Is the Arab Spring a Distraction for America?

Kathleen T. McFarland warned that America is diverting its attention from the real threat in the Middle East: Iran.

Is America’s involvement in Libya a distraction from its core interests in the Middle East? According to Kathleen T. McFarland, it is. “We’re now in the middle of somebody else’s civil war.”

On the Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense argued that the United States better consider their own strategic interests in the region. “It’s not Libya,” she said. “It’s not any of these places.”

America’s foremost interest in the Middle East is to ensure a safe and steady flow of oil from Saudi Arabia and its tiny Gulf neighbors, particularly through the Strait of Hormuz and the Suez Canal.

40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil shipments passes through the Strait of Hormuz every day yet Iran has warned repeatedly that it might seal off the waterway if it feels threatened from the West.

In February of this year, over Israeli objections, Iranian warships for the first time in thirty years passed through the Suez Canal — mere days after longtime Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak had been forced to resign in the face of mass anti-government protests.

McFarland predicted that Iran would keep up the pressure and continue to challenge American hegemony by exploiting the Arab unrest. “If we’re already diverted everywhere else, we’re not going to be prepared for it,” she said.

Iran is encircling Israel and undermining Saudi influence, in part by fueling the protests in Bahrain where the Shiite majority is demanding political reform from a Sunni ruling class. Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain last month but the demonstrations continue.

Although Libya may be a distraction for the United States, McFarland criticized their limited involvement in the war. “We have a limited goal. We have limited particiaption, limited time. You know what happens when you do that? You have limited success.” She urged policymakers to define the mission in Libya. If it is regime change, the coalition should do more.

The Obama Administration announced on the same day that it would deploy unmanned drones over Libya to aid in the enforcement of the no-fly zone but American aircraft were no longer attacking armored formations loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

NATO last week requested additional precision fighter jets to minimize civilian casualties while Britain and France have urged their allies to intensify their commitment to the operation. “There is always more to do,” according to British Foreign Secretary William Hague.