Thursday, January 8, 2009

Obama's Disturbing Middle East Appointments

Well, for any of us who'd embraced Obama as the "change" candidate and hoped that would extend to Middle East policy, a report today in the Washington Times suggests that the bloom is definitely off the rose. At least Elliot Abrams (who was reported to have Likud posters on his office wall) will be long gone from the NSC, but Dennis Ross is not exactly a huge improvement. He currently resides with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (one of the most pro-Israel think tanks in D.C.), he formerly worked for AIPAC, and his main claim to fame stems from the Clinton years, when he put in long hours on the "peace process" between Yassir Arafat and various Israeli PMs, the last of them Ehud Barak. He was acclaimed as some sort of foreign policy wunderkind with an unusual (at least by D.C. standards) sensitivity to Arab concerns, and was associated with the 2000 Camp David negotiations during which - so the standard mythology states - with Clinton and Ross's backing, Barak promised Arafat a fantastic deal, only to have Arafat reject it. Observers such as Robert Malley, who was on the scene, have shot that version down as so much, well, myth.

Ross will be no better with regard to Iran, and to the extent that he adheres to the AIPAC/Israeli line of Hamas+Hezbollah = Iran, we can expect the Obama foreign policy crew to make no substantive progress in ameliorating the situations in Palestine or Lebanon. He (like Obama) may be sold as a kinder, gentler face on the face of US diplomacy, but he will not be party to any proposals that make significant concessions or allowances to Iran.

Nor, as the new secretary of state, will Hillary Clinton, who spoke during her campaign about, if push came to shove, the US's ability to "obliterate" Iran. And her remarks about Hamas as a "terrorist" organization with which the U.S. will not negotiate are clear evidence that, at least for the time being, she might as well be Condi Rice without the glam outfits and leather boots.

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