Monday, April 6, 2009

David Ignatius on Obama's Middle East Policies

David Ignatius, in "A Mideast Play's Uncertain Script," (it's here) posits that Obama is trying to address all of the Middle East's problems at once, rather than one by one.

Ignatius analogizes to Metternich's goal of re-making multiple European relationships at the 1815 Conference of Vienna.

Ignatius says that Obama's public overture to Iran may have been ill-advised, because (1) using quiet back-channels would have allowed the Iranians to respond carefully and thoughtfully (rather than feeling backed into a corner) and (2) both Israelis and Arabs are nervous of "being sold out by Obama in his eagerness for Iranian help in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan." Obama made his Iranian overture on Nowruz, the Persian New Year about which I read a fascinating article a few springs ago.

Seymour Hersh, in last week's New Yorker, reported on Obama's back-channel discussions with Syria - Hersh says that Bashar Assad has been e-mailing with him (Hersh, not Obama, although I'm surprised that Assad would be e-mailing directly with either of them) and is open to a gradual rapprochment with the US.

180. Which diplomatic approach is more likely to succeed -- shaking things up big-time (via moves like the public overture to Iran) or back-room dealing with one nation at a time? I guess it doesn't surprise me that Obama would try a little bit of both - he wants to show he's breaking from the Bush approach of no communication with certain nations (including Iran), but at the same time it's increasingly clear that he will take his time in order to lay the groundwork for gradual change in both foreign and domestic policy.

181. How much has Obama been talking with Bill Clinton about Middle East diplomatic strategy?

182. Susan Rice was on This Week on Sunday. How big a role is she playing in the administration's formulation of public policy?

183. Obama was in Turkey today -- will the visit to Turkey include the speculated-upon "big address" to the Muslim world?

184. Has Obama played any basketball during the trip the past week?

185. What's been the reaction in Russia to Medvedev's fun goof-off picture with Obama? Were Putin or any of his allies ticked-off that this behavior was not sufficiently "Russian"?

186. Are there any plans for surprise visits to Afghanistan or Iraq on the way home?

No comments:

Post a Comment