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Obama’s Iran blunder


President Obama came into office imagining he could turn our Middle East policy on its head. Withdraw rather than assert our interests; put the screws on Israel while reaching detente with Iran; leave longtime Sunni allies to fend for themselves. It was a monumental error, based on the false notions that the United States had been the real problem (while Iran was a victim desiring return to “the international community”); that Israel was the impediment to peace with the Palestinians; that a smaller U.S. footprint would reduce tension; and that George W. Bush’s administration had exaggerated the threat of Islamic terrorism. Each of these goals was illusory, and each assumption just plain wrong.

The latest incident bears this out. The Post reports:

Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iran on Sunday amid the furor that erupted over the execution by the Saudi authorities of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair told reporters in Riyadh that the Iranian ambassador to Saudi Arabia had been given 48 hours to leave the country, citing concerns that Tehran’s Shiite government was undermining the security of the Sunni kingdom.

Saudi Arabian diplomats had already departed Iran after angry mobs trashed and burned the Saudi embassy in Tehran overnight Saturday, in response to the execution of Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr earlier in the day. . . . The Saudi consulate in the Iranian city of Mashad was also set on fire during the protests that erupted after Nimr’s execution was announced.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emeraties have now joined Saudi Arabia in severing ties with Iran.

Unlike the Obama administration, the Saudi government recognizes that one cannot deal with a country that refuses to abide by international norms, including respect for the sanctity and protection of diplomatic facilities. This is hardly the first time Iranians have demonstrated their willingness to use violence against diplomats. Whether it was attacking the U.S. Embassy in 1979 and taking American hostages or the 2011 attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Iran has treated diplomats as legitimate targets.

As former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams writes:

What these events have in common is the repeated failure and refusal of the security forces to protect embassies, despite whatever apologies come later. Iran is a police state, with plenty of manpower available to stop “protesters” or “students” from entering embassy grounds that the Islamic Republic government –like all governments– is pledged to protect. Iran’s top police official later said police were working to defuse the situation and remove “protesters” from the building. But it was obvious the moment the Saudi Shia leader Nimr al-Nimr was executed on Saturday that the Saudi embassy would need


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