Barack Obama's MidEast fantasy world
In Barack Obama's fantasy Middle East, the U.S. isn't losing the war against ISIS, Iran isn't a problem, and relations with Israel are just fine. That's the good news. The bad news is Obama actually believes this and he's still with us until January 2017
Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent Atlantic interview with President Obama is quite something. Conducted just after Ramadi fell to the Islamic State, but before the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra did, the interview covers three big topics: the war against the Islamic State, Israel and the Iranian nuclear negotiations.
Here are a few quick observations.
To begin, Obama doesn’t think the U.S. is losing the war against the Islamic State and believes that the loss of Ramadi is a “tactical setback”. Furthermore, Obama doesn’t really think that his administration has made any mistakes regarding Iraq.
On Iran, the most narcissistic portion of the interview, Obama is not concerned about the prospects of a nuclear cascade across the Middle East. He notes that, “There has been no indication from the Saudis or any other [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries that they have an intention to pursue their own nuclear program.”
Obama also seems somewhat sanguine about one of the calculations the administration has made regarding how the Iranian regime would behave after the lifting of sanctions.
The thinking still seems to be that the regime would be so concerned with rebuilding the Iranian economy that relatively little money would be channeled to the military or to the pursuit of Iran’s ambitions in the region. (Never mind the fact that it wouldn’t necessarily take that much money to do a lot of damage.)
Regarding Israel, Obama seems to believe U.S. – Israel relations during the past six years have basically been fine and that the recent drama and public acrimony between himself and Prime Minister Netanyahu has been overblown.
Obama also says, “I have maintained, and I think I can show that no U.S. president has been more forceful in making sure we help Israel protect itself, and even some of my critics in Israel have acknowledged as much.”
The interview sticks to Middle East affairs, though is likely to be of interest to anyone who follows international politics or current debates surrounding U.S. foreign policy. It provides insights into how Obama views both past decisions he has made and the current challenges in front of him.
January 20, 2017 feels so far away. No matter what happens between now and then, we’re going to remember Obama for a very long time.
Taylor Dibbert is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. and the author of Fiesta of Sunset: The Peace Corps, Guatemala and a Search for Truth. Follow him on Twitter @taylordibbert
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