Middle East Mayhem: Where Are We Heading?

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) explained about his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress:

I had one goal. I had one goal.

And that goal was to make sure that the American people heard and the Congress heard about the serious threat that Iran poses not only to the Middle East, but for the rest of the world, including the United States. There’s nobody going to talk more clearly about this. The president doesn’t want to talk about it. He doesn’t want to talk about the threat of radical Islam and the fact that he has no strategy to deal with it. And when you begin to see all these leaks that have — that probably came out of the White House in terms of what the Iranian deal was starting to shape up to be, there’s a lot of concern in Congress on a bipartisan basis.

And I’m glad that he was here. And, frankly, the speech that he gave was the clearest speech I have heard in 25 years about the real threats that face our country.

He is right, certainly, and the notion that the rift was caused by the speech or by any other statement by the Israeli prime minister is silly. The rift has developed not only between the United States and Israel but also between the United States and our Arab allies because the president has pursued a strategy antithetical to their interests, and, frankly, one that is inexplicable from the standpoint of the United States and the West. He is seeking as his legacy a grand reconciliation with Iran, an evil regime bent on Israel’s destruction and bent on undermining our Sunni allies. How could there not be a rift?

Chris Wallace’s interview with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as President Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was revealing. Wallace asked what our grand strategy was right now:

FLYNN: Yes. So, Chris, let me just start by sort of stating two big points. One, where we are and then what do we do about it. I think where we are right now, we have almost a complete breakdown of order in the Middle East, a new Middle East is essentially struggling to be born.

The second thing is, we have Iran on the march. Iran is clearly on the march. As Jennifer Griffin’s commented highlights, both in Iraq also Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and other parts of the Middle East. We have a takeover of Islam by radical extremists. And I think this is very dangerous and it’s both Shiite and Sunni, we can’t forget that.

We also have, what I would call, a real sort of a pushback by the Sunni governments and their lack of trust and their lack of respect for the United States. And I think that at the end of the day, we have just this incredible policy confusion, never mind what our strategy is to execute that policy. . . . I hate to say it like this — but it’s almost a policy of willful ignorance. And to me, we have some major problems that we are dealing with and here we are talking to Iran about a nuclear deal with this almost complete breakdown of order in the Middle East. . . .

One of the things that we have to keep in mind on Iran is Iran is also a country with ballistic missiles, cyber capabilities. They are also still a state-sponsor of terrorism. And here we are dealing with them as though we’re going to give them a carte blanche. I know it’s going to be some number of years to have a nuclear capability — I mean, give me a break. . . .

WALLACE: Question, how close are we to a sectarian regional war in the Middle East?

FLYNN: Yes, we’re not close. We’re there.

I mean, this is what’s going on. And we have to face reality and not try to assume that we are going to be able to say something and hope that that’s going to be — that our policy will be carried out because we say something. We have to face the reality that we are in right now. And that reality is there is a sectarian war. We also have to acknowledge, Chris, that both Iran and these radical Islamists, these extremists, they — we have to acknowledge that they do not like our way of life. In fact, they have stated that they want to see the destruction of our way of life.

And I think that — I think that our leadership has to be really clear with the American public not to scare the American public but to inform them, to tell them exactly what it is that we are facing. I mean, that line and block chart you showed, that’s — if it was confusing to your audience, it’s probably confusing to many in the government. And that’s also part of the entire sort of policy and strategy that we are following.

It is a state of confusion. And like I said, I can’t say it any stronger, I almost feel like our policy is a policy of willful ignorance rather than facing the reality that we actually have right now.

If his analysis sounds like Netanyahu’s analysis, it should; there can be few coherent military and foreign policy minds who could approve of the direction our policies are taking. Flynn’s take is well reasoned: “We should stop right now and take a deep breath, step back and look at everything that’s going on instead of — it’s although we’re in this nuclear deal and we see some light at the end of the tunnel that’s going to walk us into a new level of nirvana — I don’t know how else to call it. And, in fact, that’s not — that light is not a light that’s going to expose us to some new world. That’s a train that’s heading in our direction. I will tell you that we have to make sure that we step back and understand the full breadth and scale and scope of what’s happening in the Middle East before we cut a deal with Iran. I think it’s dangerous.”

The “rift” will not be repaired and relations with our allies won’t be put on track until Obama gives up the fantasy of an Iran detente and ceases efforts to make a sweetheart deal with the mullahs. Rather than asking whether Obama and Netanyahu can get along, the better questions are:

How does the president, as Flynn points out, have as “much information as we’re going to need to be able to verify” whether Iran is cheating when he failed to perceive its territorial ambitions, failed to see the collapse of Yemen, and failed whether or not the Iranians are developing a nuclear weapon or not? We have not had a lot of luck in the past 30 years, if not in the past couple of years. How does the president expect Saudi Arabia and others to trust any deal he has brokered when he has regionally abandoned them to Iran’s aggression?

How does the president think Congress will accept a deal that leaves Iran in possession of thousands of centrifuges, does not allow for snap inspections and does not let inspectors know where past nuclear weapons development took place?

How does he expect a Democratic nominee in 2016 to stand by the agreement and get reelected?

Perhaps he does not expect any of this and this is all about signing a piece of paper, any paper, and then blaming Congress, Israel or the Arab League when it collapses. But he risks more region-wide conflicts, a loss of U.S. stature and the permanent alienation of his party from Israel.

Washington Post

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