Rich Lowry: A diplomatic revolution

  • By Rich Lowry
  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015 2:57pm
  • Opinion

The socialist government in France usually doesn’t have much in common with congressional Republicans, for whom both France and socialism tend to be anathema. But the French, according to a Wall Street Journal report, are taking the toughest line among the powers negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program and are alarmed by the Obama administration’s accommodating approach.

“Some U.S. officials,” the Journal writes, “privately believe France is seeking in part to maintain strong ties to Israel and to Arab countries deeply skeptical of Washington’s outreach to Tehran.”

When the Quai d’Orsay is more concerned than Foggy Bottom with maintaining warm ties to Israel, it is a sign of a world turned upside down.

Consider the bizarre confluence of the perhaps-imminent Iran agreement with the administration’s apoplexy over Bibi Netanyahu’s re-election in Israel. The Iran deal will nullify the half-dozen U.N. resolutions calling on Iran to halt all uranium enrichment, at the same time the administration is floating the idea of going along with a new effort to isolate Israel at the U.N., in effect for the offense of re-electing Bibi Netanyahu.

There are barely words for the perversity of this turnabout. It would be a step toward normalizing a rogue state and making a rogue state out of a normal country. It would be a rapprochement with a sworn enemy and a breach with a tried-and-true friend. It would be a diplomatic revolution in keeping with President Barack Obama’s purported realism that has little regard for either our deepest-held values or coldblooded interests.

In a Huffington Post interview, President Obama warned that the Israeli-Palestinian status quo is “not a recipe for stability in the region.” What stability? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict manifestly has nothing to do with the collapse of Syria into a catastrophic civil war, or with ISIS establishing control over a swath of territory in Iraq and Syria, or Yemen descending into chaos.

Israel holds free-and-fair elections in which Arabs can freely vote, even if Netanyahu made an ill-advised election-day comment about them turning out in droves; in country after country, Sunni and Shia forces kill and maim one another in a vicious fight for dominance by force. Israel builds settlements (mostly in areas that will stay part of Israel in any peace deal); Bashar al-Assad drops cluster bombs on people, and has reportedly returned to using chemical weapons.

It doesn’t take great discernment to see the differences. It takes only a modicum of perspective, which President Obama can’t muster as he sets about engineering a rupture with our only democratic ally in the Middle East.

Obama is often accused of amateurism and drift in his foreign policy. In a compelling essay in the online publication Mosaic, Michael Doran argues that this is unfair. The president has always had a strategic vision, with an opening to Iran at its heart.

This explains, Doran contends, the president’s muted response to the 2009 democratic protests in Iran; his willingness to allow Iran to take a large hand in the Syrian civil war and hesitance to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels; his gift of sanctions relief to the Iranians, as well as major concessions in the ongoing negotiations; and his accommodation of a heavy military role for Iran in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

The public campaign against the leader of Israel fits with the overall scheme. “In making his personal rift with Netanyahu the subject of intense public debate,” Doran notes, “the White House means to direct attention away from the strategic rift between them — and from the fact that the entire Israeli elite, regardless of political orientation, as well as much of the U.S. Congress, regards the president’s conciliatory approach to Iran as profoundly misguided.”

It is a testament to the folly and radicalism of this project that even the French have misgivings.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

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