Saturday, September 22, 2012

At the UNGA: "Obama will confine himself to generalities rather than promising, for example, intervention in Syria"

'As we anticipated last week, the brief incursion of foreign policy into the presidential campaign in the wake of the anti-Western turmoil in the Middle East quickly ran its course. Despite some trenchant conservative criticism of the Administration’s seeming uncertainty about how to proceed, including about what actually happened in Benghazi and the underlying causes of the protests, the focus has returned to domestic issues. The final withdrawal of surge forces from Afghanistan has gone practically unnoticed. Secretary of Defense Panetta continues to speak optimistically about cooperation with the Afghan National Army, but privately our official contacts speak with resignation about prospects for continued stability in the country after the bulk of coalition forces withdraw at the end of 2014. In his forthcoming speech to the UN General Assembly on September 25th, President Obama will address the US response to events in the Middle East. He will, however, paint a cautious picture. Even as US interests in the Middle East come under increasing attack, there is a rising awareness among top NSC officials that US options are not unlimited. US diplomats will be pursuing an activist agenda at the UNGA, but we expect Obama to confine himself to generalities rather than promising, for example, intervention in Syria. With regard to Iran, the P5+1 group is likely to meet. Efforts are underway to re-instate a meeting between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, but scheduling difficulties may prevent this. Opinion in Washington remains divided about potential Israeli actions. Inside the Administration, confidence is rising that Netanyahu, despite his tough talk on US television on September 16th, will not act unilaterally in the face of public US opposition and in the light of a new round of talks between the IAEA and Iran planned for October. Other observers who are close to US military and intelligence circles do not share this confidence.  We do, however, expect a more vigorous engagement with the Iran problem after the election, whoever wins. The delisting as a terrorist organization of the Iranian Mujahedin-e-Khalq provides an indication of a forthcoming tougher US approach. ...'

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