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Obama and the Middle East

October 24, 2013

If you’ve been reading every email and listening to every mobile conversation of every journalist in the United States you are sure to have a very docile press corps. And a very docile press corps it is indeed. Take the latest news about foreign policy and the Saudis which is an exceptionally quiet story for an event this momentous. But we do have some analysis for what it’s worth. Like this:

What should worry the Obama administration is that Saudi concern about U.S. policy in the Middle East is shared by the four other traditional U.S. allies in the region: Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. They argue (mostly privately) that Obama has shredded U.S. influence by dumping President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, backing the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, opposing the coup that toppled Morsi, vacillating in its Syria policy, and now embarking on negotiations with Iran — all without consulting close Arab allies. . . .

The problem was clear in the fall of 2011, when I was told by Saudi officials in Riyadh that they increasingly regarded the U.S. as unreliable and would look elsewhere for their security. Obama’s reaction to these reports was to be peeved that the Saudis didn’t recognize all that the U.S. was doing to help their security, behind the scenes. The president was right on the facts but wrong on the atmospherics. [My bolding]

Obama was “peeved” was he? Not appreciated enough, was he? And as far as “the facts” go, the first of the paras quoted ought to be facts enough for anyone, so which are the “facts” that the President was so right on? It’s nothing to do with “atmospherics” and everything to do with national security. On present form you would be crazy to trust Obama and the US unless you were some radical fringe group out to destabilise your community. That the journalist sides with Obama is just par for the course. Which brings me to the second foreign policy story of the day.

Someone at the State Department was fired this week who had apparently been secretly tweeting national security information under a false name. In his tweets a top Obama official had been specifically named as having released top secret information to the world at large. From the story:

Jofi Joseph, the National Security Council official fired last week for Tweeting secretly under the moniker @natsecwonk, had publicly, albeit anonymously, accused a senior White House official of leaking classified information related to United States intelligence operations against Iran.

Joseph, who was outed in a report Tuesday in The Daily Beast, criticized and insulted dozens of Obama administration officials, lawmakers, Capitol Hill staffers, and journalists during his two-year stint on social media. But his number-one target was Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications Ben Rhodes, a senior official close to President Obama. Rhodes worked for the same department as Joseph, albeit at a much higher level.

In the summer of 2012, Joseph issued multiple tweets under his @natsecwonk account suggesting that Rhodes was the source of classified information leaked to the press about the Stuxnet virus, a joint U.S.-Israeli cyber warfare effort to sabotage Iran’s nuclear centrifuge program. Joseph, as an official in the non-proliferation bureau of the State Department and later inside the White House, was part of the administration’s team working on the Iranian nuclear issue.

Well, of course the whistleblower has lost his job and Rhodes, like Alger Hiss before him, has been exonerated at the highest levels. But someone has been leaking the Stuxnet information and if not him then someone. That the Saudis, Israelis, Jordanians and the Emirates show a lack of trust in Obama has hardly come from nowhere. Everybody is looking for new partners because relying on the US may no longer be part of anyone’s long game going forward. Which brings me to this, Quietly, Israel and the Gulf States Draw Closer Together:

A clear distinction is made by the Saudis between the world of ideology/media/culture and the realm of raison d’etat. Hence, there is no reason to think they would not be able to publicly vilify Israel, while maintaining off the radar links with it against more immediate enemies.

In this regard, it is worth remembering the Wikileaks revelation of remarks made in private by Saudi King Abdullah to American General David Petraeus in April, 2008, in which he recommended military action against the Iranian nuclear program. The king referred to Iran as the “head of the snake,” which should be cut off. No similarly venomous remarks on Israel were quoted from the conversation, which took place far from the public eye.

Of course the common interests only go so far. Saudi Arabia supports Salafi Islamist forces in both Syria and Egypt. Saudi money finds its way to Salafi elements among the Palestinians. But the areas of commonality are on issues of cardinal importance to both countries.

The de facto, unseen alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries is one of the most intriguing structures currently emerging amid the whirling chaos of the Middle East.

Chaos, all right, direct to you from the same people who brought Obamacare to the health care system in the US.

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