Opinion: Editorials

Obama fiddles while his Middle East policy burns

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Photo - MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 22:  President Barack Obama speaks to supporters during a campaign rally on September 22, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition to the rally, Obama attended two fundraising events during his visit to Milwaukee.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 22: President Barack Obama speaks to supporters during a campaign rally on September 22, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition to the rally, Obama attended two fundraising events during his visit to Milwaukee. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Opinion,Editorial

Political analysts have described foreign policy as one of President Obama's advantages over Mitt Romney in the presidential election. This has been backed up by some polls. But in an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" that aired on Sunday, Obama displayed a remarkably passive attitude regarding the collapse of his Middle East policy and Israel's fears about Iran's march to build a nuclear weapon.

Asked by Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes" about whether he felt pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to draw clearer lines about Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon, Obama brushed such concerns aside. "I am going to block out any noise that's out there," he said. That's the answer one might expect to a question about poll numbers, not about Iran's regime pursuing nuclear weapons and vowing to wipe Israel -- America's strongest and most dependable ally in the Middle East -- off the map.

It's convenient for pundits to dismiss such talk as bluster, but as the leader of Israel, Netanyahu does not have that luxury. Nor is Israel the only nation potentially threatened. Iran's radical anti-American government has a long history of financing terrorism against the United States. And were Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, it could also set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Obama declared in a March speech to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, "[W]hen it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say." The problem is, Obama has studiously avoided any clear statement of what line Iran would have to cross to trigger a military response. And Obama's focus on Iran actually building a nuclear weapon suggests that line might be somewhere beyond Iran gaining the capability to build one. As a result, Obama has lost credibility on all sides. Finding himself in a corner, Netanyahu is now speaking openly about acting alone, stating, "Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."

This grave state of affairs is what Obama brushed off as mere "noise."

When Obama ran for president in 2008, he promised that a more conciliatory policy toward the Muslim world would help reduce anti-American sentiment in the Middle East. During his presidency, he launched a charm offensive with his June 2009 Cairo address, pursued a policy of putting "daylight" between the U.S. and Israel, withdrew troops from Iraq and backed the Arab Spring protest moment. As the latest round of Gallup Middle East polls shows, this has done practically nothing to change Muslim opinions of the U.S.

Then on Sept. 11, Muslim radicals attacked the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the U.S. Consulate in Libya, where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were murdered. Rather than acknowledge the failure of his policies or change direction, Obama described the recent events to "60 Minutes" as "bumps in the road." Recall that liberals attacked just such wishful thinking during the Bush administration, as when then-Secretary of State Condi Rice declared during the 2006 Israeli conflict with Hezbollah (an Iranian-backed group) that it was part of "the birth pangs of a new Middle East."

Obama's unwillingness to change course makes us fear what the world would look like with another four years of his foreign policy.

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