Being a community organizer and running a campaign is not a qualification on foreign policy.
The Obama administration’s Middle East policy has become a casualty of spiraling violence in the region, most recently in Yemen, where intervention by a Saudi-led coalition risks escalating a civil war into a sectarian firestorm that could quickly spread to other countries.
The big winners are not only Iran but also America’s top-priority targets: the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State, al Qaeda and their allies, who have been aided in their efforts to portray themselves as champions of Sunni Arabs by the Obama administration’s perceived tilt toward Tehran in pursuit of a nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, President Obama and other administration officials have been engaged in a high-profile fight with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Iran deal, which has thrown U.S. relations with its closest ally in the region into its own crisis.
The assault on Yemen’s Houthis by Saudi Arabia and its allies was a reaction to the lack of a comprehensive U.S. policy in the region that has enabled Iran to gain influence at the expense of its Arab neighbors, Derek Harvey, a retired Army colonel and director of the Global Initiative for Civil Society and Conflict at the University of South Florida, told the Washington Examiner.
“We’ve created a security vacuum in the region,” he said.
“In places like Yemen, the United States depended on a too-narrow counter-terrorism approach rather than an integrated military assistance, political and diplomatic approach informed by a deeper understanding of the social and cultural factors and drivers of conflict.” […]
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Harvey and other regional experts said the weak U.S. response to Iran’s challenge in the region has set back U.S. interests, especially in Iraq, and hurt efforts to fight the Islamic State because Sunni Arabs continue to see the extremist group as a hedge against Tehran.
The same dynamic was developing among Sunnis in Yemen, which is one of the reasons why the Saudis — who also are fighting both al Qaeda and the Islamic State —organized a military operation to beat back the Houthis.
“It points to the weakness of the administration’s strategy of embracing Iran as a potential ally,” said Jim Phillips, a Middle East expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation.