UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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AIC COUNTRY PROFILE: UNITED STATES

BACKGROUND conventional long form: United States of America, conventional short form: United States, abbreviation: US or USA
Britain's American colonies broke with the mother country in 1776 and were recognized as the new nation of the United States of America following the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Between the late-18th and early-20th centuries, 37 new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. The two most traumatic experiences in the nation's history were the Civil War (1861-65) and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Buoyed by victories in World Wars I and II and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the US remains the world's most powerful nation state. The economy is marked by steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, and rapid advances in technology.

Historical Relations to the Middle East



American Missionaries (AUB)
The first American presence in the Middle East largely consisted of American missionaries. Their conversion rates were mediocre at best but the missionaries left a huge mark on the Middle East: American Schools. The best known of these schools is the American University of Beirut, founded as the Syrian Protestant College in 1866 by missionaries. Today, it remains a premier university in the Middle East.

Lack of American colonial rule
While Britain and France were busy carving up the Middle East into their colonies, America was noticeably (at least with hindsight) absent. Its absence as well as its obsession with self-determination made America popular in the Middle East. The Arab Street saw America as a potential friend against its European Occupiers.

Truman Doctrine
In 1947, the British stated that they were unable to continue financially supporting Greece and Turkey; at this time, the US had been monitoring these two countries for their weak governments and strong communist groups. Hence upon British withdrawal, the US, under President Truman, pledged financial and military support for these two countries, under the belief that if they fell to communism there would be a domino effect in the region. This signaled America's increasing involvement in world politics and The Middle East, as well as the coming Cold War.

Pan-Arabism (Nasser)/Suez Crisis
The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas, allowing sea trade between Europe and Asia without having to go around the horn of Africa. When in 1956 Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced that he was nationalizing the Suez Canal Company (partly, he said, to pay for the Aswan dam that the West refused to finance) in which Britain and France had controlling interests, 'Western' countries became alarmed. Eventually, the British and French went in to 'save' the canal, but they did this without informing the Americans. And President Dwight Eisenhower, concerned about wider relations with the Arab world and horrified at such an adventure anyway, was not amused. The fallout was huge. For a start, it got the Soviet Union off the hook, as it was brutally crushing the Hungarian uprising at the same time. But it also meant that no longer could Britain - or France - act alone on the world stage.
The Suez Crisis highlighted the Pan-Arab cause/policy championed by Abdel Nasser. Pan-Arabism believes in the unification of Arab countries, and is often defined to be in opposition to Western and Imperialist interests and presence in the Middle East. It is associated often with both socialism and secularism, but is neither fully democratic nor communist. Pan-Arabism spurred-on many independent nationalist movements, as well.

Iran and the Mossadeq Affair
In 1951, Mohammad Mosaddeq was the popular nationalist Prime Minister of Iran. As a nationalist he was opposed to the foreign (British) control of the Iranian oil industry, and began to nationalize it. In 1953 the US worked with Britain (specifically the CIA and MI6) to bring about Mossadeq's demise. They encouraged the Shah to dismiss Mossadeq while funding pro-Shah groups and protests. Eventually the pro-monarchy groups won out and the the Shah returned to power, while Mossadeq remained under house arrest until his death.

1967 War/Six Day War
The Six-Day War also known as the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Third Arab-Israeli War, Six Days' War, an‑Naksah (The Setback), or the June War, was fought between Israel and Arab neighbors Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The nations of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Algeria also contributed troops and arms to the Arab forces.

In May 1967, Egypt expelled the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) from the Sinai Peninsula, which had been stationed there since 1957 (following the 1956 Sinai invasion by Israel), to provide a peace-keeping buffer zone. Following Israeli threats against its Syrian ally Egypt amassed 1000 tanks and 100,000 soldiers on the border, closed the Straits of Tiran to all ships flying Israel flags or carrying strategic materials, and called for unified Arab action against Israel. On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive attack against Egypt's airforce fearing an imminent invasion by Egypt. Jordan, who had entered into a miltary pact with Egypt, then attacked western Jerusalem and Netanya. Over the course of six days the Israelis overwhelmed their opponents. At the war's end, Israel had gained control of eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan. The Israelis gained control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria. The results of the war affect the geopolitics of the region to this day.
Some Arabs believe that the United States and Britain provided more support for the Israelis than the American and British governments admit. Arab state-media first reported American and British combat support for Israel on the second day of the war, after Israel's overwhelming victory in the air. Radio Cairo and the government newspaper Al-Ahram made a number of claims, among them: that U.S. and British carrier-based aircraft flew sorties against the Egyptians; that U.S. aircraft based in Libya attacked Egypt; and that American spy satellites provided imagery to Israel. Similar reports were aired by Radio Damascus and Radio Amman. Egyptian media even claimed that King Hussein had personally seen radar observations showing British aircraft taking off from aircraft carriers.
Outside of the Arab world, reports of American and British military intervention were not taken seriously. Britain, the U.S. and Israel strenuously denied the allegations and the Soviet Union quickly informed Cairo that their intelligence indicated that the American military was not participating in the conflict. King Hussein later denied the allegations of American military support. On 30 June, he announced in New York that he was "perfectly satisfied" that "no American planes took part, or any British planes either". In September, The New York Times reported that Nasser had privately assured Arab leaders gathered in Sudan to discuss the Khartoum Resolution, that his earlier claims were false. Nonetheless, these allegations, that the Arabs were fighting the Americans and British rather than Israel alone, took hold in the Arab world.
In Six Days of War, historian Michael Oren argues that the Arab leadership spread false claims about American involvement in order to secure Soviet support for the Arab side. After the war, as the extent of the Israeli victory became apparent to the Arab public, these claims helped deflect blame for the defeat away from Nasser and other Arab leaders. In reaction to these claims, Arab oil-producing countries announced either an oil embargo on the United States and Britain or suspended oil exports altogether. Six Arab countries broke off diplomatic relations with the United States and Lebanon withdrew its Ambassador.

US /USSR Arming of the ME
During the cold war the US and USSR used the Middle East to further their spheres of influence and broaden the conflict. The strong US support of Israel countered Russian presence in the Middle East; however, US support in the Middle east was not just of Israel but also extended to other countries. In fact a key location was Afghanistan, where the US armed the Afghans against the Soviets. 1973 War-Yom Kippur War
This was was fought between a coalition of Arab states and Israel, beginning with a joint Egyptian-Syrian attack on Israel. The Israelis however were able to overcome the Arabs and even expand their borders. The US arming of Israel was apparent in this conflict.

Iranian Revolution and The Hostage Crisis
Much to the dismay of the US, in 1979 there was a revolution which overthrew the Shaw (whom the US had worked had to put in power, after Mossadeq). After the Revolution, the Islamisists, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, came to power. Shortly after the takeover, Iranian students occupied the American Embassy, taking 52 Americans hostage. It was after this crisis that America cut off diplomatic relations with the Iranians.

The Gulf States (Oil)
America is intimately connected economically with the Middle East, and in particular the Gulf States, through its high demand of oil. This connection has been there since the beginning of the twentieth century and drives many American foreign policy decisions in the region, especially as demand for oil continues to increase.

Camp David Accords
In 1978, Jimmy Carter invited President Anwar Al Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel to Camp David for negotiations. And after 12 days, in secret, the two signed the Camp David Accords.The Accords led directly to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.
Accompanied by their capable negotiating teams and with their respective interests in mind, both leaders converged on Camp David for thirteen days of tense and dramatic negotiations from September 5-17, 1978. By all accounts, Carter's relentless drive to achieve peace and his reluctance to allow the two men to leave without reaching an agreement are what played the decisive role in the success of the talks. Numerous times both the Egyptian and Israeli leaders wanted to scrap negotiations, only to be lured back into the process by personal appeals from Carter. Begin and Sadat had such mutual antipathy toward one another that they only seldom had direct contact; thus Carter had to conduct his own microcosmic form of shuttle diplomacy by holding one-on-one meetings with either Sadat or Begin in one cabin, then returning to the cabin of the third party to relay the substance of his discussions. A particularly difficult situation arose on day ten of the talks. The issues of Israeli settlement withdrawal from the Sinai and the status of the West Bank created what seemed to be an impasse. An important consequence of the Camp David Accords was on the psychology of the participants of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The success of Begin, Sadat, and Carter at Camp David demonstrated to other Arab states and entities that negotiations with Israel were possible — that progress results only from sustained efforts at communication and cooperation.

Gulf War I
In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, and in response a coalition of countries deployed their militaries to free Kuwait. This military intervention was sanctioned by the United Nations. The United States was the first country and led the military operation.

Oslo Accords/Madrid
The Oslo accords were the first time that the Israelis and Palestinians came face-to-face in order to negotiate. In this was also the first time the the Palestinians recognized Israel's right to exist. The Accords were signed in 1993 by Mahmoud Abbas for Palestine and Shimon Peres for Israel. The Madrid Peace Conference which had occurred two years earlier was a large impetus to the Oslo Accords. The US was directly involved in the Oslo accords and actually hosted its signing. In essence, the accords called for:

1. control of the Palestinian Authority.
2. Palestinian civil control and Israeli security control.
3.full Israeli control, except over Palestinian civilians. These areas were Israeli settlements and security zones without a significant Palestinian population.
4.Camp David II Summit 

At the Second Camp David summit in 2000 the US was again intimately involved in Israeli-Palestinian Peace negotiations, in fact President Bill Clinton was deeply committed to the process. He invited Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat to Camp David for talks. Unfortunately despite his Clinton's commitment and desire for an agreement the these talks ultimately broke-down.

Road-Map/Quartet
In Madrid in 2002 with the backdrop of heightening tensions between Israel and Palestine, a quartet on the Middle East including the United States, the EU, Russia and the United Nations. This have given the US new partnerships n the Middle East. The Road-Map for peace is a plan to use the quartet to resolve the Israel-Palestinian Conflict. There are three distinct phases to the Road Map, which is unique as it is a performance based plan. The US is a strong proponent of the Road Map.

Afghanistan
In response to 9/11 and as part of the “War on Terror”, the US invaded Afghanistan in October of 2001. The US sought to find Osama Bin Laden, remove the Taliban regime and fight Al-Qaeda. It has however been in Afghanistan for over 6 years now. Attempts to rebuild after the major bombing campaigns are slow, and in some areas the Taliban seems to be taking back over mainly due to economic failings.

Iraq War/Gulf War II
In March of 2003, the Americans led an invasion in to Iraq due to a conclusion (later disproven) that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The Americans were able to take-out the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fairly quickly, but the occupied country has degraded into civil war.

2006 Palestinian Elections (A Hamas Victory) & The 2007 Split
In January of 2006, elections were held for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Most, within Palestine and without, believed that Fatah would win the elections; however, Hamas won a majority. The US reacted by cutting-off all aid to the Palestinian territories, as it believes Hamas to be a terrorist organization. Eventually after failed reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas, who were unable to form a government, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip while Fatah remained in control of the West Bank. The US now gives aid the Fatah but not Hamas, and will only engage Fatah, as well.

2006 Lebanon War
This was a 34-day military conflict between Hezbollah (An Islamic fundamentalist group who wants to establish an Islamic government in Lebanon) and the Israeli military. Hezbollah initiated the conflict on July 12, 2006 by firing rockets at Israeli border towns. However, Hezbollah’s attack on the border towns was only a diversion. The real target was a humvee tank patrolling the Israeli side of the border. Hezbollah used an anti-tank missile (a guided missile used to destroy heavily armored tanks) to attack the humvee tank. Why attack a single Humvee tank? Possibly, Lebanese soldiers wanted to create solidarity. That is, they wanted to unite Lebanon against further casualties caused by Israel. The Lebanon war killed a thousand people, severely damaged Lebanese infrastructure and displaced 974,184 Lebanese people.

On August 11, 2006 the UN Security Council approved UN Resolution 1701. This resolution ordered the disarmament of Hezbollah and demanded that Israel withdraw from Lebanon. However, after August 11, the Lebanese government and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon stated that they refused to disarm Hezbollah. The outcome of UN Resolution 1701 is similar to the UN Resolution 1559, which was passed in 2004. Like Resolution 1701, Resolution 1559 was never fully implemented. The United States provided military and economic aid to Israel by selling precision guided bombs and "bunker buster" (a bomb designed to explode targets buried underground) bombs. Likewise, Lebanon also received aid from the United States. On July 29, 2006 The United States gave $10 million to the Lebanese Armed Forces because the United States does not support Hezbollah in the Lebanese war. This financial aid package was extended to $230 million by President George W. Bush on August 21, 2006. This aid was designed to complete the work of UN Resolution 1559.

Separation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Fatah
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was created in 1964; Yassar Arafat led it until his death in 2004. The purpose for creating the PLO was to give a voice to Palestinians living in refugee camps. Fatah is the largest faction of the PLO and a Palestinian political party. It is not a terrorist organization, Fatah is supported by the US and the European Union. On January 2006, there was a parliamentary election, Fatah lost its majority in parliament to Hamas (considered by Israel and the US, amongst others, to be a terrorist organization). Hamas won 76 out of 132 seats in the legislation. Fatah only secured 43 seats in parliament. For the last four decades Fatah had controlled Palestinian politics. As a direct result of the 2006 parliamentary election, Fatah has become the main opposition party to Fatah. Hamas, an organization that has used suicide bombings and other militant tactics, seeks (according to its charter) to destroy Israel. In 2004, the United States called the PLO a terrorist organization under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987. The United States supports Fatah; the United States provides monetary support because the country does not consider Fatah to be a terrorist organization.


THE UNITED STATES AND OTHER COUNTRIES

BRITAIN: For almost a century, these two nations have been each other’s closest military allies, as well as key political and economic partners. Ever since the Suez Crisis, Britain has emerged as the strongest supporter of the American-led western military order, even in the face of opposition from fellow EU countries, such as when Britain joined in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. This war placed a heavy strain on the “special relationship” these two countries are normally said to enjoy, but on virtually all issues of importance, these two nations see eye to eye.

FRANCE: The Iraq war poisoned relations between these two countries, despite what had previously been more than two centuries of close cooperation on many social and military issues. Despite the vicious public debates and outright racism which has emerged between these two countries, their economic and social links are simply too strong to sever overnight; it is a given that French and US policy will never see exactly eye to eye, but on the vast majority of world issues these two countries pursue very similar agendas: most recently, they have cooperated at the UN to secure the independence of Lebanon from Syrian influence and to forestall Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weaponry.

EGYPT: U.S.-Egyptian relations are aimed at maintaining regional stability, improving bilateral relations, continuing military cooperation, and sustaining the March 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Experience gained from Egyptian-U.S. joint military exercises proved valuable in easing coordination during the February 1991 Desert Storm operation to reverse Iraqi aggression against Kuwait. Egypt is seen by U.S. policy makers as a leader and moderating influence among many Arab, African, Islamic, and Third World states. Among the current issues in U.S.-Egyptian relations are a shared concern about international terrorism. Egypt can claim some experience with the subject, having defeated domestic Islamic terrorists intent on overthrowing the Egyptian government. The two countries disagree over the speed and depth, but not the need for some of Egypt’s economic reforms. Egypt and the United States agree on the importance of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the need to continue current Arab-Israeli peace talks, and the need for regional stability. The two nations agree on Egypt’s need to introduce democratic reforms in Egypt, although critics argue that Egypt is not moving quickly enough towards full democracy or in improving the human rights situation. Tensions increased around these very issues in the wake of the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, the ensuing election of Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Morsi in 2013, and Morsi himself being deposed by the military after less than a year as President. The United States values regional stability, but there's been unease in Washington about supporting an overtly authoritarian regime.

IRAQ: The United States has been involved in two major conflicts with Iraq, the 1991 Gulf War and the Iraq War which began in 2003. In the 1980s though, the United States actually supported Iraq in its conflict with Iran. The Iran-Iraq War lasted from 1980-1988. Initially, Iraq advanced far into Iranian territory, but was driven back within months. By mid-1982, Iraq was on the defensive against Iranian human-wave attacks. The U.S., having decided that an Iranian victory would not serve its interests and fearing that revolutionary Iran would defeat Iraq and export its Islamic Revolution to other Middle Eastern nations began supporting Iraq: measures already underway to upgrade U.S.-Iraq relations were accelerated, high-level officials exchanged visits, and in February 1982 a war developed out of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. The aggression was met with immediate economic sanctions by the UN against Iraq. The international armed intervention began in January 1991 and resulted in a decisive victory for the coalition forces, which drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait with minimal coalition deaths. Aerial and ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and bordering areas of Saudi Arabia. Iraq also launched missiles against targets in Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq by United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Poland and Denmark (other countries were also involved in its aftermath) began on March 20, 2003, based on U.S. military intelligence of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s alleged support for the Al Qaeda terrorist organization and Iraqi's alleged production of weapons of mass destruction; the latter were never found. The invasion launched the Iraq War, which ran for eight years and resulted in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but little stability in Iraq. In its wake, the US has sought to support and strengthen the majority Shi'a government in Iraq in its battles against ISIS forces while keeping Iraq from falling too deeply into Iran's sway.


IRAN: Up until World War II, relations between Iran and the United States remained cordial. By the 1950s, though, many Iranians felt like a European colony, under the control of the British who, along with the US, controlled Iran's oil industry. This incensed the Iranian government to the point where Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh led a movement to fully nationalize its petroleum industry. By 1953 Mossadegh had accomplished this feat. The British were angry, turning to the US for support in this matter and, together, they issued an oil embargo on Iran. Iran's economy began to fail. Protests began in the streets of Iran and the US feared that this would allow the Soviets to annex Iran. The Eisenhower Adminsitration would not let this happen. The CIA and the British M16 launched a successful coup against the Mossadegh government, which culminated in the former’s consignment to house arrest and the return to power of Muhammad Reza Pahlavi as the Shah of Iran, now sure of his support from the West and fanatically afraid of communist aggression; in short, the perfect Cold War ally for the US during the age of the Red Scare.

In 1979, Iranians revolted and the Shah was ousted for a second time. Ayatollah Khomeini became Iran's new leader and soon began issuing vicious rhetoric against the United States, describing the country as the "Great Satan" and a "nation of infidels." On November 4, 1979, Muslim Student Followers of the Ayatollah's line occupied the American embassy in Tehran, with the support of Ayatollah Khomeini, because some of the American spying was done at that embassy. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days.

Immediately after the taking of the embassy, the entire staff of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan's interim government resigned in protest. During the few months that Bazargan's government had been in power, he had increasingly become distressed at the constant interference of Islamist and Communist militias in his liberal, secular and pro-free market government. In reality, Bazargan's government had very little power. [9] [10]

On April 7, 1980, the United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran, and on April 24, 1981, the Swiss Government assumed representation of U.S. interests in Tehran via an interests section. Iranian interests in the United States are represented by the Iranian Interests Section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC.

In accordance with the Algiers Accords of January 19, 1981, the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal (located in The Hague, Netherlands) was established for the purpose of handling claims of U.S. nationals against Iran and of Iranian nationals against the United States. U.S. contact with Iran through The Hague covers only legal matters. On January 20, 1981, the date the treaty was signed, the hostages were released.

Relations between Iran and the United States remain strained to this day. On January 29, 2002 U.S. President George Bush gave his "Axis of evil" speech, describing Iran, along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, as an axis of evil and warning that the proliferation of long-range missiles developed by these countries was of great danger to the US and that it constituted terrorism. The speech caused outrage in Iran and was condemned by reformists and conservatives alike.

Surely the biggest recent event in Iranian-American relations was the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOC), known in the West as the Iran Nuclear Deal, in 2015. Iran agreed to give up all means to developing a nuclear weapon for ten years, in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions that had been imposed by several major western nations – a huge boon to the Iranian economy. IWhile the accord was viewed positively in Iran, in the West the deal soon became swept up into partisan politics. While the bulk of international experts looked favorably on the final terms, Netanyahu and the Israeli right were harshly critical, while in the US Donald Trump sought to portray the deal as a disastrous misstep, and referred to it often in his successful campaign for president in 2016.

ISRAEL: Israel-United States relations have evolved from an initial United States policy of sympathy and support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in 1947 to an unusual partnership that links a small but militarily powerful Israel with the United States, with the U.S. superpower trying to balance competing interests in the Middle East.

On May 14, 1948, the United States, under President Truman, became the first country to extend de facto recognition to the State of Israel. Past American presidents, encouraged by active support from civic groups, labor unions, political parties, and members of the American and world Jewish communities, supported the concept, articulated in Britain's 1917 Balfour Declaration, of a Jewish homeland. During the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, U.S. policy would shift to a whole-hearted, but not unquestioning, support for Israel.

The Jimmy Carter years were characterized by very active U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process, and, as a consequence, led to some friction in U.S.-Israeli bilateral relations. The Carter-initiated Camp David process was viewed by some in Israel as creating U.S. pressures on Israel to withdraw from captured territories and to take risks for the sake of peace with Egypt. President Carter's support for a Palestinian "homeland" and for Palestinian political rights created additional tensions with Israel.

U.S.-Israeli ties strengthened during the second Reagan term. Israel was granted "major non-NATO ally" status in 1987 that gave it access to expanded weapons systems and opportunities to bid on U.S. defense contracts. The second Reagan term ended on what many Israelis considered to be a sour note when the United States opened a dialog with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in December 1988. But, despite the US-PLO dialogue, pro-Israeli organizations in the United States characterized the Reagan Administration (and the 100th Congress) as the "most pro-Israel ever" and praised the positive overall tone of bilateral relations.

In 1993 President Clinton was instrumental in brining the Israelis and the PLO together to sign the Oslo Accords.

Over time the US has offered military and economic aid to Israel. For many years, Israel has been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, and Israeli support in Congress is broad and deep. Though some wonder if the American support for Israel (and Israel's support of the United States) operates at the expense of improving Arab relations in the Middle East, there seems little chance of any change in America's extensive support of Israel, which is to reach a total of $38 billion dollars between 2016 and 2026.


PALESTINE: Both the United States and Israel viewed the leadership of Yasser Arafat as an obstacle to progress. His death in 2004 and the election of Mahmoud Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority led to a flurry of new negotiations with the Israelis. After Abbas' election the United States pledged increased aid to the Palestinians. In January 2006, the militant Islamist party Hamas won a slight majority of votes in the democratic legislative elections and assumed control of the Palestinian Authority (though Abbas, from Fatah, is still President). Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, has both a political and military wing. Unable to form a unified government, Fatah and Hamas split, with Hamas ruling the Gaza Strip and Fatah ruling the West Bank. The US will gives money to and deals only with the Palestinian Authority, controlled by Fatah. There has been little evidence in recent years that the United States is willing to significantly pressure the Israelis to stop building new settlements, and until this happens there is no hope for meaningful peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.


SAUDI ARABIA: The Saudis are reported to own holdings in more than 11% of the 10 trillion dollar American economy, and the Americans are acknowledged by all as the undisputed protectors of the Saudi regime, most recently via two massive army bases in the northern Arabian desert, built after Desert Storm in 1991. As a result of this conflict, and the strong support President George H.W. Bush showed to the Saudi regime, the Saudis developed a very strong relationship with the Bush family. Many members of the Bush administration had strong ties to the oil industry, and peripherally, to many members of the Saudi royal family. As a result, the Saudis had a great degree of access to the American government, and likewise the American government has a great degree of influence over Saudi governmental policies. This close relationship was sorely tried by the Iraq war, which many Saudis saw resulting in a bloody Sunni-Shiite civil war culminating in an Iranian-Saudi regional war. From the perspective of Americans, the Saudis are just as aggravating: after 9/11 Americans have become hypersensitive to Islamic extremism, which Americans increasingly associate with the Saudi regime. The Saudis have promised to keep their extremists in line, and the Americans have promised to stabilize Iraq and contain Iran, but for both parties it is becoming increasingly obvious that this strategic relationship produces as many constraints as it does benefits.

SYRIA: Syria has been at the forefront of a number of important U.S. policy issues in the Middle East, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, and the war on terror. Since the toppling of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime in April 2003, U.S.-Syrian relations took on a new dimension. The United States has taken a keen interest in the Syrian regime’s behavior, in particular demanding Syrian cooperation in monitoring the Iraqi-Syrian border in order to curb the infiltration of foreign fighters into Iraq. In addition, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and again prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the United States spoke out against what it considers to be authoritarian regimes like Syria and promoted reform in the “broader Middle East.”

With the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, relations between the United States and the Syrian government went from terrible to disastrous. The United States called for the removal of President Assad and provided some support to Opposition Forces, but was reluctant to provide much military support for fear that weapons it provided would fall into the hands of Islamic extremists like al-Qaeda, and the even more fearsome force known as ISIS, a self-described Islamic Caliphate which seized land and oil fields in Syria and Iraq. This prompted the United States to commit air forces to the anti-ISIS project, but the Americans were still constrained by their fears of getting enmeshed in "another Iraq," as well as its efforts to navigate around putative allies like Turkey, and most notably around Russia. Russia seemed to feel none of the compunctions felt by the US, and began airstrikes in support of the Assad government starting in 2015. Russia's efforts significantly strengthened the Syrian government, and provided Russia with a great deal of influence. So much so, for example, that the Russians were able to placate the Americans in the wake of Syrian use of chemical weapons in 2013, serving as an intermediary that forced Syria to destroy its chemical weapons stocks, holding off direct American involvement in the battle again Assad's forces. In 2017, President Trump ordered an air strike on a Syrian base from which chemical weapons were deployed, but many wondered if the Trump Administration would be willing to tangle directly with the Russians.

Current Affairs and U.S. Policy Goals

The dreaded term, election cycle, should be at the forefront of the U.S. team's thought. The demographics of the U.S. are very interesting. The nation is a true mixing pot of different nationalities. However, as anyone who has ever cooked knows, sometimes things tend to clump up. This is particularly true with immigrants. New arrivals to this country tend to reside where previous residents of the same group lived. This should be no surprise; if you were a new arrival to a country you would want to live in an area where people understood your culture and the things you have gone through. This grouping of different cultural groups has had a very interesting impact on U.S. politics.

Another key concept is the idea of a "swing state." A swing state, much as its name implies, is a state that can go either way in an election, potentially moving from “red” to “blue” or vice versa. These are also referred to as "battleground states," because of the brutal campaigning that occurs there. These states are the places where presidents win and lose elections. Many states consistently vote either Democrat or Republican and do not vary much from their traditional voting pattern. However, swing states are seen as a place where a candidate can place campaign dollars and stand a strong chance of winning. Texas, for example, is not a swing state; while it was once a Democratic-leaning state it has long been Republican held. It is hard to think that were Obama to campaign hard in Texas he would ever turn it to the Democrats. For that matter, should a Republican candidate campaign in Massachusetts he would most likely be unsuccessful in winning that state. States like Massachusetts and Texas are seen as wastes of money. Rather than put your money on a long shot, candidates focus on swing states like Florida, states where their money has a chance of convincing a decisive number of voters to swing their way.

A large group of Jewish immigrants has settled in the swing state of Florida. Florida is a particularly important state because of the narrow margin by which it is won or lost each election cycle. While Jews make up only 2.9% of U.S. citizenry, almost 3.4% of them live in Florida. This means that the "Jewish Vote" or "Israel Lobby" is incredibly important for candidates seeking to win re-election. To put it in perspective, the 2000 election of George W. Bush was decided by Florida. Not only that, but it was decided by a margin that was only .0009%, a mere 534 votes! It suddenly becomes clear why fighting for the votes of the 650,000 Jews in Florida makes sense. This means campaigning on issues which are near and dear to their hearts. The most obvious of these issues, of course, is Israel. It should be stated here that the Jewish community is a heterogeneous one. There are many different beliefs, held by many different groups within it. The nature of Jewish politics makes wooing all of the different groups nearly impossible. Thus, like with swing states, the U.S. is placing its money where it can get the most bang, the majority party.

The opinions of the majority are announced through the incredibly powerful lobbying group, AIPAC(American Israeli Public Affairs Committee). The goal of AIPAC is to ensure continued U.S. aid and U.S. political support for Israel. In recent months, this has meant protecting Israeli interests on numerous fronts. The U.S. is seen as a guardian of Israel because of its powerful position within the U.N. Its veto power allows it to protect Israel from too much U.N. pressure, and ensures that AIPAC has a vested interest in influencing U.S. policy. With the 2012 elections looming, President Obama has an interest in maintaining Israeli support which gives him a better chance of winning Florida. There are several key points that rise to the level of current issues that he must address. First is the Issue of Palestinian statehood. Within the next several weeks, the General Assembly of the U.N. will undertake the task of deciding whether or not to recognize the Palestinian Authority as a state. This would place Israel in an awkward position. It would now have troops on the internationally recognized grounds of another sovereign entity. Thus, Israel has a vested interest in seeing this vote fail. There are several ways for this to happen. From the U.S.'s perspective, the most desirable is a return to U.S. mediated peace talks before the vote is cast. This places the U.S. into the desirable position of peace maker and guardian of Israel. It appeases both the ardent pro-Israel groups, by defusing a potentially devastating diplomatic crisis, and the pro-peace groups, by returning to direct negotiations. This would necessitate a postponement of the vote on Palestinian statehood until the peace talks succeeded or failed. This is the desired path. It would allow Israel to enter into peace talks with Palestine still considered a territory. Israel has already signaled its willingness to resume talks; however, the Palestinians still demand a full halt to settlement construction before any such resumption. It is unsure whether or not there will be another round of negotiations before the vote. A smart man would not place a bet either way. The second option for scrubbing Palestine's statehood bid is for the U.S. to veto it.

The General Assembly looks very kindly on Palestine's bid for statehood. It is assumed that it will pass with a large margin. After passing the GA, it would go to the Security Council for confirmation. It is here that the U.S. can veto the measure and protect Israel. The U.S.'s justification for this is that a unilateral action by the Palestinians damages the peace process. Of course, this nicely forgets that Israel unilaterally declared its independence. However, this is how history works. If it comes to this, then the U.S. will be seen as forcing its will on the international community. It will be saying, quite loudly, NO, I know what is right. This would not be good for America’s image, especially when it has a reputation for dictating the course of world events.

Israel and the U.S have other interests in seeking negotiations with the Palestinians. The composition of the Middle East has changed more in the span of one year than it had in the last forty. Israel and Turkey have had a falling out over an Israeli raid on a Gaza bound Turkish aid flotilla. This has resulted in the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Turkey, and the cancellation of all military aid agreements between the two countries. In addition to this, in response to the shooting of several Israeli police officers by Israeli Defense Forces, the Israeli embassy in Egypt was stormed by an angry mob. With the disappearance of dictatorial regimes, the citizens of neighboring countries are able to voice their opinions loudly. In the past, U.S. aid was contingent upon support for Israel, leading the regimes to silence these voices; this is no longer the case. A democratic society does not operate through coercion. Rather, the politicians of Egypt and many other nations are learning that they are now answerable to the desires of the people. This means that these countries are much less receptive to the U.S. dictating their relationship with Israel.

With an impending vote and the change in the Arab landscape, we can understand why it is so important for the U.S. to get everyone back to the table quickly. This is the U.S.'s number one goal. They must make it apparent to the Palestinians that it is in their best interest to negotiate with Israel first and declare independence second. There have been several attempts at this already; the U.S. has stated that it will suspend all aid to Palestine if it declares its statehood. It has also stated that it will veto any resolution to recognize Palestine. However, these have not seemed successful. The U.S. needs to convince other nations to help sway Palestine. For example, weeks after the U.S. announced that it would stop aid should Palestine declare statehood the EU announced an expanded trade deal with Palestine. This did not remove the significance of the U.S's statement; however, it did diminish its bite. It also showed that Palestine would not be ostracized for its actions. Had the EU been on board with the U.S threat, then Palestine might have already returned to the table. Getting Palestine to the table is the U.S's number one goal. This may even require some behind the scenes cajoling of the Israelis. While Netanyahu has alluded to his willingness to make "painful compromises," the U.S. has seen this Israeli “dog and pony show” before. Israel will generally play up the pain of the compromises, while presenting something the Palestinians will reject. This makes the Palestinians look unreasonable and protects Israel from criticism. The U.S. should be pushing Israel to make it clear that it is serious about negotiations and that the stakes in this current round of negotiations would be very high.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-Day_War

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/index.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_war

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2003_Iraq_War

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States-Iran_relations

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/IB93087.pdf

http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/42483.pdf

McCullough, D. Truman (1992). New York: Simon & Schuster

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5199392.stm

http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_1991to_now_oslo_accords.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oslo_Accords

www.choices.edu, Shifting Sands

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