Monday, April 19, 2010

Diehl Deals Obama an Open Hand

But will Obama play?

Can he?

Excerpts from A Mideast opportunity Obama shouldn't ignore by Jackson Diehl

The United States faces three big strategic challenges in the Middle East. One is the threat of Iran. The second is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And the third is the corrupt and crumbling Arab autocracies of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and half a dozen other states, which fuel Islamic extremism...

...In the Middle East, the conditions on the ground make a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement impossible to accomplish in the short term...The Obama administration is pressing ahead on the first two issues, setting impossibly ambitious goals and ignoring the unfavorable conditions. And it has put on a distant back burner the one place where opportunity beckons.

That would be Egypt...Here is a real chance for groundbreaking change in the homeland of Mohamed Atta and Ayman al-Zawahiri. As happened before democratic transitions in other countries, there is a strong public movement with responsible leadership making reasonable demands. American leverage, including $2 billion in annual aid, is powerful...

...There are some in the administration who can see the opportunity. But Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have shown almost no interest...Instead, Obama has focused most of his personal energy and diplomatic capital on the Arab-Israeli conundrum -- where, for a variety of reasons, there is no immediate opportunity...the president has persisted; he arrived in office imbued with a passion to promote an Israeli-Palestinian settlement and so disregards the bad timing...

...the president, according to my colleague David Ignatius, is seriously considering putting forward a comprehensive U.S. plan for an Israeli-Arab peace, at the urging of some internal and outside advisers. That would...invite a diplomatic disaster. It would also bypass the real chance for change in Egypt.

This is not to say that Obama should abandon all diplomacy on Middle East peace or Iran. Incremental progress is possible, and should be pursued. But the big challenge for the president is to set aside his preconceived notions about what big thing he can or should accomplish in the region -- and seize the opportunity that is actually before him.

Not bad an analysis.

Not bad at all.

Of course, no American President will touch Egypt - that corrupt, one-party, non-democratic dictatorship. And Saudi Arabia?

Israel is such a better target.

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