Obama's Failed Foreign Policy

The Obama administration's foreign policy in the Middle East and parts of North Africa has been a series of disasters – at times spectacular disasters – almost since day one.  It is ironic that a man who claims to respect the dignity of every human being should have such an egregious record of abandoning people in need of his help, up to and including those specifically looking to him for aid.  One needs only to point to a Middle Eastern country to find an example of his international incompetence.

No such discussion is complete without mentioning the site of some of Obama's most flagrant failures to act: Iran.  In 2009, arguably millions of Iranian protesters took to the streets demanding freedom, democracy, and human rights in what has come to be known as "The Green Movement."  Angered by the highly suspicious re-election of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this overwhelmingly peaceful outburst of popular demonstrations has taken on a life of its own, standing for the fundamental dignity of a people and their right to self-govern.  Rightly idolizing the United States for the principles of liberty and justice that are so basic as to be taken for granted by most Americans, the Iranian protesters began emulating their Western counterparts, dressing in jeans and other modern U.S. apparel.  They even specifically sought help from President Barack Obama, chanting, "Obama, Obama, ya ba oona ya bama" (Farsi for "Obama, you are either with them or with us") in the streets.

The very day after they made this bold declaration, Obama publicly stated that the Green Movement was an internal affair of Iran, not to be commented or acted upon by America.  Iranians were devastated, left to fend for themselves by a nation that claimed to stand for the very virtues they sought to achieve.

Things were little better in Syria, where rather than show support for a popular uprising that opposed the tyrannical Assad regime, Obama again turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to those who needed his help.  To be sure, this author is not claiming that he should have utilized direct military intervention in Syria, which would have been an unmitigated disaster, but the leader of the most powerful nation in the world has a great many diplomatic tools at his disposal.  Obama used none of them.

Military force actually was used in Libya, though in reality these were merely attacks against the Gaddafi regime.  The irony, of course, is that Gaddafi had modernized Libya's economy, implemented social reforms, and begun to work alongside the United States on a limited basis.  Ultimately, Libya fell to extensions of the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamic factions.  Today, the nation is in danger of fracturing, causing instability in important oil regions.  And of course, Libya played host to the Benghazi fiasco, a foreign affairs nightmare that continues to haunt Obama to this day.

In Egpyt, Obama chose to oppose stalwart U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, calling for him to step down in the face of protests against his regime.  In this particular case, Obama actually became friendly with the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamist organizations, only to clumsily attempt to distance himself and the United States from them when he realized that he risked strengthening their influence in the Middle East and North Africa as a result.

Iraq has been yet another catastrophe.  Inheriting a decidedly delicate situation brought about by the actions of former U.S. President George W. Bush, Obama chose to handle it in one of the worst possible ways: premature withdrawal of all American forces.  Now, without the U.S. to hold down insurgency, the radical group ISIS has risen to tremendous and frightening prominence.  Well-armed and well-organized, this militant band has forcefully spread across Iraq, frankly humiliating the regular Iraqi army in its attempts to stop them, and undermining U.S. interests in the country after over a decade of war and the loss of over a trillion dollars and thousands of American lives.  Due to Obama's policy of washing his hands of America's responsibility to Iraq, ISIS has had free rein to terrorize the countryside.  They have viciously persecuted Iraqi Christians, demanding they convert to Islam, leave their homes, or die.  Refugees now pour into northern Iraq as a result.  Faced with the disastrous consequences of his actions (or rather, his commitment to inaction), Obama has recently conducted air strikes against selected ISIS targets, but the versatile group has already begun to adapt, and American commanders of the effort admit that the air strike strategy's long-term benefit is questionable.

As previously noted, there are countless examples of Obama's failed foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa.  In Saudi Arabia, the administration's push for radical militarization and arms deals has sent a bad message to America's true allies in the region, given Saudi Arabia's support for many terrorist organizations.  In Yemen, the Obama administration failed to support a regime friendly to the U.S. that was under severe economic strain and instead allowed the radical and infamously dangerous al-Qaeda to gain influence and take control of several provinces.  In Algeria and Morocco, where the United States enjoys warm relations with friendly regimes, the Muslim Brotherhood has continued to gather power, spurred on by America's failure to take meaningful steps to stop them.  In Azerbaijan, ill-advised U.S. intervention led to the falling through of an oil deal with important American ally Israel.  Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine have all been sites of further failures of Obama's foreign policy.

It is time for American president Barack Obama to wake up and realize what is at stake.  The Middle East and North Africa are extremely turbulent, unstable regions, relations with which are enormously important to the Western world for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the area's vast oil reserves.  The world can no longer afford for a sitting American head of state to botch his interactions with foreign powers this badly.  Something has to change; otherwise, something else is going to give.

Slater Bakhtavar is an attorney, journalist, author, and political commentator.  He is author of Iran: The Green Movement.

The Obama administration's foreign policy in the Middle East and parts of North Africa has been a series of disasters – at times spectacular disasters – almost since day one.  It is ironic that a man who claims to respect the dignity of every human being should have such an egregious record of abandoning people in need of his help, up to and including those specifically looking to him for aid.  One needs only to point to a Middle Eastern country to find an example of his international incompetence.

No such discussion is complete without mentioning the site of some of Obama's most flagrant failures to act: Iran.  In 2009, arguably millions of Iranian protesters took to the streets demanding freedom, democracy, and human rights in what has come to be known as "The Green Movement."  Angered by the highly suspicious re-election of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this overwhelmingly peaceful outburst of popular demonstrations has taken on a life of its own, standing for the fundamental dignity of a people and their right to self-govern.  Rightly idolizing the United States for the principles of liberty and justice that are so basic as to be taken for granted by most Americans, the Iranian protesters began emulating their Western counterparts, dressing in jeans and other modern U.S. apparel.  They even specifically sought help from President Barack Obama, chanting, "Obama, Obama, ya ba oona ya bama" (Farsi for "Obama, you are either with them or with us") in the streets.

The very day after they made this bold declaration, Obama publicly stated that the Green Movement was an internal affair of Iran, not to be commented or acted upon by America.  Iranians were devastated, left to fend for themselves by a nation that claimed to stand for the very virtues they sought to achieve.

Things were little better in Syria, where rather than show support for a popular uprising that opposed the tyrannical Assad regime, Obama again turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to those who needed his help.  To be sure, this author is not claiming that he should have utilized direct military intervention in Syria, which would have been an unmitigated disaster, but the leader of the most powerful nation in the world has a great many diplomatic tools at his disposal.  Obama used none of them.

Military force actually was used in Libya, though in reality these were merely attacks against the Gaddafi regime.  The irony, of course, is that Gaddafi had modernized Libya's economy, implemented social reforms, and begun to work alongside the United States on a limited basis.  Ultimately, Libya fell to extensions of the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamic factions.  Today, the nation is in danger of fracturing, causing instability in important oil regions.  And of course, Libya played host to the Benghazi fiasco, a foreign affairs nightmare that continues to haunt Obama to this day.

In Egpyt, Obama chose to oppose stalwart U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, calling for him to step down in the face of protests against his regime.  In this particular case, Obama actually became friendly with the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamist organizations, only to clumsily attempt to distance himself and the United States from them when he realized that he risked strengthening their influence in the Middle East and North Africa as a result.

Iraq has been yet another catastrophe.  Inheriting a decidedly delicate situation brought about by the actions of former U.S. President George W. Bush, Obama chose to handle it in one of the worst possible ways: premature withdrawal of all American forces.  Now, without the U.S. to hold down insurgency, the radical group ISIS has risen to tremendous and frightening prominence.  Well-armed and well-organized, this militant band has forcefully spread across Iraq, frankly humiliating the regular Iraqi army in its attempts to stop them, and undermining U.S. interests in the country after over a decade of war and the loss of over a trillion dollars and thousands of American lives.  Due to Obama's policy of washing his hands of America's responsibility to Iraq, ISIS has had free rein to terrorize the countryside.  They have viciously persecuted Iraqi Christians, demanding they convert to Islam, leave their homes, or die.  Refugees now pour into northern Iraq as a result.  Faced with the disastrous consequences of his actions (or rather, his commitment to inaction), Obama has recently conducted air strikes against selected ISIS targets, but the versatile group has already begun to adapt, and American commanders of the effort admit that the air strike strategy's long-term benefit is questionable.

As previously noted, there are countless examples of Obama's failed foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa.  In Saudi Arabia, the administration's push for radical militarization and arms deals has sent a bad message to America's true allies in the region, given Saudi Arabia's support for many terrorist organizations.  In Yemen, the Obama administration failed to support a regime friendly to the U.S. that was under severe economic strain and instead allowed the radical and infamously dangerous al-Qaeda to gain influence and take control of several provinces.  In Algeria and Morocco, where the United States enjoys warm relations with friendly regimes, the Muslim Brotherhood has continued to gather power, spurred on by America's failure to take meaningful steps to stop them.  In Azerbaijan, ill-advised U.S. intervention led to the falling through of an oil deal with important American ally Israel.  Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine have all been sites of further failures of Obama's foreign policy.

It is time for American president Barack Obama to wake up and realize what is at stake.  The Middle East and North Africa are extremely turbulent, unstable regions, relations with which are enormously important to the Western world for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the area's vast oil reserves.  The world can no longer afford for a sitting American head of state to botch his interactions with foreign powers this badly.  Something has to change; otherwise, something else is going to give.

Slater Bakhtavar is an attorney, journalist, author, and political commentator.  He is author of Iran: The Green Movement.