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No Easy Fix for the Middle East

Posted June 8th, 2015 at 2:19 pm (UTC-4)
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The Middle East Is Falling Apart

Philip Gordon – Politico

The harsh reality is that the Middle East today is going through a period of tectonic and destructive change. If I took away anything from two years as the White House’s coordinator for Middle East policy, it’s that U.S. policy is not the main source of this change and the U.S. has no good options for dealing with it….

The United States remains the world’s most important power and has unique capabilities that give it an unmatched ability and responsibility to play a key role in a region where critical US interests are at stake….

When implying the United States can “fix” Middle Eastern problems if only it “gets it right” it is worth considering this: In Iraq, the U.S. intervened and occupied, and the result was a costly disaster. In Libya, the U.S. intervened and did not occupy, and the result was a costly disaster. In Syria, the U.S. neither intervened nor occupied, and the result is a costly disaster. This record is worth keeping in mind as we contemplate proposed solutions going forward.

President Obama made remarks on the fight to defeat IS at the G-7 summit in Germany:

For Obama, No Middle Ground in the Mideast

Jackson Diehl – The Washington Post

The problem with Obama’s Mideast defense, as with so much of his foreign policy, is that it ignores the moderate, pragmatic options between his minimalism and all-out war. No, Obama is not exclusively responsible for the Islamic State’s capture of Mosul last summer, or Ramadi last month, but U.S. steps far short of another 2003-style invasion could have prevented it. Those incremental measures could still turn the campaign against the Islamic State from a stalemate to a success …

Start with the Iraqi army, which everyone agrees must take the lead in recapturing the big cities held by the Islamic State. The U.S. troops retraining the army now operate only at the top — at the level of divisions — rather than pairing up with smaller units and deploying with them to the front lines. The latter is the technique that proved to be effective in U.S. operations with the Iraqi army before 2010 and with the Afghan army more recently….

A second problem is the failure to provide pro-U.S. forces with adequate weapons and training. For a year, while the Islamic State has expanded and Iran has heaped tanks, artillery and other arms on Iraqi Shiite militias, Obama has refused requests for U.S. weapons from Kurdish militia as well as Iraqi Sunni tribes. The White House insists that the arms must go through the Iraqi government, but that government, under Iran’s sway, has repeatedly failed to pass them along.

Palestinian protesters chant slogans during a demonstration against U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Jan. 15, 2014.

Palestinian protesters chant slogans during a demonstration against U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Jan. 15, 2014.

The Right Way to Bring Peace to the Middle East

Nathan J. Brown – The National Interest

Since George W. Bush first dared to use “Palestine” as a proper noun in 2002, the mantra in Washington has been that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is known: two states, living securely and peacefully side by side, with all thorny issues of refugees, borders, settlements, and Jerusalem negotiated.

That is clearly no longer the case. It is time now to guide the parties to thinking about alternatives—and to do so without hurting each other….

Quiet conversations are taking place among Israelis and Palestinians—and sometimes even between them—on alternatives…. But to expect those same actors who failed at two-state diplomacy to fixate immediately on an alternative resolution immediately is unrealistic….

Outsiders can lead an approach that starts not with conflict-ending diplomacy, but with Gaza, which is still suffering from a high level of economic isolation that began over two decades ago and has grown extremely strict.

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