There are high hopes on US President Barack Obama’s new national security team, now that John Kerry has been confirmed as Secretary of State. However, there is a danger that the new team may disappoint its international partners as Obama had in his first term.
The situation today is much better than when Obama walked into the White House after a miserable eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency.
As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was an important part of the re-set of US foreign policy — as America rediscovered its allies and started to work with a multilateral world that is a in today’s global governance.
However, the US did not push for a negotiated solution between Palestine and Israel. Guantanamo is still open. The offer to engage with Iran and North Korea has led to nothing. And the famous “pivot to Asia” has stumbled as China, Japan and South Korea find themselves almost at war over a variety of small islands.
Kerry should refocus US foreign policy to achieve change on specific issues. As chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Kerry has travelled extensively in the Middle East and is aware of the region.
He should use this knowledge to push for two important moves in the Middle East. First, the new Benjamin Netanyahu government should be required to stand by its obligations to work for a two-state solution.
If nothing is done in the next few years, it may well be too late to do anything at all.
Second, Kerry needs to be ready to propose a deal with Iran. The shape of a potential deal is clear, even if defining it is hard after 30 years of mistrust between the two sides.
Iran should make clear that it does not want nuclear weapons and it should offer to keep in full its nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments, while also offering the greatest transparency possible to prove its words.
The US should indicate that it will accept an Iranian offer and reduce sanctions and recognise Iran’s right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes only.