The re-installed President Barack Obama must make a much more decisive commitment to the Middle East if his administration is to achieve anything positive. Obama’s inauguration speech tonight should include some specific references to action in three areas: Palestine, Iran and Syria. He should also make a more general commitment to being ready to work with the new democratic governments in the region, even if the elections have flung up results that he may not like. He needs to be clear that democracy is more important than his objections to winners.
On Palestine, Obama must be clear that he supports the two-state solution and that the Israeli colonies on the West Bank have to be removed. He should not tolerate any more building nor any land grabs nor shifting of the security borders. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must be put on notice that the US and the international community will take punitive action against Tel Aviv if it disregards its supposed commitment to finding equitable peace. Obama should also stop his boycott of Hamas and work with both Fatah and Hamas to rebuild a united Palestine.
On Iran, the US president should pursue bold diplomacy, seeking a deal that includes sanctions relief and recognising Iran’s right to 20 per cent enrichment, in return for much full Iranian transparency and regular inspections of its nuclear sites. There is broad consensus that such a deal is possible if Iran perceives it as generous. A useful start for Obama will be to unilaterally suspend some of its sanctions against Iran or declare that he will no longer consider the option of using force.
On Syria, Obama needs to support the opposition and his administration should work to encourage the opposition leaders to be less chaotic and define a more positive series of political steps through which the current civil war may be brought to an end and a fresh start be made to build an inclusive Syria. This may well include working with some ideas coming from the present government, while also facilitating the exit of President Bashar Al Assad.