Mousa Alshanteer: Obama’s strategy in Middle East isn’t working

Dec. 26, 2012 @ 03:37 PM

In the past few years, former President Bush has been vilified by the media and blamed by both Democrats and Republicans for America’s economic regression and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while President Obama has been hailed as a hero for ending the Iraq War, intervening in Libya, and taking out Osama Bin Laden.
One cannot deny that there have been some achievements in the Middle East, nor can one deny that there have been some failures as well. More often than not, these successes are eclipsed by the failures and miscalculations of Obama’s foreign policy. In the case of many countries in the Middle East, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Obama’s strategy is not as effective as the foreign policy of President Bush.
The Benghazi Report has condemned the State Department for “systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies,” four officials have resigned, and American interests are yet to be secured in the region. Though the U.S. assisted the National Transitional Council in overthrowing Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the newly-established government has failed to consolidate control among the populace. As a result, al-Qaida has taken on a significant role in the region, thereby rendering the government unable to prevent the Benghazi attack and subsequent deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Similarly, the Obama administration has failed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Iran. Though the imposition of sanctions on the country’s prominent energy sector is the main reason why anti-American sentiments are developing in the region, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is rightfully unconvinced that the sanctions are preventing the regime’s nuclear proliferation. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently indicated that Iran will have the ability to produce nuclear weapons by early next year.
Not only is Iran a threat to Israel, but it gives Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan a reason to follow suit with the pursuance of nuclear proliferation. The option of military intervention is becoming increasingly likely, especially since Iran’s oil minister recently claimed that his country has successfully circumvented the sanctions imposed on its oil sales. It’s clear that our administration’s appeasement policy isn’t working in this case either.
Iran’s influence in the region coincides with the Obama administration’s circumvention of the situation in Iraq as well. Obama has allowed for Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki to intensify his administration’s relationship with Iran. In his effort to withdraw troops from Iraq, Obama failed to implement the Status of Forces Agreement and rejected recommendations by the military to station approximately 20,000 armed forces in the region. As a result, Iraq’s reliance and relationship with Iran will only increase.
Moreover, Obama’s lack of action in Syria has allowed for Iran to supply Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with military aid and for Ahmadinejad’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to assist the Syrian Armed Forces. By waiting for the United Nations to take action, Obama is also allowing for extremist groups, such as al-Qaida and Hezbollah, to thrive within the internal opposition movement. Not only will American leadership on Syria improve relations with allies such as Turkey and Qatar, but it will prevent Iran, al-Qaida, and Hezbollah from gaining pre-eminence in the region.
Obama’s foreign policy in Egypt is also the reason why pro-American Hosni Mubarak was replaced with anti-American Mohamed Morsi. The new constitution, favorable to Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, suppresses freedom of speech, imposes an inferior status on women, nullifies the powers of the judiciary, and gives Egyptian clerics legislative oversight. Now that Mubarak is gone, Morsi is able to consolidate power under the umbrella of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood.
Whether it is Libya, Iran, Iraq, Syria or Egypt, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Obama’s “lead-from-behind” policy has been inadequate in terms of preventing the influence of al-Qaida, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other anti-American factions in the Middle East. President Bush invaded countries, removed their leaders, and restructured entire administrations. He replaced them with American protectorates and imposed his agenda on countries that were unwilling to accept democracy as their own. It’s time for the Obama administration to pursue President Bush’s strategy of leading from the front rather than leading from behind.
Our safety and security depends on it.

Mousa Alshanteer is a freshman at Duke University and a 2012 graduate of High Point Central High School. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author. Contact him at mousa.alshanteer@duke.edu.