On the eve of Barack Obama’s trip to Israel, The New York Times reports that an Obama presidency would be seen across the Arab world as little different than a McCain presidency, or even a Bush or Clinton presidency, for that matter.
For what feels like forever, Israelis and their Arab neighbors have been hopelessly deadlocked on how to resolve the Palestinian crisis. But there is one point they may now agree on: If elected president, Senator Barack Obama will not fundamentally recalibrate America’s relationship with Israel, or the Arab world.
From the religious center of Jerusalem to the rolling hills of Amman to the crowded streets of Cairo, dozens of interviews revealed a similar sentiment: the United States will ultimately support Israel over the Palestinians, no matter who the president is. That presumption promoted a degree of relief in Israel and resignation here in Jordan and in Israel’s other Arab neighbors.
It’s exactly the opposite conclusion The New Republic drew when it visited the Arab world earlier this month to ask about an Obama presidency.
Obama was slated to fly to Israel after his visit to Baghdad – with a stop in Amman along the way (it’s tough to get a direct flight from Baghdad to Tel Aviv). In Iraq, the presumptive Democratic nominee got a boost from Iraq’s prime minister when Nuri al-Maliki endorsed Obama’s timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2010.
The man behind Maliki’s endorsement of Obama’s plan? According to The New York Sun, it’s no other than Ahmed Chalabi, the one-time head of the Iraqi National Congress, the Iraqi opposition group in exile dedicated to the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime. It’s a strange thing, since Chalabi has been a reviled figure among liberals for, they say, snookering the United States into war with Iraq. Here’s the Sun’s take on Maliki’s endorsement of the Obama plan:
It was a move aimed at ingratiating the Shiite ruling majority in Baghdad with the man they expect to win the November presidential election, American and Iraqi officials said. If it works, it could be a stroke of brilliance, putting Mr. Obama in debt to the Iraqi leader for saving what could have been a disastrous trip to Iraq and defusing what could have been a troubling campaign issue. It could also backfire if a President McCain gets the idea that the Iraqi government is betraying the American politician who, after President Bush, has risked the most on a successful Iraq.
The matter was taken up at a meeting of Iraq’s National Security Council on Thursday on the recommendation of Mr. Maliki, who had been advised by the Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi to express public support for the Obama withdrawal plan. Asked for a comment yesterday, Mr. Chalabi, an old hand at working the American political process to the advantage of Iraq, conveyed a statement via his Washington representative, Francis Brooke: “This is an honor I will not claim and a rumor I will not deny.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Show suggests that the real danger for Baruch Obama is not in the Mideast, but in South Florida: