Is Obama Making a Middle East War More Likely?

Short answer: Yes.  Not just by its neglect of the region, hostility to Israel, and fecklessness about Syria and Egypt.  Its active overtures to Iran are likely increasing the chances of a Middle Eastern war, and this may be one reason why Saudi Arabia recently took the extraordinary step of declining a long-sought seat on the UN Security Council as a way of signaling publicly its disgust with Obama.

These are some of the conclusions you can derive from Michael Rubin’s short post over at Commentary about how the blundering diplomacy of the Carter administration in 1979 led directly to the famous hostage crisis:

The hostage crisis was not inevitable, however. I examine the episode in detail in my new book about the history of American diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups. Rather, it was the direct result of forcing diplomacy upon a faction-ridden regime. Visiting Algiers on November 1, 1979, Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski met Iranian Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan at a reception to celebrate Algerian independence day. Brzezinski told Bazargan that the United States was open to any relationship the Islamic Republic wanted. Brzezinski may have been well-meaning, but his initiative was a case study in how ill-timed diplomacy worsens relationships. Rather than grasping Brzezinski’s outstretched hand, Iranian revolutionaries decided to slap it away in order to reinforce their ideological credentials. The day after newspapers published a photograph of the Brzezinski-Bazargan handshake, outraged students at first protested Bazargan’s alleged betrayal of the revolution, and then decided to put an exclamation point on it by seizing the American Embassy.

Khomeini endorsed the move. “Our young people must foil these plots,” he declared. The embassy seizure was initially just supposed to last 48 hours, but a Carter national security council aide leaked word that military options had been taken off the table, and the hostage-takers, according to subsequent interviews, identified that as the moment when they decided to increase their demands and keep the embassy for the long haul.

On the 30th anniversary of the embassy seizure, Khamenei warned Obama not to place his hopes in political reformers. Reformists “can’t roll out the red carpet for the United States in our country. They should know this. The Iranian nation resists,” Khamenei declared. . .  Had it not been for one rushed handshake just over 34 years ago, after all, the United States and Iran may not have been set down a path from which they have been unable to recover.


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