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Obama repeats Carter’s mistakes

Khairallah Khairallah

Published: Updated:

In the late 1970s and a few months before the popular revolution erupted in Iran, then-American president Jimmy Carter was hosted by the Shah for New Year's Eve. During dinner, Carter spoke about Iran as an “oasis of stability” in the region. Carter's actions indicated an American will which at the very least can be described as naive.

The Americans did not understand Iranian events or their importance and the extent of their repercussions on the entire region. Carter's administration, which was still suffering from the complex of the Vietnam War, got everything wrong. It made mistakes on the eve of the Iranian revolution - which was a “real” revolution - during the revolution and after when it later emerged victorious. It failed to deal with Iranian developments. Carter's administration appeared weak, politically bankrupt and incapable of understanding what was at stake in the Middle East. It particularly appeared this way when it surrendered to the extremist wing in Iran, the wing which abducted American embassy diplomats and detained them for 444 days.

Obama vs. Carter

Carter's administration, which greatly resembles Barack Obama's administration, gave all the wrong signals to the U.S. allies in the region. These signals included U.S. readiness, with great understanding, to deal with anyone who humiliates it and anyone who attacks those who view of the U.S. as a strategic partner in all fields.

Carter's administration, which greatly resembles Barack Obama's administration, gave all the wrong signals to the U.S. allies in the region.

Khairallah Khairallah

It's clear that Obama's administration learnt nothing from Jimmy Carter's experience, which was enthroned with his failure to win a second term as president once the Iranian regime decide to seal a deal with his competitor, Ronald Regan.

The only difference between Carter and Obama is that the current president succeeded in winning a second presidential term. Obama counted on internal transformations and on the negative view of ordinary citizens towards his predecessor's administration of George Bush (junior). Bush’s administration took the U.S. to the Iraqi War at a high cost. Furthermore, Iran is the only party to emerge a winner.

Carter was the first to speak out positively about the Palestinian cause. At the beginning of his presidency he addressed the cause and spoke of a "homeland" for the Palestinians. Unfortunately, this did not last due to U.S. involvement in the Lebanese civil war. However, the Carter administration did not realize that what they were doing enabled the Syrian regime to put its hand on the small homeland.

If we put aside the only accomplishment achieved by Jimmy Carter (reaching the agreement of the Camp David Accords which led to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty in 1979) then Anwar al-Sadat, the then-Egyptian president, is the one to thank for this achievement. If it hadn't been for Sadat, this accomplishment, which led to positively mentioning Carter in history, would not have not been fulfilled.

Deja vu

Currently, Barack Obama is attracting attention by acting like Carter; he's making efforts to achieve some sort of settlement. However his zeal diminishes every time he stumbles upon the Israeli stubbornness rejecting any reasonable or logical settlement. Admittedly, this evaluation may be wrong. But, experiences from the past few years indicate that the American administration will retreat as it has done every time it has stumbled with Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet.

As for Egypt, the most important Middle Eastern affair at this point, we see Obama repeating history once again. He is acting the same was Carter. There is scarce understanding about what is at stake in Egypt. Incidentally, let’s not forget Syria.

There is no administration capable of estimating the negative repercussions on the Middle East that will result from the confused American stance on Egypt and Syria. In effect, there is a lack of understanding of the possible knock-on effects if Egypt falls into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, the administration is incapable of comprehending the effects of the ongoing civil war in Syria in which Iran has become an interested and involved party.

Perhaps the Egyptian and the Syrian people have been fortunate: most Arabs refused to walk the path of Obama's administration regarding the stance on Egypt and Syria. Arabs refused to walk the "path of loss." The UAE was the first to refuse and supported Egypt. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia followed suit and continues to take one brave step after the other, then Kuwait and Jordan.

Arabs have learnt from the mistakes of the near past but it seems that Obama's administration does not want to learn or even to know what's really happening on ground.

Is this because the only agenda which Obama's administration cares about is the Israeli agenda? This agenda aims at fragmenting the Middle East, a policy based on occupation and on encouraging everything that incites sectarian tensions.

If this is not the case, then why is Barack Obama repeating all of Jimmy Carter's mistakes in Iran in Egypt and Syria?

This article was first published in Elaph on August 20, 2013.

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Khairallah Khairallah is a an Arab columnist based in London, with editorials appearing in al-Rai in Kuwait, al-Arab in London, al-Mustaqbal in Beirut, al-Raya in Doha and Elaph.com. He worked for Lebanon-based Annahar as Foreign News Editor between 1976 and 1988, then for pan-Arab al-Hayat as Managing Editor between 1988 and 1998.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.