Obama’s Retreat to Neocon Strategies

After signaling a willingness last year to undertake serious negotiations on Iran and Syria, President Obama appears to have slid back into the default U.S. position of “tough-guy-ism.” Obama’s retreat to that neocon-favored posture could bring chaos to the Mideast, warns Adil E. Shamoo.

By Adil E. Shamoo

With Syria and Iran, President Barack Obama faces getting mired in two wars that could set the entire Middle East aflame, and perhaps the rest of the Islamic world, too.

Such an outcome would be in part due to Mr. Obama’s Middle Eastern policy, and the willingness of the current U.S. Congress to support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aggressive posture toward Iran. The lobbying effort in the U.S. by hard-line, pro-Israel interests is a pivotal factor here we cannot ignore.

President Barack Obama stands with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the official arrival ceremony in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In his first presidential visit to Israel last week, Mr. Obama gave every assurance to its citizens that the United States will stand by Israel. Fair enough, but which Israel? Since Mr. Obama became president, Israeli settlers on the West Bank increased from 500,000 to 560,000.

Israel is creating new political realities on the ground those voting settlers will never leave their homes. Can Mr. Obama guarantee that if peace negotiations limp along for another decade, or two, the number of settlers won’t reach a million? Let us be frank, Netanyahu and his supporters have used the negotiations to create more settlements while Palestinians are increasingly reduced to living in tiny, non-state enclaves on the West Bank, under the tutelage of Israel.

Simply put, after four decades of negotiations, Palestine (as a viable political entity) is no longer feasible.

Consider that Mr. Obama was not invited to address the Knesset (Parliament) perchance he might be booed by Israeli legislators. In 2011, Mr. Netanyahu received 29 standing ovations from members of our own Congress as he denounced the U.S. President’s Middle East peace initiative. Mr. Obama instead spoke to an audience of 2,000 young Israelis in Jerusalem.

While reports point out that attendees were handpicked to ensure maximum audience support, he should know that the broader Israeli youth do not favor a two-state solution, nor do they believe in equal rights for Palestinians. According to a 2010 survey by the Jewish organization B’nai B’rith, only 40 percent of Israelis ages 18 to 24 favored a Palestinian state. Moreover, it will take several decades for these young Israelis to have any real influence on the Israeli leadership.

The fact is, that with the help of U.S. lobbyists and the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, Mr. Netanyahu outsmarted Mr. Obama by changing the conversation three years ago from furthering peace negotiations with the Palestinians to setting red lines on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Obama dutifully changed his own policy from containment to preventing Iran from ever having nuclear weapons based upon these arbitrary red lines. In last week’s visit to Israel, Obama emphasized that if Iran does not comply with U.S and Israeli demands, then all options are on the table (read: a military strike against Iranians nuclear facilities).

Never mind that Israel for decades has maintained over 200 nuclear bombs, and, scholars generally agree, has contemplated using them. Iran, for its own part, signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, while Israel never did.

Furthermore, America and Israel are becoming isolated from the world community due to their policies, which are increasingly perceived to be unfair and inhumane where the Palestinians are concerned. This isolation was demonstrated last year in the United Nations General Assembly’s vote for the Palestinian right to non-voting member status at the U.N. With all the U.S. allies around the world, the U.S marshaled only seven out of 190 members to vote against granting the Palestinians this status.

Indications are that Mr. Obama does not desire sending troops overseas if wars in Iran and Syria become a reality. Yet he seems convinced that drones and missiles might achieve our national security goals with less consequence. If it sounds familiar, it is because the same neoconservative voices were advising Washington politicians and saturating the media prior to Iraq invasion ten years ago.

Now, the war hawks are busy convincing the press and Washington’s agenda-setters that a humanitarian crisis in Syria demands our intervention. These same neoconservatives showed no such concern when the post-invasion killing in Iraq far exceeded the numbers in Syria. We call this selective morality.

If we get engaged in two new wars, hatred toward America will skyrocket among people of the Middle East and Islamic countries. The war will spread quickly from Syria and Iran to Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, and Egypt. The blow back to Western countries and especially to the U.S, will be immense. Let us hope that cooler heads in Congress and among Mr. Obama’s trusted advisers, will prevail.

Adil E. Shamoo is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, a senior analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, and the author of Equal Worth When Humanity Will Have Peace. He can be reached at [email protected].

3 comments for “Obama’s Retreat to Neocon Strategies

  1. Robert Harneis
    March 30, 2013 at 10:12

    “The rational necessity: what was it?”

    Answer: — Mid term congressional elections.

  2. mich
    March 30, 2013 at 02:10

    I don’t understand this horrifying, seemingly gratuitous change of tack by Obama. It’s sickening to see the President of the USA with his hand on his heart humiliating himself and his country in order to ingratiate himself with a state that has for sixty-five years intrigued to defeat any possibility of reconciliation with the population it dispossessed, which is now vigorously engaged in robbing the dispossessed of what little they still possess of value, the state which I am told created Hamas in one of its stunts to defeat honest secular negotiation and reconciliation. That’s right. Israel, according to a source I consider reliable, facilitated the rise of Hamas, and, wonderful success, now there is a fanatical religious army in the game that Israel can point to it as making negotiation with the Palestinians impossible.

    So, why this? Why do we now see the United States grovelling before Israel? Why does this president in his final term turn outright international criminal, an outright accomplice of evil? What has driven that? What can he gain by it? What can the United States, as distinct from certain predatory United States citizens, gain? Was Obama always like that, just slimier than G.W. Bush so people didn’t know what he was really like and thought him a decent man?

    If so, why did he unmask himself now? What in the heck is going on?

    Of course, the USA destroyed the secular democracy of Iran and replaced a constitutional monarchy with a despotic one, Kermit Roosevelt organizing the coup against Mossadeq. Just as the USA destroyed the secular democracy of Afghanistan by creating Islamic extremism for the purpose. And that’s just scratching a certain surface. So we know why Iran is an evil state, right?

    And so I guess Obama needed to lick Netanyhu’s arsehole in the natural order of things. Evil victorious, as ever. No other explanation needed.

    Please tell me I’m wrong, someone, that there are good reasons why Obama in his last term was compelled as a matter of necessity, as an act of decency, or on account of his hunger, to lick that part of the Netanyahu anatomy. The rational necessity: what was it?

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    March 28, 2013 at 13:09

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