Last Thursday's address on the Middle East was President Obama's moment of opportunity to stake out his positions in the wake of the protest movements that swept through the region. Now that the so-called Arab Spring is fading into summer, significant parts of the region are beginning a shaky political transitions in their post-dictatorial era--or still struggling in the throes of protests or civil war. Did Obama's address do the job? Are we seeing a "reset" of his Mideast policy, or finally, an "Obama Doctrine"? If so, what is it? National Journal asks the experts to weigh in on any, or all, of the following questions:
Middle East 'Marshall Plan':
Obama says that OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region and the U.S. will work with allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe. Tunisia and Egypt, two nations that President Obama held up as examples of having successfully ousted their strongman leaders, will see U.S. economic aid--and Cairo was offered $2 billion in debt relief and loan guarantees. What do you think about this Mideast version of a Marshall Plan? Is it enough to make a difference? Or is it too much, in these tight-fisted economic times?
Straddling the Line:
Dictators cracking down on protesters in Yemen and Syria were essentially told that their time in power is coming to an end. But Obama, who has sanctioned and pressured Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, stopped short of calling publicly for him to step down immediately. Should Obama have gone further in his rhetoric here? What about in Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet and a key strategic ally in the Gulf? If Washington mutes its criticism of certain countries, it will be open to familiar charges of hypocrisy and double standards. How aggressively should the Obama administration work to advance the cause of democratic movements in reforms in other countries--and where is the line? Has that changed now that the U.S. entered the fray in Libya to protect civilians?
It's the first time that Israel heard from an American president that its decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory has become unsustainable, and that Washington's vision of a two-state solution is based generally on the 1967 borders and a full withdrawal of Israeli military forces from a demilitarized Palestine. This already drew a cold response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said these lines would leave Israel "indefensible." Now that Netanyahu is slated to give an important speech before a joint session of Congress this week, how will the speech impact U.S.-Israel relations? How will he react?
Obama took a tough stand with the Israelis early on by pushing for a settlement freeze in the West Bank. What are you expecting Obama to say this week, and do in the future to carry out these goals for a peace deal? If Obama gets reelected, he'll have four more years to strike a deal--is he on the right track? How are his chances, with Netanyahu as his negotiating partner?