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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776
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Democratic Platform: No Mention of Islamist Challenge, No Support for Arab Liberals

President Barack Obama accepting the Democratic nomination Thursday night

President Barack Obama accepting the Democratic nomination Thursday night
Photo Credit: DNC

The optimism about Iraq’s future is even more questionable:

“Moving forward, President Obama and the Democratic Party are committed to building a robust, long- term strategic partnership with a sovereign, united, and democratic Iraq in all fields—diplomatic, economic, and security—based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”

In fact, Iraq analysts discuss how difficult and dangerous the situation is in the country today and how the Obama Administration has done nothing to try to make it better.

On Afghanistan we are told: Obama “”refocused our efforts there in 2009, setting the clear goal of defeating al-Qaeda and denying it an ability to reestablish a safe haven in Afghanistan,” as if Bush had never thought of that idea. But in fact it also claims Obama was able to “reverse the Taliban’s momentum and to give the Afghans the time and space to build the capacity of their security forces. We have accomplished that, and now we have begun the process of bringing our troops home from Afghanistan,”

While I support the withdrawal it is well-known among Afghan experts that the Taliban is actually doing well, that the Afghan security forces are seriously flawed, and that Obama’s administration has played footsy with the Taliban. After a U.S. withdrawal anything is possible. Also the whole problem of Pakistan’s betrayal of U.S. trust (and ample funding) is not mentioned anywhere.

The section on al-Qaeda includes legitimate Obama Administration successes but can’t help but tendentiously imply that Bush was losing the war and that only Obama succeeded. The closing line of this section though contains a very important hint for understanding the problem with Obama policy:

“…We are committed to an unrelenting pursuit of those who would kill Americans or threaten our homeland, our allies, our partners, and our interests around the world.”

This is nonsense. There is an unrelenting pursuit of al-Qaeda but hardly of terrorists attacking allies, partners, and even interests. Think: Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, Hamas, Hizballah, the Syrian regime (until it broke down in civil war), terrorist forces in Syria, and even Iran (whose operations in Iraq to kill Americans are an open secret).

Two of the most interesting of the platform’s sections deal with Iran and support for democracy. Revealingly, the discussion of Iran is under the heading, “Preventing the Spread and Use of Nuclear Weapons.” In other words, it isn’t that Iran poses some special threat but is just part of the overall need to rid the world of nuclear weapons, including the American ones.

Naturally, it talks about the sanctions put on Iran—nicely sharing credit with “international powers and Congress.” But it also includes some whoppers:

“When President Obama took office, Iran was ascendant in the region, and the international community was divided over how to address Iran’s nuclear violations.”

Really? The fact is that Iran was hardly ascendant and the international community—except for such countries as Turkey, Russia, and China that have never changed their line—was ready for serious action. It just took Obama two long years to show leadership.

“Working with our European allies and with Russia and China, the administration gained unprecedented agreement for the toughest ever UN sanctions against Iran….” That’s true but doesn’t mention that their agreement was gained by exempting them from the sanctions. The rest is pretty much standard policy that using diplomacy and pressure is best but other options including military force remain on the table.

The problem, though, is that Iran is never addressed as a strategic problem, involving its wider strategy of subversion and seeking regional hegemony. That is a big weakness in Obama policy, for example not mentioning Iran’s sponsorship of anti-American terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere. Why? Because this might add pressure to do something about Iran and also bringing up the dreaded subject of radical Islamism and the fact that Tehran leads a bloc of allies that Obama was reluctant to touch.

Finally, there is a section extolling the kind of policy that the very same people would have ridiculed and reviled (and not incorrectly, by the way) a couple of years ago as Bush’s “neo-conservatism”:

“Across the Middle East and North Africa, we have stood with the people demanding political change and seeking their rights during the Arab Spring. Since the beginning of the protests in Tunisia, the United States has consistently opposed violence against innocent civilians, supported a set of universal rights for the people of the region, and supported processes of political and economic reform. When the Egyptian people flooded Tahrir Square in Cairo demanding democracy, the administration actively engaged the Egyptian government, military, and people in support of a transition away from decades of dictatorship and towards democracy.”

Barry Rubin

About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.

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