Two top intelligence experts slammed President Barack Obama's foreign policy announcements Wednesday, with former Rep. Pete Hoekstra charging the president with "trying to put the best face possible on what have been missteps by his administration over the last four or five years."
"When you're looking at foreign policy, you can't be looking at a specific moment in time," Hoekstra, who chaired the House Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007, told Newsmax. "You have to look at it in the context of what's happened over months and years."
Retired four-star Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden said "there's nothing shocking" in Obama's announcements.
"He's taking a beating politically for certainly appearing to be inactive," Hayden, a former director of the CIA and the NSA, told Newsmax. "Here was an opportunity to package two or three things together and come out and make commentary on them.
"There's policy reasons for addressing each of these issues," he added. "He probably didn't mind the political effect of showing a president more engaged than people have accused him of being — or have believed him to be."
In a late-afternoon briefing at the White House, Obama said the United States had imposed its toughest sanctions yet on Russia
over its actions in Ukraine, and acknowledged that "significant gaps" and more work remained to reach a deal with Iran to curb its nuclear program.
Obama also pledged to use all of his diplomatic resources and relationships to secure a cease-fire to end violence between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The commitment was announced as Israel and Hamas agreed to a five-hour U.N.-brokered "humanitarian" pause in their nine-day-old battle.
"There's no country on earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets," Obama said.
"But over the past two weeks, we've all been heartbroken by the violence, especially the death and injury of so many innocent civilians in Gaza — men, women and children who were caught in the crossfire.
"That's why we have been working with our partners in the region to pursue a cease-fire, to protect civilians on both sides," he said.
The Russian sanctions targeted Gazprombank, the third-largest financial institution in the Russian federation, and VEB, a state-owned bank that acts as the payment agent for the Russian government.
Other companies singled out include Novatek, the No. 2 gas producer, as well as Rosneft Oil Co. Eight arms producers and several other energy and defense companies were also targeted.
But the sanctions do not affect Russia's Gazprom, the world's largest natural gas producer and provider of much of Europe's energy supplies. Gazprombank is 36 percent owned by Gazprom.
Obama said the U.S. could impose further sanctions if Russia did not take concrete steps to ease the conflict and its annexation of the Crimea region.
"These sanctions are significant, but they are also targeted, designed to have the maximum impact on Russia while limiting any spillover impact on American companies or those of our allies," the president said.
Regarding Iran, Obama said he would consult with Congress and U.S. allies to determine whether negotiations on a nuclear deal need to be extended beyond the July 20 deadline.
He said that, based on consultations with Secretary of State John Kerry and his national security team, progress has been made in several areas.
In their Newsmax interviews, Hoekstra and Hayden applauded Obama's efforts to end the bloodshed between Israel and Hamas, but cautioned that eroding U.S. credibility could undermine any genuine progress.
"The president has so damaged the relationship between Israel and the United States that, at this time of crisis, the U.S. has very, very little leverage to encourage Israel to do anything," Hoekstra said.
Hayden said Israel was provoked and is using Hamas' isolation, particularly within the Middle East, to its advantage.
"Israel, fully provoked, recognizes that it has an opportunity to badly punish Hamas here because Hamas is pretty-much friendless in the world. Israel saw an opportunity here where they could hammer Hamas pretty badly . . . without a whole lot of international reaction."
Before the cease-fire, more than 200 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza. Israel said it would hold its fire, allowing Palestinians to restock food, water and other necessities.
It vowed, however, to retaliate "firmly and decisively" if Hamas or other militant groups attacked Israel during that time.
"If the rockets continue, the Israelis will continue their campaign," Hayden told Newsmax.
As for the Russian sanctions, Hoekstra said they're indicative of Obama's inattentiveness toward the federation since he took over the White House in 2009.
"They may be the toughest sanctions that we've ever posed on Russia, but the bottom line is that we created this environment over the years," he said.
"We created an opportunity that Russia has exploited and has perceived as American weakness. Whether it was or not, it was perceived as American weakness.
"We're reacting as best we can to a situation that was created by poor decisions that have been made over the last couple of years," Hoekstra said.
Hayden said the tightened sanctions appeared to be "synchronized with European sanctions," and that "there wasn't a great bit of enthusiasm in Europe for really biting sanctions."
He added, however, that "while Putin has continued to meddle" in Ukraine, the "degree of Russian interference is actually down a bit from where it has been in the past."
That's in part because Russian President Vladimir Putin "got what he desperately needed, which was a victory, which was Crimea," Hayden told Newsmax.
But Putin also has been more cautious in recent months because he's afraid of losing control to those demonstrating in the streets for Russian control of Ukraine, Hayden said.
"He began to really excite some people in Ukraine, and I really think he was afraid of losing control over the street.
"Putin began to fear that the people on whom he was relying to stir this up were getting out from under his control," Hayden added. "That is a very powerful factor."
Both intelligence experts were especially critical of Obama's statements on Iran, saying their fears of unending nuclear talks with Tehran were fast becoming reality.
"I'm not worried about getting to a deal," Hoekstra said. "What I'm worried about is that we're going to get to a bad deal.
"They've strung it along — and at this point, it's the U.S. and our European allies who need a deal more than the Iranians. We're all set here to get a bad deal."
Hayden said that while Iran's nuclear activities are on hold during the talks, "we've 'frozen' them in a not-very-good spot for us."
"They are too close to a weapon," he observed. "Although they have stopped some stuff, not everything has stopped — and they're becoming more technologically knowledgeable and capable, even during this period.
"We're going to extend the deadline a little bit, but we don't need the diplomatic equivalent of a continuing resolution here, OK?"
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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