Rami G Khouri writes: We will find out in coming months whether the second term of the Obama administration will herald any significant changes in United States policies in the Middle East. Four main issues should be monitored for any signs of change: the Palestine-Israel and wider Arab-Israeli conflicts; tensions with Iran; the Arab uprisings, revolutions, and constitutional transformations; and socio-economic conditions across the region.
Each of these issues is important in itself. However, viewed from Washington they often get conflated and confused, so American government responses to the various Arab uprisings, for example, often are shaped by officials’ concerns about Iran and Israel.
On a short visit to Washington this week where I had discussions with specialists on the Middle East, my sense is that little has changed in the U.S. capital in the past two years. While the ordinary men and women of the Arab world have launched the most dramatic and consequential change ever in the political configuration of their region, officials and experts in Washington appear to be living in the past, intellectually and politically immobilized, pursuing more or less the same policies of the past several decades. [Continue reading…]