In a week in which a new survey of public opinion confirmed the low priority afforded to foreign policy by the American public, the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi and the anti-American protests in the wider region have thrust foreign policy into the presidential campaign. It seems unlikely, however, that this will permanently shift the trajectory of the debate away from domestic issues – this week’s action by the Federal Reserve to ease monetary policy further will likely prove to be more decisive. Nonetheless, both sides have been forced to respond to the fast-moving events beyond their control. In the view of many commentators, neither side has displayed a sure touch. Despite their rhetorical differences, however, the gap between the two sides may not be great. While there have been some Congressional demands to cut aid to the region, US policy remains committed to supporting the new governments emerging from the “Arab Spring.” We do not see this changing in the event of a Romney victory. There is, however, a new realization of the fragility of and threats to these governments. This concern applies especially to Egypt where there is growing apprehension about the orientation of the Morsi government. US officials to whom we have spoken acknowledge that there are no easy options except that if Egypt is “lost”, the implications for the US position in the Middle East will be profound. This will be especially important in relation to Iran. Despite the flurry of public differences with Israel and personal animus between the leadership on the subject of Iran’s nuclear program, US and Israeli goals remain substantively aligned: both are committed to preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. US officials – as shown in the report from a high level expert group – still believe that no immediate action other than intensification of sanctions is needed.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 6:24 PM