Monday, November 10, 2008

President Obama and the Middle East Challenge

Follow the link to a brief, but comprehensive analysis in the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies Perspectives Papers No. 50, November 6, 2008 by Jonathan Rynhold, senior lecturer of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at BESA. Brief excerpts:

Executive Summary
Barack Obama's general outlook on foreign policy is the opposite of George W. Bush's approach. He has enunciated a clear program for Middle East policy based on multilateralism and negotiations to deal with Iran, Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict. In reality he will have to make tough choices about what to prioritize and do when other countries reject the US approach. The most important challenge he faces concerns Iran, rather than the Arab-Israeli conflict.

[The body of the paper includes brief, one paragraph statements on general Foreign Policy, Iraq, the War on terror, Iran, The Arab-Israeli Arena, Foreign Policy Appointments...Implications for Israel, etc]

.... Conclusion
Aside from his policy preferences, Obama's foreign policy will be dependent on his managerial and decision-making abilities. He is smart and has run a superb campaign, but he lacks experience. The real tests are yet to come, and given the volatility of the Middle East, they will come thick and fast. In such situations, ideologues can fall back on a set of assertions that provide a clear guide for resolving ambiguity; pragmatists have to be more analytical and pay attention to shifting realities.

The central challenge for Obama in the Middle East is neither democratization nor securing a comprehensive resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict (though those are worthy long term objectives), but rather the maintenance of a stable pro-American balance of power in the region. First and foremost that means dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue.
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