Saturday, October 6, 2012

'US options to guide events in the Middle East & North Africa become severely limited'

'As the presidential race starts to tighten, the space for non-politicized foreign policy continues to shrink...... Nowhere is this more in evidence than over the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi where Republicans have been highly critical of the White House’s changing explanations of what happened. We expect this issue will emerge in the debates, as well as a wider criticism of the Administration’s response to the “Arab Spring.” As concern deepens over developments, especially in Egypt and Syria, President Obama will likely face charges that he has “lost control” over events in the region as a result of a reluctance to demonstrate American leadership, for example by unwillingness to arm the Syrian resistance. Although such accusations of Democratic foreign policy “weakness” are a staple of the Republican platform, they may be gaining more traction as the limits on US options to guide events in the Middle East and North Africa become more evident. As a result, a loose consensus is forming between both conservative and liberal analysts that US policy in this region does need invigorating, whoever is in the White House next January.  An exception will be Afghanistan. Despite upbeat assessments by those involved with Afghan policy, privately US diplomatic and military officials offer much more sober expectations. We do not expect either Obama or Romney to question the policy of continued withdrawal. On more substantive questions, US officials are now satisfied that the prospects of a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran have been likely postponed, possibly to next Spring....'

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