As the president kicks off a new round of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, administration officials have voiced confidence of success in the Middle East that is borderline delusional. An article in yesterday’s New York Times highlights several of these comments relating to Iraq, Iran, and the peace process. While Rahm Emanuel may think that we are “poised for success” and that “success will be reinforcing,” there is no reason to believe that the U.S. is on the verge of improving its lot in the Middle East.
While U.S. combat operations in Iraq may be over (at least formally), Iraq is far from consolidating itself as a stable democracy. No amount of American power could be expected to have a serious impact on this process. As for Iran, it remains surrounded by U.S. troops, faces tough sanctions, and is the target of “all options are on the table” rhetoric from the U.S. and Israel. While U.S. and Israeli concerns might be warranted, it should not be surprising when Iran continues attempts to balance these threats (development of WMD). On the Israeli-Palestinian front, it seems the talks are hopeless before they begin. The Palestinians are in an increasingly weak bargaining position and do not show any signs settling for anything less than their current demands. The Israelis are unlikely to make any surprising moves without significant U.S. pressure, something that is not going to happen given Obama’s current political capital.
While this may be a gloomy outlook, I find it hard to believe that Obama will make anything resembling a triple play on the issues of Iraq, Iran, and the peace process. For more on these issues, Stephen Walt has posted several relevant articles on his blog that are worth a read. I agree with Walt when I say that I hope I am wrong about these issues. However, I currently find no reason to be as optimistic as the Obama administration.