A Herculean Task: Middle East Policy for the New US President
Richard N. Haass and Martin Indyk | Foreign Affairs | January 2009.
There is much more to the Middle East than Iraq, and US foreign policy must quickly widen its foreign policy focus in the region. A successful Middle East policy strategy must simultaneously address Iraq, Iran, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as renew diplomacy throughout the region. The Obama administration is advised to act immediately, appointing special envoys and beginning a prolonged, intensive engagement.
US Middle East policy need no longer be dominated by Iraq. A calculated and timely withdrawal of US troops coupled with a shift in responsibility to Iraqi forces will allow the Obama administration to turn its attention to Iran, where delayed diplomacy only brings Tehran closer to the nuclear threshold and threatens to push its neighbors into a nuclear race. Capping Iran's nuclear program will require a concerted effort - Egypt, Jordan, Russia, China as well as general Arab, Israeli, and Turkish backing are necessary. Providing Israel with enhanced anti-ballistic-missile defense capabilities and a nuclear guarantee could deter a costly preventative strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. In the case of Iran, normalization of US-Iranian relations, Iran's sponsorship of Hamas and Hezbollah, its opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, its role in Iraq, suspended enrichment, and possible signatory status on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty must all be laid on the negotiating table.
Fostering peace between Israel and Syria should be aggressively pursued, and Turkey can play a central role in such a process. An agreement between Israel and Syria would likely disrupt the Syrian-Iranian alliance and positively alter the strategic power dynamics of the region. Meanwhile, a two-state solution should still be encouraged: this entails calling upon Palestinians to fight terrorism and calling upon Israelis to halt settlement activity. In the case of a lasting cease fire in Gaza, negotiations with both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas must ensue; in the case of renewed violence, deploying an Arab-led international force to secure PA control must be considered. Above all, "if these initiatives are to succeed, Obama must make them a personal priority."
This summary was prepared by the Atlantic Community editorial team from "Beyond Iraq: A New US Strategy for the Middle East." published here by Foreign Affairs, January/February 2009.