Obama’s Complicated Power Games in Mideast

When the United Nations secretary general starts criticizing a country that’s not the United States, it must be pretty far off the beaten path of decent behavior.

Syria was “strongly condemned,” as AP put it, by Ban Ki-Moon for the continued slaughter of its people despite promising to get soldiers and heavy weapons out of the country’s population centers.

By comparison, the predominant sound from the White House has been silence. Except for an occasional expression of a wait-and-see attitude, Obama Administration officials have been largely noncommittal about Syria’s massacres.

That’s in stark contrast to Obama’s vocal support and even credit-taking for uprisings in other Muslim countries, from Tunisia to Egypt, and his military support that skirted Congress in Libya.

Obama has been notably choosy about which countries he supports “pro-democracy” uprisings in, ignoring government abuses in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain while condemning the government in places like Yemen, Cote d’Ivoire and Egypt, where appalling street violence against women and Christians in particular have led the radical Muslim Brotherhood into power.

He has simultaneously leaned on Israel to restart negotiations with the Palestinians and to back off its tough stance against Iranian nuclear arms development.

In Syria, the most concern Obama seems to be able to muster is to pronounce the government violence “heartbreaking,” rejecting the kind of military intervention he had no qualms about in Libya’s case.

On Friday it was revealed that Obama has sent a message via Turkish intermediary to Iran, offering to accept Iran’s nuclear program, which the world has been fretting about for years, if Iran will simply offer “guarantees” that it won’t build a bomb.

Back in August 2010, Obama had asked his staff to prepare a secret intelligence report detailing which Muslim countries were ripe for overthrow by their citizens, according to the New York Times itself. The plan became a blueprint for determining in which countries to intervene, in which to support the rebellions and which to stay away from.

Based on the pattern since then, it seems Obama’s foreign policy has no guiding moral component other than power. In Libya, strongman Moammar Ghadhafi had no effective military backing, though Ghadhafi still required a push out the door. The same can be said about the Egyptian regime, except that country’s leader was on even more slippery footing and susceptible to mere street mob violence.

In the case of Syria, Bashar al-Assad still has a strong hold over his military forces. Even the administration’s dithering in Afghanistan can be attributed to the unexpected resilience of the Taliban. Now the administration is willing to play nice with Iran because it may be close to building a nuke.

Saudi Arabia’s royal family is an old personal ally of Obama’s, so they also get the kid-gloves treatment. Meanwhile, Israel, for whom Obama has zero respect but which has the region’s strongest military, is in for more of the president’s browbeating and undercutting.

The Arab Spring was not about democracy, but about Obama’s efforts to reshape the region to his personal liking.