Information is still emerging about the apparent death this morning of Muammar Qaddafi and the last of his inner circle in Sirte. What is clear is that Libyans are celebrating the departure of a tyrant who caused terror at home and abroad for decades. Americans will also welcome the defeat of a man who killed and terrorized our citizens - a defeat which came without U.S. troops on the ground and by sharing the burden with our allies and partners who are more directly affected by the events on the ground.
As attention in the U.S. is focused on the alleged Iranian terror plot, Tunisia prepares to hold the first post-Arab spring elections this weekend - the fruits of its leading role and a bellwether for transition across the region. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a surprise visit to Libya to pledge U.S. aid to the transitional government. Israel and Hamas completed the first part of their prisoner exchange, securing the release of Gilad Shalit and hundreds of Palestinians, and highlighting a new mediating role for Egypt. Elsewhere the news was less positive: the threat of open civil war between Syrian protestors and Assad forces is increasing daily; community relations are worsening in Egypt; and the violence in Yemen worsens.
Recognizing that the status quo is unsustainable, President Obama sought last week to revive the long-stalled Middle East peace process. He reiterated his case yesterday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, saying "[W]e can't afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast." Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to speak to the AIPAC conference today as well as to address a joint session of Congress tomorrow. While it will be a long and difficult process, going forward experts agree that lasting peace is in the interest of both U.S. and Israeli security.
President Obama is expected to address the nation on Thursday to discuss the unprecedented changes that are sweeping the Middle East. The rising up of Arab citizens has rebuffed Osama bin Laden's message of extremism and violence - but also swept away many of the familiar underpinnings of U.S. influence in the region. In this new environment, the U.S. faces three sets of challenges: realigning our interests and values; offering practical assistance, not cookie-cutter solutions, to the problems at hand; and remaining focused, even in changed circumstances, on the core challenges of Middle East peace, terrorism, building new partnerships with new powers and dealing with Iran. Our most valuable tools are civilian - technology, private sector and personal ties, renewed diplomacy and above all showing by our example that we are ready to partner with those who are willing to partner with us.
The protests in Bahrain are first and foremost about how the people of Bahrain live their lives - not about Egypt, the United States or even Iran. But the results matter: Bahrain is an ally of the United States, is the home of major American military assets and is a key piece of the puzzle in dealing with Iran. The regime's repressive response to protests risks promoting instability, when what is needed is a roadmap toward stability via political reform. The same parameters that the U.S. called on all sides to observe in Egypt - no violence, respect for universal rights and movement toward genuine political reform - are the U.S.'s best hope for safeguarding our strategic interests and the universal values we share.
A series of high-level meetings this week points up the interconnections in the Obama administration’s comprehensive strategy for the Middle East. The most high-profile of these meetings will take place between President Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres, while Secretary Gates is in the Middle East meeting with Egyptian and Saudi leaders. The new approach rejects the neoconservative trope that the road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad or Tehran or Damascus. There is no quick route to peace in the Middle East; the road goes through all of these places, but it ultimately begins and ends in Jerusalem.
Fifty days into the new administration, a close examination of foreign
policy shows dramatic changes on three broad fronts, with early table setting
steps giving way to action abroad and at home. Not
everything can or should change overnight, but skeptics' assertions that Obama' foreign policy is a continuation
of Bush's is not supported by the facts.
Fewer than 50 days into his Presidency, Barack Obama has begun to set a different framework for how America deals with the Middle East. There is no question that today America’s choices and flexibility in the region are far greater than they were only 50 days ago.
One month into his tenure, President Obama has demonstrated that he will transform several hallmarks of his campaign into a coherent approach to the world. A clear message has been sent, and received enthusiastically, from tv viewers in the Arab world to citizens on the streets of Ottawa. Ultimately, they will be judged less on these early diplomatic actions than on their ability to produce results