This is an ugly story. It’s about incompetence.
US President Barack Obama and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu don’t agree on how to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Obama says negotiations will work. Netanyahu says those negotiations will not work.
This difference creates consequences. We began to see the consequences when Obama and powerful Arabs reacted to Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress on March 3, 2015.
President Obama dismissed the speech. He said, there was ‘nothing new’ (Rebecca Kaplan, “Obama: ‘Nothing New’ in Netanyahu’s speech”, CBS News, March 3, 2015).
Powerful Arabs didn’t dismiss it. They praised Netanyahu.
Before the speech, mainstream media in the US criticized, attacked and demonized it—and Netanyahu. For example, the speech wasn’t an opportunity to hear from the country closest to the Iran threat. It was an insult—but not just any insult. It was a ‘revolting’ insult (William Saletan, “An Israeli Insult”, Slate, February 27, 2015).
Neither was it a chance to hear why Netanyahu opposed US-led negotiations with Iran. Instead, it was Netanyahu spitting into the US President’s face (“Netanyahu ‘spat in our face,’ White House officials said to say”, Times of Israel, January 23, 2015).
Conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh took a look at these attacks and told his fans, “This speech by Netanyahu is in more demand than any such speech in recent American history. And yet the media is trying to tell you nobody cares, nobody's gonna go, because it's a slap in the face at President Obama” (Rush Limbaugh, facebook).
Immediately after the speech, the only two nations to dismiss the speech were Iran and the US (Marwan Bishara, “Iran and Obama dismiss Netanyahu speech to US Congress”, Al Jazeera, March 4, 2015). In the US, multiple Democrats and The New York Times trashed the speech (“More Purim turnabouts: Arab reactions to Netanyahu’s speech”, Anne’s Opinions, March 4, 2015).
Arabs supported the speech. They supported Netanyahu going to Congress.
They agreed with Netanyahu. They disagreed with the US. They believed Netanyahu. They don’t believe Obama.
The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, captured the difference. It wrote, “Netanyahu's Congress speech draws praise in Saudi Arabia, derision in West” (March 4, 2015).
Netanyahu said in the speech these US negotiations weren’t going to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon; they were going to pave the road to that weapon. Obama dismissed that. But the editor-in-chief of Al Arabiya didn’t. He praised Netanyahu and rebuked Obama (“Arab World Praises Netanyahu’s Congressional Speech”, beforeitsnews, March 4, 2015). Lebanon’s news joined Al Arabiya and Saudi news to support Netanyahu’s warning (“Arab Media Praises Netanyahu After Congress Speech”, The Tower .org, March 4, 2015).
Given Arab animus towards Israel, there has got to be something seriously wrong with US policy when “the pundits and commentators of the Arab world accept Israel and Netanyahu’s word over that of America and Obama” (“Arabs Respond to Netanyahu’s Speech… Completely Stun Obama”, Conservative Tribune, March 5, 2015). In fact, there is something very wrong: the US isn’t negotiating to stop Iran. It’s negotiating only to delay Iran from getting its bomb.
That’s not what Israel wants. It’s not what powerful Arabs want.
Powerful Arabs in the Middle East are so upset with Obama’s negotiation strategy, they’ve decided to act on their own. They’ll seek their own nuclear capability (Hana Levi Julian, “Fears Over US Iran Deal Trigger Mideast Nuclear Race, Saudi-South Korea Deal”, Jewish Press, March 5, 2015).
The day after the speech—and Obama’s dismissive reaction—Saudi Arabia and South Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). South Korea and the Saudis will cooperate on developing ‘nuclear energy’ (“UPDATE Saudi Arabia, South Korea sign MOU on nuclear power”, Reuters, march 4, 2015).
Two days later, South Korea and UAE signed their own MOU for nuclear development (“Nuclear Power: Korea Hands UAE Nuclear Plant Export Agreement”, businesskorea, March 6, 2015).
South Korea is also talking to Qatar and Kuwait, seeking ‘closer ties’ with both.
Both the Saudis and the UAE have been working with South Korea on developing nuclear facilities for some time. These agreements aren’t new. What is new is that UAE and Saudi Arabia now announce new nuclear contracts so soon after they saw the US dismiss, deride and attack Netanyahu’s speech. Meanwhile, Kuwait and Qatar announce that they host the South Korean President.
These announcements and meetings send a message: the US is wrong about Iran. The message is clear: we don’t trust the US.
Netanyahu said in his speech that if Israel had to stand alone (it has its own nuclear weapons), it will. These Arab countries now declare, we’ll do the same.
We’ll develop our own nuclear capability.
This is the result of a US Iran policy that fails: it dismisses Netanyahu’s ‘tough-sanctions’ approach. It provokes a volatile region to ‘go nuclear’ just as ISIS threatens to terrorize that region.
How’s that for competence?