Of course, the President needn’t have met with ten leaders, but he might have met with the leaders of the handful of countries that are close American allies.
Meanwhile, across the pond two remarkable events have taken place in British diplomatic relations. As reported in the Daily Mail, Sir John Sawers, the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (or MI6), travelled to Israel, not a particularly close ally of Britain, to confer with its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Until recently the holder of that post was never referred to publicly by name, but only as “C.” Historically, the chief of the SIS, unlike his American counterpart (the director of the CIA), never travelled as a diplomatic messenger for the British government. As far as I know, such a trip is unprecedented.
Additionally, and so far unreported, is that at about the same time a very senior figure in the British military embarked on a whirlwind tour of Arab countries with which Britain has cordial relations.
These two trips, taken together, bespeak A Moment.
The civil war in Syria has now become a grave humanitarian crisis; it will also soon become a serious political and security crisis for many countries in the Middle East, issues I addressed weeks ago in a post here.
What’s more, whereas the Iranian ambition to develop nuclear weapons has, in the American press, been portrayed as a problem primarily for Israel, a country that the Iranian president has threatened to wipe out; it is in fact a problem also for a number of Arab countries in the Gulf that Iran has been actively trying to destabilize. Saudi Arabia and these other countries do not particularly desire to have nuclear weapons but have made clear that they will need to develop or acquire them for deterrence’s sake should Iran do so.
Neither the Obama White House, nor its State Department, have declared, let alone put up for debate, a comprehensive plan for helping to shape the future of a Middle East in flux, or upheaval, since the onset of the so-called “Arab Spring.” If one peers closely one can see the outlines of a sophisticated, long-range strategic plan... but so far, in practice, this plan has only meant “When in doubt, do nothing.” Unfortunately, the US at this moment seems only ever to be in doubt. Worse, events in Libya and Egypt on September 11 this year have revealed unsteady hands in communicating America’s aims and values, as well as in providing security for our diplomats and those locally who engage with our diplomats.
Meanwhile, this week President Ahmadinejad threatened “World War III.”
In the past, at times like these, the world looked to the United States. This month, America’s long-time allies in the Middle East searching for counsel or solidarity of purpose have had to turn to Britain, a wonderful but small country that for some time has wanted to leave in the past the modifier “Great.” Perhaps the US now does too.
When then-Senator Obama was running for office he suggested that because of his background, life experiences and understanding, many of America’s problems in the Middle East and with Islamic countries would, upon his becoming president, settle down. What’s more, his first foreign trip on becoming president was not, as is customary, to close historical allies Britain or France, but instead to Cairo, Egypt, to deliver an address offering a new beginning, or a “re-set” as it were. At this moment, it appears that today’s Middle East has instead become a hostage to this president’s dysfunction and his ambivalences about both Islam and America’s role in the world.
Breaking news: The Emir of Qatar has just called for military intervention in Syria.
|+ see note below|
Daily Mail: "MI6 chief made secret trip to meet Israeli PM to head off plans to bomb Iran's nuclear programme" here.
Intelnews: "MI6 chief paid ‘extremely rare’ secret visit to Israel" (background) here.
Spiegel: "Obama's Middle East Policy Is in Ruins" here.
White House staff Pirate Photo Communique here.
* So far as we know the president met neither with pirate nor clown this week. Presumably that will teach news organizations not to believe everything the White House staff says.
+ A note regarding the accompanying image… the image was created as a White House tribute to astronaut Neil Armstrong following his death. Some uncharitable commentators, noting the image's the foregrounding of the President, suggested that it was another example of President Obama's supposed narcissism (ie, "Wasn't it great that Neil Armstrong traveled to the moon and then died just so Obama could have a chance to think about the heavens"). At the time, I didn't understand why no one noticed that with the crescent moon and single star at the focal point of the picture, the White House was also, inadvertently or not, channelling classic Islamic iconography.
Insta-lanche! In fact, instant Insta-lanche. Thank you Instapundit, Michael Totten, and Glenn Reynolds.