America’s allies in the “moderate” Arab world have been rising up to protest President Obama’s inconsistent foreign policy in the Middle East. The latest example is Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Chief of intelligence in Saudi Arabia, who blasted Obama’s lack of credibility in the Middle East.
We’ve seen several red lines put forward by the president, which went along and became pinkish as time grew, and eventually ended up completely white. When that kind of assurance comes from a leader of a country like the United States, we expect him to stand by it. There is an issue of confidence.
Turki went on to add that when a country has strong allies, “you should be able to give them the assurance that what you say is going to be what you do.” The prince no longer has any official position but has lately been providing the public expression of internal Saudi views with clear approval from the Saudi government.
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Apparently the Saudis are particularly angry about Obama’s actions (or lack thereof) in Syria, first drawing a red line, then backing off and allowing the Russians to outmaneuver the U.S.
Prince Turki and Israeli officials have argued that the agreement merely legitimized Mr. Assad, and on Sunday, the prince called the world’s failure to stop the conflict in Syria “almost a criminal negligence.”
The prince discussed the Saudi interest in making sure Iran stayed nuclear-free, and he complained that talks between Iranian and American officials had been kept secret from American allies, sowing further mistrust.
The prince said Iran must give up its ambitions for a nuclear weapons program — Iran says its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes — and stop using its own troops and those of Shiite allies like the Lebanese organization Hezbollah to fight in neighboring countries, like Syria and Iraq. “The game of hegemony toward the Arab countries is not acceptable,” the prince said. Just as Arabs will not dress as Westerners do, he said, “we won’t accept to wear Iranian clothes, either.”
A prevalent theme at the conference was the waning of American influence in the Middle East. Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said: “Today we live in a zero-polar, or a-polar, world. No one power or group of powers can solve all the problems.”
The United States, Mr. Fabius said, was often criticized for being “overpresent, but now it is being criticized for not being present enough.” While “it is perfectly understandable” that Mr. Obama would refrain from new military engagements in the Middle East, he said, “it creates a certain vacuum” that has allowed Russia “to make a comeback on the world scene” and has encouraged France to intervene in the Central African Republic, Libya and Mali.
That last statement echoed what Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, said last week — viz., that Obama’s disjointed foreign policy is driving the Arab states back into the embrace of Moscow.
A key component of a good foreign policy is consistency. Our allies need to understand what our objectives and policy are and where they are going. Obama’s vacillating, lead-from-behind policy has led the Arab states to look at the U.S. under this President as weak and unsure. And if they end up in the embrace of Russia, the United States will be worse off for decades to come.