Even though Middle East policy matters greatly because America is still conducting the longest war in its history in the region, it is standing by during the Middle East’s so-called democratic change, and the Middle East was neglected at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions.
As far as the Middle East is concerned, some say it doesn’t make any difference which party wins because Democrats and Republicans are both pro-Israel, they are both tough on Iran and its nuclear objectives, and they both support keeping some US troops in Afghanistan. Republicans and Democrats both also support the Arab uprisings as much as they defend the fight against extremist terrorism..
When Barack Obama began his presidency, expectations of him were high in the Middle East. Saying, “I have known Islam in three continents,” he intended to be a bridge between civilizations. Implying that insufficient American respect for Islam had been part of the problem, he offered a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” His solution for anti-Americanism was himself.
The president’s famous speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009, summarized his view of the US’s Middle East policy and demonstrated his ambitions in the region.
However, historic changes don’t come quickly. Iraq, the Arab-Israeli peace process and various policies in the war on terror are no better now than they were three years ago, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama is flummoxed and perplexed by them.
Columnist Michael Gerson indicated in The Washington Post that “[t]he largest failure of Obama’s approach to the Middle East is its apparent geopolitical randomness. Support for Iran’s Green Revolution was late and grudging -- as though courageous reformers were intruding on Obama’s engagement of the regime. The president dramatically escalated the Afghan war before conveying an impression of heading for the exits. After wringing its hands, the administration took needed action in Libya. After wringing its hands, it has remained on the sidelines in Syria. The main consistency has been the wringing part.”
However, Mitt Romney is an amateur on the Middle East and his gaffs are intolerable. With the recent explosion of violence in the Middle East because of a disgraceful, insulting video about the Prophet Muhammad, Romney’s statement was very provocative for Americans, extremely offensive to Obama and out of touch with reality.
Also, as you might remember, in July, he came back empty-handed from his trip to Israel because he insulted both Palestinians and Jews. Palestinians considered Romney’s comments to be racist and not even close to the realities of the Middle East. At the same time, Jews were uncomfortable with his comments as he flattered Jewish culture in the context of making money.
Gossips say that if Romney were to be elected president, he would leave everything in the Middle East to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to retain his own support in the US congress.
In addition, Romney seems very confused about his nuclear red line for Iran. Yet, he supports sanctions, the availability of a military option and the completion of a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, just like Obama.
Basically, while condemning Obama’s apparent failures in the Middle East, Romney’s policy statements don’t reveal any remarkable or more positive differences than Obama’s. Additionally, he doesn’t have any expertise in foreign diplomacy.
Well, what might we expect from a second Obama administration, then? Obama receives the most criticism for being passive in the Middle East, but it doesn’t seem like he will have any magnificent initiatives to make a significant difference soon. Israel is the key since Netanyahu has the all-powerful Jewish lobby, which has mobilized practically the entire US Congress in opposing Obama on many issues during his term in office. Obama would try to rebalance the Israel-Palestine conflict but may end up by giving up.
I don’t expect any more bold moves from Obama. I predict Obama will remain soft and accommodating on essential Middle East issues such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Arab uprisings.
And his approach will not bring any lasting solutions to the problems. However, besides his numerous gaffs, since his recently leaked video showed how hopeless Romney is on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it would be absurd to support him. Also, Romney’s tone and his overtones of interventionism are unbearable, and he and his team are very inexperienced. I’d go with Obama’s soft-pedaling, idealistic peace.