- Just when Obama could use a easily manipulated Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu takes control.
- In Iran, Ahmadinejad is expected to only grow stronger as is the anti-American rhetoric.
- Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority (and peace partner with Israel)--technically no longer is since January.
- Hamas shows no indication towards moderation.
If Mubarak is healthy — and his current absence is merely the consequence of understandable grieving — Obama will probably partner with the regime (human rights be damned) in pushing some variant of the Saudi peace plan as his major Middle Eastern foreign policy project (stopping Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities be damned).Well, Obama did say he wanted to take an active role in the Middle East.
But if Obama finds an unhealthy Mubarak, all bets are off. The administration will have to confront the real possibility of imminent instability within the most populous Arab state — particularly the likelihood of a power struggle among factions within the regime and security forces. It will have to find the right balance between pleasing these regime-based factions and promoting liberal reforms; between promoting liberal reforms and constraining Islamists; and between short-term stability and a long-term push for democratization. Make no mistake: pushing for a smooth, post-Mubarak transition in Egypt could easily become the Obama administration’s top challenge in the Middle East.
For the moment, of course, this is all speculation. This is why Obama’s meeting with Mubarak — and the insight that this encounter will give the administration regarding Mubarak’s physical health — is so crucial. [emphasis added]