More than five months into the popular uprisings spreading across the Middle East, the Obama administration lacks a coherent regional strategy for dealing with the multifaceted challenges coming out of the Middle East these days. The planned protests targeting Israel this weekend and linked to the anniversary of the 1967 war—protests calculated to keep the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the headlines across the region and the world—highlight the stakes at play in shaping a coherent U.S. pro-democracy message for the Middle East.
Last month, regimes such as Syria cynically exploited similar protests as a distraction from the internal unrest and opposition to the government there. But at the same time, those protests were part of the genuine popular discontent with the lack of progress on resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Alas, the Obama administration remains in a reactive, crisis management mode to all of these dynamics. This is mostly due to the nature of the challenges on multiple fronts—each day presents a new crisis, such as the violence spiraling further out of control in Yemen today. But remaining stuck in this tactical mode is also a result of the lack of a clear structure to follow though on the framework and principles President Obama outlined in his recent Middle East speech in an integrated fashion. Certainly, two weeks is not enough time to outline all of the implementation mechanisms outlined in Obama’s ambitious speech, but the lack of clear signs about who is charged with leading the implementation of a new Middle East policy is worrisome.
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