“US officials might be forgiven for believing that foreign policy operates in two hermetically sealed hemispheres: during his European tour President Obama could not put a foot wrong or sound a false note. He was received by large and enthusiastic crowds. At the G-8 summit his policies for responding to the “Arab Spring” were endorsed.
At home, Obama’s prestige is under siege. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s May 24th speech to a joint session of Congress is, as we had anticipated, widely perceived both to have outflanked Obama’s own approach to the Middle East peace process and to have demonstrated the overwhelming support enjoyed by Israel in the Congress. Several commentators pointed out that it appeared that Netanyahu was appearing for the “home team.” There is now virtually no expectation in Washington that any progress on the peace process will be possible.
In terms of the “Arab Spring”, Yemen is the focus of greatest US concern. The uncertainty regarding President Saleh’s departure is, we are told privately, opening the door to anti-American forces inside the country. US officials are fearful that Saudi Arabia may be drawn in, adding further controversy.
Further East, Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to Pakistan represents a further intensification of US efforts to assuage Pakistani resentment over the operation against Osama bin-Laden. In their private conversations with us, Intelligence Community officials leave no doubt that underlying tensions remain deep-seated.
With so much attention focused on the Middle East, US officials are finding it hard to find time for North Korea. They believe that Chinese President Hu Jintao took of the opportunity of Kim Jong Il’s recent visit to urge the resumption of the six-power nuclear talks.
On the still unresolved question of raising the federal debt ceiling opinions are hardening. Overall, officials believe that a deal will be reached or that some technical accounting mechanism will be found to avoid default. The debate will, however, be harsh and adversarial, with Obama’s authority constantly under attack. Obama will not be the first president to prefer overseas travel to down-and-dirty politicking at home.”
Photo Credit: Memorial Day 2011 By Eric Henderson Photography/ FlickR