Thursday, November 08, 2012

Obama's Second Term: What the MidEast Can Look "Forward" To

Obama Faces a Transformed Middle East -Herb Keinon

A lot has changed in the four years since Obama, soon after his inauguration in 2009, set Palestinian-Israeli peace as his administration's top Middle East priority. First of all, today's Middle East looks nothing like it did then. With Syria imploding, Egypt going through a deep change, Iran continuing its relentless march toward nuclear arms and political Islam on the rise throughout the region, reaching a Palestinian-Israeli agreement does not hold the same urgency. A host of other issues in the region are more pressing.

In his victory speech, Obama made almost no mention of foreign affairs. For him to successfully push his domestic agenda, he is still going to need political allies, even during a second term. Even if he wanted to do so, he would not be able to ignore the massive support for Israel that remains in Congress. Doing so could make it difficult for him to push forward his domestic priorities.
(Jerusalem Post)

Obama Re-election Signals New Phase in Syria War -Dale Gavlak & David Stringer

Western efforts to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad shifted dramatically, with Britain announcing it will deal directly with rebel military leaders and Turkey saying NATO members have discussed using Patriot missiles to protect a safe zone inside Syria.

With Barack Obama's re-election, U.S. allies are anticipating a new, bolder approach from the American president to end the civil war. British Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, said the U.S., Britain and other allies should do more to "shape the opposition" into a coherent force. Cameron said he would press Obama at the first opportunity to drive forward efforts to end the Syrian conflict.

After the Election, Obama Faces Iran -Arshad Mohammed

Martin Indyk, vice president of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, said 2013 could be a decisive year on Iran. "It's going to be very high on the agenda," Indyk said. "Preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons is a critical imperative for bolstering the nonproliferation regime."

"My read of Obama is that he, essentially, wants to turn away from the Middle East and focus on Asia," said Indyk, saying Obama was unlikely to make a fresh run at Israeli-Palestinian peace, nor to make great efforts to shape the outcome in Syria or to deeply engage Islamist governments.


Obama Faces Second-Term Challenges -Jeremy Bowen  
  • The Middle East is in a process of change that will take a generation.   
  • President Obama shows every sign of realizing America's limits. You get the feeling that President Obama would love to be able to turn his back on the Middle East. The trouble with that is the Middle East is too important to be left alone.
  • If by next summer the U.S. and its key allies still believe that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, despite talks and sanctions, President Obama will have to decide whether or not to attack Iran's nuclear sites, or to give Israel a green light to go to war.
  • Barack Obama will not want his presidency to be remembered as the time when Iran became a nuclear weapons power. If Iran rebuffed an offer that President Obama considered fair, and if he felt Iran was going to go nuclear, there is every chance that he would order an attack.
  • Compliant, reliable, authoritarian allies have been deposed. And a new generation that sees America as an adversary, not a friend, is being empowered.
(BBC News)

Obama Puts Trust in Negotiations -Barry Rubin

It is possible that Iran would use the negotiations to wrest concessions from the West without giving anything in return and to stall for time as it steadily advances toward its nuclear goal. As this happens, Israeli concerns will be dismissed by the administration and the mass media. The kinder ones will say that Israel is being unnecessarily concerned; the more hostile that it is acting as a warmonger when everything can be settled through compromise.

For its part, the Obama Administration is desperate to get a deal with Iran and quick to believe that the Tehran regime is being reasonable. The White House’s own ideology, arrogance, and naivete make it the perfect victim for an Iranian con job. It is the same pattern we’ve repeatedly seen in which supposedly economic considerations dominate ideology and everyone—including the Muslim Brotherhood, the PLO, and the Taliban—wants to be moderate and peaceful if only given the proper chance to do so.

Part of the Obama Administration sales pitch for U.S.-Iran talks is that Obama really will get tough if Iran stalls, uses the time to continue developing nuclear weapons, or cheats. People in positions of authority or influence—including in the mass media as well as governments—claim Obama will attack Iran if it plays him false. The administration’s patience is wearing thin we are told, it won’t let the Iranian regime make it look like a fool.

For my part, I don’t believe that Obama would ever initiate military action against Iran and that he will also do everything possible to prevent Israel from doing so, which means that Israel would also not launch an attack.
I suggest the most likely possibilities are as follows:

If Iran’s leaders find the pressures of sanctions so tough, the threat to the regime’s survival so great, and their greed for remaining in power and making more money so big they will then make a deal. We will be told that Obama is a great statesman who has achieved a big success and rightly won the Nobel Peace Prize. He will indeed have avoided Iran going nuclear, at least for a while.

Or Iran will use the chance to talk endlessly and build nuclear weapons while the administration’s hints of dire retribution will prove to be bluffs as the leaders in Tehran expect. The year 2013 will pass without any deal. During Obama’s second term Iran will either get nuclear weapons or have everything needed to do so but will not actually assemble them for a while. U.S. policy will then accept that situation and shift to a containment strategy.

I’d bet on the latter outcome.

But we are now going to see a campaign insisting that a peaceful resolution with Iran is at hand and ridiculing anyone who has doubts about this happy ending.
[The Rubin Report]

Fasten your seatbelts, we're in for a rough ride -David M. Weinberg

In his second term, Obama will be looking to fashion a long-term legacy. With Congress still at a deadlock, he will have difficulty aggressively advancing his domestic agenda. That leaves foreign affairs and defense policy, where he has a freer hand.

On matters that directly affect Israel, remember that Obama is deeply committed to three things: global nuclear disarmament, rapprochement with the Islamic world, and Palestinian statehood. I believe that he will forcefully act to progress on all three fronts, and this could bring him into conflict with Israel.

Every Israeli knows that Iran has clandestinely crossed every “red line” set by the West over the past 20 years – putting nuclear plants online, building heavy water facilities, refining uranium, working on explosive triggers and warheads, and generally breaching all its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – and has gotten away with it. So any deal that scales back sanctions and allows Iran to keep operating its advanced nuclear development facilities, even at a low-level, is a fatal bargain.

Obama’s paramount commitment to rapprochement with the Islamic world, I suspect, will overtake his declarations of opposition to Iran. He never was going to, and never will, confront Iran militarily.
[Israel Insider]


LHwrites said...

There is no reason to think Obama wants to turn his back on the Middle East. Sadly, the region has been intractable to any Western pushes for reason. Obama was castigated by Republicans when he used force and Libya, and then for not using force in Syria, though their nominee would never commit to---well to anything actually regarding the middle east. This is a complicated and contentious area and will not be settled with accusations nor platitudes but rather with patience and strength.

Bruce said...

I actually hope that Obama turns his back on the Arab-Israel conflict. He has a knack for screwing that up. Best he stay away.

However, the next 4 years will either see a nuclear Iran or a chastised Iran. I hope President Obama will assist in the latter.