Middle East a Tinderbox, American Leadership Absent
The winds of war are blowing stronger in the Middle East, all because President Obama refuses to realize the threat posed by radicals in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Protesters in what seemed to be a coordinated effort attacked the U.S. Consulate in Libya Tuesday, killing the American ambassador and three staffers, and the U.S. Embassy in Egypt.
In scenes eerily similar to the U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran after the 1979 Islamic revolution, Egyptian protesters climbed the wall of the U.S. compound and tore down the American flag, replacing it with an Islamic flag.
Just last month, U.S. intelligence agencies monitored a meeting between officials of the Egyptian and Iranian intelligence ministries, raising the specter that the newly installed Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo could be secretly backing terrorism worldwide, it was reported yesterday. Members of the anti-Muslim Brotherhood opposition believe Obama has signed off on a covert agreement to support the Morsi government.
Though Tuesday's protests were claimed to be over an American film ridiculing the prophet Mohammad, the attacks in both countries on 9/11 is a clear sign that radical Islamists are gaining ground in both countries to further confront Israel and the U.S.
This is while reports in the last two weeks further verify that the radicals ruling Iran are now closer to obtaining the nuclear bomb.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran not only has expanded its uranium enrichment process both at the previously secret site of Fordo, which is 300 feet underground and immune to conventional air strikes, and at the Natanz facility, but also that it continues to stonewall the IAEA inspection of the Parchin Military site, where nuclear weapon experiments are said to have taken place.
Reports on Tuesday also revealed that the United Nations has received significant new intelligence from Israel, the U.S. and other Western countries that Iran has moved closer to building a nuclear weapon. The intelligence shows that Iran has advanced its work on an atomic warhead and that Tehran is expanding its weapons research on multiple fronts.
The Islamic regime's strategy of prolonging negotiations and preparing for sanctions proved that Western rhetoric of war was a bluff due to the dire economic conditions in Europe and America. The West, it reasoned, would have to accept a nuclear-armed Iran instead of further confrontation that would worsen the global economy.
"It is quite clear that when we watch the current arguments between America and Israel over Iran, the Obama administration is quite confused," Mohammad Mohammadi, an Iranian international affairs and nuclear expert, said in an analysis in the Keyhan newspaper, an outlet under the direct supervision of the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"Iran has always known that America and the West needed a way to solve the nuclear issue with some honor," Mohammadi said, "and today it is quite visible that with the defeat of America's policies toward Iran, the talk about a need to solve the Iranian nuclear issue diplomatically is a way to obtain that honor."
Iran has concluded that Obama is not looking for a confrontation with the regime over its nuclear program and that he has already accepted a nuclear Iran. However, knowing that Israel could take action, Iran is trying to create a wedge between America and Israel, believing that the Obama administration is willing to turn its back on the Jewish state.
In that pursuit, Khamenei in a speech several months ago stated that in any confrontation with Israel, if America does not get involved, Iran will not retaliate against America.
The Obama administration seems to be taking up Iran's offer. First Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Aug. 30 again warned against an attack by Israel and stated that the U.S. would not be "complicit" in such an attack. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rebuffed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request for clear "red lines" on the Iranian nuclear program, stating that, "We are not setting deadlines" and that the U.S. still believes in negotiation. And last, President Obama is refusing to meet with Netanyahu later this month at the U.N. General Assembly's annual meeting.
Israel is not the only country worried about the Iranian nuclear program and the lack of action by the West to confront it. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly requested that the White House take a stronger lead in containing the Islamic regime's pursuit of the bomb.
The proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which extends from Yemen to Bahrain and to Syria, is on the verge of a full confrontation. According to the Iranian newspaper Keyhan, quoting the Palestinian weekly Al Manar, the Saudi king has sent a personal message to Obama that should America help with the situation in Syria, the Saudis will cover all costs and will continue to keep oil prices down. Iran has warned that should America take action against Syria, Iran and its allies will retaliate against the U.S.
Israel is on the verge of a very painful decision: whether to try to stop Iran's nuclear program on its own, knowing full well that the consequence of such an attack will be hundreds of missiles raining down on its civilians.
The events in Egypt and Libya could further complicate the already-volatile situation in the Middle East. A confrontation on multiple fronts looms. Obama's lack of a strong coherent policy toward the radicals ruling Iran will create the very conditions that it wanted to avoid: widespread war in the Middle East and a meltdown of the global economy.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran's Revolutionary Guards and author of the award winning book "A Time to Betray" (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).