Recently, the American president has begun speaking as though he is leaving the White House, freeing himself from the “constraints of office” and his obligations. He has started offering his opinions and his assessment of U.S. allies — perhaps in an unprecedented way in terms of audacity and biting sincerity — in order for these positions, statements, and declarations to shape the contours of the “Obama Doctrine,” to use the expression from The Atlantic.
President Obama has not supported an ally of the United States without directing the arrows of scrutiny and sharp criticism at it, crossing some of the red lines that still fence in Washington’s relationships with some of its close allies, like Israel, Saudi Arabia, France, Britain and Turkey, such as it became possible for us, after reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s lengthy article, to claim we know what is going on in the mind of the leader of a superpower.
He attacked Netanyahu and held him responsible for the downfall of the “two-state solution.” We all know the episodes of the fraught relationship between the two men, which lacks chemistry of any kind, especially given the vehemence of the dispute over the Iranian nuclear program and Netanyahu’s insolent attempt to spy on the American president in his home.
However, in the article, Obama distinguishes between his negative view of the Israeli prime minister on one hand, and, on the other, his absolute commitment to protect Israel, to the extent of being prepared to declare war and stray from the “Obama Doctrine” in case Israel’s security is in danger, all without pondering the reasons pushing his country to preserve Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over the Arabs?! Saudi Arabia received a wide range of the criticism from the American president concerning his country’s allies. In any case, he has already leveled public criticism against Saudi Arabia, accusing it and Iran of inciting proxy wars and sectarian conflicts, emphasizing that without Saudi success working in partnership with the Gulf States and arriving at a “cold peace” with Iran, the conflicts of the region will not subside and its wars will not come to an end.
It was not expected that the American president would put Iran in the allies or friends column, but the real surprise in Goldberg’s interview was that Obama found it difficult to accept the classification of Saudi Arabia as an ally as he was repudiating the constraints and precepts of American foreign policy.
In Obama’s mind, the majority of those who carried out the attacks on Sept. 11 were not Iranian … and Obama seemed to regret the shift of Indonesia’s “moderate” and “tolerant” Islam toward extremism, for which he blames Saudi Arabia. Obama’s positions on Saudi Arabia, which Goldberg presents in the article, are perhaps the harshest issued by an American president about the kingdom.
Turkey, which was an object of admiration for the Obama administration and characterized as advancing a model for civil Islam that is compatible with democracy and secularism — such that some in the region named it “American Islam” — Turkey, which Obama hoped to turn into a bridge between East and West, submitted to the rule of a “failure and an authoritarian,” per Obama’s description of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The extent of Obama’s anger is such that he says, “All I need in the Middle East is a few smart autocrats.”
The situation on the European front is no better. Obama criticized the indecision of its apathetic, scatterbrained leaders — among them British prime minister and close Washington ally David Cameron — who want Washington to wage wars on their behalf, defending their interests instead of American national interests. In this respect, they are like leaders in the Middle East — without having to be distracted by burdening the old continent with responsibility for the chaos that followed the downfall of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.
President Obama is settling accounts with his allies and we are reading about it in the pages of The Atlantic. What he overlooked or (with his usual candor) refrained from saying, was filled in by aides, advisers, ambassadors, and “experts,” who provided Goldberg with fertile material, in order to adeptly articulate the “Obama Doctrine.”