NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, PALM BEACH POST
Thursday, January 9, 2016
If you’re going to engage in a foreign policy capitulation, might as well do it when everyone is getting tanked and otherwise occupied. Say, New Year’s Eve.
Here’s the story. In October, Iran test-fires a nuclear-capable ballistic missile in brazen violation of Security Council resolutions prohibiting such launches. President Obama does nothing. One month later, Iran does it again. The administration makes a few gestures at the UN. Then nothing. Then finally, on Dec. 30, the White House announces a few sanctions.
They are weak, aimed mostly at individuals and designed essentially for show. Amazingly, even that proves too much. By 10 p.m. that night, the administration caves. The White House sends out an email saying that sanctions are off — and the Iranian president orders the military to expedite the missile program.
Is there any red line left? First, the Syrian chemical weapons. Then the administration insistence that there would be no nuclear deal unless Iran accounted for its past nuclear activities. (It didn’t.) And unless Iran permitted inspection of its Parchin nuclear testing facility. (It was allowed self-inspection and declared itself clean.) And now, illegal ballistic missiles.
The premise of the nuclear deal was that it would constrain Iranian actions. It’s had precisely the opposite effect. It has deterred us from offering even the mildest pushback to any Iranian violations lest Iran walk away and leave Obama legacy-less.
Just two weeks ago, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards conducted live-fire exercises near the Strait of Hormuz. It gave nearby U.S. vessels exactly 23 seconds of warning. One rocket was launched 1,500 yards from the USS Harry S. Truman.
Obama’s response? None.
The Gulf Arabs — rich, weak and, since FDR, dependent on America for security — are bewildered. They’re still reeling from the nuclear deal, which Obama declared would be unaffected by Iranian misbehavior elsewhere. The result was to assure Tehran that it would pay no price for its aggression in Syria and Yemen, subversion in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and support for terrorism.
Obama seems not to understand that disconnecting the nuclear issue gave the mullahs license to hunt in the region.
(Here is where the great Krauthammer and I disagree. Obama knows exactly what he is doing and has been advising our enemies exactly what to do against us since the day he took office) jsk
This is even scarier because it is delusional. If anything, Obama’s openhanded appeasement has encouraged Iran’s regional adventurism and intense anti-Americanism.
For the Saudis, however, it’s not just blundering but betrayal. From the very beginning, they’ve seen Obama tilting toward Tehran as he fancies himself Nixon in China, turning Iran into a strategic partner in managing the Middle East.
The Saudis, sensing abandonment, are near panic. Hence the reckless execution of the firebrand Shiite insurrectionist, Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, that has brought the region to a boil. Iranians torched the Saudi Embassy. The Saudis led other Sunni states in breaking relations with Tehran.
The Saudis feel surrounded, and it’s not paranoia. To their north, Iran dominates a Shiite crescent stretching from Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean. To the Saudi south, Iran has been arming Yemen’s Houthi rebels since at least 2009.
The danger is rising. For years, Iran has been supporting anti-regime agitation among Saudi Arabia’s minority Shiites. The Persian Gulf is Iran’s ultimate prize. The fall of the House of Saud would make Iran the undisputed regional hegemon and an emerging global power.
For the United States, that would be the greatest geopolitical setback since China fell to communism in 1949. Yet Obama seems oblivious. Worse, he appears inert in the face of the three great challenges to the post-Cold War American order.
Iran is only the most glaring. China is challenging the status quo in the South China Sea, just last week landing its first aircraft on an artificial island hundreds of miles beyond the Chinese coast. We deny China’s claim and declare these to be international waters, yet last month we meekly apologized when a B-52 overflew one of the islands. We said it was inadvertent.
The world sees and takes note. As it does our response to the other great U.S. adversary — Russia. What’s happened to Obama’s vaunted “isolation” of Russia for its annexation of Crimea and assault on the post-Cold War European settlement? Gone. Evaporated. Kerry plays lapdog to Sergei Lavrov. Obama meets openly with Vladimir Putin in Turkey, then in Paris. And is now practically begging him to join our side in Syria.
There is no price for defying Pax Americana — not even trivial sanctions on Iranian missile-enablers. Our enemies know it. Our allies see it — and sense they’re on their own, and may not survive.
II America’s Year of Living Dangerously
In 2016, rogue states will take a hammer to the soft plaster of Obama’s resolve.
By BRET STEPHENS
Jan. 4, 2016
Two thousand sixteen will be the year of America living dangerously. Barack Obama will devote his last full year in office to shaping a liberal legacy, irrespective of real-world results. America’s enemies will see his last year as an opportunity to take what they can, while they can. America’s allies, or former allies, will do what they must.
And then Hillary Clinton will likely become president. Whether the Republican Party chooses to remain intact remains to be seen.
For aficionados of political delusion, it must have been fun to watch Mr. Obama rattle off his list of foreign-policy accomplishments at his year-end press conference last month. There was the Paris climate deal, the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the opening to Cuba—“steady, persistent work,” the president said, that was “paying off for the American people in big, tangible ways.”
Tangible means perceptible by touch. But Obama’s Paris climate accord is voluntary and unenforceable; the Pacific trade deal is unratified and unpopular, especially among Democrats; the opening to Cuba is “tangible” only if you enjoy taking your beach holiday in a dictatorship that, as my colleague Mary O’Grady has noted, made some 8,000 political arrests in 2015—that is, after it normalized relations with the U.S.
As for the nuclear agreement, it amounts, predictably, to another American hostage in the hands of Tehran. Iran conducted two ballistic-missile tests in the wake of the deal, both in violation of a legally binding U.N. Security Council resolution. When the administration murmured its intention to impose modest sanctions in response, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that the sanctions would violate the deal and ordered his defense ministry to accelerate its missile program.
“The White House on Wednesday morning sent a notification to Congress that the Treasury Department would announce at 10:30 a.m. new sanctions on nearly a dozen companies and individuals” linked to the Iranian missile program, the Journal’s Jay Solomon reported last week. “The White House sent a second email to congressional offices at 11:12 a.m. stating the sanctions announcement had been ‘delayed for a few hours.’ ”
As of this writing, the sanctions still haven’t been imposed. Forty-two minutes sets a Guinness record in diplomatic self-abasement.
In the week of the sanctions capitulation the Iranian navy test-fired unguided rockets within 1,500 yards of the aircraft carrier USS Truman as it was transiting the Strait of Hormuz. Riyadh executed a radical Shiite cleric and put an end to John Kerry’s fantasies of diplomatic settlement for Syria after it severed diplomatic ties with Tehran. China landed a plane on an artificial island built illegally in the South China Sea in an area claimed by Vietnam.
Each of these acts is an expression of contempt for Mr. Obama. Contempt is the father of lawlessness and the grandfather of violence. What happens when the next Iranian live-fire exercise lands a shell within 1,000 yards of a U.S. ship? Or 500?
Expect 2016 to be rich in such incidents and worse—the inevitable result of Mr. Obama’s deliberate abandonment of Pax Americana as the organizing principle in international relations. Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other allies will freelance foreign policies in ways over which we have little say, even as we are embroiled in the consequences.
Moscow, Beijing and Tehran will continue to take hammers to the soft plaster of U.S. resolve as they seek regional dominance. The nuclear deal will become a dead letter even as Mr. Obama insists on fulfilling our end of the bargain. China will continue to build islands while buying us off in the paper currency of climate agreements and other liberal hobbyhorses. Russia will seek to test and humiliate NATO.
And there will be mass-casualty terror attacks on the scale of Paris. If you’re reading this column on a major metropolitan commuter network, look up from your paper.
The U.S. has lived through dangerous years before—1968 and 1980 come to mind. Hindsight is often the great redeemer, but both years ended with the American people making sober political choices in the face of a deteriorating international position.
Will that happen again in 2016? Not if either of the two current presidential front-runners wins the office. Not if we think that the central metrics of foreign policy are the size of our carbon footprint or the height of our wall with Mexico. Not if the bipartisan tilt toward economic protectionism and quasi-isolationism becomes the new national dogma. Not if we suppose that turning our back on the world’s great convulsions (or bombing them till they glow) is the best way of escaping them.
In 1947 Democrat Harry Truman and Republican Arthur Vandenberg saved the Western world when they agreed that American prosperity at home depended on the security of our friends abroad. In 2016 we’ll learn if that saving consensus still holds. Buckle up.
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