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A Dangerous Game

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
Vol. 19, No. 09
Weekly Standard


There's a Washington think-tank variation on the board game Risk, and here's how it goes: I give you a short statement about Obama policy in the Middle East, and you have to say who it's from.

For example:

"The Persians are taking over Iraq and Syria and building a nuclear weapon. Are you Americans crazy? You think you will outsmart them in Geneva? They send Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah troops to fight in Syria and you do nothing? You draw a red line over chemical weapons and let Putin erase it?"

So who said it: Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal? King Abdullah of Jordan? The Israelis? The Emiratis? The Moroccans? The Kuwaitis? Lebanese Christians? The list of candidates is long.

It's hard to win this game, because in private, all these players are saying pretty much the same thing. At this point they are less angry than astonished by -American policy, though the Saudis have been coming out of the closet in recent weeks with real resentment about the way Obama is changing the rules. In the game Risk, there are no teams, and alliances are temporary and often disregarded. Our Middle Eastern friends see Obama as playing by those rules rather than the ones that have governed American policy for decades, where alliances are real and lasting, and behavior is predictable. In real life they did not expect to see an America -desperate for a deal with Iran.

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