Obama speech on Iraq, and a foreign policy in need of progress
This week, Obama addresses the nation on Iraq and Afghanistan and restarts direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. His challenge is to show enough progress to inspire support on these long-term commitments, from the American public and the players themselves.
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The “long war” on terrorism is living up to its label, nine years after the 9/11 attacks. As the US and its allies apply pressure in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Al Qaeda-linked terrorist operations are springing up elsewhere – in Yemen, at the tip of the Saudi Peninsula, and across the Gulf of Aden in Somalia, on the edge of the Horn of Africa. Somalia’s jihadist Al Shabab group has launched a final push to topple that country’s weak, UN-backed government, and is coming perilously close to succeeding.Skip to next paragraph
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The vastness and complexity of the Islamic terrorist challenge becomes more apparent with each passing year. It’s never just about one country or one issue. Afghan Taliban find refuge in Pakistan, whose attitude is affected by Islamabad’s rivalry with India. A Nigerian student in England is given terrorist training in Yemen and tries to set off explosives in a Detroit-bound jet on Christmas Day. Much of the current worry is about Muslims in America resorting to terrorism.
It’s a slow slog, this attempt to blunt the Islamic terrorist threat and bring peace to the Middle East.
Progress is being made. The violence in Iraq is nowhere near what it was, and the country has held multiple fair elections. Last week, the final group of troops left for Afghanistan to bring the surge to its peak.
Meanwhile, the US has painstakingly worked to build international pressure on Iran (nuclear negotiations with Tehran could resume soon). And at least Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have agreed to talk face to face.
The tricky job for Obama from here on out is showing enough progress with these issues, especially the war on terrorism, to inspire support from the American public – and in the Mideast peace talks, from the players themselves.