The Middle East: Policy Choices for the New Administration

The video of the Middle East Policy Council’s 70th Capitol Hill Conference is now available for on-demand streaming.

Speakers:  

Paul Pillar

Former National Intelligence Officer,
National Intelligence Council; Professor, Georgetown University

Scott McConnell

Founding Editor, The American Conservative

 

Jocelyne Cesari

Co-director, SAIS Global Politics and Religion Initiative; Research Associate, Harvard University

Nathaniel Kern

President, Foreign Reports

 


Moderator:

Thomas R. Mattair

Executive Director, Middle East Policy Council

 

PRESS RECAP

The Middle East: Policy Choices for the New Administration
Post-debate conference highlighted the domestic constraints to foreign policymaking

WASHINGTON, October 17, 2012 — The morning after the 2nd presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Romney, analysts convened for the Middle East Policy Council’s 70th Capitol Hill Conference. The conference addressed policy challenges in the Middle East awaiting the winner of the November election. The event speakers and a summary of their comments are below; for members of the press seeking a full transcript from the event, please e-mail mepc.press@gmail.com. Visit our website for full video from the event.

Thomas Mattair, Executive Director of the Middle East Policy Council, moderated the event. Four distinguished panelists joined him: Scott McConnell (Founding Editor, The American Conservative), Jocelyne Cesari (Co-director, SAIS Global Politics & Religion Initiative), Nathaniel Kern (President, Foreign Reports) and Paul Pillar (Former National Intelligence Officer, National Intelligence Council).

While addressing different topics, each speaker stressed the role of domestic politics — both here in the United States and the Middle East — to influence policymaking on a variety of fronts. Amidst the hyper-partisan climate in the United States at the moment, our speakers were in general agreement about the challenges the two U.S. candidates would ultimately face.

Scott McConnell observed that the powerful Israel lobby is exhibiting “cracks” and that the Democratic Party and mainline churches are tempering their support for Israel. He thinks that a two-state solution will no longer be feasible and the new administration will be challenged to maintain a “special relationship” with Israel while Palestinian interests are not met.

Jocelyne Cesari explained the nuanced political realms in nations transformed by the Arab Awakening and encouraged the next U.S. administration to appreciate the role of Islam in these emerging governments, discard the assumption that democracy is synonymous with secularism, and communicate with domestic societies to change their image of the United States.

Nathaniel Kern described the progress made in the U.S.–Saudi strategic dialogue since 2005 on issues including counter-terrorism, Saudi student visas and oil production but cautioned that the continued stability of U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia could be complicated by a lack of progress on issues like the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and on Iran and Syria.

Paul Pillar conceded there is little the United States can do to shape events in Syria, while advocating a more flexible negotiating posture with Iran that will offer sanctions relief for Iranian cooperation. He thinks that President Obama will be more inclined to seek a diplomatic resolution to the crisis than Governor Romney.

An edited video by speaker, including a full transcript from the event will be posted in a few days at www.mepc.org and then published in the next issue of the journal Middle East Policy.

Contacts:
For interviews or other content associated with this event, please contact Rebecca Leslie– (202) 296 6767 – Rleslie@mepc.org