Obama’s Good Intentions for the Mideast Require a Clear Plan

The Kurds must get a state, as must the Sunnis in Syria and Iraq. And don’t forget the Palestinians.


The question facing Barack Obama is not about the nuclear agreement. The question — from the humanist, peace-loving and freedom-loving point of view — is what are the Obama Doctrine’s implications for the people of the world?

According to a UN report, there are more than 50 million refugees around the world, the most since World War II. Of course, Obama doesn’t have control over every outbreak of violence, and the United States isn’t obliged to send troops to keep everyone around the world safe.

Still, the question is, what role did Obama’s policy play in not preventing violent extremist rulers from trampling human rights? Aren’t Ukrainians paying with their lives for Obama’s erroneous policy on Vladimir Putin? Not to mention millions of Syrians?

In the Middle East, Obama’s perception of political Islam as a moderating force is problematic. Obama’s objection to American colonialist intervention assisting oppressive regimes from Chile to the Shah of Iran is acceptable.

But what appears from the outside as a popular uprising isn’t always better. Obama’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood over Hosni Mubarak and Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi didn’t augment Egyptians’ rights. Obama’s putting of Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the list of the five world leaders he’s closest to failed to prevent Turkey’s drift toward fascism and religion. Nor did it prevent Turkish assistance to the Islamic State behind the scenes against Syria’s Bashar Assad and the Kurds.

Obama’s notion that political Islam will restrain extreme Islam is wrong. Obama’s policy even played an inadvertent role in creating the Islamic State. Assad’s slaughter wasn’t stopped even after his chemical murders, and the pragmatic opposition in Syria didn’t receive enough support.

Also, Obama flinched in the face of pro-Assad Iran and Russia. As a result, Assad’s victims turned in despair to ISIS. And in Iraq, when American planes help pro-Iranian Shi’ites oppress Sunnis, Sunni groups become more radical.

Obama’s good intentions, which he displayed again in an interview with Thomas Friedman, require a practical plan. It can’t just be a consolation prize to Israel and the Sunni states, but rather something much more comprehensive.

Obama is supposed to object to the colonial borders forced on the region after World War I, which ignored large ancient nations like the Kurds. These borders created multi-identity states with deep internal hostility.

Obama’s attempt to ignore the disintegration of the artificial colonial borders serves the extremists. If he continues to ignore the crumbling of Iraq and Syria, the result will be one Iranian state from Tehran to the Israeli border — an imperialism that strengthens the conquering Revolutionary Guard versus President Hassan Rohani and the moderates.

The Shi’ites are a majority in Iraq. Obama’s ignoring the Kurds and Sunnis and his war to unite Iraq is inevitably producing an Iranian Iraq. It is producing an Iranianism, which is pushing the Sunnis to the Islamic State.

In Syria the Alawite minority supported by Iran still holds the state’s power centers. The phony “Syrian unity” is pushing that country, too, to Iranianism. This and the blind eye turned to Hezbollah in Lebanon is creating one Iranian entity all the way to the Israeli border.

The solution is simple and humane. The colonial borders must change. The Kurds — the largest nation in the world without self-determination — must get a state. It must rise in Iraq and northern Syria and stretch to the Mediterranean Sea, preventing Erdogan from spilling south toward Israel.

The Sunnis in Iraq and Syria need a Sunni state in Iraq and Syria’s Sunni areas. Correctly established, this state could be pragmatic. And Palestine must be established beside Israel.

Only thus will peace be possible in the Middle East. Only thus will Iran’s expansion to Israel’s borders be averted, with the moderates there having a chance. Only thus will pushing the oppressed Sunnis into the Islamic State’s arms be stopped. It’s possible. And essential.