If Washington really thinks that President Bashar Assad has a role to play in Syria's future, then it should tell us the following: What practical steps does it plan to take in order to neutralize Assad's sectarian Alawite militias and their allies – Hezbollah´s Lebanese Shiite forces – once Syrian territory is freed of the Islamic State group? So far, no one in the Obama administration has addressed this issue.
Another compelling question in light of North America's questionable handling of the Iraqi-Syrian situation is the following: Does Washington really have a genuine global strategy for the Middle East? I am referring to a serious, responsible strategy that connects its regional politics to the ever-changing political and military realities on the ground. So far, President Obama has not clarified his stance on Hezbollah and the actions of its followers, which have prevented the election of a new Lebanese president until Hezbollah can install a puppet candidate that will obey its orders.
Nor have we heard any comments regarding the Shiite strategy to take control of Yemen, a severely fragmented country. Last but not least, there is no clear indication of U.S. opinion concerning Iran's regional advances and the recent declarations from Tehrani officials indicating their control of four regional capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana.
What we are witnessing is very strange. The Islamic State group has occupied the Syrian city of Raqqa for over a year, and last June, it invaded Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq. This occurred when the terrorists took virtually all of eastern Syria and western Iraq. However, Obama did not appear to become alarmed until the Islamic State group began to broadcast images of brutal executions and decapitations of U.S. and British citizens, and then later, of the violence that it unleashed on the Kurdish population in the Syrian city of Ain al-Arab — better known in the West as Kobane — on the border with Turkey.
It was not surprising that the Iraqi army and police force — trained by the United States — collapsed when the Islamic State group invaded Mosul and Anbar, both of which remain under terrorist control. In fact, the charade of Prime Minister Maliki's administration continued until Washington realized that he was becoming a threat, even for the strategy in which he was clumsily serving; as a result, Maliki was forced to leave in order to save his own life.
What is happening now in Iraq and Syria constitutes an attempt to salvage a situation produced exclusively by President Obama's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. However, the ambiguity of the U.S. position does not stop there, so let's take a look at the current situation in Lebanon and Yemen.
What does the Obama administration want with these two countries, and subsequently, with the entire region, given its concern for Tehran's advances? Why does the U.S. see terrorism and extremism as exclusive components of just one sect within Islam, and dismiss its past partners in the Middle East who supported the Iranian regime and its armed gangs?
It is true that al-Qaida was responsible for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and from there, the country's outrage became focused on one extremist Sunni fringe group. I also recognize that President Obama and his two soulmates, Susan Rice and Denis McDonough, were still young at the end of the 1970s, and as a result, they perhaps do not remember that period of Middle Eastern history, before the emergence of the "Sunni devil" Osama bin Laden.
However, in my opinion, it is worthwhile to look farther back and evaluate the past – not to relive old animosities, but rather to discredit the idea that terrorism and extremism are unique and exclusive of one religious sect, or even of racial identities in the Arab Islamic world.
What I mention can be seen clearly throughout history. Let´s take a look. In 1979, 52 North Americans were taken hostage for 444 days in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran following the advent of Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution. Then, in October of 1983, while Obama was in his last year of studies at Columbia University, the U.S. Marine Infantry barracks were the target of a suicide attack in Beirut; in total, 254 U.S. soldiers died in an explosion that Washington attributed to pro-Iranian agents. Additionally, between 1982 and 1992, Lebanon was the scene of a wave of foreign citizen kidnappings and hostages, during which 96 people were kidnapped, tortured and imprisoned for several months. Ultimately, many of these people were assassinated – among them 25 Americans, 12 British and 9 French. Once again, pro-Iranian Shiite extremists were held accountable and later accused by their hostages, who were freed once the terrorists' demands had been fulfilled.
Today, after a series of political assassinations that began in 2005, various Hezbollah officials and followers have been formally accused of participating in such crimes with the help of Michel Aoun´s Christian mafia, who partnered with Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah. The pro-Iranian group is pushing and driving the Lebanese army to a bloody, sectarian impasse, destroying state institutions little by little and systematically eliminating elements of Sunni leadership, which they had initially supported in the hopes of debilitating the moderate Sunni leadership that Iran detests. All of this is a part of Iran and Hezbollah's attempts to take complete control of Lebanon, although Washington says nothing about this.
In regards to Yemen, Iran seems to be playing in its backyard; Tehran moves with complete freedom there, intensifying the chaos that already prevails. Southern Yemen, which is predominately Sunni and Marxist-Leninist, supports the secessionists. In the north, their followers – the Huzi Shiites – are now the de facto rulers of the country, despite the fact that the greater part of Yemen´s Shiite minority is Zaydi and consequently has nothing to do with Iran´s "velayat-e faqih" doctrine — the belief in a government appointed with God's authority. As for the Sunni Shafi'i majority, it doesn't have anything to do with the al-Qaida extremists, nor does it belong to Sunni fundamentalism.
And so, I present the final questions to the Obama administration: What will the United States do with Tehran and its Shiite militias once they manage to destroy the Islamic State group? Today, they appear to be partners; if they are not, then it seems they still have profited from the North American military action and from the coalition against Sunni extremism. Will Obama hand over the Middle East to the Iranian Mullah and consider them allies of his politics in a new stage of the Arab world? Will Obama do that, with Lebanese and Yemeni cities still in ruins, or, after finishing off the Sunni terrorists of the Islamic State group, will he dedicate himself to neutralizing the Shiite terrorists?
Personally, I wouldn't be so sure that the latter will occur; rather, I believe that Obama will escape on the wave of luck of "gatopardism," a form of politics that Henry Kissinger knew how to manage well in his time.
Unfortunately, Obama is far from possessing the brilliant mind of old Henry. The North American president has handled himself more like a bull in a china shop, and has managed to shoot himself in the foot on several occasions. Consequently, there is nothing to suggest that the global situation will change.
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