Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"In a tour d’horizon, the American flag is not to be seen"

'Last week we noted that these are not easy times for US foreign policy. Despite the re-opening of most of its Middle East embassies, things have not got any easier. Administration officials acknowledge that the apparent resurgence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has undermined the assertion that, following the killing of Osama bin-Laden, Al-Qaeda was “on the run.” The response has been a much-increased number of drone attacks in Yemen, a trend that will continue over the summer. Add to that deepening concerns about Egypt, a sense of helplessness about Syria and the steady drumbeat of Iran – in which context General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs will visit Israel next week – all these add to a full dossier of headaches for President Obama as he leaves Washington for his summer break.  As one senior Intelligence Community official put it: “In a tour d’horizon, the American flag is not to be seen.” An immediate agenda item is to maintain channels for communication with Russia in the wake of some unflattering comments about President Putin in Obama’s press conference on August 9th. The 2+2 meeting on August 9th between Secretary of Stat Kerry and Secretary of Defense Hagel and their Russian counterparts was, we are told, a hard-hitting session, but with both sides realizing that they need to avoid a complete breakdown in relations. According to officials knowledgeable about the meetings, this objective was achieved, but with talk of a renewed Cold War US officials are clear this state of frostiness will continue to bedevil cooperation on issues like Syria and Iran. A deeper, longer-term worry is beginning to be voiced that Washington’s open disdain for Putin will foster an anti-US entente between Moscow and Beijing. In the meantime, a new round of Middle East peace process talks will resume in Jerusalem on August 14th (yahoo), overseen byMartin Indyk, the special envoy to the Middle East. State Department officials are much more optimistic about prospects than outside analysts, but it is clear that progress will be painstaking is the talks continue to be conducted at two removes from the President.'

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