(Newsmax) – Six years ago, an optimistic, newly elected President Barack Obama had a vision of stabilizing the Middle East, but the region’s rapid deterioration is leaving administration officials to defend the policies it’d once hoped would bring a measure of control to an often out-of-control part of the world.
“If there’s one lesson this administration has learned, from President Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech through the Arab Spring, it’s that when it comes to this region, nothing happens in a linear way — and precious little is actually about us, which is a hard reality to accept,” a senior State Department official told Politico.
Republicans were quick Thursday, though, to blame the latest crisis, the bombing of Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its allies, on Obama and his policies.
“We’re on the verge of a full-scale proxy war in Yemen between Iran and Sunni Arab states that could spill over into Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “The Middle East is on fire, and it is every person for themselves.”
And many of the situations in the Middle East are catching the Obama administration, including earlier this month, when Iraq’s government joined forces with militias backed by Iran for an offense to free Tikrit from an Islamic State takeover.
Further, the administration was caught off guard when the Iranian-backed Shiite rebels overtook Yemen’s government, disrupting the United States’ counterterrorism fight against al-Qaida, Politico reports.
The situations have led to new action for the United States, which announced its support for the Saudi coalition against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, even while Egypt threatens to send in its own ground troops.
The United States also started airstrikes against ISIS in Tikrit this week, fighting the militants along with Iran while it is still trying to seal a nuclear deal with the country, and at the same time Iranian officials are demanding a halt to the U.S.-backed attacks in Yemen.
And adding to the confusion, Syria’s civil war is still raging, and in Libya, the United States was reportedly surprised when Egypt and the United Arab Emirates carried out airstrikes against Islamic extremists back in August.
“The mood here is that we really are at a crisis point that is unprecedented in recent memory,” Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow in the Middle East policy center at the Brookings Institution, told Politico. “This feels more intense and more complicated” than Middle Eastern activity in the past.
However, many senior Obama officials warn the United States can accomplish little in the region, as the ethnic and religious battles are mostly beyond control. But the State Department official told Politico that it does little good to overreact to the day-by-day news coming from the region.
“There’s a sense that the only view worth having on the Middle East is the long view,” the unnamed official said. “We’ve painfully seen that good can turn to bad and bad can turn to good in an instant, which might be a sobriety worth holding on to at moments like this.”