Two weeks after President Obama's re-election, the Middle East is on fire andand Israel have agreed to a fragile truce. The Iraq war has come to an end and Afghanistan is winding down, as NATO prepares to withdraw its troops by 2014. This week, another four US soldiers lost their lives in Afghanistan.
The focus of the past week has been on the Middle East, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian issse. After months of Hamas rocket fire into southern Israel, the Jewish state retaliated with air strikes and artillery fire into the Gaza strip. The lopsided war saw more than 160 Palestinians and five Israelis killed.
Egypt's new direction
Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi has been praised by the US for brokering the cease-fire, although Secretary of Statetraveled into the region for visits with , the PA Authority in the West Bank and Morsi. The US still has influence in the region, due to the aid provided to Israel, Palestine and Egypt.
The politics of the Middle East are complicated, and it would appear that the praise given to Morsi may have emboldened him to give himself unprecedented powers. His powers are a decree to rule without appeal to a judiciary.
In a declaration, he calls for retrial of those involved in last year's Tahrir Square killings or injuries to the protestors. The law also calls for retrial of those that held executive positions in the Mubarak government, which presumable includes Mubarak himself. Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison, but many Egyptians believe that he should have been charged with additional crimes and probably be given a more severe sentence.
The declaration gives immunity to Egypt's controversy-prone constituent assembly, tasked with drafting a new constitution, from a potential court verdict that may have otherwise lead to its dissolution. The declaration includes an article to protect the Shura Assembly as well.
The prosecutor general has been sacked and replaced by a Morsi appointment, whose term is four years, as opposed to the previous 10-year appointment.
The US State Department, in a statement, voiced concern over the new declaration, quoting the normal hopes for democracy evolving from the Arab Spring. It was a soft response and may have been a price the US paid for the cease-fire.
US domestic and foreign policy
The events in the Middle East have overshadowed Obama's historic visit to Mayanmar, which was part of a visit to Thailand, Cambodia and the Asian summit. Obama is the first sitting US president to visit Mayanmar, also known as Burma. He began the visit by meeting Presidentat his official residence in Yangon, followed by a private meeting with at her residence.
Clinton, who accompanied the president in Mayanmar, had her trip cut short to travel to Israel, Ramallah and Cairo for direct talks with leaders.
The US is in difficult negotiations to resolve the "fiscal cliff," but the Middle East deflected the president's attention. There can be no question that the State Department has to have a long and hard look at US foreign policy and how it affects the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan. This past week's events should have made it clear that the status quo in the Israel/Palestine conflict is no longer acceptable. A durable, two-state, solution is required. It will be the administration's challenge to bring the two sides to the table.
Obama's first term is winding down with a few challenges, including the Middle East, the fiscal cliff and the scandals involving two senior generals and their involvement with two women. The latter has raised questions of the integrity of US military brass and its effect on national security as a whole.
The verdict on the Afghanistan policy, including the withdrawal is still out. Unfortunately, as the war winds down, there are still US and NATO soldiers killed weekly. As Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving weekend, there are still troops holding the line in Afghanistan and their families the home front. Lest We Forget.
Below are this week’s updated DoD casualty figures:
Op Enduring Freedom Total Deaths KIA Non Hostile WIA
DoD Civ Casualties--------------3-------- ----1--------2
Worldwide Total-------------2151-------- 1704------443----17992
Accumulated 2012 Casualties:
KIA Non Combat Deaths WIA