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A 2016 Mideast Dispatch

In this report from the future, the U.S. pulls out of the Gulf as the Saudis cozy up to Avigdor Lieberman

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Officers from the 1st Platoon, 1-64 Armored Batallion of the U.S. Army and Afghan National Army on joint patrol near the Morghan-Khecha village in Kandahar province, Sept. 8, 2012. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

When Barack Obama first moved into the White House seven years ago, he promised a new foreign policy that would restore the world’s respect for the United States while making it possible for Americans to focus on nation-building at home. He began the process of extricating the United States from the region during his first term by ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that he inherited from his predecessor. Supporters hailed Obama’s strategy, while others insisted that the vacuum would lead to regional chaos.

Today, three and a half years after his re-election, the 44th president of the United States took another major step toward shrinking America’s regional footprint when the White House confirmed that the United States Fifth Fleet will leave Manama, Saudi Arabia, by the end of the year.

The move comes sooner than expected, in the midst of talks between American officials and their counterparts from the United Arab Emirates regarding the possibility of moving the American base to Dubai. However, late last week Gulf Cooperation Council members, led by Saudi Arabia, rejected the American proposals, including, say administration sources, the last-minute intercession of President Obama in a phone call with Saudi Interior Minister Mohamed Bin Nayef. Washington was left with no choice but to withdraw from the resource-rich Persian Gulf, a region that was often referred to as an American lake.

Secretary of State John Kerry made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows to explain the move. “President Obama has long vowed that America would move toward energy independence,” Kerry said on This Week With Jake Tapper. “And the re-deployment of the Fifth Fleet is proof that he’s made good on his promise. We value our long history with our partners in the Persian Gulf. But between Canada, Brazil, and our own reserves in North Dakota and elsewhere, we simply don’t need to be committing resources and our military personnel halfway across the world to protect foreign oil. Our men and women in uniform are coming home.”

The withdrawal was sharply criticized by top Republican lawmakers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the leading candidates for the 2016 nomination. “I applaud the White House’s enthusiasm for energy independence. But the reality is that the United States depends on Persian Gulf oil for less than 20 percent of its energy needs,” said Rubio. “We are in the Gulf to ensure the viability of American trade with partners like Europe, China, and India, who unlike us depend on the free flow of Gulf oil. With this move, the Democrats have shown once again that they are bad for American business and the economy.”

“The administration is trying to put a good face on a disaster,” said former CIA Director David Petraeus. “This was a decision made in Riyadh, not Washington. This White House long ago compromised its position in the region when it lost the confidence of the Saudis over its hapless Iran policy.”

Petraeus has become an increasingly vocal critic of the Obama Administration since the June publication of his book The End of the American Moment in the Middle East, which details his commands in Iraq and Afghanistan and explains why he ultimately accepted responsibility for the Benghazi scandal that captured the headlines in the weeks before the 2012 election. The Sept.11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate that cost the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, forced the resignations of U.N. ambassador Susan Rice, White House spokesman Jay Carney, and Petraeus.

In his book, Petraeus wrote that the Saudis, Jordan’s former monarch King Abdullah II (now a senior fellow at the London-based think tank Chatham House), and former Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (recently sentenced to a 10-year prison term by the same judiciary he previously used to attack his rivals) had all expected the White House to change course after the 2012 U.S. presidential elections by fully supporting the Sunni majority against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The idea, wrote Petraeus “was to set Iran’s regional project back by bringing down their one Arab ally once and for all. Instead, the administration let the Syrian civil war linger even after the CIA had confirmed reports that Assad had turned chemical weapons against the rebels in Homs. Assad camped out on the Mediterranean coast in the historical Alawite heartland where, working with the Iranians and Russians, he continued to destabilize the region, including the tragic spillover of the Syrian war into Lebanon. When Iran tested a nuclear device in August 2014, the White House lost the Saudis once and for all.”

Shortly after Obama’s re-election in 2012, senior White House aide Valerie Jarrett conducted negotiations with representatives of Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, who rejected the Obama Administration’s so-called grand bargain. The White House sought to convince then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give sanctions more time to work. But when outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaked to reporters that the White House was hoping for a Netanyahu defeat in that country’s January 2013 election, top officials in Netanyahu’s security Cabinet concluded Israel was on its own to deal with Iran.

The Israel Defense Forces’ May 2013 raid on parts of the Iranian nuclear program, including uranium-enrichment facilities at Natanz, Qom, and Fordow, seemed to have proven successful. Some defense experts argued that it looked as though Israel set back the program by more than two years. Yet images alleged to have documented the devastation caused by the attacks turned world opinion against Israel. Both the United States and the European Union dropped sanctions against the Iranian regime, which allowed Tehran to rebuild its nuclear weapons program more quickly than had been expected. When Iran tested its nuclear device, the Saudis took matters into their own hands.

With the aged Saudi monarch King Adbullah incapacitated, Saudi Arabia’s interior minister, the relatively youthful 53-year-old Mohamed bin Nayef, jumped over a generation of potential rivals to become the de facto ruler in Riyadh. He pushed for a more energetic regional policy that would operate without American assistance and sometimes actively exclude it. Washington offered only mild protests when Saudi Arabia annexed Bahrain after Shia militants, believed to have been backed by Iran, killed an American naval officer in a Manama bar.

Nayef’s diplomatic outreach extended to some unlikely figures, including Israeli Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman, said to be one of his closest confidantes among world leaders. Their relationship, Arab and Israeli sources say, is premised not only on their mutual fear of Iran, but also the Muslim Brotherhood, which governs the Islamic emirates of Jordan and Syria, and governed Egypt before the military coup that deposed President Mohamed Morsi. Nayef also reached out to Saudi’s erstwhile Sunni rivals in Qatar to cement a strategic relationship between the two Gulf powers. Their bilateral accord was perhaps facilitated by the massacre in Brussels of an official Qatari delegation, a terrorist attack that is believed to have been the work of a Hezbollah assassination team. The Riyadh-Doha agreement would come to include the formation of a multinational Middle East task force, the so-called Sunni Consortium, with the largest contribution of forces coming from Pakistan, Turkey, and Egypt.

European Union officials as well as American defense experts have expressed reservations about whether the Doha-based Consortium fleet, comprising the Turkish and Egyptian navies, is capable of providing the same level of security that the Americans had ensured for nearly half a century. “We’ll miss the Americans,” said one senior Arab official in Riyadh. “But when we needed them most, there was just no one to answer the phone at 3 a.m.”


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“Military Coup that deposed President Mohamed Morsi”?? Did I miss something while I was traveling in Jordan and Israel?

    No you merely may have missed that Lee Smith cannot be bothered to stick to the recorded record of the truth.

    No you merely may have missed that Lee Smith cannot be bothered to stick to the recorded record of the truth.

    you did – you forgot to think when reading newspaper articles. Did you actually think that the rest are actual facts? Just kidding.

Nicely done, Lee. While any hypothesis about the future is, by definition, speculative, there is no small amount of plausible evolution, feasibility, and even a bit of humour, especially welcome in these tense times, in your intelligent scenario for the future.

fred capio says:

pretty funny (and smart) you only forgot to mention the period when Biden was president

PhillipNagle says:

The US does not get much oil from the Persian Gulf. Maybe we should leave it up to those nations that do, the EEU countrie, China, India, Japan et al, to keep the gulf open. We probably coold sell a couple of our carriers to Japan or the EEU countries. We should not bare the cost while these nations do so little.

What shall I say? It is a scary but realistic prediction. It is messy too though can be expected. Bravo..

Bader Al Omar says:

What shall I say? It is a scary but realistic prediction. It is messy too though can be expected. Bravo..

idongesit ufot says:

Sounds so real. Hope the Obama administration officials will read it.

Beatrix17 says:

I can make one
prediction: Republicans will no longer reach out to Jews. Romney
wasted his time on us, and 68% of Jews voted for Obama.

Netanyahu tried not to
take sides, but MSM insisted he favored Romney (privately, he
probably did) and Israel attempted to offset that by having Barak
show unwavering support for Obama.

But while Jews were
being courted, Romney promised to actually visit Israel once he was
elected, and Obama showed he was as supportive as Romney by
increasing Israel’s defenses.

Now Romney realizes, he
should have been wooing the Hispanics, a group that actually
mattered. Rubio is being groomed for his future as President, while
Cantor was lucky to keep his position in Congress, and Lieberman, a
failed Democratic vice-presidential choice, was forced to retire.

If we had been capable
of a little political diversity, small as we are we might have had
some power. But Democrats know Jews will vote for them no matter
what, and Republicans no longer care what the Jews do.

    Netanyahu tried not to take sides? Are you delirious? Bibi worked tirelessly for his friend and former collegue at Boston Capital (they worked there together). Can’t wait for the next Israeli elections. Maybe Pres. Obama will return the favor.

      Beatrix17 says:

      Nonsense. Netanyahu and Romney worked for a large company and knew each other slightly, Of course Netanyahu wanted Romney to win, but do you really think he was stupid enough to show it? He tried to remain neutral, but the MsM wouldn’t allow it. Obama is not Israels’ friend and he’ll use Netanyahu as an excuse to side with the Palestinians. Obama does not have to worry about the Jews.

    Republicans are pro-Israeli on principles these will not change
    As most left Democrats are pro-Arab . And isolationist that Work great in the30s. but never fear Winston Churchill said Americans always do the right thing in the end. After trying everything else

Pure junk. The pivotal mistake is the Iranian government surviving until 2014 to detonate a nuclear weapon. Obama’s approach is leading to the collapse of the Iranian economy, opening the way to regime change. Only regime change in Iran can prevent the development of a nuclear capability on the long term. A military attack — especially by Israel — will delay the weapon by some years, but will cause all Iranians to patriotically rally around their country.

    DevilInPgh says:

    The only way regime change in Iran happens is if 99% (and I do mean that number, not an exaggeration) turn violently against the Mullahs. The Mullahs are more reminiscent of the hereditary North Korean dictatorship, who truly don’t care about anything other than enriching themselves, than anything that ever came out of the Soviet Union. Remember how in Star Wars Darth Vader said he could pull the military governors out of rebellious sectors because he now had the threat of the Death Star? The atomic bomb is Iran’s Death Star!

    my dear president Obama when he first got in office. When Iranian people Were in the streets.saying You with Us Obama said nothing and the people lost. He is a dangerous joke in foreign affairs., How much blood will flow ?

Somewhat interesting fiction. When do you get to the part about the invasion of earth by beings sent from galaxies far, far away?

BTW, just read your bio. Didn’t realize you are a writer on the right wing Weekly Standard. Explains alot.

DevilInPgh says:

Wow, Petraeus just resigned. Things are beginning to happen the way you suggested.

politackler says:

Having run out of neoconservative conspiracy theories (with which to unsuccessfully influence Tablet readers not to support President Obama), Smith is now turning to political fantasy fiction in order to prime his readers for FDD’s choice of GOP candidate in 2016, whoever that might be. Starting right after the election shows the relentlessness of Smith’s Republican Jewish puppetmasters.

Hard Little Machine says:

In the Tabletverse, anything short of totalitarian takeover is to be frowned upon. With any luck Russian-Iranian scientists can reanimate Stalin’s corpse and Tablet will finally have a leader it can believe in/

This is total nonsense….. Saudi Arabia will never kick US out as long as we are the most powerful military on the planet. This article simply suggests the author’s hate for Obama and the author’s absurd neocon ideas.

“[T]he White House confirmed that the United States Fifth Fleet will leave Manama, Saudi Arabia, by the end of the year.” Lee Smith wrote a (widely disparaged) book about Arabs, but doesn’t know that Manama is not in Saudi Arabia –– it is the capital of Bahrain (that little island where America supports the crushing of pro-democracy protests by force.) Oops.


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A 2016 Mideast Dispatch

In this report from the future, the U.S. pulls out of the Gulf as the Saudis cozy up to Avigdor Lieberman

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