Obama’s “Triple Play” in the Middle East

                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.

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This entry was posted in Comparative Politics, Ethnic Conflict, Human Rights, International Relations. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Obama’s “Triple Play” in the Middle East

  1. Jake Wobig says:

    You may be right just based on the sheer difficulty of the issues involved. But I see this article this morning:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11175834

    and I have a little hope. Why would Palestinian extremists be joining forces unless they have reason to believe there is a good chance this round of peace talks might work? (Or at least that the talks could result in some substantive improvement that would burnish the credibility of Abbas in the eyes of West Bank Palestinians and thereby diminish their own power).

  2. Alex Kroeger says:

    I would agree with you that this development shows some hope of success. The alliances between the various Palestinian extremist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, all being supported by Iran, actually look very similar to what occurred when Sadat pursued his “separate peace” with Israel. In that case it was the PLO that was left in the dark by the peace negotiations. This led the PLO to increase its attacks on Israel with greater help from Syria and Iraq.

    Could this be happening with the Palestinian extremists and Iran today? Absolutely. Hamas certainly doesn’t want to be left out of any negotiations that will further erode its power. However, I am still inclined to believe these talks will fail. This process has always had its spoilers that have more to gain by stalling negotiations. Could Abbas create a “separate peace” of his own? Yes, but it seems his task is much more difficult than that faced by Sadat in 1979.

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