Middle East Heading Into Crucial Elections

Four Elections That Could Shape The Middle East
Faisal Al Yafai  The National argues that elections in Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Iraq raise fundamental questions about the direction of each country that the outcomes in “all four will probably alter the landscape of the region.”

In Syria, for example, some of the questions the election will answer are whether the opposition are offering a real alternative to Bashir al Assad, whether the political solution will satisfy the middle and what vision they can offer that may allay the fears of a majority of Syrians.

He concludes: “Elections, by themselves, don’t decide the future of a country. What they do is allow the electorate to legitimise who they believe has the best vision of the future. The front-runners for all four elections have been in politics long enough to know this.”

Egypt Votes On New Constitution
As Egyptians prepare to vote on a new constitution, Eric Trager, a fellow with the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, contends that the while the upcoming referendum may not alter the short-term politics, “the extent to which Salafists participate in the referendum may have longer-term implications,” particularly if there is a low turnout which would “reflect strong feelings of disenfranchisement that could lead more Salafists to embrace jihadism.”

The referendum also has external implications and will force the US to make a decision about the direction it wants relations with Egypt to go.

“This week’s referendum gives Washington an opportunity to recalibrate its Egypt policy, emphasizing the strategic interests it can promote rather than the domestic political outcomes it cannot. More to the point, no matter how well or how poorly the military is intervening in Egypt’s politics, neither country’s interests are served by allowing violent extremism to grow stronger. Washington should thus resume its normal relationship with the Egyptian military in order to counter the emerging jihadist threat, which has increasingly hit targets west of the Suez Canal. In this vein, Washington should reopen discussions with Cairo over the nature of U.S. military aid, restructuring that assistance to better help Egypt bolster its counterinsurgency capabilities,” he writes.

Obama’s Worldview Shaped By His Personality
Michael Lumbers resists the temptation to engage in psychoanalysis in examining President Obama’s foreign policy, but he does note the important contribution Obama’s personality has made to shaping his worldview.

In an article in Commentary magazine, Lumbers first lays out Obama’s worldview as one which is “decried by some as a retreat, hailed by others as a prudent effort to bring America’s external commitments into closer alignment with its finite resources, Obama’s overarching strategy of modified retrenchment can be explained by the sort of structural factors typically emphasized by political scientists and “that means strategic overextension, resource constraints, and anti-interventionist popular sentiment.”

His reticence in getting involved, as well as a seemingly knee-jerk reaction to any Bush policy, comes from Obama’s own personality traits.

“Obama engages unevenly with the foreign policy process. Self-confident, cerebral, and informed, he assumes the leading role in formulating strategy. His lack of surefootedness in operating the levers of power and his seeming unwillingness to do the heavy lifting required for realizing his objectives, however, have undermined both his leadership and U.S. credibility. The drawbacks to Obama’s ambivalent approach to governance were displayed most recently when he opted to not strike Assad’s regime in response to its use of chemical weapons, a transgression the president had previously insisted would not go unpunished.”






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