After November: 5 Middle East Headaches That Await the U.S.

Last week's U.N. General Assembly session served up reminders that the next White House may have little option but to deal with a number of crises previously deferred

  • Share
  • Read Later
Zac Baillie / AFP / Getty Images

A rebel fighter is carried down from a third-story apartment after being wounded by a Syrian government tank shell during a battle between rebels and Syrian army forces in Aleppo on Sept. 26, 2012

1. Despite Netanyahu’s Retreat, Avoiding War with Iran Will Get Harder

For all of his summer saber rattling and efforts to pressure the Obama Administration into stating imminent red lines for war with Iran, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively retreated at the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday. Despite the familiar apocalyptic rhetoric, Netanyahu took care to signal Israel’s cooperation with the Obama Administration on the issue. More important, he drew his own red line — somewhat confusingly, given the much lampooned graphic on which he relied — at Iran possessing a sufficient stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to reprocess into one bomb’s worth of highly enriched uranium. At present rates of enrichment, he claimed, that point would be reached next spring or summer. Leave aside the considerable body of expert opinion that holds that the U.S. would have a lot more time than Netanyahu suggests to respond to an overt move by Iran to build nuclear weapons, the Israeli leader nonetheless once again wound forward his doomsday alarm clock, setting it to ring sometime early next year.

That seemed to take off the table the threat of an Israeli strike over U.S. objections before November’s election. But the occupant of the Oval Office early next year may face a more acute crisis: sanctions have not so far changed Iran’s nuclear calculations, and such concessions as Iran has offered by way of capping its nuclear work are not ones that the Obama Administration has been ready to accept as a basis for easing sanctions. Iran doesn’t trust the U.S. any more than the U.S. trusts Iran, and Tehran believes the real purpose of the sanctions is to create economic chaos in the hope of provoking an uprising against the regime. Such suspicions will have been heightened by Friday’s U.S. decision to remove the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, an exile armed group that fought for Saddam Hussein against Iran in the 1980s and which is widely reviled even among leaders of the opposition Green Movement, from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

(MORE: Apocalyptic Talk Aside, Israel Has Dialed Down Its Threat to Bomb Iran — for Now)

And Netanyahu has given notice that he’ll be loudly banging the drum for action by springtime unless, as remains unlikely, Iran effectively throws in the towel on the nuclear standoff before then. Whether it’s President Obama or a President Romney, the White House early next year may face a stark choice between continuing a policy that escalates toward confrontation or trying to avoid one by taking the political risk of initiating a new diplomatic effort with Iran that goes beyond the current nuclear talks.

2. Syria: Is ‘Revolutionary Patience’ Sustainable?

Syria’s escalating bloodbath hasn’t changed the Obama Administration’s reluctance to consider direct military intervention to topple President Bashar Assad’s regime. While Turkey has pushed for a U.S.-led military operation to create a protected zone on Syrian territory for refugees and rebel fighters, and Qatar has pushed for a Libya-style “no-fly zone” and even intervention by Arab troops, others opposed to Assad — including a number of Syrian opposition groups, and also Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy — reject foreign military intervention. Of course, Morsy may not include Arab intervention under the “foreign” rubric — one of his aides on Sunday, responding to a Qatari call for an Arab military intervention, said “Egypt is ready to take part in an Arab intervention in Syria as long as this would not be used as an excuse for international intervention.” But such a proposal may not be realistic absent U.S. involvement, given the capabilities of the countries that would support it.

While the rebels and the regime appear committed to a fight to the finish, the question facing international players is whether to push for a halt to the violence and an imperfect political process or escalate backing for their preferred sides in a fight to the finish. Obama last week called for the ouster of “a dictator who massacres his own people” but offered no ideas on how to achieve that goal. “We must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence,” he warned, stressing one of the key dangers restraining Washington from more direct intervention: the fact that Syria already appears to be descending into a sectarian civil war, which could make any intervention an open-ended quagmire. Instead, Obama vowed simply to support those Syrians fighting for an inclusive democratic future and imposing sanctions on those responsible for repression.

(PHOTOS: Syria’s Slow-Motion Civil War)

The U.S. has until now avoided both direct intervention and also international efforts — like those recommended by former U.N. envoy Kofi Annan — to broker a compromise agreement involving the regime’s key backer, Iran. Instead, the Administration appears to be adopting a long-range strategy in which the tightening noose of sanctions and grinding attrition of an insurgency that can’t be crushed eventually bring down the regime, probably some time next year.

But that time frame may be more than Syria’s neighbors are willing to take, with Turkey under growing strain as a result of the burgeoning refugee crisis, internal sectarian tension and the emergence of a hostile Kurdish rebel zone inside Syria. Ankara fears that a protracted war scenario harks back to the effort to support Afghan mujahedin against the Soviet-backed regime in the 1980s. “President Obama prefers to go down the path of a long drawn-out struggle, like Afghanistan in the 1980s,” analyst Bulent Aliriza of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies told the Financial Times last week. “But that’s not good enough for Turkey. It does not want to be like Pakistan, which became the forward base for the Afghan rebels. If that were to happen, it could confront all the pressures that Pakistan faced and from which it has never recovered.”

And last Thursday’s announcement by the U.N.’s refugee agency that as many as 700,000 Syrians will have fled to neighboring countries by the end of this year underscores the burden such a timescale will impose. Cross-border insurgency inevitably emboldens like-minded radicals in neighboring countries, as Lebanon and Iraq have already discovered.

No new ideas emerged in Friday’s Friends of Syria confab convened by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York City, while President Morsy’s proposed contact group comprising Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran has yet to gain any traction. But the strain of a protracted war on Syria’s U.S.-allied neighbors could force them to put a choice before the winner of November’s U.S. presidential election: either intervene quickly and decisively to settle matters or accept that the urgency of stopping the war may require an imperfect, even unpalatable compromise.

MORE: Despite Syria’s Bloodbath, Libya-Style Intervention Remains Unlikely

  1. Previous
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
25 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Dardo_Staniel
Dardo_Staniel

The results of the "Arab Spring" (which is more the Muslim Spring) are highly predictable and speak volumes about the rock-bottom average IQ

of Muslim "voters". Backing the wrong side (the rebels) has produced a very bad predicament going forward. Morsi and his ilk will never be ousted. Just look at Iran, 1979 and still counting and look how dangerous that is increasingly becoming. Having a very weak President in the US doesn't help either as it gives the wrong people wings.

geordiegit
geordiegit

For all the White House's good intentions by helping the Libyans and pouring money into other middle east countries, there is one issue that counteracts all that: Israel and the Palestinians. 

While Netanyahu's government continues to allow conservative Jews to encroach onto Palestinian land in the West Bank, and America just groans but does nothing concrete about it, Arabs will still hate America.

Israeli leaders have always had America by the scrotum, through blackmail with their hysteria re: Hamas, Hezbolla and now, Iran. America has continuously caused it's own problems and will never be trusted unless it changes it's foreign policy in the middle east. 

Jthemover
Jthemover

I think it will take a much more astute politician to wade through these issues than either candidate available at this point.  It is really a question of which issues will be bungled, or how they will.

Thomas Hildebrand
Thomas Hildebrand

Thus says The Lord God of Israel: I have seen the pride of men, and how hate builds within their hearts. For My hand is removed, and who is able to withhold them? Who is able to turn them back, once their minds are set?... Behold, they shall come as a whirlwind, as a flood to cover the land. With a sound like raging waters shall they come forth from their places, and the earth shall tremble, the ground shall shake beneath the multitude of their devices. 

Their intentions are not hidden, and that which they do in secret is always before My face...Behold, an evil plan has come into their hearts. And that which is conceived of in the hearts of men is known to Me; indeed, everything whispered in secret enters into My ears. For they plot an evil thing, saying, “The God of Israel sleeps and will not arise to defend His people; The Holy One of Israel will not see it. Therefore, let us go up and fight against the people of Jacob, and murder the inhabitants of Judah, and wipe Israel from all remembrance... Let their name die with them. Yes, let us go swiftly, and many peoples with us, to destroy them, that we may cast their name out of the earth, forever”...

Come! Says The Lord... COME FORTH! For by the blood of your fathers and by the blood of your sons, and by the blood of all your great and proud men, shall I be glorified in the sight of many nations! Behold, you shall fall upon the mountains of Israel!... A feast for the birds, a dwelling place of the worm... And in the open fields shall you leave your spoil! For I have prepared a valley... Your resting place.

Therefore come forth, all you loathful nations! Bring your multitudes with you, all your mighty men of battle! Come up for the day of slaughter! Says The Lord God Almighty. For My anger has come up into My face and My hand is raised for battle! I am poised in My strength, ready to strike you down with a great vengeance!... 

Therefore come, O mighty men! Come down from the north as the whirlwind, and fight against Me! Says The Lord. And bring the fullness of Ishmael with you! GATHER TOGETHER AND COME! Bring forth the weapons from the storehouses, from Asia to the kings of the south! Come forth! For The Lord God of Israel has prepared a great slaughter!

Enemies of Israel, I call you out! COME FORTH!...

For indeed, the world has turned a deaf ear, 

And many nations are in agreement...

And not one will prevent you. 

Therefore, come forth! Come out and fight against Me!... 

It is time.

THE LORD GOD of Heaven and earth is speaking to THIS modern generation...

THE TIME HAS COME!... History has an end...

www.TrumpetCallofGodOnline.com 

Heterotic
Heterotic

Key for the U.S. is, and has been all along, is to resolve the Palestinian/Israeli situation. That has been used as an excuse by extremists for decades; take it away and you can tackle each other issue on its own merits.

HerrDirlewanger
HerrDirlewanger

What do you suggest, asking the Israelis to give the country they made back to the Bedouin? After all it's only fair!  

Danyz
Danyz

I think here of Star Trek II and the Kobiashi Maru war game, a no-win scenario...

Would that we had a bright and audacious Kirk who won by covertly changing the program of the game. Obama just barely possibly might surprise us here. Mitt on the other hand, like an excited kid in a video arcade with lots of cool war games, would be be shakily fumbling through his pockets for quarters.  

18235
18235

kurdistan not a headache?

making turkey apologize for their kudish genocide, not a problem?

kurds deserve their own homeland, not a problem?

Plumbline
Plumbline

Joel 3:2.....

I will gather all the nations, and I will bring them to the Jehoshaphat Valley. There I will enter into judgment with them in support of my people and my possession, Israel, which they have scattered among the nations. They have divided my land...

Charles
Charles

We keep sticking our nose in the Middle East and when we get bad results we get mad. Let the Middle East worry about the Middle East. We must take care of American priorities.

SimonLampard
SimonLampard

Alfred replied I can't believe that a person can get paid $5117 in one month on the network. did you look at this (Click on menu Home)   

Talendria
Talendria

That strategy bit us in the butt in 1941.

Arup_2
Arup_2

Read ur history and then comment about 1941!

Arup_2
Arup_2

Talendria..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E...

"The U.S. embargoes gave Japan a sense of urgency. It would either have to agree to Washington's demands or use force to gain access to the resources it needed."

IT WAS the opposite strategy that led to Pearl Harbor.  

A school of today's historians feel that US command, at that time, knew exactly what was going to happen and did nothing. This school of thought may be a stretch but is worth reading...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P...

HughNew
HughNew

like....@Arup_2:disqus ,

......goo.gl/1pYX0

HughNew
HughNew

Vincent replied I am blown away that someone can make $8260 in a few weeks on the network. did you see this(Click on menu Home)   

Talendria
Talendria

I'm an avid student of history. If you have a counter argument, feel free to make it.

snowleopard (cat folk gallery)
snowleopard (cat folk gallery)

Fine - the next POTUS will have his hands full no matter if it is Romney or Mr Obama; and one mistake or miscalculation can see the area erupt into a regional war, a region in which much of the worlds oil reserves come from.

So the questions to be asked:

What will Romney or Obama do (depending on who wins, and assuming events do not preceed the elections)?

Will anything done by the US even work?

I will say this matter, based on the responses of how the Libyan matter has been handled by the administration (the coverup especially), and Mr Obama's failed 'arab reset' and support of the radicals among the 'arab spring', does anyone honestly think he could do better?

Remember that at his UN speech, he blamed the embassy attacks and demonstrations on a video that was nothing but an opportune excuse; and showed no leadership as each opportunity came forth.

T Marq
T Marq

Nothing like having a bad case of Myopia. The Arab Spring is an effort by the FREE Arabs to get rid of suppression, the same thing that made this country great when it got rid of its British overlords that tried to keep us in check. Both France and Spain contributed to supporting the colonies and as a result, made this country FREE.

As for the president, regardless of whether it would have been a Dem, GOP or whatever, it was the last president that created this global mess by starting a personal war in Iraq just to please his family's personal revenge.

Moreover, given the GOP's taste for greed and power, keeping these areas off balance ensures they are able to tap the internal resources without too much political interventions. China and Russia are both well aware of this and the reason why they prefer the  laissez faire approach to allowing any and all internal issues run their course. However, the Arab Spring is forcing a new change in the game, a political movement is rising up in an area long exposed to tyranny by religious and unscrupulous leaders. The US is being forced to remain on the sidelines by the two largest and controlled economies in that region, both of which will can cause a lot of grief to us and the world. Given our currently weak economy and failing infrastructure, our actions should remain as cheerleaders, and nothing more.

Sometimes, leadership is how well a president measures restraint against adversity when it's measured against what is the most good for his country, and not the special interest or fanatically greedy internal political onslaught.  

hardworker777
hardworker777

You make your bed, you sleep in it. Over 60 years of manipulative, cynical, brutal U.S. foreign  policy. Game over. 

T Marq
T Marq

Yep, and as a result, we had allies that helped our cause to keep the area stable from Russia and China. Now, the current have change because of our oil gluttony, and the burying of our sympathy for freedom.

snowleopard (cat folk gallery)
snowleopard (cat folk gallery)

Anymore I have to agree, maybe I am growing cynical in the matter but bring our troops home and deal with American problems (domestic economy) first.