our current Middle East situation.

      "The president’s goal, said Ms. Rice, who discussed the review for the first time in an interview last week, is to avoid having events in the Middle East swallow his foreign policy agenda, as it had those of presidents before him.

      “We can’t just be consumed 24/7 by one region, important as it is,” she said, adding, “He thought it was a good time to step back and reassess, in a very critical and kind of no-holds-barred way, how we conceive the region.”

      Not only does the new approach have little in common with the “freedom agenda” of George W. Bush, but it is also a scaling back of the more expansive American role that Mr. Obama himself articulated two years ago, before the Arab Spring mutated into sectarian violence, extremism and brutal repression."

      • 1 Reply to theresnobeachhere
      • And more from today - McClatchy News

        "WASHINGTON — Whether miffed over spying revelations or feeling sold out by U.S. moves in the Middle East, some of the United States’ closest allies are so upset that the Obama administration has gone into damage-control mode to ensure the rifts don’t widen and threaten critical partnerships.

        The quarrels differ in their causes and degrees of seriousness. As a whole, however, they pose a new foreign policy headache for an administration whose overseas track record is seen in many quarters at home and abroad as reactive and lacking direction.

        In Europe and the Middle East, rifts that once would’ve been quietly smoothed over have exploded into headlines and public remonstrations."

    • roblancelot, you can love country and dislike the government policies and some of its people. you remember, when GW was in office, were you happy with government, probably no,t but i bet you still loved your country .

    • Elk, After reading through this thread I started thinking you were having a discussion with foreigners who hate America. Quoting and taking the side of foreign sources. Jumping with glee when our Country is insulted. This went way beyond constructive criticism. My question is, who are these people?

      • 1 Reply to roblancelot
      • Re: "Quoting and taking the side of foreign sources. Jumping with glee when our Country is insulted. This went way beyond constructive criticism. My question is, who are these people?"

        Rob, I sometimes post articles that I don't totally agree with and, at times, do so in hopes that some of the RWNJs will simply realize there are points of view other than those jammed down their throats in the maniacally restricted, close-minded and brain deadening Bubble of suffocation in which they dwell.

        On this thread, however, things I have said seem to me to have been primarily influenced by thoughtful and wise Americans who realize that Bush and Cheney inflicted damage on our own country only equalled or exceeded by that of the disastrous misadventure of the Vietnam war. It also does seem to me that any American who loves his country and has a vision of its great potential to lead world in beneficial ways should be highly concerned about its recent record of too many abject and tragic abuses of power.

        My country right or wrong is, after all, a sadly and tragically pathetic clarion call which trashes all but the most base and simple minded thoughts and emotions as with the many who wear flag lapels or post bumper stickers that allow them to feel like great patriots and heroes for doing little else but that, though accompanied with bumptious expressions flaunting their great patriotism and implied fearlessness being broadcast from very safe havens from which they rarely stray.

        Sentiment: Strong Buy

    • Dicey game of brinkmanship unfolding. Doubt that Israel will just sit back and heed this administrations counsel. Excerpt from today's US News.

      "Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month, according to a new estimate by one of the USA's top nuclear experts.

      The new assessment comes as the White House invited Senate staffers to a briefing on negotiations with Iran as it is trying to persuade Congress not to go ahead with a bill to stiffen sanctions against Iran.

      "Shortening breakout times have implications for any negotiation with Iran," stated the report by the Institute for Science and International Security. "An essential finding is that they are currently too short and shortening further."

      David Albright, president of the institute and a former inspector for the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, said the estimate means that Iran would have to eliminate more than half of its 19,000 centrifuges to extend the time it would take to build a bomb to six months.

      The Obama administration has said Iran is probably a year away from having enough enriched uranium to make a bomb. Requests for comment from the National Security Council and the State Department were not answered."

    • Similar article in the NYT's Sorry elk but the experts seem to be disagreeing with you.

      “The current charade of international control over Bashar’s chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious, and designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down but also to help Assad to butcher his people,” said Prince Turki, a member of the Saudi royal family and a former director of Saudi intelligence.

      Some Middle East experts said that the unease over American policy went beyond the details of the United States’ position on Syria or a potential nuclear deal with Iran. It is also fueled, they say, by the perception that a bedrock principle of the Obama administration’s policy is the desire to avoid diplomatic and especially military confrontations in the Middle East.

      “There is a lot of confusion and lack of clarity amongst U.S. allies in the Middle East regarding Washington’s true intentions and ultimate objectives,” said Robert M. Danin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who was a State Department official on Middle East issues during both Democratic and Republican administrations. “There is also widespread unease throughout the Middle East, shared by many U.S. allies, that the United States’ primary objectives when it comes to Iran, Egypt or Syria are to avoid serious confrontation.”

    • Seriously Beach.....defending or giving credence to the house of Saud? As far as a train wreck is concerned, I'd point you to Iraq and Afghanistan.....and our Arab "allies" aren't allies at know this

      • 2 Replies to notthatflop
      • Flop, then I suppose you support Obama's position of support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood? Really? The House of Saud is acting out of concern for its security. We should do the same but sometimes I wonder if we have our priorities straight. To be perfectly honest and blunt, I do not trust this administration/s foreign policy (among other things.)

      • Flop, it's a tough neighborhood. Ally doesn't necessarily mean friend it just means useful. We find Egypt useful for a number of reasons even though we find deplorable how they treat their citizens. Same with the Saudis' they are an important buffer against Iran and Syria even though they support Al Qaeda on some level. Iraq is a perfect example, there was a time when we found them useful. Afghanistan is getting everything that they deserve.

        The point of The Post article is that we've ticked off our long term useful friends and have them questioning our relationship

    • Add Mexico and France to those who dont trust this administration because of NSA