How Obama Alienated the Arab World and Destroyed US Credibility
May 11 barely had dawned before Obama’s latest national embarrassment came to light. Early that Monday morning, word emerged that four of six invited heads of state from Gulf Arab nations would skip a summit with Obama at Camp David on Thursday, May 14. Moreover, Saudi King Salman decided to stay home rather than meet privately with Obama at the White House that Wednesday.
While the emirs of Qatar and Kuwait eventually huddled with Obama, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said, and the United Arab Emirates’ Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan all joined the Saudi monarch in blowing off Obama’s gathering.
Experts believe a four-letter word explains this public slap at Obama: Iran.
“I don’t think they have a deep respect, a deep trust for Obama and his promises,” Emirates University political scientist Abdulkhaleq Abdullah told the Associated Press, referring to the Gulf State leaders who kept away. “There is a fundamental difference between his vision of post-nuclear-deal Iran and their vision,” the professor added. “They think Iran is a destabilizing force and will remain so, probably even more, if the sanctions are lifted.#…#They’re just not seeing things eye to eye.”
“I think we are looking for some form of security guarantee, given the behavior of Iran in the region, given the rise of the extremist threat,” Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States, told the AP. “In the past, we have survived with a gentleman’s agreement with the United States about security. I think today, we need something in writing. We need something institutionalized.”
At a May 8 meeting in Paris with foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council — the very nations invited to Camp David — Secretary of State John Kerry offered these countries “non-NATO-major-ally status,” the Wall Street Journal reports. However, they skinned up their noses at this proposal, too.
The Arab envoys displayed “very, very tepid interest” in Kerry’s plan, one U.S. official told the Journal. “They seemed to think it was not that critical or even important a step.”
While Obama flirts with the mullahs, Saudi Arabia has gone its own way in fighting Iran’s puppets, specifically the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
According to Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.), before the Saudis began aerial bombardments against the Houthis, they gave U.S. Central Command chief General Lloyd Austin just “an hour’s notice they were going to strike Yemen.”
Saudi Arabia seemed to send its own message to Iran in the form of its new chief diplomat.
Kerry called an atomic deal with Iran “closer than ever” at a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in New York on April 27. Riyadh reacted quickly. “Early on the morning of April 29, former Saudi ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir was appointed foreign minister,” observes Kalman Sporn, a Middle East strategist and Middle East policy adviser to the Vatican-based Dignitatis Humanae Institute. “This is highly unusual, as he is not a member of the royal family.”
Sporn, a former resident of Dubai, believes Riyadh was signaling its disgust with the emerging U.S.-Iran pact. As it happens, Al-Jubeir was the target of an Iranian-led assassination conspiracy that the FBI unraveled in 2011. Iranian-American Manssor Arbabsiar pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for his murderous collaboration with members of the Iranian military. They planned to kill then-Ambassador Al-Jubeir by bombing him at Café Milano, a Georgetown restaurant. Told that this would cause as many as 150 casualties, Arbabsiar replied: “No problem. No big deal.”
By appointing the ayatollahs’ former prey as its international-affairs chief, Saudi Arabia has placed before Tehran and Washington someone who dodged Iran’s fire and has every motivation to keep doing so.
“In Dubai,” Sporn says, “one learns that some messages are delivered subtly and through action rather than words. The White House did not get the message.”
Arab officials worry that the ayatollahs’ new fling with Earth’s sole remaining superpower will encourage it to trigger further regional instability. Iran and itsproxies already are wreaking havoc in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. The terrorists it sponsors extend Tehran’s deadly tentacles into crevices worldwide.
Beyond these indirect effects of an Obama-Ayatollah Pact, Arab leaders fear what Tehran might do with atomic weapons. Rather than merely showcase them in military parades, the heirs of Khomeini actually could explode them.
Prominent UAE industrialist Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor pulls no punches in reflecting these grave concerns about a nuclear Iran. In a May 6 Al Arabiya News article headlined “Why Iran’s regime is nearing its sell-by date,” Al Habtoor warns that Iran’s dictators “are currently attempting to strangle the entire region with their medieval ideology. Worse, they have resorted to threatening neighboring countries and funding terrorists and proxy militias to overturn governments.” He adds: “The Obama Administration may be about to sign a pact with the Mullahs in Iran, biding their time to turn the Middle East into a fireball as a precursor to what they believe will be the appearance of the 12th Imam (Al Mahdi Al Mountathar).”
That, ultimately, is what is at stake here: preventing an Iranian mushroom cloud from ever rising over Riyadh, Jerusalem, or even Washington, D.C. By steering clear of Camp David last week, the Gulf Arab leaders put Obama — and his desperate, naïve, cockeyed diplomacy — in his place.
Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. A version of this article was originally published by National Review Online.