- - Sunday, November 23, 2014


With an anti-war activist as commander in chief who pursues a “progressive” agenda, the result can be devastating. Clearly, the country is being led into uncharted waters. While it is a given that no president in recent history has faced the multitude of threats facing the country, most of them are a result of President Obama’s own policies. The Nov. 4 election results signal that Americans want a clear change in direction.

Mr. Obama has often reminded us that he was elected to stop wars, not start them. No president is elected to start wars, but when faced with serious challenges, Americans expect their leader to face reality and address threats to our national security. However, the influence of Mr. Obama’s radical mentors, such as Franklin Marshall Davis, which he has never repudiated, has clearly influenced his foreign policy. A neo-imperialist Russia, a rising China, a nuclear Iran, and even radical Islam that challenges and reduces Americans power and influence are viewed as being “objectively progressive” by this administration. Consequently, with no coherent strategy from a U.S. perspective to address the multiple threats the nation faces, Mr. Obama has made war more likely, not less.

A relentless pursuit of any type of agreement with Iran on its nuclear weapon program is the key factor driving the Obama administration’s flawed Middle East policies. Therefore, every action it takes with regard to the chaos in the fractured states of Iraq and Syria must be seen through the prism of achieving such an agreement. It explains why the president chose to ignore the 2009 Green Revolution during which millions of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran to protest the corrupt results of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election. It also explains why Mr. Obama did not pursue a status of forces agreement in 2011 with the Iranian puppet Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep a residual U.S. military force in Iraq. It was a clear signal to the Iranian mullahs that we would not interfere with their political dominance over Iraq.

There is no question that had we retained such a presence, which was paid for with the blood of more than 4,000 of our military personnel, no vacuum would have been created, permitting the rise of the Islamic State. Nonetheless, the Islamic State was the wild card that upset the administration’s strategic game plan. The Islamic State’s atrocities against all minorities and Muslims non-compliant with Shariah law, plus the beheading of three Americans, forced Mr. Obama to take some limited action to protect his image.

At the core of Islamic State’s atrocities is the traditional Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict that has gone on for more than 1,400 years, and will not be resolved by our involvement. The Islamic State’s atrocities (as well as Iran and Saudi Arabia), find their justification in draconian Shariah law.

The limited strikes we are taking against the Islamic State and other rebel militias only serve to benefit the two Iranian puppet regimes in Baghdad and Damascus. White House micro-management of air strikes and other military actions, as we found out in Vietnam, is counterproductive. It is diluting the effectiveness of what a dedicated air campaign could accomplish. The plan to equip and train 5,000 so-called Free Syrian Army fighters, who will not be ready for a year, is most likely doomed to failure.

The latest revelation that Mr. Obama secretly sent another letter (reportedly, least his fourth) in mid-October to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with an apparent “conciliatory” appeal to join with the United States in fighting the Islamic State was unconscionable. It is understood that the president also assured Iran that our attacks in Syria are not targeting their ally, the Assad regime. Here we have a rogue state that has been at war with the U.S. for 35 years and is the recognized leader of state sponsored terrorism. Furthermore, they provided the key material and training support for the September 11 hijackers, without which they would not have been able to carry out their attacks that killed almost 3,000 innocent Americans. Such a letter reveals the character of this administration.

The Department of Defense, led by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now has an opportunity to forge a strategy with the new congressional leadership to address the current Islamic State crisis. Such a strategy should include the following elements:

U.S. military resources should be focused on protecting Kurdistan, our only ally in the region besides Israel and Jordan.

Micro-management by the White House of military operations must cease.

The addition of another 1,500 military personnel to Iraq indicates our current strategy is not working. This decision needs to be reviewed in the context of what is required to protect Kurdistan and our other allies in the region.

U.S. air assets should not be seen as acting as Iran’s air force. Since this is a traditional Sunni-Shiite conflict, Iran rather than the United States must provide its military forces to confront the Islamic State. Furthermore, we need to review the strategy for creating a 5,000-man force to counter the Islamic State.

Separately, any nuclear weapons agreement with Iran must be subject to congressional approval.

James A. Lyons, U.S. Navy retired admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.

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