- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2009


President Obama might have campaigned for hope and change, but his confidence is increasingly challenged in foreign affairs, exposing a weaker America with its military overstretched and its economy damaged, according to a major British think tank.

“As time passes, the limitations on Western and U.S. foreign and security policy may become more evident,” the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said in an annual report Tuesday.

“Domestically, Obama may have campaigned on the theme, ‘Yes, we can,’ [but] internationally he may increasingly have to argue, ‘No, we can’t.’ ”

The institute argued that Mr. Obama will have to rely on allies in a “coalition of the relevant” to meet foreign policy threats from Afghanistan to North Korea.

“This year, the international strategic picture was clouded by the international financial and economic crisis and confused by the uncertainty as to how a weakened U.S. … might, under a new president, navigate the international challenges that it confronted,” the institute said in its “Annual Review of World Affairs.”

“Following President Obama’s historic election and the onset of the world’s gravest economic crisis for generations, the questions on many people’s minds were of a dramatic character.

“Will the world move to a more egalitarian political order where the U.S. is less apparently supreme? Will there be lasting geopolitical changes as a result of shifts in the financial balance of power? Might the economic crisis further weaken fragile states and make the challenge of conflict-resolution even more daunting?”


A congressman who helped recruit more than 220 House members to urge Saudi Arabia to make a “dramatic gesture” for Middle East peace said he is disappointed that the desert kingdom rejected their appeal.

“What’s disappointing is that instead of asserting a leadership role in pursuit of peace, Saudi Arabia only repeats its old position,” Rep. Brad Sherman, California Democrat, told Embassy Row.

Mr. Sherman and his California colleague, Republican Rep. Ed Royce, organized a letter to King Abdullah in July to try to get Saudi Arabia to use its influence as one of the most prominent Arab nations to pursue peace with Israel. They urged the king to “assert a strong leadership role … with a dramatic gesture” toward Israel similar to moves made by Egypt and Jordan, which established diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

Saudi Ambassador Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir, in a letter released Sunday, responded that his country will not engage in peace talks until Israel accepts key preconditions on so-called “final status” issues like permanent borders, Jerusalem and the future of thousands of Palestinian refugees.

Mr. Sherman said those conditions might sound reasonable to Saudi Arabia but hardly to Israel, which claims Jerusalem as its undivided capital and rejects demands that Palestinian refugees resettle in Israel, which could upset the demographic balance that makes Israel a Jewish nation.

Mr. al-Jubeir said his government has no interest in dramatic gestures because past history shows they “will not work.” For example, he cited the vast increase in Jewish settlements on Arab lands since Egypt reached a peace deal in the 1970s.

Mr. Sherman, however, argued that Israel has frequently accepted land-for-peace measures, such as returning the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt after the 1967 war and dismantling settlements in Gaza and withdrawing from the territory.

“Israel shows it can dismantle settlements,” he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

• James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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