Obama, Hamas, Obama's circle, and Iran's grand strategy
By Soren Dayton Posted in 2008 | Barack Obama | Hamas | Rashid Khalidi — Comments (22) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Much has been written about the firing of Bob Malley by Barack Obama's campaign. Commentary's Jen Rubin asks one of the most important questions. What do Obama's statements on Iran and the Palestinian question have to do with expressions of support?
Hamas endorsed Obama. It is worth considering why. Is it because he favors direct, presidential talks with Hamas’ sponsor Iran? Or because Hamas sees him as lacking resoluteness or as excessively sympathetic to the Palestinian cause? And it’s not as if Hamas is an isolated case of fringe groups and individuals favoring Obama.
Consider Jen's first question in the context of this from today's Washington Times, quoting a Hamas official:
"What happened in Gaza in 2007 is an achievement; now it is happening in 2008 in Lebanon. It's going to happen in 2009 in Jordan and it's going to happen in 2010 in Egypt," Sheik Khader said in an interview. "We are seeing a redrawing of the map of the Middle East where the forces of resistance and steadfastness are the ones moving the things on the ground."
An Israeli legislator sees something quite concrete in this "redrawing":
"What is going on in Lebanon at this hour is actually the overthrow of Lebanon by Hezbollah. The democratic Lebanese government will become a puppet government — an Iranian dream," said Ze'ev Boim, a lawmaker from Israel's governing Kadima party. "It is particularly awful to see an Iranian battalion on the northern border of Israel."
Note that Hamas sees "the forces of steadfastness ... advancing" while an Israeli legislator sees this in terms of "an Iranian battalion on the northern border of Israel." A fundamental question for the next President is how he will respond to this "steadfast" pressure from Iran. Enter a view of Barack Obama that has currency in Arab and pro-Palestinian circles, courtesy of an LA Times story entitled "Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Barack Obama":
And yet the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor's going-away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say.
It is important to consider how a view of Barack Obama that has currency in the Middle East connects with Iran's strategy on the ground. Read on.
The LAT story describes the evening and Obama's toast to Khalidi, a negotiator for the Palestinians in the Oslo Accords and a fundraiser for Barack Obama in 2000:
It was a celebration of Palestinian culture -- a night of music, dancing and a dash of politics. Local Arab Americans were bidding farewell to Rashid Khalidi, an internationally known scholar, critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights, who was leaving town for a job in New York. ... A special tribute came from Khalidi's friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. ...
His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It's for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation -- a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table, "but around "this entire world."
What would it mean in a year with a President Obama to have this conversation after 2007 in Gaza, 2008 in Lebanon, 2009 in Jordan, and 2010in Egypt, as Sheik Khader told the Washington Times? What would a "conversation ... around this entire world" look like?
Now I am not arguing that Obama will work with the Iranians or their agents, Hamas and Hezbollah. But when President Obama enters office on a promise to withdraw from Iraq, Iran advancing directly and through its proxies in the region, and a new President who is understood as uniquely open to a Palestinian perspective, how will that be viewed in the region? Who will have won?
Perhaps the Iranians are just thinking ahead?