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Iran Speeding to Nuclear Weapons Breakout

by Bassam Tawil
February 13, 2015 at 5:00 am

Iran, with its proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen, has surrounded all the oil fields in the region and is currently busy encircling Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

Iran not only reaches now from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, but Iranian Shi’ites have been spreading out through Africa and South America.

By the time U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office, Iran will not only have nuclear breakout capability, but also the intercontinental ballistic missiles to deliver its nuclear warheads to Europe and North America.

If Iran can finally drive the U.S. out of the Gulf by threatening U.S. assets, it will be free to pursue still further expansion.

If the deal signed with Iran is full of loopholes, it is Obama who will be blamed. Does Obama really want his legacy to be, “The President who was even a bigger fool than Neville Chamberlain”? He will not be seen as “Nixon in China.” He will be seen as the Eid al-Adha lamb.

Recently, foreign ministers from the European Union (EU) have been holding meetings with representatives of the Arab and Muslim world, including Turkey and Qatar, with the intention of forming a “joint task force to fight Islamist terrorism.”

Turkey and Qatar, for example, directly encourage Islamist terrorism, thus there is no way they can be part of a task force to act against it.

In some Islamic thinking, such nonsense, because of its certain lack of ever seeing the light, is merely a prologue to the ultimate war between Gog and Magog (“yagug wamagu”), and heralds the End of Days.

The Arab-Muslim world engages in perpetual internal strife. Iran, for instance, with its proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen, has surrounded all the oil fields in the region, and is currently busy encircling Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians. Iran not only reaches now from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, but Iranian Shi’ites have been spreading out through Africa and South America. Another sign of the End of Days is the United States’ collaboration with Iran against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It means the world will eventually pay for America’s looking the other way while the Iranians are building nuclear bombs in their cellars.

These cellars may currently be distant from the shores of the United States, but they are close to all the oil fields in the Middle East. By the time U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office, Iran will not only have nuclear breakout capability, but also intercontinental ballistic missiles to deliver its nuclear warheads. Its next target will be U.S. assets in the Gulf. If Iran can finally drive the U.S. “Great Satan” out of the Gulf by threatening U.S. assets, it will be free to pursue still further expansion.

These are or will be the victims of America’s determination to drag out the problem of an exploding Middle East. That way, U.S. President Barack Obama can hand the region over to the next president, while forever pretending that the vacuum created by pulling U.S. troops out of the Middle East — now being filled by Iran, the Islamic State and other terror groups — had nothing to do with him.

This situation leaves, ironically, the lone voice of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crying in the wilderness. As much as many of us may not like him or the people he represents, he is one of the two world leaders in the West telling the truth, warning of what is to come (Geert Wilders of the Netherlands is the other). This burden of responsibility for his people (how many of us wish our leaders had even a bit of that?) has earned him only the venom of the Obama Administration, who see him as trying to spoil their strategy of leading by procrastination.

It is also becoming increasingly clear that the Obama Administration’s policy consists of running after Iran, in order to concede everything it wants, just to be able wave a piece of paper not worth the ink on it, claiming there is “a deal.” Iran, for its part, would probably prefer not to sign anything, and most likely will not. Meanwhile, both sides continue strenuously to claim the opposite.

Western leaders just seem not to be programmed to understand the capabilities of other leaders, and how they, too, negotiate, manipulate and hide behind lies. Obama’s Russian “Reset Button” did not work; his “Al Qaeda is on the run,” did not work; “We shall never let Russia take the Ukraine” did not work; and the unwinnable Israel-Palestinian “Peace Process” did not work.

Obama, in order to wave a piece of paper not worth the ink on it, seems eager to fall victim to bogus promises, worthless treaties and other leaders’ outright lies — only to look an even bigger fool than Britain’s former Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. After meeting with Germany’s with Adolf Hitler in 1938, Chamberlain returned to Britain boasting of “peace in our time.” But Chamberlain did not have the luxury of seeing a Chamberlain duped before him. If the deal signed with Iran is full of loopholes, it is Obama who will be blamed. Does Obama really want his legacy to be, “The president who was an even bigger fool than Neville Chamberlain”? He will not be seen as “Nixon in China.” He will be seen as the Eid al-Adha lamb.

Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.

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Libya: Seeking a “zero footprint”

Material Support to Terrorism: The Case of Libya

April 22, 2014
by Clare M. Lopez

Libya in 2011 marks the place and the time that the United States (U.S.) and the Obama administration formally switched sides in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). A mere 10 years after al-Qa’eda (supported by Hizballah and Iran) attacked the American homeland in the worst act of terrorism ever suffered by this country, U.S. leadership decided to facilitate the provision of weapons to jihadist militias known to be affiliated with al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood in order to bring down a brutal dictator who also just happened to be a U.S. ally in the GWOT at the time.

And the U.S. media were silent. The major broadcast, print, and Internet outlets said not a word about this astonishing turnabout in American foreign policy. To this day, they have not seemed even to recognize that the pivot to support al-Qa’eda took place. But it needs to be said. The American people deserve to understand that their most senior leaders, both elected and appointed, have violated their oaths to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

United States law is quite explicit about providing material support to terrorists: it’s prohibited. Period. 18 U.S. Code § 2339A and 18 U.S. Code § 2339B address Providing Material Support to Terrorists or Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Together, these two sections outlaw the actions of any U.S. person who attempts or conspires to provide, or actually does provide, material support to a foreign terrorist organization knowing that it has been designated a foreign terrorist organization or engages, or has engaged, in “terrorism” or “terrorist activity.” Conspiracy means agreeing or planning to provide such support, whether or not such support ever is actually delivered. Penalties for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism are stiff: imprisonment for up to 15 years and/or a fine of not more than $250,000. Penalties for actually providing or attempting to provide material support to terrorism are even harsher: imprisonment from 15 years to life, with a life sentence applicable if the death of any person results from such crime. Aiding, abetting, counseling, or procuring in support of a violation of Section 2339B is punishable by the same penalties as for the offense itself.

The Arms Export Control Act is another law that makes it illegal for the U.S. government to export “munitions” to any country determined by the Secretary of State to have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” While this provision applies specifically to those countries—Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Syria—that are designated as state sponsors of terrorism, the case of Libya stands out nevertheless. Removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2006, Libya by early 2011 was swarming with al-Qa’eda and Muslim Brotherhood militias and affiliates fighting to overthrow Muamar Qaddafi’s regime.

The identities of those jihadis and their al-Qa’eda affiliations were well known to the U.S. Intelligence Community, Department of State, and Tripoli Embassy long before the 17 February 2011 revolt broke out against Muamar Qaddafi. As with other al-Qa’eda branches, the Libyan al-Qa’eda affiliates such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) trace their origins back to the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, which was founded in 1949 when Egyptian Brotherhood members “fled a crackdown in Cairo and took refuge in Benghazi,” according to a May 2012 study by the Brookings Doha Center. Colonel Muamar Qaddafi took over Libya in a 1969 coup d’état and showed little tolerance for Brotherhood activities. Brutal waves of repression kept the Brotherhood in check through the 1980s and 1990s when many Libyan fighters went to Afghanistan to join the mujahedeen in their battle against the Soviet Army. Some of those who fought there, like Abu Anas al-Libi and Abdelhakim Belhadj, would figure prominently in the revolt that ultimately ousted Qaddafi in 2011.

The LIFG was founded in 1990 by Libyan fighters returning from the Afghan jihad who were now intent on waging jihad at home. Qaddafi came down hard on the group, though, and crushed the LIFG’s 1995-1998 insurgency. Some LIFG members had moved to Sudan when Usama bin-Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri found refuge with Omar al-Bashir’s Muslim Brotherhood regime in the early 1990s and others (including Belhadj) eventually fled back to Afghanistan, where both bin-Laden and al-Zawahiri also had relocated by the mid-1990s. Abu Anas al-Libi is alleged to have taken part in the pre-attack casing and surveillance of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya a few years prior to the 1998 al-Qa’eda attack there.

By 1995, things were becoming hot for the jihadis in Sudan and while bin Laden and al-Zawahiri returned to Afghanistan about this time, others such as Anas al-Libi were offered safehaven by the British. In return for political asylum in the UK, MI 6 recruited Anas al-Libi’s support for a failed 1996 plot to assassinate Qaddafi. In all, Anas al-Libi lived in Manchester from 1995-2000—despite his known history of association with bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and other AQ leaders, as well as willingness to participate in assassination plots against national leaders, as I wrote in an October 2013 piece at The Clarion Project. The U.S.’s British partners also provided asylum to Abu Abdullah As-Sadeq, the LIFG’s top commander and allowed the LIFG to publish an Arabic language newspaper called al-Wasat in London. By 2000, though, as the FBI and other Western security services began to close in, Anas al-Libi and others were on the move again, leaving behind a 180-page al-Qa’eda terror training manual that became known as the “Manchester Document.” In the run-up to the 11 September 2001 attacks, Anas al-Libi, Abdelhakim Belhadj, Abu Sufian bin Qumu, and other known LIFG members reconnected with bin Laden in Afghanistan. As John Rosenthal points out in a 10 October 2013 posting, “The Inevitable Rise of Al-Qaeda in Libya,” in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, “the history of close cooperation between the LIFG and al-Qa’eda was so extensive that the Libyan group figured among the very first organizations to be designated as al-Qaeda affiliates by the UN Security Council.” In fact, according to Rosenthal who cites former LIFG member, Norman Benotman, Belhadj was actually present with bin Laden at Tora Bora in December 2001. The LIFG was formally accepted as an al-Qa’eda franchise by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the AQ deputy at the time, in 2007.

In the years following 9/11, various LIFG members were detained: Abu Sufian bin Qumu was captured in 2002 and sent to Guantanamo Bay (GITMO) and in 2004, both Abu Anas al-Libi and Abdelhakim Belhadj were captured. By the mid-2000s, GITMO detainees were being released to their home countries. Abu Sufian bin Qumu, for example, was released from GITMO and returned to Libya in 2007. Beginning about 2005, Qaddafi was under pressure from both the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli and his own son, Seif, to begin what came to be known as “the reconciliation process,” in which LIFG and other jihadist prisoners were released from Libyan jails. In this process, LIFG Muslim Brotherhood cleric Ali Mohammad Al-Sallabi was a key mediator. Abdelhakim Belhadj was released in 2008 (just as Christopher Stevens was appointed Deputy Chief of Mission to Tripoli) and Abu Sufian bin Qumu in 2010, after which he returned to Derna to begin plotting the revolt against Qaddafi.

Even as this “reconciliation process” was underway and Christopher Stevens was preparing for his new posting, Libyan jihadis were flowing out of eastern Libya in droves to join the al-Qa’eda jihad against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. According to a June 2010 study compiled by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” coalition forces in Iraq captured a stash of documents in October 2007 which documented the origins of the foreign fighters who’d traveled to Iraq to join al-Qa’eda between August 2006 and August 2007. Termed the “Sinjar Records” after the nearest town where these personnel records were found, the data showed that by far the largest contingent of foreign fighters per capita came from Libya. Across the spectrum, the most common cities of origin for foreign fighters in Iraq were Darnah, Libya and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Darnah is located in the eastern Cyrenaica region of Libya, long known as an incubator of jihadist ideology and the place which would become the cradle of the 2011 Islamic uprising against Muammar Qaddafi.

Nor was the new Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Christopher Stevens unaware of what was going on. A June 2008 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli that went out over Stevens’ signature was obtained by the London Telegraph from Wikileaks. The report was given the name “Die Hard in Derna,” after the Bruce Willis movie, and described the determination of the young jihadis of this eastern Libyan town to bring down the Qaddafi regime. Because they believed the U.S. government supported the Qaddafi regime and would not allow it to fall after it had abandoned its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programs and begun to provide counter-terrorism support, and as documented in the West Point study of the “Sinjar Records,” the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) instead sent its fighters to confront the U.S. in Iraq, believing that was a way to strike a blow against both Qaddafi and his U.S. backers. A local Derna resident told the visiting Embassy officer that Libyan fighters who had returned from earlier battlefields in Afghanistan (1980s) and elsewhere sometimes went on for additional “religious training” in Lebanon and Syria; when they eventually returned to Libya in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they began the process of preparing the ground for “the eventual overthrow by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) of Muammar Qadhafi’s regime…”

Career Foreign Service Officer Christopher Stevens was first posted to the American Embassy in Tripoli, Libya in June 2007 as the DCM and later as charge d’affaires until 2009. For his second tour in Libya, Stevens was sent to rebel headquarters in Benghazi, Libya, to serve as special representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council. He arrived on a Greek cargo ship on April 5, 2011 and stayed until November. His mission was to forge stronger links with the Interim Transitional National Council, and gain a better understanding of the various factions fighting the Qaddafi regime. His reports back to Washington were said to have encouraged the U.S. to support and recognize the rebel council, which the Obama administration did formally in July 2011.

As is now known, under urging from Sen. John McCain and other Congressional members, the White House endorsed Qatar’s plan to send weapons to the Libyan rebels shortly after Yousef al-Qaradawi, the senior jurist of the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a 21 February 2011 fatwa that called for the killing of Qaddafi. Seeking a “zero footprint,” no-paperwork-trail profile itself, the U.S. instead encouraged both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to arm the Libyan jihadis, according to a key New York Times article published in December 2012. Knowing full well exactly who those rebel militias and their leadership were, and how closely they were connected with al-Qa’eda (and perhaps even mindful of the legal restrictions on providing material support to terrorism), the U.S. sought to distance itself as the source of these weapons, which included small arms such as automatic rifles, machine guns, and ammunition. The NY Times piece noted that U.S. officials made sure to stipulate the weapons provided would come from elsewhere, but not from the U.S.

But the fact that from the end of March 2011 onward, U.S. and other NATO forces completely controlled Libyan air space and the sea approaches to Libya means that the cargo planes and freighters transporting the arms into Libya from Qatar and elsewhere were being waved through with full U.S. knowledge and support. The U.S. mission in Libya, and especially in Benghazi, ramped up in this period to facilitate the delivery of the weapons to the Libyan al-Qa’eda terrorists.

What followed should hardly have come as a surprise to anyone. After NATO air support cleared the way to Tripoli, the Qaddafi regime fell in October 2011 and the Muslim Brotherhood political leadership and al-Qa’eda fighters took over. Abdelhakim Belhadj was named Tripoli military commander. Chaos reigned, especially in the eastern regions, and now the weapons flow reversed—out of Libya, and into the hands of jihadis in West Africa, the Sinai, and Syria. Some of that flow was wildly disorganized and some of it was directed, with the U.S. mission in Benghazi once again playing a key role as its teams on the ground facilitated the weapons delivery, now destined for the Syrian rebels, dominated by al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood, who were fighting to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime. In this endeavor, the U.S. was allied with its new Libyan partner, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and once again, with Qatar.

The next chapter in the U.S. jihad wars was underway, with a new Presidential Finding, and material support to terrorism firmly established as official policy. Congress and the media and the military remained silent. The American people barely noticed.

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Anti-Obama Global Uprising

( Another worthy piece analyzing Obama’s world-wide collapse. – JW )

President Obama finds himself in the unenviable position of battling US Congress on a variety of issues while simultaneously having to confront 35 US allies and foreign leaders outraged over his policies whether on Syria and Iran or on the NSA eavesdropping on their personal and private conversations.

There is a silent anti-Obama uprising taking place around the world thanks to his lack of leadership and to the inexperience of the advisers around him.

In the case of the often-reserved Saudi Arabia, the chastising was particularly harsh given the patience the Kingdom exercised in its attempts to resolve the Syrian tragedy using US help, to no avail. Thanks to the incompetency of the team Obama, Syria is now the favorite global destination for Sunni and Shia Islamist pilgrims sporting suicide vests and specialized sniper rifles to kill pregnant women and children.

Recent US polls show Mr. Obama hitting new lows in popularity as his domestic agenda unravels on Obamacare (Wonder if Gallup or Rasmussen are able to conduct a global poll on Obama’s popularity). Mass cancellations by insurance companies against the self-insured (Usually small business owners) is shaking things up for the White House and no amount of spin will pay the difference millions of Americans will have to assume as they begin their journey towards carrying the burden of the biggest welfare state system ever engineered by the far-left. Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee look better by the day for their marathon filibuster to defund Obamacare.

It took five years of severe drought, but no umbrella will protect Mr. Obama from the cats and dogs raining on him and the people around him today.

While Mr. Obama feigns ignorance on the NSA eavesdropping (As he did with all the other scandals), the storm brewing overseas is gathering momentum. For sure, the 35 foreign leaders are exchanging opinions and ideas, as I write this, on what it would take to send the right message to the US and it is a question of time before many band together to confront the White House as one voice. It is a political bonanza they are not about to miss even though many spy as much against the US and many have sat on the sidelines when it comes to Syria.

Is the White House aware of this global anti-Obama uprising? Apparently not.

Wednesday night, the Israeli Air Force allegedly bombed two sites in Latakya and Damascus to interrupt the delivery of Russian-made SA-8 mobile missile batteries to Hezbollah. To add insult to injury, a US official leaked the information to the press by claiming the Obama Administration did not want to appear having condoned the operations during sensitive talks with Iran.

I really must be experiencing a re-run of Get Smart.

Has that official leaking the information lost his/her mind? Does he/she not know that with such public explanation the Iranians will seek certain guarantees against other attacks before they proceed with negotiations? Maybe the White House is praying for the Iranians to demand these guarantees that would compel this President to freeze Israeli capabilities from protecting its citizenry under the guise of its peace-loving initiative with a mass murderer like Khamenei. I am telling you, Maxwell Smart really works at the White House today.

On the other hand, this US not-so-smart official who leaked the information just fell in his/her own trap. Possibly, Israel may have figured a way to sabotage the US-Iranian talks the country knows it could only lead to disastrous results by making it a habit to hit the Assad regime every few days or so. Of course, I am not saying this is probable because the Israeli leadership is too wise to let the Iranians create a wedge between them and the US.

Too much elitism in the crowd surrounding Mr. Obama is fogging their perception of what is coming down the pike. Instead of looking at themselves in the mirror, they are doubling down on an agenda already causing an uprising against the policies of Mr. Obama on a worldwide scale.

Maybe First Lady Michelle Obama’s invitation to Prince George’s first birthday celebration will have to be lost in Her Majesty’s mail for this crowd to realize how unpopular the Obama Administration has become.

Nothing like banality to shock their nervous system.

via Anti-Obama Global Uprising | Farid Ghadry | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel.

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Obamacare victims and Israel

Obama lies in both domestic and foreign policy.

10/31/2013 20:57
By CAROLINE B. GLICK

US President Barack Obama views lies as legitimate political tools. He uses lies strategically to accomplish through mendacity what he could never achieve through honest means.

Obama lies in both domestic and foreign policy.

On the domestic front, despite Obama’s repeated promises that Obamacare would not threaten anyone’s existing health insurance policies, over the past two weeks, millions Americans have received notices from their health insurance companies that their policies have been canceled because they don’t abide by Obamacare’s requirements.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board explained that Obama’s repetition of this lie was not an oversight. It was a deliberate means of lulling into complacency these Americans who opted to buy their insurance themselves on the open market, in order to stick them with the burden of underwriting Obamacare.

In the editorialist’s words, “The [healthcare] exchanges need these customers [whose private policies are being canceled] to finance Obamacare’s balance sheet and stabilize its risk pools. On the exchanges, individuals earning more than $46,000 or a family of four above $94,000 don’t qualify for subsidies and must buy overpriced insurance. If these middle-class Obamacare losers can be forced into the exchanges, they become financiers of the new pay-as-yougo entitlement.”

Sure there is an outcry now about Obama’s dishonesty and the way he has used lying to take away from an unwilling public a right it would never have knowingly surrendered, but it is too late. There is no chance of revoking the law until at 2017, when Obama leaves office.

And by then, everyone will have been forced to accept what they consider unacceptable or be fined and lose all health coverage.

Obama’s mendacity is not limited to domestic policy. It operates in foreign affairs as well. Several commentators this week recalled Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez’s angry response to the Obama administration’s attempt to block Senate passage of sanctions against Iran in December 2011. Expressing disgust at the administration’s bad faith to the Senate, Menendez noted that before the White House tried to defeat the legislation, it first forced senators to water it down, making them believe that the White House would support a weaker bill. In the end, despite the White House’s opposition, the Senate and House passed the watered-down sanctions bills with veto-proof majorities. Obama reluctantly signed the bill into law and then bragged about having passed “crippling sanctions” on Iran.

As was the case with Obamacare, the White House knows that most Americans won’t support its policy of doing nothing to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. So the White House never says that this is its policy. Obama and his advisers insist that preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power is a central goal of the administration. But their actions move US policy in the opposite direction. And if they get caught on the lies after Iran gets the bomb, well, Obama won’t be facing reelection, so he will pay no price for his duplicity.

The mendacity at the heart of Obama’s political playbook is something that Israel needs to understand if it to survive his presidency without major damage to its strategic viability. The events of the past week make clear that the stakes in understanding and exposing his game couldn’t be higher.

Three major developments occurred this week. Read more: (here)

A Small President on the World Stage

At the U.N., leaders hope for a return of American greatness.

The world misses the old America, the one before the crash—the crashes—of the past dozen years.

By PEGGY NOONAN

That is the takeaway from conversations the past week in New York, where world leaders gathered for the annual U.N. General Assembly session. Our friends, and we have many, speak almost poignantly of the dynamism, excellence, exuberance and leadership of the nation they had, for so many years, judged themselves against, been inspired by, attempted to emulate, resented.

As for those who are not America’s friends, some seem still confused, even concussed, by the new power shift. What is their exact place in it? Will it last? Will America come roaring back? Can she? Does she have the political will, the human capital, the old capability?

It is a world in a new kind of flux, one that doesn’t know what to make of America anymore. In part because of our president.

“We want American leadership,” said a member of a diplomatic delegation of a major U.S. ally. He said it softly, as if confiding he missed an old friend.

“In the past we have seen some America overreach,” said the prime minister of a Western democracy, in a conversation. “Now I think we are seeing America underreach.” He was referring not only to foreign policy but to economic policies, to the limits America has imposed on itself. He missed its old economic dynamism, its crazy, pioneering spirit toward wealth creation—the old belief that every American could invent something, get it to market, make a bundle, rise.

The prime minister spoke of a great anxiety and his particular hope. The anxiety: “The biggest risk is not political but social. Wealthy societies with people who think wealth is a given, a birthright—they do not understand that we are in the fight of our lives with countries and nations set on displacing us. Wealth is earned. It is far from being a given. It cannot be taken for granted. The recession reminded us how quickly circumstances can change.” His hope? That the things that made America a giant—”so much entrepreneurialism and vision”—will, in time, fully re-emerge and jolt the country from the doldrums.

The second takeaway of the week has to do with a continued decline in admiration for the American president. Barack Obama‘s reputation among his fellow international players has deflated, his stature almost collapsed. In diplomatic circles, attitudes toward his leadership have been declining for some time, but this week you could hear the disappointment, and something more dangerous: the sense that he is no longer, perhaps, all that relevant. Part of this is due, obviously, to his handling of the Syria crisis. If you draw a line and it is crossed and then you dodge, deflect, disappear and call it diplomacy, the world will notice, and not think better of you. Some of it is connected to the historical moment America is in.

But some of it, surely, is just five years of Mr. Obama. World leaders do not understand what his higher strategic aims are, have doubts about his seriousness and judgment, and read him as unsure and covering up his unsureness with ringing words.

A scorching assessment of the president as foreign-policy actor came from a former senior U.S. diplomat, a low-key and sophisticated man who spent the week at many U.N.-related functions. “World leaders are very negative about Obama,” he said. They are “disappointed, feeling he’s not really in charge. . . . The Western Europeans don’t pay that much attention to him anymore.”

The diplomat was one of more than a dozen U.S. foreign-policy hands who met this week with the new president of Iran, Hasan Rouhani. What did he think of the American president? “He didn’t mention Obama, not once,” said the former envoy, who added: “We have to accept the fact that the president is rather insignificant at the moment, and rely on our diplomats.” John Kerry, he said, is doing a good job.

Had he ever seen an American president treated as if he were so insignificant? “I really never have. It’s unusual.” What does he make of the president’s strategy: “He doesn’t know what to do so he stays out of it [and] hopes for the best.” The diplomat added: “Slim hope.”

This reminded me of a talk a few weeks ago, with another veteran diplomat who often confers with leaders with whom Mr. Obama meets. I had asked: When Obama enters a room with other leaders, is there a sense that America has entered the room? I mentioned de Gaulle—when he was there, France was there. When Reagan came into a room, people stood: America just walked in. Does Mr. Obama bring that kind of mystique?

“No,” he said. “It’s not like that.”

When the president spoke to the General Assembly, his speech was dignified and had, at certain points, a certain sternness of tone. But after a while, as he spoke, it took on the flavor of re-enactment. He had impressed these men and women once. In the cutaways on C-Span, some delegates in attendance seemed distracted, not alert, not sitting as if they were witnessing something important. One delegate seemed to be scrolling down on a BlackBerry, one rifled through notes. Two officials seated behind the president as he spoke seemed engaged in humorous banter. At the end, the applause was polite, appropriate and brief.

The president spoke of Iran and nuclear weapons—”we should be able to achieve a resolution” of the question. “We are encouraged” by signs of a more moderate course. “I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort.”

But his spokesmen had suggested the possibility of a brief meeting or handshake between Messrs. Obama and Rouhani. When that didn’t happen there was a sense the American president had been snubbed. For all the world to see.

Which, if you are an American, is embarrassing.

While Mr. Rouhani could not meet with the American president, he did make time for journalists, diplomats and businessmen brought together by the Asia Society and the Council on Foreign Relations. Early Thursday evening in a hotel ballroom, Mr. Rouhani spoke about U.S.-Iranian relations.

He appears to be intelligent, smooth, and he said all the right things—”moderation and wisdom” will guide his government, “global challenges require collective responses.” He will likely prove a tough negotiator, perhaps a particularly wily one. He is eloquent when speaking of the “haunted” nature of some of his countrymen’s memories when they consider the past 60 years of U.S.-Iranian relations.

Well, we have that in common.

He seemed to use his eloquence to bring a certain freshness, and therefore force, to perceived grievances. That’s one negotiating tactic. He added that we must “rise above petty politics,” and focus on our nations’ common interests and concerns. He called it “counterproductive” to view Iran as a threat; this charge is whipped up by “alarmists.” He vowed again that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb, saying this would be “contrary to Islamic norms.”

I wondered, as he spoke, how he sized up our president. In roughly 90 minutes of a speech followed by questions, he didn’t say, and nobody thought to ask him.

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