The days of the Dybbuk in the White House

To leave office with a legacy Obama supped with a devil in thin disguise.  A President who puts so many freak events into play has to be under a mischievous spell.  

Steve Apfel

OpEds Infographic on good vs bad Iran deal
Infographic on good vs bad Iran deal

In Jewish folklore a dead malcontent may return to possess the living. The troubled soul is known as a “dybbuk’, and it runs amok making mischief. Writers and people of stage and screen invoked the fiend to aggravate family wrangles to the point of madness. Yet for all its wicked antics the dybbuk wants nothing more sinister than to settle a score. It may upturn some lives in the ghetto, but not the balance of world power.

And no dybbuk, until now, toyed with the President of America.

Love or hate Obama’s nuclear deal, who can doubt that he turned the old order on its head. Iran, hitherto America’s number one foe, was going to be, in the world’s number one hotspot, America’s number one ally. A detente, in other words, was brewing between the world’s powerhouse and the world’s sour pickle jar.

Maybe skeptics and supporters both got it wrong. The move to bring war-mongering mullahs in from the cold may be neither brash nor bold. Prophetic could be the word – not in the narrow sense of foretelling what the future holds, but prophecy that paves the way for upheavals of biblical magnitude. The making of Iran into a regional power (Obama’s motive according to, (a) Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute and (b) Obama himself, according to what he told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg) could be the harbinger of the biblical 'end of times.' [1]

This devilish diplomacy had nothing to do with Don Corleone’s, ‘keep your friends close but your enemies even closer.’ The departing President did not keep Middle East allies close; he left them bewildered and hurt. When it came to telling the Mullahs to stop calling America the Big Satan he faded; when they called for a mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv he listened. Add in Obama’s signature aversion to the military option, and recalling the ephemeral red line he drew with Assad of Syria, Tehran was left to understand that anything goes: nothing, but nothing would provoke Washington to retaliate.

Granted, a pet project at any cost is a very human failing…And so is to bend over backwards to get the thing signed off. Consider how team Obama coaxed and coddled the Mullahs in Lausanne. The team had to bait the hook not with palatable Swiss cheese, but by taking Iran’s world-wide web of terror and proxy wars off the table.

In short, to leave office with a legacy Obama supped with a devil in thin disguise.  

A cauldron of support and opposition; Iran’s consummate cunning, emboldened by stooges and opportunists come to beg for a deal – any deal. The mullahs grasped how deeply their opposite number was invested in the project. As badly as they needed a deal, a President consumed by vanity wants would cut a deal no matter what. Factor in a Europe with no stomach and a Russia and China with no scruples, and you have a bunch of criminals hanging around for a certain payoff. Left to stew, the P5+1 powers, so called, would bow to Tehran’s demands: all sanctions lifted with no real controls in place to make it behave differently as regards, (a) nuclear development and (b) global terrorism.

Tehran’s red lines, unlike Washington’s, are real.

President-elect Donald Trump, the consummate deal-maker, called it "the worst deal ever negotiated." From the tell-tale moves of Washington, Trump must be right. Obama’s administration went to unheard of lengths to protect the signature legacy: bribing Iran, drumming up business for it, blocking Congress from imposing non-nuclear sanctions, and turning a blind eye to Iran’s deal-breaking.

The White House acknowledged violations by bizarrely praising the Mullahs for not attempting to hide them! “In other words,’ points out Lee Smith of the Weekly Standard, “the administration is not just protecting the nuclear agreement, but also rationalizing Iran’s violation of it.” [2]

From the White House that tried and tested remedy for helping bitter medicine go down: mobilize supporters, demean resistors, meaning that troublesome Israel lobby. On this divide AIPAC suffered a disempowering defeat. Iran meanwhile, empowered with billions of dollars, has notched up the saber-rattling. Cyber attacks on America were followed by taking American seamen hostage, later ransoming them off to Obama for $1.7 billion in European untraceable notes. [3]

Now Tehran twiddles its thumbs after hanging “Open for business” on the door. Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry went around promoting business on Iran’s behalf.  “I wish,” Kerry told bankers in London in October 2016, “that some of the larger banks were ready to make loans and engage in opening accounts. They’re allowed to, but they’re remaining somewhat risk averse.”

Former White House foreign policy advisor Elliot Abrams was astounded. “It isn’t enough” he wrote, “to remove sanctions that prevent banks from lending to Iran; Kerry has become a cheerleader, urging banks to make more loans whatever the risks. This in fact is not giving Iran the benefit of the bargain it struck. It is going much further. It is going so far that Kerry is now giving banks bad advice – advice that is directly contradicted by U.S. Treasury officials.” [4]

Whatever happens next the genie is out. The lank shadow of Iran spreads over the Middle East.
So detente with the devil, far from being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, turned into a once-in-a-lifetime threat. Whatever happens next the genie is out. The lank shadow of Iran spreads over the Middle East. The genie, warn long-in-the-tooth nuclear dealmakers, can never be put back. Old Secretaries of State Shultz (architect of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Soviets) and Kissinger (architect of the Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement with the Soviets) are certain that Obama has put Iran on steroids. [5]

No question – Iran is back in business.  

Whither Israel? Well before the deal the White House was giving its ally the cold treatment. Analysts with Obama’s ear warned that Israel was going out of favour. Bemoaning the albatross around the President’s neck, Harvard foreign policy buff Stephen Walz wrote: “The sad fact is that the United States has no appealing Middle East partners left today… The special relationship with Israel fuels anti-Americanism and makes Washington look both hypocritical and ineffectual in the eyes of much of the world.” [6] The words would have been music to a White House at the time coercing Israel to make painful concessions while enticing Palestinians to make fanciful demands.

If the genie is out the bottle what made Obama let it out? What mischief-maker was afoot in the corridors of power? Freak alignments in the wake of the nuclear deal point to some fiend on a depraved mission. American bombers support Iranian troops to keep a chemical weapon-dropping Syrian madman in power. Saudi Arabia and Israel have embraced to see off a common threat; a White House emissary tells Argentina not to prosecute Iranian murderers of eighty Jews in Buenos Aries; Obama gives tacit blessing to the sale of a Russian missile system to Iran, making it more difficult for Israel to bomb nuclear sites.

A President who puts such freak events into play has to be under a mischievous spell.  

It brings to mind the tale of the sorcerer’s apprentice. Left in the workshop to his own devices the apprentice enchants a broom and a pail to do chores for him. In no time the shop is in chaos and the apprentice is clueless how to stop the magic. He splits the broom in half, hoping that will do the trick, but both pieces turn into more brooms while the pail slops water at twice the rate. The old sorcerer beholds the unholy mess on his return. “Powerful spirits,” he warns, “must be left to a master wizard.”

Here is an apt lesson for the White House and the unholy mess it produced. A spectacle of natural allies falling out of bed and habitual enemies climbing into bed, point to a clumsy dabbler in foreign policy. Don't get into bed with Islamists: surely that would be the lesson to take from the nuclear deal, which may be more a ticking bomb than a moment for the world to relish.

Like Marlowe’s creature Mephistopheles and Hitler before it, Iran would never strike a bad deal – that is to say a deal bad for Iran. Obama’s pact was another Neville Chamberlain road to hell paved with good intentions. Pure and simple, it was a pact with the devil. But here is a wager infinitely more reckless than Dr Faustus made with his devil. The medic gambled his own soul. Team Obama, bartering with Iran behind closed doors, gambled with the lives of hundreds of millions.

And as the President departs from office nursing his pet legacy it’s worth remembering: the devil never deals itself the bad card. It signs pacts with blood, and that’s another thing worth remembering. More, the devil likes to break its word before giving the signatures time to dry, and that’s something else to keep in mind.

Let no one accuse Tehran of non disclosure. It revealed its hand. But in the thrall of a dybbuk Obama wouldn’t heed bad omens. This probably explains why pacts with madmen and the paper they’re written on are equivalent in value. Feted honor beckons like a pot of gold. The fate of Marlow’s Dr Faustus was eternal damnation. But the gambling medic was not the President of America. Faustus sealed his own fate, not the fate of mankind, which is what a pact with Iran could seal.

Trumpeting his unruly ally Obama may have ushered in the era of Gog and Magog.  

The author is indebted to sponsors for supporting this work. Johannesburg City Councilor, Joshua Apfel; Stan Civin, Lightbulbs Unlimited, Boca, Fl. The views expressed are entirely the author’s.