Categorized | Bryen_Shoshana, USA

Fixing American priorities in the Middle East

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs calls on President Obama to take a personal interest in the “Middle East dispute” and use his personal good offices to push the parties to the conflict to a resolution that serves “vital national security interests” for the United States. Recalcitrant parties, pursuing their own narrow interests, are putting American troops in greater danger and the President must act to secure our interest even if not all the parties want his mediation. Part of being friends with a country means telling them things they may not want to hear, and the United States has to be firm about what it expects.
No, not that Middle East dispute.
Following the March 7 election in Iraq-the second planned, multiparty, free election with open media and the right of assembly in the country’s history-the parties began the difficult process of forming a government. The incumbent is trying to remain in office by building a coalition that would lock out the party that actually holds the plurality of seats in the parliament and was the main vote getter in the election. If he is able to disenfranchise the largest party, he will feed the fear in the people that elections are meaningless and reconciliation is not part of the agenda. During the machinations, a power vacuum has resulted that is filled increasingly by radicals and terrorists determined to finalize the outcome by force. At least 90 Iraqis were killed in terrorist bomb attacks over five days last month. 
This is clearly is a moment that American diplomacy should engage both the winner and the incumbent and work toward a reconciled position that would represent the largest number of Iraqis and give meaning to the electoral process. But beyond Vice President Biden appearing in Baghdad and claiming a victory in Iraq for the Obama Administration, the United States has been strangely silent and reluctant to use the political leverage gained by the hard and deadly work of our troops. 
When Obama and  Biden were both senators, the Democratic Party made much of the fact that political reconciliation in Iraq was the only goal worth pursuing-and they wanted to pursue it even before security conditions in the country permitted. Now that there is general physical security (shaky as it is), economic growth and open elections, the goal of political reconciliation appears to have been dropped by our now-President and now-Vice President. 
Ayyad Allawi, holder of the largest parliamentary bloc, said, “As America is still here, and as America still enjoys respectability in this country-they should focus on political reforms and use their offices here to forge reconciliation…Security is not only a function of the number of troops you have. It is changing the political landscape…I said, and still believe, even if you raise the security forces to a million, it wouldn’t matter.”
Mr. Allawi has, in the meantime, found it necessary to send a delegation to IRAN to try to shore up any government he might be able to form.
There are rumors, hints, suggestions and outright claims that the Obama Administration believes a direct American push is necessary to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and that failure to do so can impact upon the security of our forces in the region. More than one hundred thousand American men and women serve today in Iraq and our failure to provide a direct American push for a resolution of the Iraqi political dispute will directly and causally affect their security and their lives.
The Obama Administration’s priorities in this case are badly skewed.
Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member

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