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HewarBy Guest Writer Nehad Ismail.

In 2009, President Obama’s eloquent and idealistic speech to the Arab world at Cairo University elevated expectations for quick
action with clear and principled American leadership. Almost seven years later, to the disappointment of many, the Obama administrations’ Middle East strategy has proven to be short-sighted, ambiguous, incoherent and contradictory.

In the Middle East and even in Europe Obama is perceived as a weak and dithering president. Writing in the Daily Telegraph recently Charles Krauthammer listed some of the most flagrant failures. “In October, Iran test-fires a nuclear capable ballistic missile in violation of Security Council resolutions. Obama does nothing.”
Then on Dec. 30, the White House announces a few sanctions. Is there any red line left? Asks Krauthammer.

The administration insisted that there would be no nuclear deal unless Iran accounted for its past nuclear activities. (It didn’t.) It said Iran must allow inspection of its

USS Harry Truman

USS Harry Truman

Parchin nuclear testing facility. (It was allowed self-inspection and declared itself clean.)

Three weeks ago, the 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.

Failure in Iraq:
In his 2011 speech at Fort Bragg Obama said the US would leave behind “a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.”

Events since the Iraqi withdrawal proved Obama wrong. Iraq has witnessed sectarian violence, suicide-bombs and mass murder. Ex-Prime Minister Maliki was a disaster in the making, a corrupt bully who implemented divisive policies at the behest of Iran, whose sectarianism backfired dramatically in 2014 when the Iraqi military disintegrated as ISIS attacked Mosul. Obama failed to stand up to Maliki. Iran removed him and replaced him with Haider al-Abadi. Obama failed.

On Syria:
Obama’s weakness was starkly reflected in his refusal to take a tough stance against the Assad regime which is Iran’s ally and client. According to Washington sources Obama was afraid action against the Syrian regime would alienate Iran and derail the nuclear talks.

Obama was determined to let Syria’s brutal dictator off the hook. Assad has been murdering, barrel-bombing, gassing and maiming the Syrian people since the eruptions of peaceful protests in 2011. Whilst Obama turns a blind eye, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias are providing military support to the Syrian regime.

assadBack in August 2011, the Washington Post reported that President Obama for the first time explicitly called on President Assad to step down, a symbolically significant step intended to ratchet up pressure. He said “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” Obama has failed to follow up his threats.

Four years ago nobody had heard of the Al Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front. Before August 2013 few had heard of ISIS. This is not the fault of the Syrian people or the Free Syrian Army, but primarily the fault of the divided and ineffective UN Security Council, the indifference of the international community, and a weak, dithering American president.

Assad seems to be winning and the White House’s claims of success on the chemical weapons front are contradicted by Secretary Kerry’s acknowledgment, in mid-October 2015, that Assad’s government recently used chlorine gas several times.

On Iran:
The Iran nuclear agreement, finally reached in July last year between and Iran and the great powers, was hailed by the administration as a landmark deal making the world a safer place. The deal is supposed to allow U.N. inspectors to press for visits to Iran’s military sites. The IAEA suspected that a decade ago Iran may have carried out explosives tests at Parchin that could be relevant to the development of nuclear weapons capability.

Many analysts believe Iran was the winner. The US negotiating team had been the weakest link giving away more and more concessions whilst the Iranian team remained firm. The Iranians were aware that both President Obama and John Kerry were desperate to sign. In June 2015 news leaked that Obama had written letters to Iranian President Rouhani virtually begging him to sign a deal.

The Iranian leaders celebrated by announcing that the world super powers had acknowledged Iran’s right to become a nuclear power. Obama’s pro-Iran advisors told him that such rhetoric was for local consumption.

Iran got virtually everything that it asked for in return for ostensibly slowing down or deferring portions of its nuclear weapons program for the next decade.
It made no commitment to end its support or use of non-state proxy actors to destabilize its neighbours, or to curb attempts to project power into its periphery. Moreover, the idea that the deal would set the stage for a general rapprochement with the United States was given short shrift when Tehran, in cooperation with Russia, increased its support of the Assad regime and committed additional troops to fight on behalf of the Syrian government.

In the meantime, America’s allies in the Gulf have interpreted U.S acquiescence to a nuclear armed Iran as a de facto acceptance of growing Iranian hegemony in the Middle East in general and the Gulf in particular.

Obama’s state of the Union speech this week sounded hollow. Lots of words and no substance. He offered nothing new.

Nehad Ismail


15 Comments on "Obama’s Legacy Of Mid East Failure"

  1. None of us can deny that the current situation in the Middle East is a mess however it would be unfair to place all of the blame at the feet of President Obama. Most of the problems go back a hundred years or so to the start of World War I however it can be argued that things started to go wrong hundreds of years before that when Europe launched the first crusade.

    Does the USA NEED a Middle East policy? The Western powers have been messing around in the Middle East and drawing straight lines on maps for a hundred years or so and the result is decades of war and conflict. What I would like to see are Western leaders who are brave enough to walk away from the whole mess, no more backing Israel, no more arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the other states, no more attempts at political influence and just leave the Middle East nations to govern and support themselves.

    • If they walk away and Saudi and Kuwait collapse into anarchy, and there’s a Gulf War with Iran, how do you switch you lights on and drive to work?


    • mahatmacoatmabag | 15th January 2016 at 4:06 pm | Reply

      “What I would like to see are Western leaders who are brave enough to walk away from the whole mess, no more backing Israel” I have news for you Peter no current Western leaders back Israel, certainly not Irans new best friend Obama & not only do they hate Israel ( yes I use the word hate because its true ) they hate their own countries & people otherwise they would have not inflicted on them the consequences of unregulated illegal migration by not stopping Iran & Syrias genocidal actions which are causing millions to flee to Europe to avoid the extermination of Sunni Iraqi & Syrian communities , of not stopping ISIS, AQ, Al Nusra, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Hamas, the PLO, Islamic Jihad, the Taliban and all the other Muslim terror groups in the Mid-East, North & Central Africa, the rest of Asia which are now expanding into Europe & the USA with one terror atrocity after the other, but what the heck Peter as you pointed out the solution is not to back Israel, which they don’t, since they made a deal with Iran guaranteeing it will continue destabilising the Mid-East with open warfare & produce a nuclear armed ICBM missile within a decade to attack the West with, that being after it has nuked Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt & the Gulf States. But as you made it the central point of your post – its all Israels fault, well Peter you are wrong, its not Israels fault, its Irans, Assads, the Sunni terror groups and above all else the moral failure of weak Western leaders like Obama & those of the EU and their failed ideological and economic policies which have brought the world closer to world war 3

      • You may have valid points but your piece is so badly written that I gave up half way through. Have you never used commas, full stops or paragraphs?

        • mahatmacoatmabag | 14th March 2016 at 6:02 pm | Reply

          I wrote the post on the 15th of January, your comment today is somewhat late. This is a website where adult readers post comments not hand in their homework to be marked by the teacher for punctuation & grammar. Since you failed to read my post in its entirety & instead sought only to criticise my grammar I can only conclude that you have no serious interest in the subject matter & have no valid points of your own to make on Nehad’s well written article about Obama’s legacy of Mid-East failure.

  2. The current situation is far worse than anyone seems to realise. The Saudi’s have committed equally dire economic warfare – all war is nominally essentially economic – against multiple parties. They commit religious asyncronous war against the west with islamist low and mid level money/funding/propaganda and infiltration (wahhabism), they are deeply mired in the war in Syria and in Yemen and the ecomonic war against the rest of the world – but specifically the US energy industry/sector.

    The US had reached a point where its growing fracking and other energy sources has made it – or taken it on a path towards semi-self sufficiant. This and what might be called the green energy effort. The Saudis – who are pumping oil like their lives depend on it – and maybe they do… are able from what I recollect to pump at cost of @ $13 per barrel. In pumping every gallon they can, they are not just committed to an act of eco war against the world – but they are also pumping their only natural resource at a lower cost and for less return than any sane people would.

    The result right now is that Saudi oil production has meant there is about 102% of what is needed by the world being pumped. And this 2% month on month is glutting the market – but more to the point, its driving out small or or now ineffeciant producers. But know the price of this. Its not a tap. When you close down rigs, and machinery, and you cut the banks willingness to make investment in the sector, it takes many months to see the implication. Once gone, these men, rigs, machines and finance isn’t just coming back online like a switch.

    The ability to self supply and also to move the world to green energy is being destroyed right now directly by the Saudi’s They are destroying other suppliers, and creating a monopolistic monster down the line, and its economic war.

    Its not just affecting the US. Its annihilating oil industry in places like Venezuala, Russia, Nigeria. Anyone today who cannot profitably pump oil at $30 with profit margin is dying. And so are the workforces, the suppliers, the industries that supplier the industries. If it persists there may be no brent oil.

    People think that the price of their car gas tank today is a plus. It is. But the price we will all pay for that is going to strike incredibly hard. When in 2017/2018, you find again that oil production doesn’t match whats required, what happens as the cost bites – is business costs will rise at a spectacular level. Moving or making anything will have knock on costings.

    And that should terrify everyone – because we’re smack back in a totally flat economy that has not even flicked an eyelid in terms of growth at a time when oil dropped 70% of its price – which should have become a huge economic driver and source of explosive growth.

    So, here I guess is my question of the Obama presidency. Why your inaction against the Saudi’s and their clear economic war against a large part of your nations energy and industrial base have you done nothing. Squat. Ziltch.

    None of what I say here is in any way counter to the points above about other states. I just think that out of the problems – this is the core of what will economically blow in as a consequence in the not so different future. This is a full blow crisis with effects that will bite hard post this presidents office.

  3. Thanks Peter. I see your point, but I agree with Tim simply walking away is not the answer. Also we must remember that the fall-out of the conflict has reached Europe and the US in the shape of Al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorists who threaten us all.

  4. Commenting on AdmVorlon’s detailed comment. You make persuasive points AdmVorlon about Saudi Arabia refusing to cut oil production. Just one point: Saudi Arabia along with other members of OPEC account for 30% of world oil production. OPEC of which Saudi Arabia is a leading member produces some 32 million barrels per day at most. The entire world production according to the Paris-based IEA (International Energy Agency) produces some 92 million barrels per day. So why don’t we ask the producers of the 60M barrel per day (Russia, USA, Norway and a few others) to cut their own production? Those who who produce 70% of the oil are better able to do something than those who produce 30%.
    I would ask you to look at this article of mine about this subject which appeared in the What and the Why in December: Here is the link:

    • Hmmm

      I accept part of your point – as always well made – but I think you are off in some regard.

      Crude Oil Production in Saudi Arabia decreased to 10186 BBL/D/1K in November from 10276 BBL/D/1K in October of 2015. Crude Oil Production in Saudi Arabia averaged 7958.76 BBL/D/1K from 1973 until 2015, reaching an all time high of 10564 BBL/D/1K in June of 2015 and a record low of 2340 BBL/D/1K in August of 1985.

      Forget OPEC. Saudi Arabia – a tiny state in most regards – is the second largest producer of oil on the planet behind the US. And its by scale is larger than the rest of OPEC. In combined pumping, it alone matches all the pumping of Iran, Iraq, and the UAE.

      If I roll back and include OPEC – one has to review the top 15-16 nations to really understand things. That 70% you cite has far larger the number of states and far smaller production in general.

      It is perfectly valid for Saudi Arabia to be cited. And it has been. Your point is valid too, in that Russia, The US, China, Canada could cut, and so could other OPEC states. But the sanity question still remains. Why when oil is in glut and the market is poor, do you keep pumping like your life depends on it.

      The west could answer that right now by simply point at the huge investment cutbacks and other factual data right now. And still they pump.

  5. I would general agree with you on Obamas weakness Nehad though it should be noted that US public opinion would not countenance any large scale military intervention at the moment which considerably weakens his hand. You could also add the following to Obamas list of failures.


    Not just failing to stop indiscriminate Saudi bombing operations in Yemen but giving them the means kill even more civilians by replenishing their arsenal of air to surface weapons.


    Failure to intervene in any meaningful way either during or after the overthrow of Egypts democratically elected government by a military coup.


    Paying lip service to improving human rights and then doing absolutely nothing to move the repressive regime towards this goal.


    Ignoring Turkish government complicity in funding and supplying ISIL

  6. Sure Rob you are right. Limited space doesn’t permit including everything. If you add his failures in relation to the Ukraine and Crimea, also failures at the home front; you will need an Argos catalogue ot include everything.

  7. Thanks AdmVorlon for the figures. Re your last point Yes definitely. In various TV interviews on Arabic language channels recently I have called for OPEC and non-Opec big producers to sit together and agree a fair formula for cutting production to save themselves and the world economy. Very low prices may be attractive to energy hungry importers and consumers, but also a threat to world economy. Ideally the price should settle around 70-80 dollars per barrel. At this level the high cost producers in Alaska, North Sea and North Dakota will do nicely. To achieve this hydrocarbon utopia, we need an agreement between OPEC and the Non-OPEC producers.

  8. AdmV0rl0n – You wrote: “But the sanity question still remains. Why when oil is in glut and the market is poor, do you keep pumping like your life depends on it.”

    Indeed. The answer to your question explains what is really happening in the Middle East. Without oil the ME is not a prosperous region. Oil flow is a powerful weapon with wider consequences than even the largest WMD could ever conceivably be made. The leverage is high and the political downside risk is low. The only thing better than oil is gold…another story!

    Things haven’t changed in a hundred years?

  9. The situation that you describe where the West capitulates over and over again in the face of brazen violation of agreements, keeps giving one-sided and unreciprocated gestures of good will and intentions; this is exactly what has been going on in Israel ever since the Oslo Accords. Israel has been constantly pressured by Western powers to give more, to give a chance for peace, show good will, to release more convicted terrorists, freeze building construction, make more payments to prop up the corrupt Palestinian Authority. And in return; nada, zilch. Just more condemnations and more blood. Iran is playing the same game with the US, and the US is grovelling to them that they will in their infinite goodness give good enough excuse for American and European countries to enter the anticipated Iranian economic bonanza.

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