by Peter Stern
Although President Barack Obama has not spoken publicly regarding any major shift in Middle East Policy, according to some newspapers, e.g., The New York Times, currently he is exploring cutting back troops in the Middle East and Afghanistan and instead trying to root out Al Queda insurgents and to do so also primarily in Pakistan. The President, Vice President and Congress are considering this change because the current ground exchanges are often messy and not working well. The U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan for the past 8 years without much to show for it. Obama is attempting to tell liberals that he is not considering increasing forces in the Mid East or planning to escalate the war there; however, the U.S. is not moving as quickly as many would like it to, including a growing majority of American voters.
The Republicans continue to chastise the Obama administration for having expanded the war in Afghanistan; however, there is no GOP movement that directs the President to withdraw troops. Obama still appears resolute that a stable Afghanistan is central to his plans; however, he is not direct in providing the method and means to achieve this objective. Apparently, there are competing views between his closest advisers on how to proceed in Afghanistan. Consequently, more meetings are being scheduled to determine future policy regarding Afghanistan and other countries in the region.
VP Joe Biden is one adviser to the President who advocates a cut in troops and withdrawal from Afghanistan. Instead of securing Afghanistan and protecting the people from terrorism, he is promoting using special forces to attack Al Queda from the air here and mostly in Pakistan. The VP has often stated that for every $30 the U.S. spends in Afghanistan it spends $1 in Pakistan. He wants the focus more on the Al Queda forces in Pakistan. President Obama did not agree with the plan at the first few meetings and it is not clear if this has changed.
Obama has spoken about another primary urgent issues, that of resolving the nuclear development issues with North Korea and Iran. The U.S. and several other countries are considering economic sanctions if N. Korea and Iran continue to disregard the objections and build up their nuclear program.
Regarding Israel, Obama continues to tell Israeli leaders to let Palestine develop and for Israel to stop building on what he believes to be Palestinian land/property. The Jewish population in Israel and here in the U.S. is not happy with the President's directives and his popularity among wealthy Jewish supporters is starting to dwindle.
All in all, it is not easy to determine what President Obama's policies are or whether there will be a shift in the Middle East. However, the President must show the American people the leadership they expect him to provide, otherwise it is certain to be reflected in the 2010 November elections and Democratic incumbents are sure to suffer if there is any further delay or if an unpopular Middle East policy is applied before that time.