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Nov 6th, 2008


Middle East Challenges for U.S. President

By Alistair Lyon
Special Correspondent

November 5, 2008

Excerpts

Major foreign policy challenges await U.S. president-elect Barack Obama in the Middle East. Here are some of the intertwined issues that Democrat Barack Obama will inherit from President George W. Bush.

Iraq

Five years after the U.S.-led invasion, Iraq remains very volatile despite improved security. Higher U.S. troop levels in 2007-08 were one factor in reducing the violence. Others include a U.S.-supported shift by former Sunni insurgents who have turned on their old al Qaeda allies; a ceasefire by the Shi’ite Mehdi Army of anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr; and ethnic and sectarian cleansing that has redrawn Baghdad’s communal map.

A recent forced exodus of 1,500 Christian families in north Iraq has underlined the fragility of the security gains.

At stake now is a vital security pact negotiated with the Shi’ite-led government allowing U.S. troops to stay three more years. Iraq wants changes to the deal, which would replace a U.N. Security Council mandate that expires at the end of 2008. …

Iran

Iran’s nuclear ambitions, energy resources and regional influence, greatly expanded by U.S. wars that toppled its foes in Afghanistan and Iraq, bear on vital U.S. national interests. …

The nuclear issue and Iranian-Israeli enmity constitute huge obstacles, but a U.S. opening to Iran, if reciprocated, could foster cooperation in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, easing sectarian conflict in the region, combating al Qaeda and developing Iranian oil and gas assets, some analysts say. …

——

Analysis: Asia Stacked With Problems for Obama

By Hugh Riminton
CNN
November 5, 2008

Excerpts

HONG KONG, China (CNN) — Donald Rumsfeld was much pilloried for his musings on the “unknown unknowns” that bedevil defense planning. But an echo of that warning was floated Wednesday by another former Bush administration official as the election result became known.

“Something’s going to come along,” former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told me in Hong Kong. “Somebody out there will try to take advantage of a change in administration and the newness of a new administration.”

But his “stronger point,” he said, was that something will happen that has nothing to do with testing a president. “It’s just going to happen.”

Barack Obama, the 44th President, will face a tough enough time with the “known unknowns.”

Afghanistan/Pakistan

Remarkably, Iraq is not the first challenge.

Saving Afghanistan and strengthening a crumbling Pakistan are top of the pile.

After meeting with senior Pakistani officials, including President Asif Ali Zardari this week, the new head of U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus, said extremism in the Pakistani borderlands now poses an “existential threat” to the state of Pakistan. …

The primary focus is not Iraq. It’s back to fixing up after 9/11. …

North Korea

North Korea is another challenge. Kim Jong Il, the leader of the world’s weakest nuclear power is in uncertain health. With no obvious succession plans and with recent bellicose threats to resume a nuclear program, North Korea needs close watching. …

Meanwhile, China, Japan, South Korea, and other Asian export-driven nations will be nudging the new U.S. President to do what will be his first priority anyway: fix the U.S.economy.

To face the security risks, known and unknown, Colin Powell believes Americans have chosen a man with “every potential to be a great president.” …

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