Sunday, November 29, 2009

Former US ambassador shares Mideast insight with UNO students

Martin Indyk gave President Obama an "F" for his efforts to regain momentum in the Arab-Israeli conflict while speaking to a UNO crowd on Nov. 24.

The former U.S. ambassador to Israel gave his analysis of the U.S. effort to bring peace to the Middle East, both past and present, in front of a standing room only audience at Thompson Alumni Center.

Indyk, also vice president and director of the Brookings Institute, said he hoped his failures in brokering a peace arrangement between Israel and Palestine would serve as a “lantern on the stern” for the Obama Administration.

Indyk focused on 5 principle lessons from his book, “Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy,” lessons he said could not only serve as a guide to an American president resurrecting the peace effort, but also could be used to evaluate President Obama’s performance in doing such.

The first lesson:  “It is better to try and fail than to not try at all.”

“Its important to try,” Indyk said, “because resolving the Arab Israeli conflict is in the greatest national interest, which is both promoting peace and stability in a region of vital concern to the united states and spread our relationships, friendships and alliances in the region and a ultimately a way of ensuring a free flow of oil. “

The second lesson: “If a president decides he wants to resolve the conflict, he has to shape the strategic context in which the leaders in the region have to make their decisions.”

“Today, shaping the strategic context amounts to the US finding a way to work together with the Arabs and Israelis because they face a common threat—to in effect, roll back Iranian influence, curb its nuclear ambitions and to show that peace making can triumph over violence and terrorism,” Indyk said.  “But the U.S. needs to avoid getting sucked into the details, because then we lose the influence of our power.”

The remaining lessons included understanding the 21st century Middle East environment is vastly different than a decade ago, finding a sense of urgency with Arab leaders and Israeli leaders and being aware of unintended consequences of American action in the Middle East.

Overall, Indyk said Obama has been ambitious in his effort to lead the peace process but has come up short in success. 

“After almost 11 months, it is not going very well,” Indyk said.  “If you were grading, he would get an E for effort, but an F overall.”

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