President Obama’s handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro and his “selfie” photograph with the Danish prime minister dominated the diplomatic headlines emerging from Nelson Mandela’s memorial service last week. It gets worse, however. The Polisario Front—an Algeria- and Cuba-sponsored, Cold War relic movement which claims to be fighting for independence in the Western Sahara but is better known for its authoritarian leadership and massive human-rights abuses against its own members—was represented in Soweto by its leader, Mohamed Abdulaziz.
Abdulaziz approached Obama for a photo and, if the photo is to be believed, Obama obliged. How embarrassing: While the Polisario Front is not formally designated a terrorist group by the U.S. Treasury Department, it is by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and many outside groups.
Perhaps Obama didn’t know with whom he was posing: The president is asked for dozens pf photos at every appearance he makes. But security was tight at the South African ceremonies, and dignitaries were sequestered in their own section. When Abdulaziz ambled up to Obama, the president and his handlers knew it wasn’t the South African equivalent of “Joe the Plumber.” So what to make of the photo? Let us hope that Obama didn’t know with whom he was posing, but the president’s recent antics with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Castro suggest that Obama maintains no moral threshold to his relationships. Quite the contrary, Obama and his aides increasingly embrace radical chic attitudes toward the world’s leftists and revolutionaries. But, if Obama is given the benefit of the doubt, then how incompetent his aides must be to allow leaders whom they cannot identify or do not know to take a photo which a radical or terrorist group can use to imply endorsement.