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Obama’s Middle East Malady

PARIS – No sooner did US President Barack Obama welcome home American troops from Iraq and laud that country’s stability and democracy than an unprecedented wave of violence – across Baghdad and elsewhere – revealed the severity of Iraq’s political crisis. Is that crisis an unfortunate exception, or, rather, a symptom of the failure of Obama’s Middle East diplomacy, from Egypt to Afghanistan?

Upon taking office, Obama set four objectives in the Middle East: stabilize Iraq before leaving it; withdraw from Afghanistan from a position of strength and on the basis of minimal political convergence with Pakistan; achieve a major breakthrough in the Middle East peace process by pushing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to freeze settlements; and open a dialogue with Iran on the future of its nuclear program. On these four major issues, Obama has clearly achieved little.