Sunday, September 25, 2011

on Egypt: "The Obama Administration is trying to steer a course between its long valued relationship with the military & the civilians"

As anticipated, the Palestinian decision to seek statehood in the UN was surrounded by a frenzy of diplomatic activity and explanatory briefing. In the end, US officials believe they have bought time through the alternative timetable launched by the Middle East Quartet. Behind the scenes, however, officials acknowledge that the longer-term implications of their approach in New York are largely unforeseeable. One senior official commented privately to us: “We want to treat Palestine-Israel in its own basket, separate from the Arab Spring, separate from our human rights agenda, separate from the War on Terror. Somewhere we will have to pay a price.” The most immediate area of concern is the US relationship with the complex mix of now composed of Arab allies, unsettled protest movements and a more assertive Turkey.
 The biggest prize in US eyes remains Egypt. Here, the Administration is trying to steer a course between its long-established and valued relationship with the Egyptian military and the more volatile mix of civilian parties. A State Department official summed it up: “We are still facing the usual tensions between stability and democracy.” More importantly, internal debate is intensifying on the subject of Pakistan. Divisions are emerging between the Pentagon and the Intelligence Community on the subject of Pakistan. The charges leveled by top defense officials of official complicity on the part of the Pakistani government in providing a safe haven and direct support to anti-Afghan and anti-NATO forces are complicating US working relationships with their Pakistani counterparts. We doubt that either side will tolerate a complete breakdown in relations, but there is no doubt that US progress in Afghanistan is being severely hampered by the shortcomings in cooperation with Islamabad. Unless this can be fixed, the prospects are for a substantial expansion of unilateral US action in the Waziristan region in the form of drone attacks and operations by special forces. A more optimistic area relates to the Korean Peninsular where the feared hostilities over the summer have not emerged.  On the domestic front, further polarization on budgetary matters looms – even at the same time as Treasury officials are urging their Eurozone colleagues to take unified, decisive action.

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