Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Obama and Middle East

"Obama's no fool. He's a busy guy with a full domestic agenda. He didn't make up with Bibi only to go to war with him again over the peace process -- unless there's a real chance to get something big done. For now, the president's trip to Israel still has the ring of a "been there, done that" exercise. 
Give Kerry the mandate. It's perfect. Let him shuttle.
If it works, the president will be viewed as a managerial genius. And if it doesn't, well ... it's John Kerry's peace process, right?
Borders first, so to speak -- and then negotiation of a more general character on the identity issues, Jerusalem, and refugees. I'm not critical of this approach, because frankly there doesn't seem to be a much better one right now. But we're deluding ourselves if we think it can work quickly, or perhaps at all.
Hopefully he won't be fooled into thinking that successful telephone diplomacy between Bibi and Erdogan means he's got a career as a Middle East negotiator.
So, Israelis and Palestinians, take notice. You want the president to help produce a two- state solution? Give him a reason to believe you have a real stake in one too. Otherwise, stop whining: Barack Obama has more important things to do."

I think Aaron David Miller wanted to say 'been there, done that' to himself. Miller along with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and David Ignatius of Washington Post; are the 'hot hands' on Middle East Foreign Policy issues in Public Media. (Tom Friedman of NYT and his taxi driver anecdotes - bit worn down at this point with much less punch or insight.) And I can understand on their part why and how these experts would be wanting to 'manage expectations' and damp down gushing about President Obama's Israel visit

There is merit in all that. Aaron David Miller is right that:
- 'borders first' is the only game in the town,
- it will be warring parties which will have to take first steps;
- else President Obama is not going to waste any political capital there.

That is what Americans would be expecting from this President and he has got it right there. And what about John Kerry then? As Aaron David Miller said aptly - if he sets up things, let us share the glory; else - what are John Kerry's of this world are for: to always carry the 'cross of America's cause' in this world. Politics is brutal and John Kerry knows it very well. It is all written large on that glorious, but tragic lifelong service for this country.

Aaron David Miller talks Iranian Mullah's nukes and Israel-Palestinian as two issues. But the third issue which he mentions in passing - Syrian Civil War; is the most critical in immediate terms. If one looks at these 3 issues, they are going to play most prominently - based on natural, underlying raw political forces - in following chronological order:
- Syrian Civil War
- Mullah's of Iran getting their nukes and
- Resolution of Israel-Palestinian conflict.

It is no brainier, given this natural order of things; Obama Administration 'talks the game of Israel-Palestinian conflict resolution' but is only ready to pay concrete political price for the first two. 

I would even venture, for the next year or so the most important issue is getting Syrian situation under control - if anything is doable there for USA. Until Iranian elections are done sometime by this mid-year, it makes sense to 'wait'. Try getting something out of these two complex problems and by then the calendar opens for 2014 mid-term elections. After that Mr. Barack Hussain Obama will be spending more time in 'declaring national monuments, nature sanctuaries'  and victory laps across the world as well as scrambling to make most to stick 'ObamaCare' long past when he is gone. Those two years will be glorious two years of special American phenomenon - lame duck Presidency from 2014 to 2016.

I do not think Barack Obama can solve Israel-Palestinian conflict in his second term unless those folks 'seriously move themselves'. The writing on wall will start appearing pretty soon and then best this Administration, and actually for that matter any Administration, would manage is 'don't screw up' further USA-Israel relationship. If it becomes nasty albatross as like how few Western Governments got entangled with Apartheid Regime in South Africa (including Israel itself!); then that will be the problem for Hillary or whosoever next Administration is. That is what Palestinians and Hamas are waiting for. When 'accountability is cheap' with your own people; playing to the hilt - as like Hamas and Palestinian rulers prefer to do - is not a problem to worry. Unfortunately, that is not the luxury available to President Obama and hence the best course here is to go 'ultra cautious'. The good part is, during the period Israelis will be all happy for these 'sweet nothing pillow talks' while Obama Administration continues to spend seriously for the first two immediate problems on hand.

Update - Chastened by Iraq experience, Tom Friedman is out with a column questioning the wisdom of American intervention in Syrian Civil War. It is quite sober, highlighting the prudent course of: either do nothing and let Syria get divided or work with Turkey, Israel and other peripheral nations to contain the damage and wait.

Jeffrey Goldberg in Bloomberg wants to highlight expectations in influential quarters of Israel that Obama Administration does something 'concrete' to halt Iranian Nuke Program Progress and do it without any delay. Very possibly, all the exchange with Israeli establishment will invigorate President Obama to concentrate further on the issue of containment of Iranian nukes.

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