A report from analysts at two major think tanks says Barack Obama should focus on curtailing Iran’s nuclear program and promoting peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
President-elect Barack Obama should shift the main U.S. foreign policy focus in the Middle East from Iraq to curtailing Iran’s nuclear program and promoting peace agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors, analysts at two prominent Washington think tanks proposed Tuesday.
Prepared by 15 experts at the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations, the report recommends restoring balance to U.S. strategy and making more use of diplomacy in the Middle East.
For the past six years under President George W. Bush, U.S. foreign policy in the region has been dominated by Iraq, said Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center at Brookings, and Richard Haass, president of the Council.
Instead, they said, the U.S. focus should be on curtailing Iran’s nuclear program and on promoting peace agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors, Syria in particular.
“The Syrian government is in a position to fulfill a peace agreement, and the difference between the parties appear to be bridgeable,” said Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel.
That could weaken Iran’s influence and reduce support for both Hezbollah and Hamas, two militant anti-Israel groups, and improve prospects for stability in Lebanon, Indyk said.
The report, “Restoring the Balance. A Middle East Stategy for the Next President,” in preparation for 18 months, suggested that the Obama administration support conciliation between Fatah, the Palestinian group with which Israel has negotiated, and Hamas, which controls Gaza and has refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
That new U.S. strategy would diminish the Hamas militants’ incentive to undermine peace negotiations with Israel and force Hamas either to accept a peace agreement that supports Palestinian rights or lose the backing of the Palestinian public, said Steven A. Cook, of the council, and Shibley Telhami, of Brookings.