The U.S. position in the Middle East is quickly slipping as an image of Western weakness is convincing important actors that it is in their best interest to invest their future with the bloc of Iran and Syria. While some Arabs are choosing to embrace Israel backstage, this is because of the fear that an Israeli strike on Iran is their last hope before being forced to capitulate. If Tehran is viewed as the new dominant power, Israel will find itself alone and the West will have to contend with a region of countries too afraid to resist the demands of Iran and Syria.
Jordanian and Egyptian officials are anonymously complaining about the display of U.S. weakness, saying they can only conclude that they must oppose American policy in order to be treated properly.
_“_Only if you’re tough with America and adopt an anti-U.S. stance will the U.S. have a more flexible attitude and pay you,” an Egyptian official told WorldNetDaily.com.
“No matter what the Syrians do, how they declare all the time they are allied with Iran, the U.S. is trying harder and harder to attract Syria and offer them more,” a Jordanian was quoted as saying in the same report.
Members of the Syrian, Lebanese and Iranian democratic opposition movements affirm that they’ve been discouraged by the U.S. attitude since President Bush’s second term and even more so since the Obama Administration came into power. The Obama Administration has announced that it has chosen Robert Ford to serve as the ambassador to Syria, restoring diplomatic relations after Syrian President Bashar Assad openly laughed off reports of Syria exiting its alliance with Iran.
Iraq has actually taken a harder stance against Syria’s support for terrorism than the United States. Last fall, a crisis developed between the two countries when the al-Maliki government lost its patience with Syria’s support for terrorists in Iraq following massive bombings in Baghdad. The Iraqis tried to build support for a United Nations tribunal to prosecute insurgents and officials in Syria guilty of supporting terrorism. They won the backing of France, but the U.S. declared neutrality, calling it “an internal matter” that should be solved diplomatically.
An official from al-Maliki’s political bloc said their campaign for a U.N. tribunal was actually being resisted by the U.S. The Iraqi Foreign Minister publicly lamented that the U.S. was still sticking to the flawed theory that secular and radical Islamic terrorists won’t cooperate. More recently, the Obama Administration reportedly denied Israel permission to bomb a convoy delivering Scud missiles to Hezbollah.
Farid Ghadry, an Executive Member of the Reform Party of Syria, a U.S.-based group seeking to replace the Assad regime with a democracy, says that the Syrian opposition feels abandoned and demoralized.
“Because of the U.S. policy to engage Syria and neglect the democratic dissidents, the opposition living inside Syria spends its time in and out of jail and the Syrian opposition outside the country has been mostly Jumblattized,” he told FrontPage, referring to Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze leader who once opposed the Syrian regime but began embracing it in recent years.
Lebanon is a distinct example where the failure of the U.S. to staunchly challenge Syria and Iran has led to political leaders once dedicated to fighting them to switch sides. Dr. Joseph Gebeily, the President of the Lebanese Information Center in the U.S., says that a combination of selfishness and a realization that Hezbollah, Iran and Syria were the dominant players has caused key Lebanese leaders to defect.
Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, was once a major opponent of Syrian influence in Lebanon. He was even talked about a potential U.S.-backed President of Lebanon and labeled Hezbollah a terrorist group and Syrian proxy. In 2006, he allied with Hezbollah and visited Syria in 2008, saying “the rivalry has ended.” Dr. Gebeily says Aoun was acting purely out of self-interest and went to what he perceived as the winning side.
Walid Jumblatt, a leader of the Lebanese Druzes, also opposed Hezbollah and boldly asked the U.S. to aid the Syrian opposition seeking to overthrow the Assad regime. Now, he is opposing the disarmament of Hezbollah. He says, “We want neither peace nor a settlement with Israel” and that his prior remarks towards Syria were “improper.”
Jumblatt chose to go to the other side in 2008 after Hezbollah emerged victorious from clashes with supporters of the Lebanese government that opposed Syria. He described himself as a “hostage” in Beirut and surrendered. “Tell Sayeed Hassan Nasrallah I lost the battle and he wins. So let’s sit and talk to reach a compromise. All that I ask is your protection,” he said. Dr. Gebeily says that Jumblatt also saw the Obama Administration as giving the “green light for Syria to return as the power player.”
The same story goes with Saad Hariri, the son of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri whose assassination in 2005 is widely attributed to Syria and sparked the Cedar Revolution. Now, Hariri meets with the leaders of Syria and Hezbollah and boasts that “a new phase in our relations” with the Assad regime has begun. He has even told Assad that if Hezbollah is accused of killing his father, he will defend the group by saying an “external element” infiltrated the group to carry out the murder.
Dr. Gebeily says that Hariri is also opening up to Syria at the request of the Saudis who wish to lure them from Iran. “Privately, Hariri and Jumblatt said they felt abandoned by the Bush Administration in May 2008, when Hezbollah attacked Sunni Beirut and the Druze mountains,” he said.
Similar dynamics exist in Iraq. Even Iyad Allawi, the secular Shiite leader of the cross-sectarian bloc opposed to Iran, tried to build a relationship with the Iranian government after the election. The Iranian ambassador to Baghdad said that his coalition should have a role in the next Iraqi government, and then a spokesperson for the coalition said they would forbid the use of Iraqi territory to attack Iran. This overture did not produce a closer relationship, as Allawi right now is going to the pages of The Washington Post to plead for U.S. support as Iran tries to manipulate the formation of the next government.
The democratic movement in Iran is also being hurt by a lack of U.S. support. In November, the international spokesman for the Green Movement requested greater U.S. assistance, warning that President Obama would lose his support in the country if he did not support democracy. Indeed, Iranian protestors have ridiculed President Obama, asking him whose side he is on. The demoralization is causing some Iranians to quick protesting. One office manager who opposed the regime directly said, “Why risk our lives to make a change, when it is completely unclear what the outcome will be?”
The country of Qatar, a long-time U.S. ally and host of a major American base, has moved into Iran’s bloc. Last July, the Qatari Chief of Staff met with the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, where they discussed future joint military exercises and solidarity with Iran was declared. Emir al-Thani also met with President Ahmadinejad where he said the Islamic world needed a superpower like Iran.
Some countries, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are still holding the line against Iran, but every appearance of American weakness tempts them to join the other side. The movement of Turkey into Iran’s bloc further pressures the rest of the region to stop their struggle against Iranian hegemony. If this trend continues, it will not be long before the remaining bastions against Iranian influence start cutting deals with the enemy.
This article was sponsored by Stand Up America.