Correcting Obamaís Middle East failure / Romney visit a chance to highlight a better way (WASHINGTON TIMES COMMENTARY) By Sen. John Barrasso 07/27/12)
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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romneyís visit to Israel gives
Americans another opportunity to reflect on our Middle East policy.
For the past 3 1/2 years, President Obamaís failed efforts at
comprehensive peace in the Middle East have come at the expense of
our ally Israel and democratic movements across the region. It is
time to change course.
First and foremost, the United States must make clear that the
primary threat in the Middle East is Iranís illicit nuclear program.
When first campaigning for the presidency, Mr. Obama
criticized ďthose who would lay all of the problems of the Middle
East at the doorstep of Israel and its supporters, as if the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict is the root of all trouble in the region.Ē
The presidentís tune changed quickly once he entered office. He
traveled to Cairo to argue that the Arab-Israeli conflict had to be
solved so it could ďno longer be used to distract the people of Arab
nations from other problems.Ē
The United States must focus on halting Iranís nuclear program. It
should not be chasing a comprehensive Middle East peace that can only
be achieved by the parties themselves.
Second, itís time we had a president who will work with Congress to
strengthen sanctions on Iran instead of fighting our efforts.
When Congress proposed in 2009 to strengthen the presidentís
authority to impose sanctions on Iran, the Obama administration
opposed the measure. Mr. Obama signed it into law only after Congress
passed the bill in the Senate by a 99-0 vote and in the House by 408-
Then, in October 2011, after it was revealed that Iran allegedly was
planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil targeting the Saudi
ambassador to the United States for assassination, Congress sought to
strengthen the presidentís sanctions authority even further. An
amendment to the defense bill passed the Senate by a 100-0 vote. The
Obama administration fought that effort, too, before eventually
signing those sanctions into law.
Third, the primary impediment to peace between the Israelis and the
Palestinians is not Israeli settlements. It is the failure of the
Palestinians to negotiate as if they are committed to peace. The
Obama administration focused on Israeli settlements as the problem
when it should have spotlighted regular Hamas rocket attacks or
Iranís continued support of Palestinian terrorists groups.
Finally, the United States must promise to focus on democratic
movements in the region. In 2011, Mr. Obama gave a speech on the Arab
Spring that was in full bloom. Inexplicably, he spent half of his
remarks on a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement.
Demonstrations across the region in support of universal freedoms
showed how irrelevant the presidentís fascination with a
comprehensive Middle East peace is to the issue of greater freedom.
In his misguided view, greater liberalization in the Middle East
cannot happen until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is solved.
The Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress,
reported: ďSince taking office, President Obama has devoted greater
time and attention to the pursuit of Middle East peace than to
efforts to promote reform and democracy in the Arab world.Ē
The presidentís failure to support democratic movements in the region
has had devastating consequences. A fractured opposition in Syria is
one of the primary hindrances to the removal of President Bashar
Assad from power.
Mr. Obamaís focus on a Middle East peace, which can be achieved only
by the parties if and when they want it, has failed. Itís time to
support pro-democracy groups across the region.
During Mr. Romneyís visit, Americans and the rest of the world will
hear more about the importance of a foreign policy that treats Israel
as a friend and ally to be supported instead of an obstacle to be
Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, is a member of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee and a physician. (© 2012 The Washington
Times, LLC. 07/27/12)
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