My column in Human Events today:
According to a Syrian newspaper, the Obama Administration has agreed to sell airplane parts to Syria. If confirmed, this would be for the Obama team yet another departure from Bush Administration policy, and an especially disquieting one: Syria is one of only four countries that the State Department lists as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. The others are Cuba, Iran, and Sudan, and of those four Syria has been on the list the longest, since December 29, 1979.
Bush had barred all American exports to Syria except food and medicines, but now an ominous precedent is being set. The Syrian source has stated that the parts would be used only to repair two Boeing 747s, but once sales of airplane parts begin, would electronics and other materials useful on military aircraft also be released? This could lead to the spectacle of a designated State Sponsor of Terrorism using American materiel to attack an American ally, Israel.
This curious relaxation on trade restrictions with Syria, without removal of its State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, is of a piece with the conciliatory gestures Obama has made toward the Muslim world since he took office. He has repeated several times his intention to restore “mutual respect” between the West and the Islamic world, implying that such respect has only been lacking on the American side. And he seems determined to demonstrate that respect by ignoring all indications from the Islamic world that such “respect” might be ill-advised.
Even the notoriously pro-Palestinian United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) suspended aid shipments to the Gaza Strip after Hamas kept stealing them, but nevertheless Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum stating that “it is important to the national interest” to give $20.3 million to the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for the “humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees and conflict victims in Gaza”, which of course will be money that will benefit (and probably controlled by) Hamas.
More famously, Obama has ordered the Guantanamo Bay detention camp closed and ordered charges withdrawn against jihad terror suspect Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, mastermind of the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Al-Nashiri will remain in custody and could be tried later in a military or civilian court, but the latter seems more likely, since he was already being tried in a military tribunal. If al-Nashiri ends up being prosecuted in a civilian court, the effect on the military could be catastrophic — military personnel on the battlefield will have to be thinking about gathering admissible evidence in them middle of a fight, rather than defeating and killing or capturing the enemy.
Obama also cozied up to the principal enemy of free speech in the world today, writing a conciliatory letter to the 57-government Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), the largest voting bloc at the United Nations and saying that he was confident that the United States and the OIC could work together. Although neither the OIC nor Obama released the text of the letter, the President doesn’t seem to have addressed in it the question of whether this cooperation would extend to the OIC”s stated goal of forcing the UN to “adopt an international resolution to counter Islamophobia, and call upon all States to enact laws to counter it, including deterrent punishments.” The OIC has made it quite clear that what they mean. To them, “Islamophobia” encompasses all speech about Islam that they dislike even if it goes under the “pretext” of “freedom of expression, counter terrorism or national security.”
All this appeasement has had the predictable effect: it has emboldened the jihadists, chiefly in Iran. Obama has notoriously declared that he will sit down and talk with the Iranian mullahs “without preconditions,” and the Iranians have reacted with gleeful contempt. Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham crowed that Obama’s request for talks “means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed.” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that the U.S. “must apologize to the Iranian people and try to repair their past bad acts and the crimes they committed against Iran.” And the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Ali Larijani, said that “in the past years, the U.S. has burned many bridges, but the new White House can rebuild them” — if, that is, it “accepts its mistakes and changes its policies.”
Iran’s haughty and dictatorial tone results from their perception of Obama as weak and naÃ¯ve. Will he disabuse them of this impression before it is too late?