The Fatah-Hamas deal may presage a new Iranian approach to the Middle East.
Jun 6, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 36 • By LEE SMITH
It can’t give many Americans much lasting pleasure that the Israeli prime minister humbled our commander in chief this week on his home turf. To be sure, a president who seems to relish provoking public confrontations with an ally may have had it coming, but in the end Netanyahu’s speech before Congress won’t satisfy too many Israelis either—or for that matter many other Middle Easterners who have come to depend on American stewardship. The fact that an Israeli leader makes the case for American exceptionalism and U.S. power better than Barack Obama is a signal that Washington has forsaken its traditional role in the Middle East at a dangerous time.
Netanyahu was only the first to state the obvious in public, but other U.S. allies, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, convinced that the Americans are living in a fantasy world, are also starting to strike out on their own. If no one knows yet what new architectures and anatomies the Arab Spring will engender, putative U.S. allies and genuine adversaries, states, and even non-state actors like the Muslim Brotherhood are scrambling for position.
Iranian aggression, and not the peace process, as Netanyahu was careful to remind his American audiences this past week, is still the key regional issue. With the administration turning on traditional American allies, some observers are starting to see similarities between Washington and Tehran, in one important respect. “If Obama says the status quo is unsustainable,” says Martin Kramer of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “and won’t do anything to sustain it, then Washington, like Iran, is an anti-status quo power. Others have to take it upon themselves to defend the status quo.”
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