Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Expectations Build for Obama Mideast Policy Speech

Barack Obama’s planned address this week on Middle Eastern policy will be a harbinger of the administration’s future approach to the region.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

With Jordan's King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coming to Washington next week, anticipation of a major Middle East policy speech by President Barack Obama set for Thursday is growing rapidly.

A key question on analysts' minds is whether the deadlocked Israel-Palestinian peace process will be part of that speech, which comes on the eve of Netanyahu's visit.

"One cannot separate the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation, sieges, and colonisation from the pro-democracy struggles against autocratic regimes sweeping the Arab world," Professor Stephen Zunes, an expert on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East at the University of San Francisco, told IPS.

The resignation Friday of Obama's Special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell strengthens the view that the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate cannot be put off. Mitchell's effective resignation date of May 20, the same day Obama will meet with Netanyahu, puts even more focus on that deadlock, which has been further complicated by this month's Egyptian-mediated reconciliation agreement between the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, which Washington considers a terrorist group.

King Abdullah is scheduled to visit on Tuesday.

Obama has also been facing growing pressure to clarify the United States' position on the upheavals throughout the Arab world.

Critics are saying that Obama simply has no strategy for how to respond to the Arab Spring.

"We need a broader strategic idea of how to proceed throughout the Middle East, but we obviously don't have one," former George W. Bush administration ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said in a recent Fox News appearance.

Simultaneously, Obama is facing growing pressure from Arab governments and from domestic pro-peace groups to take some steps to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinians. And many of his advisers believe he needs to separate his response to the Arab Spring from a new strategy with the Israelis and Palestinians.

The time for these decisions is now, say many analysts, because of the political credit Obama has recently gained with the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Benjamin J. Rhodes, one of Obama's deputy national security advisers, told the New York Times that the message will be that "Bin Laden is the past; what's happening in the region is the future."

Some experts believe Obama needs to address Israel-Palestine for that message to have credibility.

"The most important act for the Americans is to push for a fair and equitable settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, even as the west must redefine itself as the open-hearted friend of the new Arab societies emerging from the rubble of dictatorship," wrote Ahmed Rashid, an expert in Afghan and Pakistani politics for the Financial Times.

The prevailing feeling, however, is that Obama will not present a new plan on Israel and the Palestinians next week.

Citing "U.S. officials and Middle East hands," Laura Rozen, the senior foreign policy writer for Yahoo News, and longtime foreign policy writer for Politico, reported that "next week's parade of Middle East visitors and speeches won't be the time for Obama to issue a major new U.S. push for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks…That potential speech, on the U.S. vision for the basis of an Israeli- Palestinian peace settlement, is expected to be delayed until August, ahead of a Palestinian plan to seek a vote recognizing Palestinian statehood at the United Nations in September."

But that idea could have serious consequences for Obama's credibility in the Middle East.

"If Obama lauds the Arab spring in North Africa without alluding to the Arab winter in West Asia, he will have no credibility in either geography," Chas Freeman, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told IPS. "If he fails to explain the failure of the botched peace process and the resignation of George Mitchell, he will simply confirm the diplomatic irrelevance of the United States as the U.N. General Assembly prepares to take the Israel-Palestine issue in September."

And that position will find some support in Washington.

"There's clearly a lot going on in the region, and there's a case to be made and some are making it, that now is not the time," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, director of the pro-peace lobbying group, J Street. "But we do believe that the only way to avoid U.N. action on a Palestinian state in a unilateral kind of way is for either the president or prime minister to put forward" a peace plan.

Ben-Ami's position could be satisfied by the expected unveiling of a new U.S. Mideast peace plan in August. But that will be very close to the September deadline of the U.N. vote on Palestinian statehood.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Established in Baltimore in 1897, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is the oldest Zionist organization in the United States—and also among the most aggressively anti-Arab ones.


U.S. Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis is a retired U.S Marine Corps general and combat veteran who served as commander of U.S. Central Command during 2010-2013 before being removed by the Obama administration reportedly because of differences over Iran policy.


Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is a conservative Republican congressman who was voted into office as part of the “tea party” surge in 2011 and chosen by Donald Trump to be director of the CIA.


Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and an evangelical pastor, is a 2016 Republican presidential candidate.


David Albright is the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a non-proliferation think tank whose influential analyses of nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East have been the source of intense disagreement and debate.


The former GOP presidential candidate and Speaker of the House has been a vociferous proponent of the idea that the America faces an existential threat from “Islamofascists.”


Billionaire investor Paul Singer is the founder and CEO of the Elliott Management Corporation and an important funder of neoconservative causes.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

President Trump and his Iranophobe supporters are itching for a war with Iran, without any consideration of the disastrous consequences that will ensue.


Print Friendly

The war of words and nuclear threats between the United States and North Korea make a peaceful resolution to the escalating crisis more difficult than ever to achieve.


Print Friendly

The new White House chief of staff, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, is anything but non-partisan or apolitical. For the deeply conservative Kelly, the United States is endangered not only by foreign enemies but by domestic forces that either purposely, or unwittingly, support them.


Print Friendly

The prospects of Benjamin Netanyahu continuing as Israel’s prime minister are growing dim. But for those of us outside of Israel who support the rights of Palestinians as well as Israelis and wish for all of those in the troubled region to enjoy equal rights, the fall of Netanyahu comes too late to make much difference.


Print Friendly

Rich Higgins, the recently fired director for strategic planning at the National Security Council, once said in an interview on Sean Hannity’s radio program, that “more Muslim Americans have been killed fighting for ISIS than have been killed fighting for the United States since 9/11.”


Print Friendly

This is how the Trump administration could try to use the IAEA to spur Iran to back out of the JCPOA.


Print Friendly

President Trump seems determined to go forward with a very hostile program toward Iran, and, although a baseless US pullout from the JCPOA seems unlikely, even the so-called “adults” are pushing for a pretext for a pullout. Such an act does not seem likely to attract European support. Instead, it will leave the United States isolated, break the nuclear arrangement and provide a very reasonable basis for Iran to restart the pursuit of a nuclear deterrent in earnest.


RightWeb
share