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Not Smart at All

Whether we are talking about the heartfelt Libyan reunion for the convicted Lockerbie terrorist or the rebuff from Arab states on his peace-plan offensive, the results of Obama’s Middle East policy are coming in. Obama’s efforts have been spectacularly unsuccessful, and indeed counterproductive. Elliott Abrams offers Syria as another example of Obama’s failed approach:

Within the past week, Iraq has withdrawn its ambassador from Damascus and accused Syria of involvement in terrorist incidents in Baghdad. Iraqi TV has also aired a confession by an accused al Qaeda terrorist, a Saudi who claimed he had been trained in Syria—by the Asad regime’s intelligence services. Nor is this all. Syria continues to support Hezbollah’s blocking of the formation of a government in Lebanon, backing Hezbollah in its demand for a “blocking third” that would prevent any decisions Hezbollah opposes in any new Cabinet. The Palestinian terrorist groups remain headquartered in Damascus, and under no visible restraints. And on August 19, President Bashar Asad paid a visit to President Ahmadinejad in Tehran, to showcase his support of the latter during the current Iranian political crisis.

[. . .]

Watching the smiling Mitchell shaking hands with Asad, Syrians knew that any hope of American pressure for human rights progress was in vain as well. Neither Mitchell nor Obama has ever mentioned the subject publicly, and if Mitchell has asked Asad to release any particular political prisoners that fact has been kept secret. In fact the president of the Syrian Human Rights Organization, Muhanad Al-Hasani, was imprisoned on July 28, four weeks after Mitchell’s last visit.

But, as with Iran’s brutalization of its own people, Obama and his advisers would rather not make too much of the Syrians’ bad behavior. That would invite demands that we do something about the murder of Americans and Syria’s atrocious human-rights record.

At bottom, Obama’s Middle East policy is an exercise in passive-aggressiveness. We are snubbed by the Arabs, our soldiers are murdered by terrorists streaming in from Syria, and the Iranians ignore the international community in pursuit of nuclear weapons. So Obama screams at Israel for allowing Jews to build apartments in East Jerusalem and for evicting Palestinians who have violated their leases. Well, maybe the Israelis will listen to us, right? No one else does.

This is the upside-down “diplomacy” that the Obama administration now offers. “Smart” diplomacy? This is not even diplomacy—which involves the pursuit of one’s own interests. We have no discernible interests, apparently, or none we are willing to forcefully assert in the face of recalcitrant opponents. So instead we lambast our closest ally in the region and hope, by pummeling Israel, to garner greater credibility with Israel’s neighbors.

All we have accomplished, as Abrams said, is loss of our “moral clarity.” And along the way we have advertised our uncanny willingness to accept outrageous behavior by the region’s bad actors. The Iranian regime, among others, can only be delighted and emboldened.



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