President Barack Obama is engaging in a potentially dangerous policy of trying to contain smoldering problems in Syria and Iran until after his re-election bid in November, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Judith Miller tells Newsmax.TV.
“I think that the president really wants to contain these problems until after the election,” declares Miller in an exclusive interview on Tuesday. “He is obviously very, very concerned that an Israeli strike against Iran — against Iran’s nuclear targets — would result in a huge conflagration. It would result in a soaring price of oil that would set back his re-election prospects.”
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By the same token, the president also wants to put off any intervention in Syria. “The last thing he wants is a kind of explosion there and a conflagration that would require action of Turkey, or of Lebanon, or of Israel. He wants to avoid a war before November. That’s very important to him and to his re-election prospects.”
Miller, however, told Newsmax.TV that she does not believe war is a fait accompli in the Middle East. “There’s always a desire among diplomats to put off the difficult — to not do today what you can do tomorrow — but in an area as potentially explosive as the Middle East that’s a very dangerous policy. These problems must be addressed,” she said.
With discussions set to begin over the Iran situation in a few days, Miller said that Obama — like Iran — may be trying to buy time, and she is not overly optimistic that a solution will be reached from the planned talks on Saturday in Turkey.
“I do think that he, like the Iranians, is actually trying to buy some time to carry out his political objectives,” she said of the president, adding, “I think the Israelis are extremely nervous about this policy. They don’t want to wait. But they do understand the potentially high cost to them and to the world of military action.”
Iran will present new proposals at the talks aimed at easing concerns about its nuclear activity, according to state television, but it is unclear if Tehran is willing to address its disputed uranium enrichment drive.
One Western diplomat told Reuters that he doubted that the proposals would be sufficient for any quick lifting of sanctions.
“I’m not very optimistic and I think most people who follow Iran are not very optimistic,” Miller explained. “The experts that I’ve talked to believe that Iran is simply using these talks to buy time, to continue to enrich more uranium, to continue to build and reinforce the facilities that they are developing all over the country in duplicate — sometimes in triplicate — to give them a backup capability should there be a conventional military strike against their nuclear weapons program. Almost no one I know has great expectations for these talks.”
Miller, a Newsmax contributor, said that she has been unable to confirm whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was directly asked by Obama to put off a potential attack on Iran until after the U.S. election.
“Really no one knows at this point with any certainty except president Obama and Bibi Netanyahu what was said in that room,” according to Miller. “It’s very clear that Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama have very different red lines — that is the period, the time in which they feel that military action must be taken. President Obama has asked for more time for the economic sanctions to take effect. In july — in the summer — those sanctions are going to become even more harsh and the Iranian government clearly wants to do whatever it can to avoid those sanctions from taking effect.”
Miller is not overly optimistic the sanctions against Iran will be successful. “Sanctions are notoriously unreliable as a weapon to stop people from doing what they want to do. Ironically, in Iraq sanctions did stop Saddam [Hussein] from reigniting his nuclear program, but American intelligence did not know that. They were not aware of it.”
She said there is evidence that the Iranian sanctions are having some effect.
“There are fuel shortages in Iran. Prices are rising. There’s tremendous pressure on their currency,” she observed. “They are deeply worried. Whether or not they’re worried enough about these sanctions to stop their nuclear program is a question once again that only they can answer, and here again, the Americans and the Israelis tend to have a different answer to that question.”
Miller, who left The New York Times Washington bureau in 2005 and now is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said that the Obama administration has not “expressed any enthusiasm” for calls by Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman to provide weapons for the free Syrian army, which is badly outnumbered.
“They’ve been fighting a rearguard, losing battle against a heavily armed 600,000-man Syrian army — holding their own with almost no weapons — with almost no food and no supplies. So Sens. McCain and Lieberman have said at least give them some weapons so that they too stand a fighting chance to protect the Syrian civilians who have been fleeing across the border now and are being slaughtered in their own country,” according to Miller, who said that the administration also seemed “unenthusiastic” about a Turkish proposal to establish a buffer zone that would protect refugees fleeing Syria.
“The name of the game here for the Obama administration is to put off any serious intervention, any intervention that the United States could make at least until after November,” said Miller. “That’s very unfortunate for the Syrian people who are being slaughtered by the day now in ever growing numbers.”
While the U.S. tries to avoid a Middle East showdown, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan on Tuesday expressed “grave concern” over the situation in Syria.
“In diplomatese that really signifies an explosion about to happen unless Syria backs off its current policy,” insisted Miller. “The U.N. has been forced to look the other way as Syria disregards now the second deadline that it was given after it agreed to accept a plan proposed by Kofi Annan back in early April and now we’ve had the second postponement.”
Annan has given the Syrians until Thursday “to stop fighting, to have a ceasefire and to withdrawal its heavy forces and heavy ammunition from the cities and stop killing its own people,” Miller added. “There’s no reason to be optimistic that the Syrians are going to abide by this latter deadline any more than they’ve abided by the first.”
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