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OP-ED: Diplomatic Amateur Hour in the Middle East: America/Syria and Iran
Once this excitement took over the headlines and screaming reporters heralded the message of the chemical weapons, all attention turned to the challenge of these alleged violations of international law. Suddenly the UN was into the act, inspectors were introduced , and new demands were made by US Secretary of State John Kerry that warned that lack of provable riddance of chemical would have new but undefined “consequences.”
Then Iran entered the scene because of her reported role as supplier of these weapons to Syria.
Just as suddenly as the situation began, Syria not only apparently moved quickly to get rid of the weapons they said were not used but garnered the praise of Secretary Kerry for her responding with such “alacrity.” Gone was any reference to the tens of thousands already done in by Assad’s forces and the refugees. Concurrently, Iran, whom we had also threatened with some undefined retribution if she continued with development of a nuclear bomb, filed her commitment to play nice. As a result, all of a sudden Secretary Kerry, while again insisting on concrete proof of Iran’s new innocence, asserts the delinquents are also accorded more positive recognition.
President Obama then continued the “make nice” drama with a personal phone call to Iranian President Rouhani as if the communication would be Chief of State to Chief of State, ignoring the reality Rouhani is no more the man in charge than the White House valet. All informed Middle East observers know only too well the Irani president makes no move or decision offensive to or without the permission of the Ayatollah Khomeini.
All this has been followed by polite diplomatic long distance conversation giving both Syria and Iran some appearance of being genuine because of promises to be good boys on chemical weapons.
Despite warnings of the more realistic Benyamin Netenyahu that Rouhani is little more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing and the PR flackery from Iran, the American president and his diplomatic team seemingly have accepted the Iranian promises to abide by international law and move to more acceptable relationships with the United States, effectively compromising all the pressure on two oppressive governments and making all our assertions of “consequence” erased.
(Parenthetically, it should also come as no surprise that Iran is flirting…er…ah…floating some new deals for the big oil boys, something that some sound lobbying could help dilute any further action by us…and seemingly echoing how we permitted Iraq to auction off the oil fields NATO forces fought and died to rehabilitiate. )
It should also come as no surprise that huge crowds were in the streets of Iran celebrating the occupation of the United States embassy in February, 1979, with the staff held hostage,
The various public relations efforts by Iran in particular somehow echoed the promises of Adolf Hitler who, in 1935, in the Berlin Kroll Opera House, declared that for the next ten years Germany will be occupied with her domestic program and needing peace and wanting peace. Of course, the world knows what occurred between that fateful speech and the decade that had Hitler and his henchmen working far beyond her borders to occupy anything in her way and massively murdering millions despite all those promises for peace.
If all this has the ring of much confusion, it is not so to the people who have to keep an eye on these devils on almost an hourly basis, knowing that skilled media types know how to shift public attention and involvement to ever new directions.
So far “only” more than a 100,000 Syrians have died and more than a million ejected from their homes and country. If the promises of Syria and Iran find welcoming responses, our sense of leadership in the Middle East, if not erased, will suffer even more immeasurably .
It’s diplomatic amateur hour for America in the Middle East, and the stakes are getting higher by the day.
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Honick is president of GMA International Ltd with offices in Bainbridge Island, WA. He is an international consultant to business and writes on a variety of public affairs issues. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org