Obama's Strategy For Dominating Middle East Via Diplomacy

Abdel Bari Atwan

This week, US President Barack Obama gave his ‘state of the union’ annual address, outlining his policy for the year ahead. As could be expected, the Middle East was one of the main focal points of his speech.

He paid particular attention to Iran, Palestine, Israel, Syria, Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda.

If one reads between the lines, one can draw several conclusions as to his real intentions in the region.

* First, Obama said that he will veto the imposition of any further sanctions on Iran. This is a direct, personal, challenge to Israel, and the powerful Israeli lobby in Washington which seeks to thwart the ongoing rapprochement with Iran and negotiations on nuclear limitation. It gives him leverage on Israel but he cannot control the lobby.

* Second, he re-iterated his support for the Syrian opposition, linking this with the war on terror. He clearly sees the moderate opposition coalescing around an effort to eradicate the burgeoning jihadist presence in Syria. He wished Syria a ‘future free from dictatorship and terrorism’, but did not mention Assad by name. This hints at the strategy, tacitly adopted by many diplomats at the Geneva 2 conference, which sees Assad left in power in the short term to co-operate in the war against the extremists.

* Third, he defined Israel as ‘a Jewish state’. This is intended to appease Benjamin Netanyahu’s Tel Aviv, as well as the pro-Israel lobby at home, who will have been annoyed by item one, above.

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President Obama has overseen the full withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, and promised, in his address, to do the same in Afghanistan by the end of this year.

He is, rightly, wary of further military adventures in the Middle East, which takes us back to his policy on Iran. Obama is well aware that is Congress were to impose new sanctions on Iran would mean the collapse of the recent 5+1- Iran deal and, however alarmist this may sound, a third world war. Iran has warned publicly and firmly that any new sanctions would set its diplomatic relationship with the West back to square one.

Obama seeks, instead, to delimit Iran within the terms of the new deal, by allowing uranium enrichment but imposing a ceiling of just 5%. He would like to see the present atmosphere of rapprochement and negotiation endure at least until the end of his term so that the crisis, if it does occur, will not occur on his watch.

With regard to the ‘war on terror’ in Syria, Iran and the US are almost singing from the same hymn sheet. This week, Turkey, in a complete U-turn, followed the American example and heralded its own rapprochement with Iran with a Prime Ministerial visit to Tehran. A resultant joint statement called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops in the fight against terrorism.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry reacted strongly to Obama’s linkage of the ‘dictatorship’ and ‘terror’. It issued a statement accusing America and Saudi Arabia of launching an effort to torpedo Geneva 2

The question is about the priorities of the US administration and its ally Saudi Arabia: will they seek to get rid of jihadist groups first, and secondly, the Syrian regime or vice versa?

It is clear through the speech that Obama, with Saudi mediation, would like to unify the Islamic factions fighting in Syria by ending their squabbling, and get them to focus on the most urgent common goal which is to eradicate the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which is gaining in strength and numbers.

The Syrian regime was quick to seize upon this possibility and half way through Geneva 2, it stepped aside from its totally rigid opposition to discussing a transitional government but said it would only do so once the ‘terrorism’ problem had been dealt with.

We may even see a situation where the ‘moderate opposition’ finds itself in the same trench as the regime, fighting ISIS, for a short, pragmatic, period.

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Moving on to Obama’s comments about Israel, we find it astonishing that America’s first black president would endorse the wholly racist concept of a ‘Jewish state of Israel’. A state predicated on race and religion? This was apartheid South Africa, this should be history.

Obama’s stance is an insult to great black freedom fighters who obtained for Obama’s forebears their freedom and their rights. People like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X who cleared the way for  Obama and Michelle to stroll so happily down that avenue to the White House, hand in hand, on the day of his inauguration.

Israel is a more racist regime than that of white South African; it seeks to obtain more and more Arab, Moslem, Palestinian land for its ‘Jewish state’ and Obama and his Secretary of State, John Kerry, are aiding and abetting Tel Aviv in its crimes.

Through diplomacy, rather than bombs, Obama’s regional ambitions match those of President Bush: to disarm Syria (Iraq is already done) of its chemical weapons and Iran of its nuclear capability, leaving Israel the only nuclear power in the region.

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