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The Rise and Fall of Barack Obama: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 22, 2015 — On February 19, US President Barack Obama delivered another perplexing speech at the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington.
Obama Won’t Beat IS With a Half-Hearted Strategy: Konrad Yakabuski, Globe & Mail, Feb. 23, 2015 — The only thing worse than a commander-in-chief who sees the enemy around every corner is one who’s unclear about whom or what he is fighting.
Obama’s Iran Policy and Israel’s Elections: Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA, Feb. 16, 2014— Unfortunately, there are many sources of tension between the Obama administration and Netanyahu’s government.
Obama’s American Sniper: Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 21, 2015— Barack Obama was 15 minutes into his State of the Union speech when I arrived home to watch it, having just walked back from seeing “American Sniper.”
Raging Rudy Giuliani Destroys Obama's Policies on Islamism and Iran (Video): Youtube, Feb. 13, 2015
Why is Obama Fixated on Iran?: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Feb. 16, 2015
ISIS and Obama’s Summit: Wall Street Journal, Feb. 16, 2015
Blankets for Ukraine: Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations, Feb. 5, 2015
Running for Daylight (Obama, Not Brady): Maureen Dowd, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2015
Seth J. Frantzman
Jerusalem Post, Feb. 22, 2015
On February 19, US President Barack Obama delivered another perplexing speech at the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington. The speech began in a logical manner, addressing the rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, terrorism in Sinai, Copenhagen, Paris, Somalia, Nigeria and against Israel and Pakistan. “We must remain unwavering in our fight against terrorist organizations,” he said. He claimed that Muslim communities have a responsibility to push back the “lie that we are somehow engaged in a clash of civilizations; that America and the West are somehow at war with Islam or seek to suppress Muslims; or that we are the cause of every ill in the Middle East.”
Then Professor Obama emerged, who began to lecture the audience. “We must address the grievances that terrorists exploit, including economic grievances…when people feel entirely trapped in impoverished communities, where there is no order and no path for advancement, where there are no educational opportunities, where there are no ways to support families, and no escape from injustice and the humiliations of corruption – that feeds instability and disorder, and makes those communities ripe for extremist recruitment.” He wants us to combat “economic grievances.”
He plodded on, talking about education for girls, and about democracy. He delved into minutiae, recalling a nameless “young Palestinian working to build understanding and trust with Israelis, but also trying to give voice to her people’s aspirations.” And he told people, “The world knows about the attack on the Jews at the kosher supermarket in Paris; we need to recall the worker at that market, a Muslim, who hid Jewish customers and saved their lives.” His speech was pilloried across the political spectrum, with Peter Bergen at CNN calling it “nonsense.” The speech was the latest in a litany of strange episodes in which the US president has wrestled with what to say about Islamist terrorism. In Early February he told a Vox interview, “It is entirely appropriate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” The “random” aspect was latched onto by the media, which lambasted him for his callous terminology. On February 10 the White House press secretary was hammered over the comments, and couldn’t bring himself to have much sympathy with the victims: “These were individuals who happened to randomly be in this deli and were shot while they were there.”
The latest episode caps a whole month of failed speeches. At the National Prayer Breakfast, just after a Jordanian pilot had been burned alive by Islamic State (IS), Obama lectured the audience: “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” Playing imam, he told people that IS was “betraying Islam” and quoted a Hadith that states, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” He labeled Syria a “sectarian war,” and claimed that there was “murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria,” seemingly unable to admit what was behind these murders. They were, as others would later point out, not random, as much as Obama might like them to be, but part of a carefully planned religious crusade by Islamist extremists.
Some people look at Obama and they see an apologist for Islamism. They look at his momentous Cairo speech in 2009, “A new beginning,” and see him blaming the West. They were dismayed that the massacre at Fort Hood in 2009 by Major Nidal Hassan was labeled “workplace violence,” when it was clear Hassan had been in contact with Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Then there was the comment by NASA chief Charles Bolden in 2010 that his foremost mission, direct from the president, was “to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.”
In some ways, though, the radical rightwing anti-Obama screed, according to which the president is secretly either a Muslim or at the very least not an American citizen, have helped shield Obama from discussion of his real failures. Those like Dinesh D’Souza, author of The Roots of Obama’s Rage, have claimed “the real Obama is a man shaped by experiences far different from those of most Americans; he is as much stranger, more determined, and exponentially more dangerous man than you’d ever imagined.” Obama is portrayed as a weakling, a campus radical with connections to Palestinian intellectual extremists, raised to dislike America and find favor in neo-colonial struggles. Over the weekend former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani told people, “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America.” Comments like this may have helped Obama because his enemies have caused us to forget what has actually happened.
Remember back in 2008 when he was elected? Paul Krugman wrote in his New York Times column, “If the election of our first African-American president didn’t stir you, if it didn’t leave you teary-eyed and proud of your country, there’s something wrong with you.” There was a lot of sentiment like that. A cartoon showed the world cheering “Yes They Can,” implying that America could get past its rancorous racial history (it forgot that most of the world is trapped in cycles of racism as bad as the US). Derided as having a “messiah complex” by the Right, Obama went from strength to strength, winning a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 without having done anything. What we fail to understand is that both the rise and fall of Obama were of his own making. His rise was tied into what he was perceived as: a youthful African-American president promising change. Not much actually changed following his election. Guantanamo Bay, the US prison camp for al-Qaida members, wasn’t shut. Drone strikes abroad continued and even increased. To his credit Obama encouraged the hunting down and killing of Osama bin-Laden and Awlaki.
Obama’s worldview isn’t anti-American or post-American so much as it is empty. Should the war in Afghanistan continue? Sure, why not. What should America do about Egypt, Iraq and Libya? Something, but not too much. One day it was a “reset” with Putin’s Russia, then it was time to aid the Ukrainians – but not too much, lest they actually win. One day talk of air-strikes for Syria, the next not. Obama is blamed for causing a mess in the Middle East, but that perpetuates the myth that America alone truly influences the Middle East. The US administration likes to negotiate, whether it is opening relations with Cuba or dragging on discussions with Iran, and that plays into the agendas of both Cuba and Iran while gaining nothing for the US or its interests. When it comes to take a chance at helping protesters in places like Iran, the US shies away. Obama is perceived as anti-Israel, but he isn’t so much anti-Israel as simply bereft of a plan for Israel and the Palestinians. Negotiate forever is the plan; punish the recalcitrant Israelis in minor ways, leak comments like “chickens**t,” but do nothing of substance…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Globe & Mail, Feb. 23, 2015
The only thing worse than a commander-in-chief who sees the enemy around every corner is one who’s unclear about whom or what he is fighting. As U.S. President Barack Obama seeks congressional authorization to continue bombing Islamic State targets, his equivocation about the struggle against an enemy he refuses to name is undermining the success of the mission. This is not the first time Mr. Obama has equivocated. He couldn’t decide which horses to back in the Arab Spring, and so bred distrust on all sides. A trio of foreign policy heavyweights – Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power – pushed him into intervening in Libya to oust Moammar Gadhafi. But a lack of follow-up on that United Nations-sanctioned NATO mission left a vacuum that the Islamic State is now filling.
Mr. Obama drew a red line in Syria and dared President Bashar al-Assad to cross it. He did. But after Mr. Obama asked Congress for authorization to bomb Mr. Assad’s forces – authorization he insisted he did not need – he withdrew his request and did nothing. Since then, the number of deaths in Syria’s civil war has tripled to at least 210,000, about half of them civilians. Many security experts warned in 2013 that the chaos in Syria was creating fertile ground for a new offshoot of al-Qaeda whose barbaric tactics and force of attraction outdid those of previous terrorist groups. Mr. Obama dismissed such notions, likening the group that has since come to be known as the Islamic State to a “jayvee” (junior varsity) basketball team in Kobe Bryant jerseys.
That was barely a year ago. Now, Mr. Obama has gone back to Congress seeking an authorization to use military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State. This comes six months after he began a military campaign against IS, a campaign for which he insisted he did not need congressional approval since the AUMF approved after 9/11 has not expired. Many in Congress fear the President will soon grow just as weary of this battle as he did of the Libyan campaign and the Arab Spring, leaving it to the next commander-in-chief to pick up the pieces. As a result, Mr. Obama seriously risks losing this vote.
Republican hawks warn that this AUMF, which would expire in three years, would tie not only Mr. Obama’s hands but those of his successor by prohibiting “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” or U.S. boots on the ground. Liberal Democrats warn the administration’s unwillingness to define “enduring” or “offensive” could open the door to such a ground war. Since a defeat in Congress would be a huge propaganda victory for the Islamic State, enough members in both parties may put aside their reservations and vote yes. (Though some also remain hesitant, since the 2002 vote to authorize the war in Iraq haunted many supporters.) But if Mr. Obama gets his AUMF, it won’t be because he’s convinced Congress that his heart is in this fight.
The President did not help his cause last week by hosting a White House summit euphemistically titled Countering Violent Extremism. Words matter. And Mr. Obama’s refusal to utter the words “Islamic State,” “radical Islam” or “Islamic terrorism” could be defended as an attempt to avoid fanning the flames of Islamophobia or stigmatizing an entire religion. Such extreme political correctness can only inspire cynicism, however, when Mr. Obama’s own deradicalization programs and surveillance operations are focused almost exclusively on Muslims. It also insults the intelligence of average Americans, who know well enough that the Islamic State propagates a perverted, medieval interpretation of Islam.
Still, the barbarism IS conducts is done in the name of religion, and to deny this is to undermine efforts to thwart it and dishonours the victims – French Jews, Egyptian Christians, Canadian soldiers or moderate Muslims – who are killed simply for who they are or what they believe. Mr. Obama ended his summit sounding like George W. Bush, admonishing representatives of the 60 countries in attendance that democracy is the only antidote to extremism. That did not go over well with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries that remain the West’s most critical allies in the military campaign against the Islamic State. It also further muddied the objectives of a war Mr. Obama only seems half prepared to fight.
Prof. Efraim Inbar
BESA, Feb. 16, 2015
Unfortunately, there are many sources of tension between the Obama administration and Netanyahu’s government. The main issue of discord is, of course Iran. Obama seeks an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear program that will allow President Obama to claim that he prevented Tehran from building the bomb. The fact that Iran will maintain the capability to enrich uranium, and will not dismantle any of its nuclear installations, is simply swept under the rug as insignificant. Strange as it sounds, it seems that Obama is prepared to brand Iran as a US strategic partner in the attempt to bring stability to a region beleaguered by chaos.
Part of this realignment involves American capitulation on the nuclear issue, and an apparent carte blanche for stepped up Iranian activity and influence in the region. Iran is taking over Yemen (and throwing American diplomats out of the country); carving a sphere of influence in Iraq; continuing to support the brutal Assad regime in Damascus; strengthening Hizballah’s grip over Lebanon; engaging in subversion in Central Asia; and developing its terrorist apparatus. In the context of Obama’s “Grand Bargain” with Iran, all this seems to be okay. Tehran gets all it wants, while Washington gets an Iranian promise not to go nuclear as long as Obama is in the White House. Having made no foreign policy achievements throughout his presidency, Obama, perhaps obsessively, now wants the relationship with Iran to serve as his foreign policy legacy.
This foolish behavior negatively affects America’s own position in the Middle East, as well as the national interests of its closest ally, Israel. Obama does not care about American international stature. He has advocated a retrenched position in world affairs. Israel, as well, has never been close to his heart, but Obama understands that Israeli concerns strike a sensitive chord with the American public. This is precisely why he does not want Netanyahu to speak in the US Congress. Obama fears that Netanyahu’s planned March 3 speech could become a catalyst for a public debate about his own dangerous policy toward Iran. He does not want undue publicity for his dangerous foreign policy gambit. The last thing he needs is a gifted orator such as Netanyahu pointing out the glaring deficiencies in the American approach toward Iran.
And this is precisely why Netanyahu is determined to defy Obama’s wishes. The gravity of the Iranian threat is understood by Israelis of all political hues. As long as there is a chance, however slight, that an address to Congress will reinvigorate the public debate in the US on Iran, and obstruct the administration’s attempt to sign a deal, Netanyahu feels compelled to make a stand against all odds to halt a bad deal with Iran. Paradoxically, Obama’s efforts to prevent Netanyahu from visiting Washington, and to convince Congress members to boycott the session, only increase the interest in what Israel’s prime minister has to say.
Beyond the personal animosity and the vast difference in worldviews, Obama does not want Netanyahu around because he considers Israel’s prime minister a serious spoiler of his most important foreign policy initiative. But it is not only in Washington that Obama considers Netanyahu to be unwelcome. Obama wishes to be rid of Netanyahu in Jerusalem as well. This is not the first time we have been witness to American intervention in Israeli elections; with the White House showing displeasure with Likud candidates, and enlisting Jewish activists and donors for the anti-Netanyahu campaign.
Obama does not want Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel even after a deal is signed with Iran. He has no desire to be exposed to Netanyahu’s continued criticism, based on the realization that the proposed deal has many loopholes, or based upon probable Iranian violations of the agreement. He also takes seriously Netanyahu’s statement that Israel is not bound by America’s unilateral agreements. In Obama’s view, a paranoid Netanyahu may still revert to the military option, and thereby destroy his only foreign policy “success.”
Obama is probably right on this point. Among the candidates for prime minister in the Israeli elections, only Netanyahu is passionate about Iran, and only Netanyahu would consider ordering the IDF to attack Iranian nuclear installations in defiance of the United States. While the campaign in Israel is focused more on personalities than on issues, the underlying theme of the elections is the Iranian threat and who is best placed and most experienced to tackle this challenge.
Wall Street Journal, Jan. 21, 2015
Barack Obama was 15 minutes into his State of the Union speech when I arrived home to watch it, having just walked back from seeing “American Sniper.” Watching a movie about a Navy SEAL who served four tours fighting in Iraq was not the best way to enhance the experience of a Barack Obama speech. As a matter of fact, it was pretty unbearable. Because Clint Eastwood directed “American Sniper” the movie is about more than the story of Chris Kyle, the highly skilled rifle marksman from Texas. In 2006, Mr. Eastwood presented two movies about the famous World War II battle of Iwo Jima. “Letters from Iwo Jima” told the story from the perspective of Japanese soldiers, and “Flags of Our Fathers” from the Americans’ side.
So “American Sniper” is not a crude paean to “our boys” in the Iraq war. What it does is convey the extraordinary personal, psychological and physical sacrifice of the U.S. Marines who fought al Qaeda in Fallujah, Ramadi and the other towns of Iraq’s Anbar province beginning in 2003 and through the period of the Anbar Awakening, which ended with the Marines pacifying the province. It’s just a movie, so even “American Sniper’s” small slice only hints at the price America paid—some 3,500 combat deaths and another 32,000 wounded—to bring Iraq to a point of relative, if fragile, stability in 2011.
Opinions will differ, often bitterly, on the war in Iraq and the reasons for it. In the movie, a painful funeral scene captures that ambivalence. But what is just not possible to choke down is President Obama’s decision in 2011 to reduce the U.S.’s residual military presence to virtually zero. It was a decision to waste what the Marines and Army had done. Announcing the decision at the White House on Oct. 21, Mr. Obama said, “After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011.”… Military analysts at the time, in government and on the outside, warned Mr. Obama that a zero U.S. presence could put the war’s gains and achievements at risk. He did it anyway and ever since Mr. Obama has repeatedly bragged about this decision in public speeches, notably to the graduating cadets of West Point last May.
In January, months before that West Point speech, the terrorist army of Islamic State, or ISIS, seized back control of both Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar province. The month after the West Point speech, the city of Mosul and its population of one million fell to Islamic State, and here we are with the barbarians on the loose there, in Yemen, in Nigeria and in France. Watching “American Sniper,” it is impossible to separate these catastrophes from seeing what the Marines did and endured to secure northern Iraq. Again, anyone is entitled to hate the Iraq war. But no serious person would want a president to make a decision that would allow so much personal sacrifice to simply evaporate. Which, in his serene self-confidence, is what Barack Obama did. That absolute drawdown was a decision of fantastic foolishness.
In the one spontaneous moment of Tuesday evening’s speech, Mr. Obama cracked back at some chiding Republicans that he’d won two elections. And he’s right. The first election was a remarkable, historic event for the United States. His second election was a historic electoral mistake, leaving the country and the world to be led by a president who is living on his own fantasy island. He said in the State of the Union that we are leading “a broad coalition” against ISIS. We are? What coalition? Mainly it’s the Iraqi army and Kurds battling for survival alongside U.S air support. The president said we are “supporting a moderate opposition in Syria.” But twice in 2014 Mr. Obama derided the Syrian moderates as dentists, pharmacists and teachers. U.S. support for the moderates is de minimis. On Ukraine, Mr. Obama said, “We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small.” But bullying is exactly what Russia’s Vladimir Putin is doing to Ukraine because Mr. Obama refuses to give its army even basic defensive weapons.
Then there’s the grandest foreign-policy self-delusion of the Obama presidency—the never-ending nuclear arms deal with Iran. Mr. Obama said we’ve “halted the progress of its nuclear program.” Slowed perhaps but no one thinks we’ve “halted” Iran’s multifacility nuclear-weapon and ballistic-missile project. Only in the Obama fantasy is it halted. Sen. Robert Menendez , the New Jersey foreign-policy Democrat, who sat bolted to his seat during the speech, said the next day that the administration’s talking points on Iran now sound “straight out of Tehran.” There is a lot of American flag in “American Sniper.” When Chris Kyle’s 2013 funeral procession drives down I-35 in Waco, people with American flags line the streets and overpasses. Until the American people vote for a new president in 2016, what all of that represents will remain a world away from Washington.
Raging Rudy Giuliani Destroys Obama's Policies on Islamism and Iran (Video): Youtube, Feb. 13, 2015
Why is Obama Fixated on Iran?: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Feb. 16, 2015 —Why does U.S. President Barack Obama so desperately want a deal with Iran?
ISIS and Obama’s Summit: Wall Street Journal, Feb. 16, 2015—The White House hosts its Summit on Countering Violent Extremism this week, and Islamic State seems not to understand it wasn’t invited.
Blankets for Ukraine: Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations, Feb. 5, 2015—Rarely does the fecklessness of current American policy toward Russian aggression against Ukraine emerge as clearly as it does in today’s New York Times.
Running for Daylight (Obama, Not Brady): Maureen Dowd, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2015 —The talk up in Boston is all about deflation while the talk down here is all about inflation.
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