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  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As the situation in Egypt continues to unfold, U.S. policy has evolved with breathtaking speed. Just last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the Mubarak regime was stable, but by Tuesday evening, President Obama was making the remarkable statement that Egypt's transition needs to begin "now." This is not only the most serious foreign policy challenge to this U.S. administration, but also one in a list of unforeseen and improbable challenges. Unlike scenarios involving, for example, a North Korean provocation against the South or even a catastrophic terrorist attack -- for which the United States plans and prepares -- the swift demise of Hosni Mubarak's presidency, along with the virtual disappearance of the ruling National Democratic Party and the potential fall of a regime that has been a pillar of U.S. standing in the Middle East for thirty-five years, is an unimagined challenge.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On Friday, August 20, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the resumption of direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, to be launched in Washington next week. On September 1, President Obama will welcome Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas, as well as Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah. Direct talks between Netanyahu and Abbas are scheduled to begin the next day, with the objective of reaching agreement on the permanent-status issues of borders, security, Jerusalem, and refugees within a year. The meeting will mark the first time that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have discussed these issues directly during the Obama administration.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: United States, Israel, Egypt
  • Author: Stephen Hadley, Michael Herzog
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The two-state solution is widely accepted as the ultimate outcome of any Middle East peace process. Despite this consensus, progress toward a solution has slowed to a near halt. The difficulty Israel's right wing coalition faces in making concessions on key issues has proven a major obstacle to negotiations, while the split between a Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank and Hamas in Gaza further diminishes the probability of reaching a solution in the foreseeable future.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Politics, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: With smiles, compliments, and a strong dose of hospitality, President Obama did his best to provide a dramatically improved backdrop for U.S.-Israeli relations during Binyamin Netanyahu's July 6 visit to the White House, compared to the climate that greeted the Israeli prime minister upon his strained April visit. This included strikingly specific commitments on key issues important to Israeli security. Netanyahu, in turn, responded with generous and deferential praise for U.S. leadership on the broad array of Middle East policy issues. Given the near-term political and policy imperatives of both leaders, the result was a meeting doomed to succeed. Lurking behind the warmth and banter, however, remain tactical obstacles on how to proceed in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations as well as strategic uncertainty about how each side views the other's regional priorities.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Ash Jain
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Four years ago this week, Israel launched a military campaign in Lebanon in retaliation for a brazen Hizballah attack on its soldiers. The goal, according to an Israeli official, was "to put Hizballah out of business." But neither war nor subsequent U.S. diplomatic efforts aimed at weakening the group have succeeded, and some in the Obama administration now appear to view direct engagement as an option worth exploring. Reaching out to Hizballah, however, at a time when it is politically and military emboldened, would be an exercise in futility that could prove counterproductive.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Israel, Lebanon
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Having raised Arab expectations months ago with the idea of a settlement freeze, the Obama administration now has the unpleasant task of coaxing Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas to tacitly accept an agreement on settlements that offers less than expected -- if more than was offered in the past. Therefore, it is uncertain whether the United States will succeed at arranging a trilateral summit involving President Barack Obama, President Abbas, and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the UN next week that would culminate in the announcement of a formal relaunching of peace negotiations.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Author: Michael Singh
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: With Iran's September 14 acceptance of a meeting with the P5+1 countries on October 1, the Obama administration finally appears poised to engage in direct talks with Iran. In entering these talks, Washington faces two obstacles: first, Iran's reputation for recalcitrance in negotiations and its stated refusal to discuss the nuclear issue, upon which American concerns center; and second, the perception that the administration is lending legitimacy to a regime fresh from violent repression of its political opponents.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Washington, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In a September 7 interview with al-Jazeera, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated, "The more that our Arab friends and allies can strengthen their security capabilities, the more they can strengthen their cooperation, both with each other and with us. I think this sends the signal to the Iranians that the path they are on is not going to advance Iranian security, but in fact could weaken it." His comments reflect a dawning realization in the face a growing Iranian nuclear threat: that a new conventional military balance is slowly emerging in the Persian Gulf.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Islam, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: J. Scott Carpenter
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Nearly three months have passed since Iran's bloody crackdown on the mass protests over the controversial June 12 presidential election. The Obama administration, however, has yet to determine a strategy to support the first serious challenge to the regime since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Last week's statement by Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- that he saw no proof the British or the West were behind the protests -- should encourage the United States to pursue a more assertive approach to support Iranians working for change. Nevertheless, the State Department's Iran Democracy Fund -- currently the only tool available for promoting democracy in Iran -- has been extremely cautious in its funding decisions since President Barack Obama's inauguration.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Diplomacy, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iran
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: With rumors in the air of a U.S.-brokered, mid-September meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, various regional actors are busy positioning themselves for the coming round of diplomacy. Analysis of these dynamics provides some useful perspective on the road ahead, beyond the usual focus on the minutiae of settlement construction, prisoner exchanges, or other immediate concerns.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: Michael Singh
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A number of top U.S. national security officials are visiting Israel this week, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones, and Iran will surely be at the top of their agenda. With Iran making steady progress toward nuclear weapons capability and remaining silent on the U.S. offer to negotiate, and with the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran looming ever closer, U.S. officials' public message on the consequences for Iran should engagement fail will draw close scrutiny. Although the Obama administration appears to understand the need for serious consequences, its public messaging on this point has been uneven, blunting its effectiveness.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On December 14, Lebanese president Michel Sulaiman is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House. It is widely anticipated that during his visit, Sulaiman will request administration support for an increase in U.S. military assistance. Despite concerns that U.S. materiel will leak to Hizballah, Washington will likely agree to augment this funding, given the Lebanese Armed Force's excellent security record with equipment of U.S. origin. The question of U.S. military funding for Lebanon highlights recent developments in Lebanese politics that point to the resurgence of Hizballah -- and its Syrian and Iranian backers -- in Beirut. Although the pro-West March 14 coalition scored an impressive electoral victory in June, six months later, the government that has emerged constitutes a setback for Washington and its Lebanese allies. The scope of the setback -- for both the coalition and the United States -- was recently summarized by Syrian Ambassador to the United States Imad Mustafa, who said, "We love it!... It is exactly the sort of government we think should rule Lebanon."
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon
  • Author: Simon Henderson, David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: President Bush returns to the Middle East this week for the second time in 2008. Initially planned to mark Israel's sixtieth anniversary, his itinerary has expanded to include meetings with top officials from Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and Saudi Arabia. Except for a trip to Riyadh, these meetings will be held at a World Economic Forum conference in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt. This lineup prompted National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to say the trip has "both symbolism and substance" and, considering the urgency of the issues, something of substance may actually emerge.
  • Topic: Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East, Israel, Asia, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On March 16, Vice President Cheney departs on a Middle East trip that will take him to Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank, and Turkey. Coming less than two months after President Bush's trip to the region, the vice president's itinerary is intriguing. His undisclosed agenda with "key partners," in the words of the White House announcement, is likely to include the peace process, the price of oil, Iraq, and Iran. And among those issues, Iran will likely be the most mentioned, especially given this week's controversial resignation of Adm. William Fallon as the top U.S. commander in the Middle East -- a move attributed in part to differences on Iran between him and the White House.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: J. Scott Carpenter
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Prior to President Bush's trip to the Middle East last week, many pundits expected him to focus little, if at all, on his longstanding "freedom agenda." Instead, he adopted a nuanced approach that managed to restate the key elements of his policy and to press, however gently, for further political and economic reform. Speaking before the trip, a senior State Department official summed up the approach: the president would not "beat up on anyone" but would press privately for stronger reform efforts at each stop and give praise where it was due. Indeed, the president's reiteration of the freedom agenda signaled that the United States remains engaged on certain policy issues that many governments hoped would disappear altogether. At the same time, however, these issues were clearly the trip's third priority (after Arab-Israeli peace and regional security), confirming that the freedom agenda has become a tertiary concern for the Bush administration.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: President Bush's recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories came six weeks after the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis. That parley marked the first time the United States did not mandate a purely sequential approach to the peace process. Instead, Washington now wants issues to be solved in parallel, with the implementation of past obligations occurring simultaneously with final agreement on the core issues of Jerusalem, refugees, and security. Bush's reiteration of this policy approach during his trip suggests that he has adopted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's peacemaking approach as his own.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 11-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad's congratulatory letter to U.S. president-elect Barack Obama was the first of its kind in the history of the Islamic Republic. In his letter, Ahmadinezhad expressed his hope for fundamental change in U.S. domestic and foreign policies. Although some observers speculate that the letter suggests a transformation in the mindset of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, about normalizing relations between Iran and the United States, this is unlikely. Majlis speaker Ali Larijani expressed the widespread attitude of Iranian leaders on November 9, saying, "Whoever thinks that Obama will change the U.S. foreign policy is naive."
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Islam
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Simon Henderson, Dana Moss
  • Publication Date: 11-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Nearly twenty years ago, on December 21, 1988, PanAm Flight 103 from London to New York exploded in midair over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all 259 people on board. Last weekend, according to an unconfirmed report in the International Herald Tribune, Musa Kusa, the Libyan intelligence chief widely believed to have planned the terror attack, visited Washington for talks with intelligence and military officials. The same week saw a telephone conversation between President Bush and Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi, a meeting at the State Department between Qadhafi's eldest son Saif al-Islam and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the Senate confirmation of the first American ambassador to Libya in thirty-six years. This new chapter offers areas of cooperation, but the United States must proceed with caution.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Libya, London
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 12-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Annapolis summit featured an impressive display of international support for renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Beyond the headlines and photo-ops, the most significant aspect of the event was that President Bush offered little sign he plans to devote the final months of his administration to a high-stakes personal quest for a permanent peace treaty between the two parties.
  • Topic: Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 11-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In recent weeks, the United States has reduced expectations that the upcoming Annapolis peace conference will culminate in a diplomatic breakthrough for all parties after almost seven years of terror, violence, and non-engagement. Instead, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seeks to revive the moribund 2003 Roadmap, and introduce a new dual-track approach. She wants the parties to implement the first phase of the Roadmap, which deals with modifying the behavior of both sides, while simultaneously -- rather than sequentially according to the 2003 plan -- negotiate the third phase, which deals with the final status issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, borders, and security.
  • Topic: Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel