By Cliff Kincaid
The conventional wisdom is that Vladimir Putin has blindsided Barack Obama in the Middle East, catching the U.S. off-guard. It’s another Obama “failure,” we’re told. “Obama administration scrambles as Russia attempts to seize initiative in Syria,” is how a Washington Post headline described it. A popular cartoon shows Putin kicking sand in the faces of Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry on a beach.
The conventional wisdom is driven by the notion that Obama has the best of intentions but that he’s been outmaneuvered. What if his intention all along has been to remake the Middle East to the advantage of Moscow and its client state Iran? What if he knows exactly what he’s doing? Too many commentators refuse to consider that Obama is deliberately working against U.S. interests and in favor of the enemies of the U.S. and Israel.
In his U.N. address, Obama said, “As President of the United States, I am mindful of the dangers that we face; they cross my desk every morning. I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.”
This is laughable. We still have a strong military, but the inevitable conclusion from what’s recently transpired is that he doesn’t want to protect the interests of the U.S. or its allies in the Middle East. This is not a “failure,” but a deliberate policy.
The trouble with conventional wisdom is the assumption that Obama sees things the way most Americans do. In order to understand Obama’s Middle East policy, it is necessary to consult alternative sources of news and information and analysis. That includes communist news sources.
A fascinating analysis appears in the newspaper of the Socialist Workers Party, The Militant, one of the oldest and most influential publications among the left. You may remember the old photos which surfaced of Lee Harvey Oswald selling copies of The Militant before he killed the American president.
The headline over The Militant story by Maggie Trowe caught my eye: “‘Reset’ with US allows Moscow to send arms, troops to Syria.” It was not about Hillary Clinton’s reset with Moscow years ago, but a more recent one.
Here’s how her story began: “Moscow’s rapid military buildup in Syria is a result of the ‘reset’ in relations forged with the Russian and Iranian governments by the Barack Obama administration. The deal—reshaping alliances and conditions from Syria, Iran and the rest of the Middle East to Ukraine and surrounding region—is the cornerstone of U.S. imperialism’s efforts to establish a new order in the Mideast, but from a much weaker position than when the now-disintegrating order was imposed after World Wars I and II.”
Of course, the idea that “U.S. imperialism” is served by giving the advantage to Russia and Iran is ludicrous. Nevertheless, it does appear that a “reset” of the kind described in this article has in fact taken place. The author writes about Washington’s “strategic shift to Iran and Russia” and the “downgrading” of relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia. She notes that Moscow “seeks more influence and control of the country [Syria] and its Mediterranean ports and a stronger political hand in Mideast politics.” Iran “has sent Revolutionary Guard Quds forces to help prop up Assad, and collaborates with Moscow on operations in Syria,” she notes.
It is sometimes necessary to reject the conventional wisdom and instead analyze developments from the point of view of the Marxists, who understand Obama’s way of thinking. They pretend that Obama is a pawn of the “imperialists” but their analysis also makes sense from a traditional pro-American perspective. Those who accept the evidence that Obama has a Marxist perspective on the world have to consider that his policy is designed to help Moscow and Tehran achieve hegemony in the region.
At the same time, the paper reported, “Since Secretary of State John Kerry’s congenial visit with Putin in May, it has become clear that Washington would accept Moscow’s influence over its ‘near abroad’ in Ukraine and the Baltics, in exchange for help to nail down the nuclear deal with Tehran.” Hence, Obama has put his stamp of approval on Russian aggression in Europe and the Middle East. This analysis, though coming from a Marxist newspaper, fits the facts on the ground. It means that more Russian aggression can be expected in Europe.
The wildcard is Israel and it looks like the Israeli government is being increasingly isolated, not only by Obama but by Putin. The story notes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Putin in Moscow on September 21, saying his concern was to “prevent misunderstandings” between Israeli and Russian troops, since Israel has carried out airstrikes in Syrian territory targeting weapons being transported to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.
Some reports indicated that Israel had set up a joint mechanism with the Russian military to coordinate their operations in Syria.
However, the Russian leader reportedly told Obama during their U.N. meeting that he opposes Israeli attacks in Syria. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz ran a story that Russia intends to “Clip Israel’s Wings Over [the] Syrian Skies.” The paper added that Putin’s remarks to Obama showed that despite Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin in Moscow, “Russia intends to create new facts on the ground in Syria that will include restricting Israel’s freedom of movement in Syrian skies.”
It hardly seems to be the case that Obama has been outsmarted in the Middle East, or that Putin and Obama don’t like each other. Instead, it appears that Obama is working hand-in-glove with Putin to isolate Israel and that Obama is perfectly content to let the former KGB colonel take the lead.
Israel has always been seen by most U.N. members as the real problem in the region. Obama is the first U.S. President to see Israel in that same manner and to act accordingly. This is why Putin has not caught Obama off-guard in the least. They clearly see eye-to-eye on Israel and Iran.
Don’t forget that Obama actually telephoned Putin to thank him for his part in the nuclear deal with Iran. The White House issued a statement saying, “The President thanked President Putin for Russia’s important role in achieving this milestone, the culmination of nearly 20 months of intense negotiations.”
Building off the Iran nuclear deal, it looks like the plan is for Russia and the United States to force Israel to embrace a U.N. plan for a nuclear-free Middle East. That would mean Israel giving up control of its defensive nuclear weapons to the world body. Iran will be able to claim it has already made a deal to prohibit its own nuclear weapons development.
Such a scheme was outlined back in 2005 in an article by Mohamed Elbaradei, the director-general at the time of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). That’s the same body that is now supposed to guarantee Iranian compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal signed by Russia and the U.S.
Elbaradei argued there would have to be “a dialogue on regional security as part of the peace process,” to be followed by an agreement “to make the Middle East a nuclear-weapons-free zone.”
The “dialogue” appears to be taking place now, mostly under the authority and auspices of the Russian government, with President Obama playing a secondary role.
The obvious danger is that Israel would be forced to comply with the plan for a “nuclear-weapons-free-zone,” while Iran would cheat and develop nuclear weapons anyway.
Netanyahu told the U.N. that “Israel deeply appreciates President Obama’s willingness to bolster our security, help Israel maintain its qualitative military edge and help Israel confront the enormous challenges we face.”
This must be his hope. But he must know that Israel’s security is slipping and that the survival of his country is in grave danger in the face of this Moscow-Washington-Tehran axis.
Before Putin further consolidates his military position in the Middle East and Iran makes more progress in nuclear weapons development, Netanyahu will have to launch a preemptive strike on the Islamic state. “Israel will not allow Iran to break in, to sneak in or to walk in to the nuclear weapons club,” the Israeli Prime Minister said.
In launching such a strike before the end of Obama’s second presidential term, Israel would bring down the wrath of the world, led by Russia and the U.S., on the Jewish state.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at [email protected]