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: Obama Diplomacy in High Gear

by James M. Lindsay
May 19, 2011

President Barack Obama delivers a speech about U.S. policy in the Middle East and North Africa today at the State Department on May 19, 2011.

President Barack Obama delivers a speech about U.S. policy in the Middle East today at the State Department. (Jim Young/courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I talked about President Obama’s speech today on the Middle East; his trip to Europe next week; and what will be on the agenda when he stops in Deauville, France for the G8 summit. We also introduced a new feature called “Figures of the Week.”

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The highlights:

  • President Obama’s wide-ranging speech laid down a lot of markers. He wants Arab governments to reform and Israelis and Palestinians to agree to a two-state solution “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” He left the many “what if?” questions unanswered, though: What if the Bahrainis refuse to allow peaceful political protest? What if President Ali Abdullah Saleh refuses to step down as president of Yemen? What if Qaddafi hangs on? What if Hamas does not abandon its commitment to the destruction of Israel?
  • Obama will visit a town of his ancestors in Ireland, enjoy a state visit to Britain, and make his first visit to Poland. Bob tells me not to read anything into the fact that he is not stopping in Germany, Europe’s most populous country and economic titan.
  • Lots of issues will be on the G-8 summit agenda, but the future of the Eurozone and the war in Libya will likely dominate the conversations on the margins of the meetings if not the formal sessions themselves.
  • For our figures of the week I went with “DSK.” Bob went with “147.” To find out exactly what that means, you have to listen to the podcast.

Bob and I aren’t the only commentators weighing in on these current events. Aaron David Miller, a veteran of the Mideast peace process, previews tomorrow’s Obama-Netanyahu summit and argues that the prospects for a peace deal in this climate are dim. Reuters covers the missile defense issue that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is likely to bring up with Obama at the G8 summit, and the Economist discusses French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s leadership of the group. The Guardian previews Obama’s efforts at transatlantic diplomacy and speech at Westminster Hall and the Belfast Telegraph discusses Obama’s planned speech in Dublin.

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  • Posted by Tony Shahnami

    The jury still out there regarding his speech and its affect to the region.
    I hope the message is not misunderstood to our allies , especially in the countries that they are facing protests. However there are challenges facing us that needs to be studied:
    1. We should not compromise the security of Israel,
    2. Groups such as Palestinians Fatah and Hamas and others should be hold accountable for their actions. Otherwise, it will be empty promises from them which will not set well with Israel.
    3. Al Quida is trying to position themselves in the people’s mind and hearts by supporting their cause against the current regimes in middle east. We should not let our guards down, the more we support people’s cause in that region the better off we would look in their eyes.
    4. European community and NATO should set up a voice of support about the region. Freezing the dictator’s assets should be a good start.
    5. Mullahs in Iran should get a clear message from US and the European that this is it, it is the final call on nuclear talk, and no more compromise. The mullahs are having major in-house fight among themselves and it’s a great opportunity for us to take advantages of them.

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