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Sunday 18 Feb 2018 | 08:47 | SYDNEY
Sunday 18 Feb 2018 | 08:47 | SYDNEY

Obama's Middle East challenges



10 November 2008 11:56

While domestic issues will take much of his attention, Barack Obama has, many Middle Eastern challenges requiring his attention. Obama has an experienced team of formal and informal advisers that is sure to grow in the near future. Most of the issues facing him are well known, and at first glance his incoming administration’s regional intent is without unrealistic promises, as this 18 month-old speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee attests.

The need for a negotiated Palestinian solution, withdrawal from Iraq and unacceptability of a nuclear Iran have remained constants for Obama throughout his campaign. Iraq and the Iranian nuclear issue are of the most immediate concern, but the longer-term issues are no less important. Support for continued Syrian-Israeli peace talks is one area that may yield results in the longer term. 

However, aware of the pitfalls of over-promising and under-delivering on long term policy projects, Obama has been far less strident about a US-led Middle East democratization project, which has been a failure for the Bush Administration from the initial ill-fated public diplomacy campaign. Rather, Obama has spoken about the need for political reform, but in more hushed tones and without regional fears of a project aimed at ousting autocrats. The truth is, some of the closest US allies in the region are autocracies of one sort or another, so pragmatism will be a key determinant of his administration’s approach.

Around the region, hope for a more inclusive foreign policy is tempered by an understanding that ultimately President Obama, like all presidents before him, will be constrained by the entrenched interests of regional actors. Still, there is a sense of hope that US foreign policy towards the region will be more effective under a new administration, which is a sentiment shared in more than a few other areas of endeavour. But solving the global financial crisis may prove to be child’s play compared to addressing Middle Eastern political issues.

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