September 13, 2016

Obama's Foreign Policy Summer Vacation

  • The Obama administration’s failed foreign policy continued this summer, leaving the world a more dangerous place than it was eight years ago.
  • The administration gave Iran $400 million in cash within 24 hours of Iran releasing American hostages.
  • Russia launched air strikes from Iranian territory against opposition forces in Syria.
  • Because President Obama allowed Assad repeatedly to cross a red line with impunity, a recent U.N. report found that Assad makes “repeated use” of chemical weapons.

President Obama continued his vacation from foreign policy reality this summer. This administration has failed to implement a foreign policy that provides security for the American people. Every day that the president refuses to stand up to the aggression of other countries, he emboldens our enemies and endangers Americans and our allies.


Earlier this year, President Obama agreed to give Iran $1.7 billion to settle a legal claim. The case involved Iran’s attempts to get a refund of money it paid to purchase military equipment from the United States in the 1970s. The U.S. did not deliver the equipment after our embassy in Tehran was seized in 1979. The settlement included a $400 million cash down payment from the Obama administration. The administration separately agreed to release seven detained Iranian-Americans and Iranian nationals, and drop prosecution of another 14 Iranians.

These actions came right after the announcement of Implementation Day for the nuclear agreement, when the Iranian economy began to benefit from access to more than $100 billion in assets. These two financial windfalls for Iran, and the release of Iranian criminals, came within 24 hours of the announcement that some Americans held hostage in Iran would be released. It appears as if a hefty ransom was paid for the release of American hostages. This can only ratify the fear that Iran still sees hostage-taking as a valid – and profitable – act of state.

Iran hostage ransom


Just as distressing, President Obama announced no progress on getting Iran to pay the money it owes to U.S. victims of terrorism. Many U.S. victims of Iranian terrorism have brought civil actions in court to hold Iran financially responsible for its terrorist activity. These include victims of the 1979 embassy hostage crisis, the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the 1995 Khobar Towers bombing, and countless bombings in Israel by Palestinian terrorist groups supported by Iran. According to a Congressional Research Service compilation, Iran has been adjudicated to owe more than $55 billion in damages to these victims.


Last month was the fifth anniversary of President Obama calling upon Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “to step aside.” Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed this bravado by saying it was only “a matter of time” before the Assad regime fell. Today, Assad is more secure in his power than he has been in years, aided in part by Russia. Recently President Putin even launched airstrikes from Iranian territory against opposition forces in Syria.

President Obama has insisted that “the United States couldn’t impose a military solution on Syria.” Putin apparently feels quite differently, and he has effectively imposed a military solution in Syria. The CIA director told the Senate Intelligence Committee in June that Assad “is in a stronger position than he was” last year, precisely “as a result of the Russian military intervention.” The State Department conceded a few weeks ago that Russia’s airstrikes “predominantly target moderate Syrian opposition forces.”

Despite this, President Obama continues to negotiate with Russia as if we have the same goals in mind. On Saturday, Secretary of State Kerry held a press conference with the Russian foreign minister announcing yet another ceasefire. According to the Washington Post on September 10, Assad immediately intensified his airstrikes of opposition areas, “killing scores of people only hours after the announcement of [the] new cease-fire deal.”

When President Obama called on Assad to step aside, the president did not back up his words with any meaningful support for the moderate opposition in Syria. The consequences have been disastrous: hundreds of thousands of Syrians dead; a strengthened Assad; an opposition force under siege; and an emboldened Russia.


There have also been tragic consequences from the president’s failure to enforce his 2012 “red line” against Syria using chemical weapons. On August 21, 2013, the Syrian government attacked its own people with the nerve agent sarin, killing an estimated 1,400 people. Because Assad crossed President Obama’s red line without consequence, there has been “a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime,” as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said three weeks ago.

To avoid enforcing his own red line by military force, President Obama negotiated to get Syria to give up its chemical weapons and join the Chemical Weapons Convention. This was enshrined in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118. Secretary Kerry bragged in 2014, “we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out” of Syria.

The State Department reported earlier this year that this is certainly not the case, and it described how President Obama’s diplomatic initiative essentially gained nothing. The department said that “Syrian conduct in relation to international norms against the use of [chemical weapons] did not materially change following accession to the CWC.” As the U.S. representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said last November, the use of chemical weapons in Syria has now become “routine.”

Issue Tag: National Security