Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website

Thu93 2020

Last update18:06 PM GMT

Back to Homepage
Font Size : 12 point 14 point 16 point 18 point
:: Issues > Activites
Will the Real Obama Middle East Strategy Please Stand Up?
Will the Real Obama Middle East Strategy Please Stand Up?
I want to thank Foreign Policy.com and Marc for inviting me to post on my trip to the Gulf. While I was in Kuwait, a prominent American scholar on the Middle East mentioned that he thought Abu Aardvark was the best Middle East policy-oriented blog in business, and I wholeheartedly agree, and not just because Marc’s my friend.
Sunday, March 29,2009 13:57
by Brian Katulis Foreign Policy

I want to thank Foreign Policy.com and Marc for inviting me to post on my trip to the Gulf. While I was in Kuwait, a prominent American scholar on the Middle East mentioned that he thought Abu Aardvark was the best Middle East policy-oriented blog in business, and I wholeheartedly agree, and not just because Marc"s my friend.

There are several must-read blogs out there - the COIN nerds have some interesting insights, but let"s face it, their musings tend to be a bit blinkered by self-referential navel gazing with an overemphasis on the U.S. military and what U.S. boots on the ground do. That"s a limited perspective and doesn"t lend itself to a complete analysis of the political, social, and economic trends happening out in the real world. Juan Cole"s Informed Comment is great, but sometimes doesn"t provide the widespread coverage of the region that Abu Aardvark does. And as a progressive, of course I"d be remiss in not mentioning the POMED blog (because democracy and human rights should still matter in U.S. policy) and my own organization"s family of Think Progress blogs for a view on all that is just and righteous.

I posted several times on several topics on my Gulf trip here - on the role of the Gulf on many fronts of U.S. policy, the military arms spending spree in the region, the regional movement towards nuclear energy, and views on Afghanistan in Muslim-majority countries -- but the one overriding question that inquiring minds wanted to know the answer to on our trip was: what is the Obama administration"s strategy for the Middle East and South Asia?

The administration has been in office for a little over two months now, and the president"s had his hands full, of course, dealing with the worst economic mess since the Great Depression. But as I argued in this piece last week, the Obama administration has hit the ground running -- building an impressive team from day one and sending the right signals to the region, such as President Obama"s first television interview with Al-Arabiya.

Multiple policy reviews are underway - teams are working hard to craft strategies on the Arab-Israeli front, Iran, and Iraq. On Iraq, President Obama presented his administration"s new strategy last month, and just this morning he unveiled the results of a comprehensive review on Afghanistan and Pakistan in a speech that I attended at the White House.

So the pieces are in place but now the really tough part is about to begin -- making the strategies operational and starting to implement new policies in a part of the world where it is necessary to expect the unexpected, and of course prepare for the expected. In effect, the time for review and study is rapidly coming to a close, and the administration will be faced with some tough choices.

For now, President Obama and his top officials have largely relied on broad statements outlining general directions; a great example of this came this past Tuesday night, in President Obama"s prime time news conference, when he was asked about Arab-Israeli issues and the prospects for a two-state solution. Obama launched into a vague response, a fine but broad statement of intent.

But on the Arab-Israeli front, and other key pieces of Middle East and South Asia policy, some tough choices loom on the horizon -- ones that will require the administration to stake out an actual policy. Here are just a few:

1. Israeli settlements - There are strong signs that the new Israeli government may be moving towards new settlement expansions. This is problematic, because as my CAP colleague Moran Banai points out, any such movement towards more settlements would amount to going back on pledges and commitments made in an effort to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The back-and-forth between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barakat over demolitions of Arab houses in Jerusalem could be the opening salvo in a broader debate between a new U.S. administration and a new Israeli government that may not see eye-to-eye on issues like settlements.

2. Coordinating Iran and Iraq policies. Though the policy review on Iran is not yet complete, it seems that the Obama administration will move in the direction of tough diplomatic engagement combined with continued efforts to isolate Iran economically and diplomatically.

As I"ve pointed out before, trying to isolate Iran economically as a means to gain greater leverage diplomatically -- probably a wise approach by itself in my view - is easier said than done when one looks at Iran"s extensive economic ties with all of its neighbors. The strategic framework agreement that the United States and Iraq signed -- a separate agreement from the status of forces agreement -- envisions deep ties between the United States and Iraq, a country that itself has deep and growing ties with its Iranian neighbor. Iraqi leaders have repeatedly said that they do not want to get caught in the middle between a broader U.S.-Iran fight. Coordinating a new Iran policy while implementing a new Iraq strategy also falls in the category of easier said than done.

3. How to deal with the questions of Hezbollah and Hamas engagement. The June elections in Lebanon and the continued talk of a possible Palestinian unity government both could present new policies challenges for the Obama administration -- if Hezbollah does strongly in the Lebanese elections, how will the Obama administration respond? How will the administration adapt its policies to support Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority if Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization, joins a unity government?

4. Actually developing an operational policy on Pakistan. Finally, today the Obama administration took a much-needed step in the right direction on the Pakistan piece of its policy. Increasing support for the democratically-elected civilian government and massively increasing development assistance to the country are steps that many think tanks have been calling for - including mine, in this report that I coauthored last year. But saying we will increase development assistance is one thing -- getting Congress to approve it is another, and even more difficult is actually developing programs that make sure that the money has some impact and isn"t lost to the corruption that"s endemic in Pakistan also falls into the "easier said than done" category.

Those are just four challenges that one can easily envision coming to down the pike in the next few months. In developing operational policies on these and other fronts - and in moving beyond the general strategy statements (which are necessary to set the framework) -- the Obama administration will demonstrate how far it is willing to go to push for fundamental changes in the Middle East and South Asia.

The Source

Posted in Activites , Palestine , Human Rights , Obama  
Related Articles
Hamas: Obama will be judged through his deeds
Obama’s Arab and Muslim Strategy
Muslim Scholar Unwelcome: Obama Lawyer
Can Obama talk to the Brotherhood?
Will Obama go beyond the superficial?
Mishaal: Obama using new language towards Middle East
Nunu: Haneyya asked Obama to turn his words into deeds
Obama’s Middle East moment of truth
Obama takes a cue from Clinton era
Scholars Urge Obama to Push for Democracy in Middle East
Obama starts well with Muslims but must do more
Obama’s No Socialist. I Should Know.
Mr. Obama: Don’t let Israel destroy America
Obama backs off on Israel, again
Open Letter to President Obama about Democracy Promotion in the Middle East and the Muslim World
Memo to Obama: don’t abandon Arab democrats
Expert: Obama’s Administration Prioritises settlement of Arab-Israeli Conflict
Bi-Partisan Group of Prominent Scholars and Experts Urge President Obama to Make Democracy
Iraqi MB: Obama’s Decision to Withdraw a Step in the Right Direction
Take Action on President Obama’s FY2010 Budget Request for Military Aid to Israel
Obama: faith should unite, not divide
Pointers for the Obama Administration in the Middle East: Avoiding Myths and Vain Hopes
Welcome to Obama’s “New Era of Peace”
Why the Muslim World Can’t Hear Obama ?
Report: Obama will deal with the Palestinian cause in the interest of Israel
Thoughts on Obama’s Outreach to the Arab World
Obama allows CIA kidnappings worldwide as first job
Questions for Barack Obama
Obama moves swiftly on Middle East
Obama’s Middle East challenge
Reactions to Obama’s Al Arabiya Interview
Why Did Obama Choose Al-Arabiya for His First Major Interview?
Haniyyah Calls On Obama to Back Palestinians’ Right to Liberty and Independence
Transcript of Obama’s Interview On Al-Arabiya Television
Obama: Regime Rotation
Resilient Arab regimes deaf to Obama’s words
Question for Barack Obama on Middle East Envoys: How come there ain’t no brothers on the wall?
In Case You Missed It, Obama’s Speech at AIPAC
POMED Asks: “As President, What Should Obama Say to the Middle East?”
Editorial: Not In Defense of Obama