By Afro-Middle East Centre
In a much-anticipated speech on Wednesday, US president Barack Obama unveiled his strategy for confronting the Islamic State group (IS). He emphasised the need for an international coalition supporting the efforts of Iraqi forces and Syrian rebels through airstrikes and logistical support inside Iraq and Syria. The US administration had already been working on the formation of an international coalition. The recent NATO summit resulted in a ten-nation alliance against IS, and US secretary of state, John Kerry, has also been trying to build an Arab consensus against IS. That move was pre-empted by an Arab League resolution earlier this week announcing Arab states’ willingness to support international efforts against IS. Additionally, the United Nations Security Council had unanimously adopted resolution 2170 in August, which called on member states to prevent the movement of terrorists and their obtaining arms or finances.
By Fawaz A. Gerges
In an important and alarming report to the United Nations Security Council early July, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that an increase in tensions between Lebanon and Israel could lead to a new war with potentially devastating consequences for the entire region.
The UN chief cited dozens of instances when the two antagonists - Israel and Hizbullah - almost broke out into war, and accused them of violating the 2006 ceasefire resolution that ended the 34-day July war in 2006. While Hizbullah continued to maintain "a substantial military capacity", Ban said, Israel continued to violate the ceasefire by conducting daily flights over Lebanon, and refused to withdraw from the disputed border village of Ghajar.
By Fred H. Lawson
United States strategic planners are carrying out a fundamental reconfiguration of America's military presence throughout the world. The shift came to light in November 2011, when President Barack Obama announced that some 2 500 US Marines would take up permanent positions at a training base on the northern tip of Australia. It was underscored in January 2012 when the president appeared at the Pentagon for the release of an extraordinary guidance document with the striking title 'Sustaining United States Global Leadership: Priorities for the Twenty-First Century Defined'. The revised strategic posture earmarks more US military resources to East Asia in general and the South China Sea littoral in particular.
By Lamis Andoni
The resounding defeat of the Democratic Party in the United States midterm congressional elections has clearly weakened President Barack Obama's hand on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts. With a new Congress, US foreign policy – at least as regards the Middle East – will remain pro-Israeli, and will maintain the goal of boosting Israel and weakening Iran. But the tone and manifestation of this policy will undergo changes that will result in hard-line tactics that will serve to increase the pressure on the the Palestinians, Syria and Iran.
With the changes in the two houses of Congress, right-wing Republicans will gain more power, thus limiting Obama's room for manoeuvre on foreign policy issues – ranging from China and North Korea to Russia, Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Democratic Party's loss of more than sixty seats in the House of Representatives, and the weakening of the party's grip on the Senate, indicate a serious shift to the right as the two houses have become more pro-Israeli, more supportive of the Netanyahu government, and in favour of a confrontation with Iran.
By Na'eem Jeenah
The much-anticipated speech by US president Barack Obama to 'the Muslim world' was a well-presented mixture of rich symbolism, a call for 'a new beginning', promises of small changes in US foreign policy, deliberate obfuscation, and a dose of more of the same Bush medicine. Immediate Muslim responses to the speech in Cairo on the 4th June 2009, which was punctuated by applause from the obviously carefully-selected audience, were to the symbolic rather than the substantive parts of the speech.
Across the Muslim world there was a feeling among many people that here was a US president who respected Muslims: he began with the greeting of 'salaam'; quoted a number of verses from the Qur'an; said 'peace be upon them' after referring to the prophets; and dwelled on what he called 'civilization's debt to Islam'.