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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Two more Obama foreign policy foul-ups

It's no great secret that with the possible exception of creating a 'Palestinian state,' President Obama has no real interest in foreign policy. His interests lie mostly in turning the United States into a socialist country. But in the age of the 'global village,' a President cannot really afford to ignore foreign policy either. This past week saw two major foul-ups by the Obama administration.

The first foul-up actually resulted in the United States not pandering to a Muslim country for a change, and in my view that's a good thing. I'm talking about the narrow vote of the House Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday to recognize the murder by Muslim Turks of approximately 1.5 million Armenians a decade ago as a genocide. Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States for 'consultations' as a result of the 23-22 vote - and that's just a vote by one House committee! For those who aren't familiar with the Armenian genocide, Pamela has good summary of it here. Here's how the Obama administration ended up with a resolution that they didn't want:

Hill staffers and Democratic foreign policy hands say neither the White House nor State tried to stop Rep. Howard Berman (D-Cal.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, from proceeding with the committee mark-up of the nonbinding resolution until the night before it was scheduled. This though Berman had publicly announced the intention to schedule the mark-up over a month before. Committee aides "said there had been no pressure against the resolution from the White House," the AP reported last month.

Berman “announced way in advance he was” scheduling this, one Washington Democratic foreign policy hand said. “They are basically asking ‘Please stop me.’ And they did not hear a word from the administration, I am being told,” until the night before.

Clinton called Berman Wednesday night from Latin America, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday.

“And in that conversation, she indicated that further congressional action could impede progress on normalization of relations” between Armenia and Turkey, Crowley said. “I think the President also spoke yesterday with [Turkish] President Gul and expressed appreciation for his and Prime Minister Erdogan’s efforts to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia."

“We are concerned that possible action that Congress would take would impede the positive momentum that we see in the Turkey-Armenia normalization process,” Crowley said.

But the Democratic foreign policy hand said the Wednesday night efforts were too late. Berman is “a politician. If he folds then, he looks like a poodle.”

“My impression is that State weighed in [Wednesday] but that with the Armenia resolution, as with all other things, White House/NSC legislative affairs was completely asleep at the wheel,” one Hill staffer said. “Consequently the White House ‘discovered’ the problem yesterday when call slips started finding their way to higher-ups.”

“As best I can tell, with regard to foreign policy, both White House/NSC legislative affairs shops could shut down entirely and no one would even notice,” the staffer added.
I guess when they're so busy trying to ram Obamacare down people's throats, they don't have time for little things like the murder of 1.5 million people. Here in Israel, the headlines noted with some surprise that Turkey had not asked for Israel's help with lobbying Congress, and in a story in Sunday's JPost it's reported that American Jewish organizations did not play an active role in opposing the measure this year either. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm tired of the Turks' seething, and would rather see a spade called a spade. I hope that the resolution (which is non-binding anyway) gets passed by both Houses of Congress.

The second Obama foul-up of the week had to do with the adoption by the UN Security Council on Friday of a resolution regarding the violence that took place here in Jerusalem on a Friday morning (show me anyplace else in the World where that sort of thing would make it to the Security Council the same day it happened):
Gabon's U.N. Ambassador Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, president of the Security Council for March, read the nonbinding remarks on behalf the 15 council members after a closed-door discussion of the violent clashes.

"The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the current tense situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem," Issoze-Ngondet said.

"They urged all sides to show restraint and avoid provocative acts," he said after a closed-door meeting. "They stressed that peaceful dialogue was the only way forward and looked forward to an early resumption of negotiations."

The U.S. envoy at the meeting, Deputy Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, did not speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout after the meeting.

A U.S. official, however, told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the American delegation had not agreed with the statement and said it was adopted due to what the official described as "procedural confusion."

It was not immediately clear what the "confusion" was.

Several council diplomats familiar with the negotiations on the statement, however, told Reuters that the U.S. delegation made no attempt to raise any objections to the final version of the text, which they said was adopted by consensus.
So was the US in favor or opposed? Or was Obama just trying to vote 'present' again? Jennifer Rubin sees the possibility of a more sinister motive:
Well, what we do know is that this sort of thing virtually never happens with Israel-bashing UN resolutions. (”Historically, the U.S. delegation has a tendency to block Security Council statements condemning Israel.”) Not just a tendency: a former foreign-policy official knowledgeable in this sort of thing tells me, “If it is a mistake, it is one that NEVER happened in 8 years of Clinton and 8 years of Bush.”

So was this a shot at Israel, an attempt to make clear just who is in charge before the arrival in Israel of Joe Biden? (Biden’s appearance is more insulting than it might otherwise be, given that the president has chosen to send his hapless minion in contrast to his earlier personal appearance in the “Muslim World” at Cairo. But then again, perhaps Biden might hew to actual history rather than his boss’s fractured version.) Maybe someone on the NSC team then lost nerve, realizing how it would be perceived in Jerusalem, and thought it better to put out an after-the-fact sniveling explanation seeking to slink away from the UN statement – one that should never have seen the light of day. Still, perhaps this is just the Keystone Kops at work, and no harm was meant.
Biden arrives in Israel on Monday and he's already the top item in the news reports here. His appearance here will undoubtedly be one of the topics for my Chai FM radio appearance in South Africa on Monday. But the idea that there was a procedural mix-up would be totally not credible but for the fact that mix-ups seem to be the order of the day for the Obama administration on foreign policy.

America is in good hands. What could go wrong?

By the way, the picture at the top is Obama's geography lesson. He's trying to find that little country that causes him so much trouble. Heh.


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