Campaign Promises

Cabinet/Departments -> State -> Middle East

Middle EastGrade
The Promise: "I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide."
When/Where: Senator Obama Campaign Statement of 01/19/08.
Status:President Obama's statement on 04/24/09, a day of memorial for the Armenian Genocide, failed to mention the key word that interested parties wanted to hear: "genocide". On 03/05/10, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 23-22 on a resolution officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

This action prompted the Turkish Government to recall its Ambassador to the U.S. home for "consultations." The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement stating: "Secretary Clinton emphasized that the U.S. administration opposes both the decision accepted by the committee and the decision reaching the general assembly."

The White House went further by opposing House Resolution 306 which called for Turkey to return christian churches that were confiscated during the Armenian Genocide.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "Launch an aggressive diplomatic effort to reach a comprehensive compact on the stability of Iraq and the region."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan for Ending the War in Iraq, undated.
Status:The appointment of former Senator George Mitchell as Special Envoy for Middle East Peace" on 01/22/09 was a critical first step in honoring this promise. Senator Mitchell resigned from this post on 05/13/11 out of frustration that no progress was being made with any of the principal Middle East players in the desired peace process. Senator Mitchell was replaced by his deputy, Ambassador David Hale.

The promised "comprehensive compact" remains elusive since regional security cannot be attained unless meaningful dialogue is initiated with the likes of Iran, Syria, Pakistan, the Palestinians and others.

When the USA pulled its remaining troops out of a marginally stable Iraq at the end of CY2011 as announced by President Obama on 10/21/11 (and requested by the Iraqi Government), the Obama Administration had to engage with Iran and other unfriendly Middle East nations at the senior diplomatic level. This engagement was needed to ensure that Iran did not dominate Iraq and the Persian Gulf region after the USA's departure. Lack of immediate engagement with Iran paved the way for Iran to instigate increased subversive activities against remaining U.S. assets and resources in Iraq.

In the absence of a "comprehensive compact" for Iraqi and regional stability as of early-CY2013, coupled with Ambassador Hale's inability to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the peace table, this promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will lead a diplomatic effort to bring together Turkish and Iraqi Kurdish leaders and negotiate a comprehensive agreement that deals with the PKK threat, guarantees Turkey's territorial integrity, and facilitates badly needed Turkish investment in and trade with the Kurds of northern Iraq."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "A Stronger Partnership with Europe for a Safer America", dated 10/14/08.
Status:During his first overseas trip in 04/09, President Obama made stops in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey. His message was to pledge support for Turkey's efforts to thwart the terrorism tactics of the Kurdistan Workers Party (in Kurdish: Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan or "PKK").

Although much more work is required to build a real cooperative relationship between Turkey and Iraq (including the Kurds), Turkey must also look within its own borders to ensure that the Kurds there receive equitable attention in the fields of education, health care, economic opprtunities and assistance, etc.

While the Turkish Government will meet resistance as it tries to resolve problems with the Kurds, it has announced its determination to do so. The first step is the disarmament of the PKK under Turkish-US-Iraqi supervision, where the weapons will be handed over to US Forces in northern Iraq.

The next step is to clear all the northern Iraq PKK camps and return those camp areas to control by the regional northern Iraqi administration. Meanwhile, Turkey has opened a consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil, based upon an agreement reached between Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu and the leader of the northern Iraqi regional government, Massoud Barzani.

This is a clear indication that the two sides are talking. Credit is given to President Obama for being an active participant in this process, in fulfillment of this campaign promise.
The Promise: "...will support the promotion of democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression in Turkey and support its efforts to join the European Union."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "A Stronger Partnership with Europe for a Safer America", dated 10/14/08.
Status:During his first overseas trip in 04/09, President Obama made stops in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey. In a speech before the Turkish Parliament, he stated: "The United States strongly supports Turkey's bid to become a member of the European Union...Centuries of shared history, culture, and commerce bring you together...And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe's foundation once more."

The promise with regard to EU membership has been fulfilled. However, other aspects of this promise (i.e. promotion of democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression) have not been fulfilled.

The State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Turkey for CY2011 reveals that the Obama Administration has been ineffective in influencing improvements in the following areas:

- arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of life,
- torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
- prison and detention center conditions,
- denial of fair public trial,
- arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence,
- respect for freedom of speech and press,
- respect for internet freedom,
- respect for academic freedom and cultural events,
- freedom of peaceful assembly and association,
- freedom of religion,
- freedom of movement, internally displaced persons, protection of refugees and stateless persons,
- respect for political rights, and
- discrimination, societal abuses, and trafficking in persons

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "Obama also will increase aid to Pakistan for development and secular education to counter extremists."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "The War We Need to Win" dated 07/31/07.
Status:In Pakistan, just 54% of the population is able to read and 6.8M children between the ages of 5 and 9 are not in school. Only 33% of Pakistani children get a secondary education. One way in which U.S. education assistance is being used is to offer stipends to families to offset the cost of education for the poor with the objective of reducing militancy.

The Obama Administration promise to put more money into improving education in Pakistan initially made it a focus of the $1.5B+ in nonmilitary aid allocated annually by Congress for Pakistan over five years starting in CY2010.

Total funding by the U.S. taxpayer for assistance to Pakistan in FY2010 was $4.289B, up from $2.925B in FY2009. Of this mount, only $180M was specifically earmarked for education reform.

The Obama Administration immediately decreased total funding for Pakistan in FY2011 ($2.369B) and FY2012 ($2.102B), but has requested a slight increase for FY2013 ($2.227).

Although the President's FY2011 budget request for DOS included the statement: "Increases aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan to revitalize economic development and confront the resurgence of the Taliban," the promise to increase aid for "secular education to counter extremists" was not specifically addressed. While acknowledging that USAID successfully completed the refurbishment of 150 schools in Malakand during the Obama Administration, the fact remains that as of mid-CY2012, of 115 schools that USAID promised to rebuild under the first "over-and-above" Kerry-Lugar "Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009" ($1.5B authorized annually for five years starting in CY2010), work has started on only about 20 schools in the highly unstable Swat Valley and among those, few have been completed.

For FY2012, only $145M was designated for education reform. This will be even less in FY2013, where the total requested for the health and education services portion of the Economic Support Fund (ESF) is about $150M.

Doubts surrounding Pakistan's potential complicity or duplicity in harboring Usama bin Ladin prior to his elimination on 05/01/11 at his $1M+ refuge 800 meters from Pakistan's "West Point" affected promise fulfillment. To the average American citizen, it seemed highly implausible that bin Laden could have lived in his large complex for at least five years without the knowledge of Pakistani intelligence, military or civilian authorities. Official Pakistani denials convinced no one. Nonetheless the USA will continue condoning Pakistani complicity or duplicity because it needs Pakistani support to conclude its operations in Afghanistan.

Shortly after Osama bin Laden's elimination on 05/02/11 by U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (D-CA) introduced a bill (H.R. 1790) to defund all aid to Pakistan, stating that continuing to do so makes the USA look "foolish" in the eyes of the rest of the world.

U.S.-Pakistani relations took a serious turn downward on 11/27/11 when NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani troops along the border with Afghanistan. Pakistan immediately halted the flow of fuel and other supplies vital to coalition forces in Afghanistan because the USA would not apologize for that loss of life incident. On 07/03/12, seven months after the fact and after the U.S. taxpayer paid at least $2B for the use of alternate supply routes, Secretary of State Clinton apologized to her Pakistani counterpart and bilateral relations started to improve.

It is commendable that USAID continues to oversee such programs as "Links to Learning Children," "Children's Television Project," "Fulbright Scholarship Program," Teachers Education Program," and "Higher Education Support." But these alone are making only a small dent in improving Pakistani student access to a non-radicalized education.

As of early-CY2013, the promise to "increase" development and education funding to combat extremist influences in Pakistan is not being effectively fulfilled. In fact, despite the success of organizations such as The Citizens Foundation, Pakistanis find U.S. efforts to reform Pakistan's education system as imperialistic and invasive. 6% of the student population (of which 7M are at primary school age only) still attend madrasas despite its archaic and radical curricula. 40% of primary school age children are not enrolled in any school, and 20M school-age children do not receive a basic education and are therefore susceptible to radical indoctrination. This is not helped by the fact that 60% of all schools do not have electricity and 40% do not have potable water.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "Provide at least $2 billion to expand services to Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries."
When/Where: "Blueprint for Change: Obama and Biden's Plan for America" dated 10/09/08.
Status:By conservative estimates, there are at least 2M Iraqis who have fled their homes since the start of the war. These refugees remain in dire straits.

On a global basis, President Obama's Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) budget proposal for the Department of State was $1.693B for FY10 and $1.605B for FY11 - but this is for worldwide purposes, not specifically for Iraq.

For FY2012, the enacted funding for the MRA was $1.646B plus $27M for the Emergency MRA (EMRA), plus $229M for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) which would include Iraqi assistance. This is slated to go down in FY2013 $1.625B for the MRA plus an increase to the EMRA to $50M, but with no OCO-related funds.

Since President Obama came into office, there has been no sign that $2B was earmarked specifically to address the Iraqi refugee/displaced persons crisis, either within Iraq or in its neighboring countries.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will implement a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade - investments to Israel's security that will not be tied to any other nation."
When/Where: Candidate Obama Speech to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Washington, D.C., dated 06/04/08.
Status:The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in question was actually signed on 08/16/07 and provides for a $30B hand-out to Israel over the timeframe 10/08-10/18, an increase of $6B over the $24B provided in the previous decade.

The first State and Foreign Operations appropriation on President Obama's watch was voted upon on 07/09/09. From that vote came a $2.8B authorization ($2.775B in military grants and $25M for immigration grants) for payment to Israel against the 10-year/$30B U.S. promise.

For FY2011, the State Department received $2.994B for Israel's security, consistent with the FY2007 MOU proposal. $2.75B of these funds are planned for purchase of 20 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F-35 aircraft to be delivered in the CY2015-2017 timeframe. Congress had been notified of this potential JSF sale by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on 09/29/08.

In addition to the $3B reflected above, the Defense Department received $415.1M for Israeli Cooperative Programs to include Israel's Iron Dome defense system to counter short-range rocket threats, Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD), support of Israel's Missile Defense Architecture, and Arrow System improvements.

For the years FY2012-18, the 10-year plan calls for grants of $3.09B per year to enable Israel to maintain its Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Against this goal, Israel received an estimated $3.075B in FY2012 and President Obama has requested $3.1B for FY2013.

As of the FY2013 budget proposal submitted by President Obama to Congress on 02/14/12, the goal of providing $30B to Israel over a 10-year period from CY2009 is deemed achievable.

Tangible progress has been made toward promise fulfillment.
The Promise: "...would work with key European allies to persuade the European Union as a whole to end its practice of extending large-scale credit guarantees to Iran."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "A Stronger Partnership with Europe for a Safer America" dated 10/14/08.
Status:On 07/26/10, European Union (EU) Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton announced that all 27 EU countries were united in imposing sanctions on Iran in an effort to force the Iranian regime to halt uranium enrichment as proof that it is not seeking a nuclear weapons capability. These sanctions would reportedly go beyond the 06/10 UN Security Council resolution, and deepen Iran's international isolation.

EU sanctions (referred to as "restrictive measures") are documented in Council Regulation 961/2010 dated 10/25/10. Chapter IV (Freezing of Funds and Economic Resources), Article 25 states:

"It shall be prohibited:

(a) to sell or purchase public or public-guaranteed bonds issued after 26 July 2010, directly or indirectly, to or from any of the following: (i) Iran or its Government, and its public bodies, corporations and agencies; (ii) a credit or financial institution domiciled in Iran, including the Central Bank of Iran, or any credit or financial institution referred to in Article 23(2); (iii) a natural person or a legal person, entity or body acting on behalf or at the direction of a legal person, entity or body referred to in (i) or (ii); (iv) a legal person, entity or body owned or controlled by a person, entity or body referred to in (i), (ii) or (iii);

(b) to provide brokering services with regard to public or public-guaranteed bonds issued after 26 July 2010 to a person, entity or body referred to in point (a);

(c) to assist a person, entity or body referred to in point (a) in order to issue public or public-guaranteed bonds, by providing brokering services, advertising or any other service with regard to such bonds."

In summary, the announced EU sanctions include a ban on investing or selling equipment to Iran's oil and natural gas industries, restrictions on export-credit guarantees and insurance, and closer monitoring of banks doing business with Iran.

Russia was quick to condemn the EU sanctions, calling them "unilateral" and "unacceptable" as they showed disregard for the UN Security Council and would undermine collective international efforts to resolve the issues with Iran.

While the extent of U.S. influence in the EU's actions is unclear, the EU as taken action supportive of promise fulfillment.
The Promise: "...would conduct direct talks with Iran..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "A Stronger Partnership with Europe for a Safer America" dated 10/14/08.
Status:On 08/02/10, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that he was ready to meet/"debate" with President Obama when the two are attending a General Assembly meeting at the United Nations in 09/10.

The Obama Administration rebuffed this call for a meeting on 08/03/10. In the words of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: "We have always said that we'd be willing to sit down and discuss Iran's illicit nuclear program, if Iran is serious about doing that. To date, that seriousness has not been there."

On 08/14/10, President Obama stated to journalists that he was in favor of pursuing a separate track of discussions with Iran where the U.S. and Iran have mutual interests in combatting the narcotics trade and fighting the Taliban. Iran was reportedly positively disposed toward such that time.

On 03/08/12, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the "Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War Through Diplomacy Act" (H.R. 4173). The purpose of this bill was to have President Obama appoint a high-level envoy for Iran. In doing so, direct talks with the Iranian Government would be facilitated. This bill gained no traction in the House and expired with the 112th Congress at the end of CY2012.

Congresswoman Lee reintroduced the above bill to the House on 02/15/13 as H.R. 783.

As of early-CY2013, direct talks between President Obama and his Iranian counterpart are not planned, nor are they planned by senior/cabinet level members of his Administration.

Until something breaks in the current non-existent direct talks between the U.S. and Iran, this promise is not being fulfilled.
The Promise: "...supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions...would offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "To Secure America and Restore our Standing," undated.
Status:See related Promise ST-57.

Discussions with Iran "without preconditions" was an ill-advised promise. Since President Obama's inauguration, even low-level official U.S. contacts to secure the release of 3 backpackers who strayed into Iran from Iraq in 07/09 failed.

In 07/10, President Obama called on Iran to release these three tourists on the first anniversary of their detention at Evin Prison near Tehran. His plea fell on deaf ears. Thanks to Swiss diplomacy and private payment of a $500K ransom, not "direct presidential diplomacy," one of the hikers was released for health reasons in mid-09/10 and the remaining two were released in 09/11.

Iranian officials at all levels, both religious and secular, have repeatedly stated publicly that Iran will not condone being lectured by the U.S. on what will happen if it does or doesn't do what the U.S. demands.

As of early-CY2013, this promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...strongly support the U.S.-Israel relationship, believe that our first and incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel, America's strongest ally in the Middle East. They support this closeness, stating that the United States would never distance itself from Israel."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "To Secure America and Restore our Standing," undated.
Status:During the first three years of the Obama Administration, it in fact distanced itself from Israel because of the latter's building of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. The relationship between the U.S. under a patronizing President and Israel under a pragmatic Prime Minister was considered by some as being at the lowest point seen in over 35 years, despite efforts at (or appearances of) "rapprochement" in 07/10 when Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the White House.

The bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Israel reached a new low on 05/19/11 when President Obama called for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 Six-Day War borders (with mutually agreed swaps) behind which more than 350K Jews reside. In the words of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, Obama threw Israel "under the bus" when he stated this position. Prime Minister Netanyau immediately described Obama's call for a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders as "indefensible," a position he publicly reiterated during a tense 05/20/11 meeting with President Obama and again during an address to a joint session of Congress on 05/24/11. In reality, the U.S. position stated by President Obama is not much different than the position articulated by his predecessor, George W. Bush, and acknowledged by Netanyahu's predecessors, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak. Netanyahu's changed stance was seen as his way of placating his constituency and preserving his weak coalition government by disagreeing with any plan to exchange land for peace.

President Obama's assurances that U.S. commitments to Israeli security are "unshakable" sounded hollow to Prime Minister Netanyahu, as he expressed his belief that following President Obama's plan would leave Israel more vulnerable to terrorist attacks and would not result in a lasting peace. President Obama offered clarifications during a speech to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on 05/22/11, rightly stating that his 1967 border statement of 05/19/11 had been misrepresented.

While no one denies or questions President Obama's commitment to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Israeli perceptions of the U.S. President have been exactly the opposite of what they should be, because President Obama has unwittingly created tension between the U.S. and Israel at the highest levels.

Dealing with Iran is another area where Israel has sought U.S. support. During a 03/05/12 visit to the White House, a sense of mistrust between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama prevailed with the former steadfastly maintaining that Israel would engage with Iran as and when it sees fit to protect its people, while President Obama called for more diplomatic engagements with Iran (notwithstanding the fact that there have been no direct diplomatic demarches between either the USA or Israel and Iran).

But this strained relationship has not affected continued financial support to Israel promised under the President Carter-era Camp David accords with Egypt -- assistance that President Obama supports.

The appearance of a strained relationship between the U.S. President and Israeli Prime Minister was further exacerbated in 09/12 when the White House informed Israeli officials that President Obama's schedule would not permit his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu during the 09/12 UN General Assembly -- he is too busy campaigning for his re-election in 11/12, despite escalating tensions in Israel's backyard over Iran's nuclear program. The White House predictably denied that President Obama dissed the Israeli Prime Minister, drawing on consistent statements reflecting Israel as one of USA's closest allies, especially in terms of military-to-military cooperation.

For now, this promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...Israel should not be pressured into a ceasefire that did not deal with the threat of Hezbollah missiles. He and Joe Biden believe strongly in Israel's right to protect its citizens."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "To Secure America and Restore our Standing," undated.
Status:To President Obama's credit, peace talks between Israel and Palestine commenced on 09/02/10 in Washington, D.C. At that time, the State Department anticipated that these talks would continue toward a final resolution by 09/11 -- although either side could break off the talks for myriad reasons.

In 05/10, Israeli Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor estimated that Hizbullah had 42K missiles "aimed at Israel." He did not specify the type or range of these missiles, but claimed that they could reach anywhere in Israel. The missiles possessed by Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon are believed to originate in North Korea and reach these organizations via Iran and Syria. With U.S. support, Israel's "Iron Dome" short range missile defense system successfully shot down a Grad rocket fired against Israel from the Gaza strip on 04/07/11.

As of end-CY2011, talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have stalled. This failure is largely attributed to the terrorist group Hamas' unity agreement with the Palestinian political party "Fatah." The Hamas charter calls for the eradication of Israel.

A potential peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, orchestrated by U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell and other third parties such as Jordan and Egypt, has also failed. This draft agreement addressed the disposition of the Hzbullah missile/rocket threats, including Hizbullah's receipt of approximately 10 SCUD-D from Syria that can reach any point in Israel if launched from northern Lebanon.

Special Envoy Mitchell announced on 05/13/11 that he was quitting his job, a sign of frustration that neither a ceasefire nor peace agreement would become reality in the foreseeable future. His replacement has since been unable to influence these prerequisites for peace in the region.

The new Lebanese cabinet announced by Prime Minister Najib Mikati on 06/13/11 gives Hizbullah 16 of 30 seats, making it the dominant political and military force in Lebanon. In practical terms, peace with Israel is seen by many as less likely now than when President Obama assumed the presidency.

On the plus side, however, the Obama Administration has been supportive of Israel's "Iron Dome," "David's Sling," and "Arrow Defense" capabilities, while approving the sale of 19 F-35 stealth fighter jets with an option for 75 more to replace aging F-16 fighter aircraft.

Further, the Administration has routinely authorized the conduct of large-scale military exercises with the Israeli armed forces, and has conducted joint intelligence operations with the Mossad.

Despite strained relationships at the senior level, the Obama Administration has maintained support of Israel's efforts to protect its citizens and as such has fulfilled this promise.
The Promise: "...continuing U.S. cooperation with Israel in the development of missile defense systems."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "To Secure America and Restore our Standing," undated.
Status:Since FY2007, more than $750M has been appropriated for Israel's Arrow and David's Sling anti-missile systems.

The Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (H.R. 1473) signed into law on 04/14/11 includes $205M for the procurement of the Iron Dome defense system to counter short-range rocket threats, $84.7M for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program including cruise missile defense research and development under the SRBMD program, $58.9M for an upper tier component to the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture, and $66.4M for the Arrow System Improvement Program including development of a long range, ground and airborne detection suite.

"Iron Dome" was first activated in 04/11 and is credited with shooting down 80% of an estimated 300 rockets launched against Israel in 03/12 alone. At these initial stages, however, "Iron Dome" is not expected to be fully capable of protecting all Israeli cities from all rockets/guided missiles that Hamas may acquire from Syria, Iran or other sources. Attainment of this goal is exacerbated by the reduction of the FY2011 appropriation of $205M for "Iron Dome" in FY2011 to $0.0M in FY2012.

In summary, here are the principal Israeli missile defense systems with which active U.S. cooperation has taken place under the first three years of the Obama Administration:

- "Iron Dome" for missile threats less than 70 kilometers from Israel;
- "David's Sling" for cruise and ballistic missiles launched less than 300 kilometers from Israel;
- Upgrades to the U.S.-provided Patriot missile interceptor system; and
- "Arrow-2" and "Arrow-3" interceptors against Iran's Shabab class ballistic missiles.

The promise to continue U.S. cooperation with Israel in the development of missile defense systems has been fulfilled.