The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Obama Doctrine laid out w/ my analysis from 2010 via Qifa Nabki blog on how this approach would be better re: Hezbollah & Syria

Obama has finally, more clearly than ever laid out an approach to the Mideast which some of us have been arguing for over the years, especially (see below) as I did in 2010 when it came to re-imaging US policy towards Hezbollah and Syria.

The key part from the NYT interview:

“We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing … people don’t seem to understand,” the president said. “You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. … You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.”

The notion that Iran is undeterrable — “it’s simply not the case,” he added. “And so for us to say, ‘Let’s try’ — understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naïve — but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. … We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it?”

My friend Nicholas Noe is on a mission. For several years, he has been arguing that Washington’s hard-line, take-no-prisoners approach to dealing with Syria and Hizbullah is completely misguided. The continuous diet of pressure and isolation tactics from the West, Noe believes, has only served to improve the fortunes of the Resistance Axis, not weaken it, and he has painstakingly documented this legacy of ashes in a variety of opinion pieces published in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and various other outlets (including his blog).

Interestingly, Noe does not take the view of certain commentators to whom he is often compared (such as Alistair Crooke and Nir Rosen) that the West should be criticized for waging a war on parties whose resistance agenda is perfectly legitimate. Rather, his beef with Washington is that this strategy is wrong because it is not effective enough. In other words, Noe does not have a problem with the ends of US policy; he simply disagrees with the means.

Take his most recent article for The National Interest. In it, he argues that Hizbullah has been painted into a corner because of the unrest in Syria and the indictments by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). Washington and its allies have sensed Hizbullah’s weakness and are now hoping to press their advantage, which Noe thinks is a terrible idea:

…Many influential voices in Washington and European capitals need to very carefully consider the wisdom of the road that they are going down—a road that will, in all probability, bring great destruction to the region, including to Israel whose home front will undoubtedly be a main frontline. Saying this, however, does not have to mean simply withering away in the face of a threat. Instead, it could mean—it should mean—that outside actors who hold such comparatively great power…might finally have to find a means and a discourse to grant concessions to far weaker…parties—a course that would actually fatally undermine their ability and desire to exercise violence over time, either against their own people or against other nations.

In other words, now is not the time to push Syria and Hizbullah further into a corner, but rather to use one’s increased leverage over them to extract valuable (but unspecified) concessions.

I think Nick’s voice is an important one to listen to on these issues, but I also think that his policy proposals are too vague in this case, and that he is overly optimistic about the positive outcome of a so-called “third way” with regard to Syria and Hizbullah.

To take another example, here’s an excerpt from a recent post of his about the mistakes that the US and March 14 made in pursuing a “maximalist” track on the STL:

READ ON here:


Written by nickbiddlenoe

April 6, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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