President Barack Obama spent his first term pushing from power long-standing Arab allies in Egypt and Tunisia, seeking to engage the now blood-soaked Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, pulling his punches against Iran’s nuclear program, and putting “daylight” between his administration and Israel.
Now for his second term, he has nominated for the highest posts bearing on the Middle East three figures who give the strongest indication we can expect much more of the same — John Kerry for secretary of state, Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense and John Brennan for the CIA.
A leaked cable shows that, in February 2010, Kerry told the Qataris that he supports Israeli withdrawal from the strategic Golan Heights, eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank. In April 2010, Kerry met with Assad and called Syria “an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.”
Kerry also stands apart from his senate colleagues in his weakness toward Iran. Last month, he was one of only 26 senators not to urge President Obama to reiterate his readiness to use military force against Iran if other measures fail to prevent Iran becoming a nuclear power. In April 2010, he was one of only 19 senators refusing to call for crippling sanctions upon Iran.
In respect to the Palestinian Authority, Kerry favors neither pressure nor penalties for its failure to implement its Oslo commitments to end terrorism and the incitement to hatred and murder that feeds it. In 2007, he was one of only 21 senators not to oppose aid to and contacts with P.A. figures who “do not explicitly and unequivocally recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce terrors and accept previous agreements.”
With Defense nominee Chuck Hagel, we fare inarguably worse. In 2008, he was described by a congressional aid as “solely responsible” for blocking an Iran sanctions bill. Like Kerry, he opposed Hezbollah’s designation by the European Union as a terror outfit and favors indulging the Palestinian Authority.
But Hagel has exceeded Kerry by advocating direct U.S. negotiations with Hamas, a group designated as terrorist by the United States that is committed in its charter to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. Before retiring from the Senate, he muttered about “intimidation” by the “Jewish lobby,” unsubtly suggesting that legislators support Israel to America’s detriment because of Jewish influence rather than public support.
Which brings us to CIA nominee John Brennan, who refers to Jerusalem as Al Quds, the Arabic name widely used by those who do not recognize Israel. Like Kerry and Hagel, Brennan whitewashes Hezbollah and wants to appease Iran and Hamas. In 2008, he blamed the bad relations between Iran and the United States, not on the nature of the Iranian regime and its goals, but, at least in large part, on what he called “Iran-bashing,” — presumablyy by Jews who oppose Iran developing nuclear weapons.
In other words, Brennan doesn’t see the Iranian regime as a threat. In fact, he criticized the Bush administration for continuing to pressure Iran. As for Hezbollah, he sees it as moderating and pragmatic.
If Iran and Hamas sound no warning bells for Brennan, neither does radical Islam in general. Brennan, in 2009, publicly defended the Obama administration’s policy of discarding basic, factual terms like “radical Islam,” “Islamism” and “jihad” in reference to the war being waged against America and its allies by Muslim extremists.
With President Obama and his three wise men, we can expect more “engagement” with radical Islamic and jihadist movements, several of which have ascended to power during Obama’s first term, no deterring of Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold and more “daylight” between Washington and Jerusalem. l
Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America. Daniel Mandel is director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy.