Fray­ing Mideast peace

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Pres­i­dent Obama’s Mideast pol­icy has been marked by his typ­i­cal rhetor­i­cal ex­cess. “There will be per­ils that ac­com­pany this mo­ment of prom­ise,” he said in a ma­jor speech in May about the Arab Spring. “But af­ter decades of ac­cept­ing the world as it is in the re­gion, we have a chance to pur­sue the world as it should be.” Re­cent events have shown that the “world as it should be” is rapidly trans­form­ing into the world we never wanted.

The Sept. 9 at­tack on Is­rael’s em­bassy in Cairo was one such warn­ing sign. A crowd whipped into a frenzy by cler­ics at Fri­day prayers tore down the build­ing’s se­cu­rity bar­rier and pro­ceeded to ran­sack the com­pound. The United States im­plored Egypt to “honor its in- ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions to safe­guard the se­cu­rity of the Is­raeli Em­bassy,” and hundreds of troops and a dozen ar­mored cars de­scended on the scene as har­ried diplo­mats were spir­ited off by com­man­dos. This is a sad de­vel­op­ment af­ter 30 years of peace se­cured by the former Egyp­tian govern­ment, which the White House helped drive from power.

Ear­lier this month in Paris, Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton said, “Libya’s new lead­er­ship will need to con­tinue to stand against vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism and work with us to en­sure that weapons from [Moam­mar] Gad­hafi’s stock­piles do not threaten Libya’s neigh­bors and the world.” Arms looted from the fallen regime are al­ready flow­ing out of the coun­try and into the hands of rad­i­cal el­e­ments. Whether the new Libya will be un­der the sway of ex­trem­ists may al­ready be de­cided. Rebel com­man­der Ab­del­hakim Bel­haj is a vet­eran of the mu­ja­hedeen in­sur­gency against the Sovi­ets in Afghanistan and a former Tal­iban and al Qaeda as­so­ci­ate.

On Setp. 12, Iran held a cer­e­mony in­au­gu­rat­ing the 1,000-me­gawatt Bushehr nu­clear plant, which the mul­lahs claim will be used for peace­ful pur­poses. In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA) di­rec­tor gen­eral Yukiya Amano re­it­er­ated the find­ings of a confidential IAEA re­port that, “The agency is in­creas­ingly con­cerned about the pos­si­ble ex­is­tence in Iran of past or cur­rent undis­closed nu­clear-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties in­volv­ing mil­i­tary-re­lated or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to the de­vel­op­ment of a nu­clear pay­load for a mis- sile.” Over the sum­mer, the Is­lamic Repub­lic in­stalled ura­nium-en­rich­ment cen­trifuges in se­cure un­der­ground bunkers near the Shi­ite holy city of Qom, which doesn’t build con­fi­dence that Tehran’s nu­clear pro­gram is peace­ful.

U.S. pol­icy op­poses all these de­vel­op­ments, but pol­i­cy­mak­ers seem help­less to stop them. In May, Mr. Obama said that in the face of rad­i­cal changes in the Mid­dle East, Amer­ica “must pro­ceed with a sense of hu­mil­ity.” As cri­sis upon cri­sis builds in the re­gion, the White House may dis­cover that ex­trem­ists see op­por­tu­nity in a hum­bled U.S. pres­i­dency. The harsh re­al­ity is the United States will not be a cred­i­ble world leader as long as Mr. Obama con­tin­ues to “lead from be­hind.” Mideast chaos is the rot­ten fruit of this weak prac­tice.

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