International Affairs

SOTU, the Middle East and the end of the audacity of hope?

I’m in Amman, Jordan, at the moment, and here the news is what Obama didn’t say in his State of the Union speech, rather than what he did mention. His lack of any specific reference to the events unfolding in Egypt or to the Middle East peace process on which he had staked his credibility only months ago have caused some consternation among analysts. Hillary Clinton’s words earlier in the week — when she said “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people” — are being interpreted as unconditional support for the government of President Hosni Mubarak.

Things are not going well for the leaders backed by the U.S. administration in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the U.S.-backed prime minister, Saad Hariri, has now been replaced by a billionaire picked by Hezbollah. The terminally weak Palestinian Authority has now been exposed for double-dealing with the Israelis on Palestinian and Arab Israeli rights.

{mosads}We now know that the French government was completely taken by surprise by the overthrow of President Ben Ali in Tunisia, and the ambassador was replaced today. The same goes for the U.S., whose diplomats nevertheless knew all about the rich vein of corruption running through the Ben Ali clan.

Right now the administration looks like a deer in headlights, seemingly unable to stop the rise of Iran and its influence throughout the Middle East, from Iraq to Lebanon. But uncertainty on foreign policy is one thing — weakness is another. The U.S. retains huge strategic influence in the Middle East. The current policy isn’t working? Get a new one! This need not be the end of the audacity of hope.

Tags Hillary Clinton

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