Saturday, April 5, 2014

"Obama’s meeting with Saudi king on March 29th left most of the tensions that pre-ceded the meeting"

'The Administration’s run of what its supporters call bad luck and its opponents call incompetence on foreign policy continues. Two instances in the past seem emblematic: first, the early departure of the US Ambassador to India following a diplomatic spat in New York leaves the US Embassy in Delhi without an ambassador in the run-up to new elections there. Second, we understand that President Obama’s meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on March 29th left most of the tensions that pre-ceded the meeting – Syria, Iran, Egypt – firmly in place. It was therefore against an adverse background that Secretary of State Kerry’s announced that he is going to “re-evaluate” US policy regarding the Middle East peace process. This has prompted many questions, but little by way of clarification from US officials. As we have been reporting for many months, apart from Kerry himself, there are very few senior decision makers in Washington who privately believe that the time is ripe for a major American initiative. Nonetheless, in the light of Kerry’s personal commitment to the process, we do not expect it to interred without ceremony, if for no other reason than that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians go hand in hand with the ongoing P5+1 talks with Iran, the next round of which is due to take place on 8th/9th April. As one senior official put it to us: “it is hard to see Washington negotiating with Tehran without at the same time talking to Jerusalem.” With this weekend’s Afghan elections unlikely to produce the stable outcome desired by the Administration, there is no clear endpoint for Kerry’s challenges. Ironically, the area in which he may draw most comfort is over Ukraine. As one senior official commented to us: “Our policy may not have been very effectual in getting Putin to disgorge Crimea, but it has been a classic exercise in allied diplomacy. We have never been more united.” This sense of NATO-based solidarity may have emboldened US officials to warn China not to attempt similar action in the South China Sea...."

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