The damage done is severe, and a remedy seems out of reach unless earth shattering changes are applied to Washington's foreign policy-either under the incumbent's administration or the next. The common core of U.S. strategic mistakes has been the perception of partners in the region since day one of the post-Bush presidency. While Bush's narrative on backing pro-democracy forces was right on track, the bureaucracy's actions betrayed the White House's global aim. By the time the Obama administration installed itself on Pennsylvania Avenue in 2009, little had been accomplished by the Bush bureaucrats in regards to identifying these pro-democracy forces and supporting them. When the current administration replaced Bush, however, civil society groups in the Middle East were systematically abandoned-aid to their liberal forces was cut off and engagement with the radicals became priority. The mistakes of the Bush bureaucracy became the official policy of the Obama administration.
Washington's "new beginnings" in the region moved American Mideast policy in a backward direction on two major tracks. The first derailment was to partner with the Muslim Brotherhood, not the secular NGOs, in an attempt to define the future of Arab Sunni countries. The second was to engage the Iranian regime, not its opposition, in attempt to define future relations with the Shia sphere of the region. These were strategic policy decisions planned years before the Arab Spring, not a pragmatic search for solutions as upheavals began. Choosing the Islamists over the Muslim moderates and reformers has been an academically suggested strategy adapted to potential interests-even though it represents an approach contrary to historically successful pathways. In June 2009, President Obama sent a letter to Iran's Supreme Leader asking for "engagement." This move, coupled with Obama's abandonment of the civil revolt in Iran that same month, sent a comforting message to the ruling Khomeinists: The United States is retreating from containment and will not support regime change in Iran. That undeniably emboldened Tehran to go on the offensive in the region after less than a decade of status quo.