“The decision of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to seek approval from the UN Security Council to be admitted as a sovereign nation will, as we have foreshadowed, provoke a crisis for US relations in the Middle East. Should the PA action go ahead in the face of intense US lobbying against it, there is no doubt that the US will use its veto to block approval – current political dynamics in the US allow no other choice – but there is growing concern at the National Security Council and State Department that the consequences will be far-reaching.
For example, senior visitors to Washington from Saudi Arabia have warned the White House publicly and privately that a veto would prompt the Saudis to review their ‘special relationship’ with Washington. With regard to Egypt, intelligence community analysts are warning that a veto will boost Islamist elements in the ongoing political debate and send Egyptian-Israeli relations into a further downward spiral. Similar warnings are in play over US efforts to coordinate tougher international pressure on Syria. Overall, the impact on the future course of the ‘Arab Spring’ is seen as seriously negative.
The emerging role of Turkey as regional adversary of Israel is also undermining what used to be the cornerstone of the US posture in the Middle East.
This challenge comes at awkward time for Obama. With economic recovery still anemic and having lost a recent interim election in a normally solid Democratic district in New York City, he is trying to stamp his authority on his proposed job package. He will now come under Congressional pressure to curtail or cut off economic aid to the PA. We expect that he will be able to resist this, but at the expense of raising new questions about his foreign policy coherence.
He is under pressure from defense hawks to slow the pace of withdrawal from Iraq. The recent upsurge in violence in Afghanistan has raised new questions about the viability of the US timetable there. The White House is trying to counter by pointing to the relatively benign outcome of its Libya policy, but this is finding little resonance in wider public opinion. Indeed, the talk in Washington is the advice from a top Democratic that Obama should “panic”. We do not detect that the White House is as yet at this stage but there is no doubt that little is going Obama’s way.”
Photo Credit: Carville By smileandflash / FlickR – DC, April 2007