James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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The World Next Week: Netanyahu’s Diplomatic Tour

by James M. Lindsay
May 12, 2011

President Barack Obama meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on September 1, 2010.

President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) in the Oval Office on September 1, 2010. (Jason Reed/courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I sat down to talk about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington next week; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee on U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and the upcoming election of new members to the UN Human Rights Council.

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The highlights:

  • White House officials are still debating whether President Obama should give a speech on the Middle East next week, and if so, what he should say. There’s also the delicate matter of how the speech will fit with the address that Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to give on Israeli-Palestinian relations before a joint session of Congress. Netanyahu and Obama aren’t close, and they have conflicting visions of the Middle East peace process.
  • Pakistan is pretty unpopular on Capitol Hill these days, so everyone will be parsing what Secretary Clinton says in her testimony next week about U.S. aid to Pakistan. U.S. strategy in Afghanistan will be a hot topic as well in the coming weeks. Proponents of the current counter-insurgency strategy warn that if President Obama makes deep cuts in U.S. troop levels, then the Karzai government could collapse. Which raises an immediate question: if a ten-year American investment in Afghanistan has not produced a durable Afghan government, why are COIN aficionados convinced that further U.S. support will produce one?
  • Syria has withdrawn its bid to join the UN Human Rights Council, which is probably wise given that its army is shelling the inhabitants of several Syrian cities. Now let’s see if the UN Human Rights Council and the broader UN can bring themselves to condemn the Assad regime’s repression and mass murder.

Bob and I aren’t the only commentators discussing these issues. The Wall Street Journal reports on Obama’s new efforts in the Middle East given the dramatic recent events in the region, and the Jerusalem Post covers Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to a joint session of Congress. The New York Times evaluates U.S. strategy in Afghanistan after the death of Osama bin Laden, and Fareed Zakaria presses the United States to take a tougher line with Pakistan. Bloomberg carries the big news in the upcoming vote on UN Human Rights Council members—Syria is no longer a candidate. CFR’s Elliott Abrams has been prolific in his writings about Syria lately; read Elliott’s take at CNN’s GPS or on his blog, “Pressure Points.”

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  • Posted by Peggy Hicks

    In fact, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a strong resolution “unequivocally condemning” Syria’s use of lethal violence against peaceful protesters on April 29. In addition, it requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate the ongoing abuses. That office has pulled together an experienced and expert team to undertake that investigation, and they are beginning work soon. The next key step will be whether Syrian authorities allow the investigation team to enter the country (the HRC resolution also calls for Syria to fully cooperate with the investigation). The real gap at this stage is at the UN Security Council, which has been briefed on the situation in Syria but failed to even make a public statement on the violence, due in particular to opposition by Russia and China. The United States should focus its efforts on getting the Security Council to speak out and to impose targeted sanctions on those responsible for Syria’s violent crackdown.

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