Obama's Carter Moment

Cross-Posted at Pundit Press:

By now the comparison between President Barack Obama and former-President Jimmy Carter is well established.  Both Presidents came to power only after the overhyped “death” of the Republican Party in 1976 and 2008, both Presidents had promised renewed peace and talks with our chief (which both failed), and under both Presidents, the economy faltered.

Yet, with uprisings in Egypt sweeping their nation, another similarity comes into focus: the fall of Iran under Carter and President Obama’s handling of Egypt.  This is Obama’s Carter moment.

In 1978, Iran was one of the biggest allies of the United States in the Middle East.  It was run by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had run the country for over thirty years.  Oil rich and strategically important, the United States had protected Iranian interests for years.  However, by 1978, revolution was foaming.

Yet the Carter Administration sat on its hands and did nothing.  According to historian Nikki Keddie, they followed “no clear path” to help Iran.  In fact, Carter believed that Iran was “not in a revolutionary or even a pre-revolutionary situation.”  He was wrong. The CIA stated right before the Shah was overthrown that Iran represented an “island of stability” in the otherwise chaotic Middle East.

]]>< ![CDATA[Carter’s policies did more to encourage the Iranian fundamentalists than to stop them. They did nothing to prevent Ayatollah Ruollah Khomeinei to return to the country and when Islamist Shias forced moderates and democrats from the interim government.

Revolts began in that very year, and by January of 1979 the Shah had left the country.  In February, the country fell to Islamic extremists, and has yet to return.  In late 1979, 52 Americans were captured in Iran and held as captives until the day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated in 1981.

In the chaos, oil production in Iran greatly declined.  This led to what is known as the “Second Oil Crisis.” Cars lined up across Americans streets, while Carter delivered his Malaise Speech.  Come 1980, the United States had had enough of Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan was elected President.

Now, let’s come back to the present.  In 2010, Egypt was one of the biggest allies in the Middle East.  It was run by Hosni Mubarak, who has run the country for thirty years.  Strategically important, the United States had protected Egyptian interests for years.  However, by 2010, revolution was foaming.

Yet the Obama Administration sat on its hands and did nothing.  To average Americans, they are following no clear path to help Egypt.  In fact, Obama believed that Egypt was “stable” as recently as… January 27.  He was wrong. Even Vice President Biden now infamously said that Mubarak, one of the most autocratic leaders of the regions, was not a dictator.

Revolts began in early 2011, with protesters calling for Mubarak to leave.  Analysts fear that the country will fall as soon as February, and worse, that the country could fall to Islamic extremists, and never return.

All Obama has done is delivered a speech in which he said almost nothing, calling on both sides to behave.   In fact, Obama supported both sides at once (in effect voting “present”) in his final paragraph:  “the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government.”

With Egypt under the rule of anti-American religious extremists, the Suez Canal, which transports one-third of the world’s oil, could be hijacked.  This could easily lead to an explosion in gas prices and supplies, not dissimilar to the Second Oil Crisis.  Under the Obama Administration, a Third Oil Crisis could plausibly be coming. In fact, tribes are already openly threatening to attack the Canal.

Carter lost the crown jewel of the non-Arab Middle East, Iran. Obama may well lose Egypt, the leader of the entire Arab world.

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