The moral and intellectual bankruptcy of Obama grand strategy of wooing Iran as a partner has never been clearly apparent than over the past couple of weeks.
Keep in mind that it is Iran that Obama has decided is his “boots on the ground” in the war, or whatever it is, against ISIS. Not only are the Iranian Republican Guards slowly but surely gaining control of the Iraqi military and the “opposition” forces in Syria but Iranian backed militia executed a coup which toppled the mostly-kinda-sorta friendly government in Yemen, a country which the administration persists as characterizing as a success story on counter-terror operations. In addition, Obama has been forced to lie to Congress and the American people about the disastrous agreement he is crafting that will allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. Now the US Navy is escorting US flagged ships through the Straits of Hormuz. Those escorts will be to protect them from Obama’s friends in Iran, the same ones who are “helping” us defeat ISIS.
The US Navy accompanied four American-flagged ships and a British vessel moving through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf on Thursday, and officials said the US will offer that aid to any other nation concerned about interference from Iranian vessels.
Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, a spokesman for US Central Command, said that any US-flagged ship can ask to be accompanied by Navy warships through the narrow strait, which includes Iranian territorial waters.
Officials use the word “accompany” rather than escort, because they say the Navy ships are positioned nearby and are ready to respond if needed, but they don’t travel back and forth through the strait alongside each contract or Sealift Command vessel as they would during an escort. Ryder said the US Navy ships don’t intend to go into Iranian territorial waters.
The policy was adopted after Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps naval vessels reportedly fired warning shots near a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship earlier this week and have detained it and its crew.
Obama’s flaccidity in dealing with Iranian adventurism and his demonstrated enthusiasm for giving the Iranians a nuke has set off alarm bells in the Gulf states and now a line of dominoes seem to be on the verge of falling.
The Obama administration is scrambling for reassurances it can present this month at a Camp David summit meeting to persuade Arab allies that the United States has their backs, despite a pending nuclear deal with Iran.
Officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department have been meeting to discuss everything from joint training missions for American and Arab militaries to additional weapons sales to a loose defense pact that could signal that the United States would back those allies if they come under attack from Iran.
Over mahi-mahi at the Pentagon two weeks ago, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter polled a select group of Middle East experts for advice on how the administration could placate Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, all of which fear the nuclear deal, according to several attendees at the dinner.
This is a very difficult issue because security agreements and weapons sales all have as a subtext that they may be used against Israel. Via The Israel Project:
Political complications — Security treaties are non-starters – they wouldn’t get Congressional approval – so the White House would have to end-run around lawmakers by offering written defense assurances that wouldn’t require sign off from the Senate. But it’s not clear how many more times the administration can ice lawmakers out of staggeringly significant security decisions and obligations.
Would they reassure the Gulf? — The Obama administration is perceived as having failed to live up to the Budapest Memorandum, and they worry that Washington won’t come to their aid either. And of course, White House officials somewhat notoriously promised the Israelis they would deliver a good nuclear Iran deal if only the Israelis held off on attacking Iranian nuclear infrastructure – and then turned around and publicly boasted about having sandbagged Netanyahu, who they labeled a chickenshit coward for believing them.
Geopolitical complications — The pacts risk committing the U.S. to take military action in a war-torn region under unclear circumstances. Hence “entangling alliances.” What happens if the Iranian navy seizes an Emirate-flagged ship on a commercial pretext? What happens if the Houthis use Iran-provided missiles to attack Saudi Arabia? Etc.
Advanced weapons sales
Political complications — The United States is committed, among other things by U.S. Code § 2776, to preserving Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge. Providing the Gulf with advanced weapons would likely reverse that decades-old policy. It would also be a one-two punch to Israel: in order to make up for empowering Iran, which is committed to Israel’s destruction, the U.S. would empower Arab countries, which don’t recognize Israel. Lawmakers supportive of the U.S.’s strong alliance with Israel would undoubtedly object.
Would they reassure the Gulf? — It’s not clear why conventional weapons systems would suffice to reassure Arab leaders who are worried about counterbalancing an Iranian nuclear weapon. The Saudis have been public and explicit in their posture: they will not wait until Iran acquires a nuclear weapon to get their own, but will instead act when they believe it’s inevitable that Iran will eventually acquire a nuclear weapon. President Obama has for his part admitted that 13 years after a deal, Iran will inevitably be able to go nuclear without the West being able to intervene.
Geopolitical complications — Flooding a region engulfed in multiple hot wars with cutting-edge U.S. military hardware might be destabilizing.
According to the Wall Street Journal, none of the White House’s options look feasible. Congress will not approve security agreements or top of the line weaponry and the Saudis and Gulf states are scared witless over what they see as US acquiescence to Iranian hegemony. The most likely outcome is that the Saudis forge ahead with their own plan to acquire nuclear weapons.
This is what happens when your foreign policy looks like it was thought up at a pot-fueled undergraduate discussion in a Ivy League dorm. In six years one is hard pressed to find a single foreign policy decision by the Obama administration that hasn’t been a bloody shambles.