‘Wits’ End’

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The New York Sun

Two important dispatches on the Middle East are crackling over the Internet this afternoon in the wake of the spectacle in which delegates to the Democratic National Convention booed the acceptance by the chair of a motion to restore to the platform a reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The significance of these dispatches is that each is by one of the best reporters of his generation, each of the two reporters is relatively liberal, and yet both dispatches are suggesting that things are not going well between the Obama administration and foreign allies who look to it for support. One involves Iraq. The other Israel.

The first of these dispatches is by Eli Lake of Newsweek. He is reporting that one of the leaders of the Anbar Awakening, which finally brought success to our war in Iraq, is disappointed in President Obama. The leader is Sheik Ahmad Abu-Risha. Mr. Lake, who interviewed the sheik, reports Ahmad Abu-Risha was the leader of a group of sheiks who met four years ago with Mr. Obama, who was then a senator and who assured the Anbar leaders that, as Mr. Lake put it, “there would be a long-term partnership between America and Iraq.” Four years later, Mr. Lake reports, Ahmad Abu-Risha, now president of the Iraqi Awakening Council, “says he feels betrayed.”

Abu-Risha, Mr. Lake reports, said in a telephone interview that he has not had any meetings with U.S. officials since American forces withdrew from Iraq in December. “President Obama said he would not forget all the sacrifices that were made,” Mr. Lake quotes him as saying. “Now we look back at that meeting and we think it was political propaganda. What he said, we don’t see it happening.” It is an interview that will put quite a perspective on the events in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Mr. Obama is expected this evening to boast of the withdrawal from Iraq as one of the achievements of his presidency.


Mr. Goldberg’s dispatch went up on the Atlantic magazine’s Web site this afternoon. It’s about the widely reported shouting match between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama’s envoy in Tel Aviv, Daniel Shapiro, that erupted last month. It occurred at a meeting between the premier and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Michael Rogers. Mr. Goldberg lays out an interview with Mr. Rogers that was conducted by radio host Frank Beckmann and aired on a Michigan radio station, WJR.  Mr. Rogers offers what Mr. Goldberg characterizes as a version of the events that “directly contradicts repeated Administration assertions that there is ‘no daylight’ on the Iran issue with the Israeli government.”

After the meeting took place, Mr. Goldberg reports, “Israeli press reports appeared suggesting  that Netanyahu and Shapiro had engaged in an argument, but Shapiro soon dismissed those reports, calling them ‘silly’ and saying, ‘The published account of that meeting did not reflect what actually occurred in the meeting. The conversations were entirely friendly and professional.’” Mr. Rogers, in his radio interview, painted what Mr. Goldberg called “”a very different picture.” He said the meeting “spun out of control,” as Mr. Goldberg put it, when Mr. Netanyahu “began lambasting Shapiro over the Administration’s Iran policy.” Mr. Rogers said it was “very, very clear the Israelis had lost their patience with the (Obama) Administration.” Mr. Rogers characterized the Israelis as being “finally at wits’ end.”

Let us just say that this is not the kind of situation that one wants between America and its closest friends. The risks taken in our common cause by those who rose up during the Anbar Awakening were enormous, as were the risks America itself shouldered. Our closest ally, Israel, is in its most dangerous hour. In the wider Middle East, millions are trying to decide what kind of gamble to take on America. They are going to be watching how the American administration deals with its friends. What are they to make of these reports? They will be listening to what Mr. Obama has to say about these questions this evening. The president may want to take the position that Governor Romney is taking, which is that the overwhelming issue in this election is not foreign policy but our own economy. But the overwhelming issue may become foreign policy once again if those watching us in the Middle East get the idea that America is a fickle friend.

The New York Sun

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