About Us

IMRA
IMRA
IMRA

 

Subscribe

Search


...................................................................................................................................................


Monday, December 17, 2012
[No revenge] A Second Term Obama Administration and the Middle East, by David Makovsky

Obama will choose carefully how he acts. He will not try to take “revenge”
on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and he understands that they will need
to work together on Iran.

Obama knows that if Iran gets the bomb it will destroy American credibility
in the Middle East, given that so many American administrations have drawn
the idea of Iran with a bomb as a red line. This is the last thing he wants.

A Second Term Obama Administration and the Middle East
by David Makovsky
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 193, December 16, 2012
http://www.biu.ac.il/SOC/besa/docs/perspectives193.pdf

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The changes in the region will force the Obama
administration to make some difficult decisions on how to act regarding
Egypt, Syria, the Palestinians, and Iran. The administration will need to be
careful in how it deals with the Egyptian government and how it handles its
support for the Syrian opposition. Most importantly, alarmist scenarios that
a second term Obama administration will abandon Israel are unwarranted.

This Perspectives Paper is based upon a presentation given at a Begin-Sadat
Center for Strategic Studies conference on November 21, 2012.

The new Obama administration is facing some tough choices on how to approach
its Middle East foreign policy in the coming four years. Many are quick to
argue that the US will be less focused on the Middle East during the next
term. They say that by 2020 the US, thanks to the shale oil revolution, will
be the world’s largest oil producer. They add that the US is more concerned
with “pivoting” from the Middle East and developing ties in Asia. This does
not appear to be the case, however. The US will remain invested in the
Middle East. Even if it becomes a net oil exporter, the US will view the
free flow of oil from the Middle East as integral to its role as a
superpower, and will ensure that there are no disruptions to the world
economy that is essential for the US economy as well. The administration
will remain committed to Israel, its strongest ally in the region. What is
up for debate is how the US will approach the sweeping changes and emerging
threats in the region, specifically Egypt, Syria, the Palestinians, and
Iran.

Egypt

Egypt is a complicated issue for the Obama administration, mainly because of
the $1.2 billion in annual military aid and $450 million in economic
assistance that the US provides for Cairo (the latter is a $200 million
increase from last year). Congress is worried about the military aid being
sent to Egypt, due to a lack of certainty about its direction. Congress is
currently holding up the economic assistance. The recent clashes between
supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi over his seizing of
additional powers have the US worried even further about the reality of
Egypt’s democratic aspirations. Going forward, Congress may be reluctant to
transfer military aid to Egypt. It will want a sense of the role of the
Egyptian military going forward, given its close ties with the US in the
past. It would not be surprising that Congress will seek to earmark some
military funds for counter-terrorism efforts in Sinai.

Syria

The Syrian conflict threatens to destabilize the region and could plunge the
Middle East into a Sunni-Shiite war. It is not likely, however, that
President Obama will send troops to intervene in Syria. Reports about the
atrocities committed by the regime against its own people is bound to
guarantee that the Obama administration enhance its support for the Syrian
opposition. What he should do is demand a tighter coordination among the
leaders of the Syrian opposition who supply weaponry, as well as insist on a
clear national, and not just local, hierarchy within the Free Syrian Army.

Palestinians

Concerning the Palestinians, the US policy is likely to be “collision no,
interest yes.” The Israeli left mistakenly believes that a second term US
president is limitless in its actions, since he cannot be re-elected.
History shows that a second term president is able to enhance his political
capital upon his election, but such capital remains defined and is easily
depleted, as was the case during the second term of the George W. Bush
administration. Obama will choose carefully how he acts. He will not try to
take “revenge” on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and he understands that
they will need to work together on Iran. The US administration is concerned
that the Palestinian Authority (PA) will collapse and trigger more
instability in Jordan. It believes Israel has a deep interest that the PA
does not collapse, as this will lead to greater radicalization. It seems
that Prime Minister Netanyahu shares this view. Washington also perceives
the “Arab Spring” differently than Israel. While Israel is trying to ride
out the storm, the US feels that Israel needs to acknowledge the recent
changes and deal with them more head-on. Specifically, the US is concerned
that the continued impasse between the Israelis and Palestinians will feed
Arab regional radicalization, even if Arabs seek to further their own
national interests.

Iran

The big issue, of course, is Iran. The economic sanctions are currently
having an impact, but they are not working to stop the nuclear program. By
the end of 2013 the US will no longer be able to say that Iran doesn’t have
enough material for the bomb. The US must demand clarity from the Iranians
over what they plan to do with their nuclear material. In the first few
months of his administration, Obama should seek clarity on this issue and
make a last-ditch attempt at diplomacy by putting forward an offer that will
be clear to the American people and its allies that the US is making a good
faith offer, but will not countenance an Iranian nuclear break-out under any
circumstances. Obama will ask Israel not to attack until this clarity is
achieved, so that the US can at least claim to have tried all avenues.
Therefore, if there is a deterioration, Tehran will be to blame. Iran will
most likely reject these overtures, but at least the world will know where
all of the actors stand. Obama knows that if Iran gets the bomb it will
destroy American credibility in the Middle East, given that so many American
administrations have drawn the idea of Iran with a bomb as a red line. This
is the last thing he wants.
==========================
David Makovsky is the Ziegler distinguished fellow and director of the
Washington Institute’s Project on the Middle East Peace Process.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the
Greg Rosshandler Family

Search For An Article
....................................................................................................

Contact Us

POB 982 Kfar Sava
Tel 972-9-7604719
Fax 972-3-7255730
email:imra@netvision.net.il IMRA is now also on Twitter
http://twitter.com/IMRA_UPDATES

image004.jpg (8687 bytes)