Jordan’s King Abdullah visits Washington Tuesday to update President Barack Obama on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which may be showing signs of life.
King Abdullah’s latest Oval Office visit comes at a time of numerous crises in the Middle East.
Iran has stepped up efforts to produce enriched uranium, which Israel and the U.S. suspect is part of an effort to build nuclear weapons. An Iranian nuclear scientist was killed in a car bombing a week ago. Iran and the U.S. have warned each other about ships in the Persian Gulf, and Iran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
At the same time, Syria’s government continues a violent campaign against anti-government protesters.
Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the chairman of Islamic Studies at Washington’s American University, says President Obama and King Abdullah have a lot to talk about. “It is a very important time in the Middle East, even more so than normally. You have several crises brewing, so the Middle East really is a cauldron right now," he said.
King Abdullah sees the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as the region’s most urgent issue, says Ahmed, who recently talked with Jordan’s monarch. “And he is going to come, almost like a man with a mission, to attract America’s attention to the Middle East. He is going to find it very difficult, because America’s attention, right now, is focused on the presidential elections," he said.
Jordan has been mediating talks to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, with support from the international Middle East Quartet, the United Nations, the U.S., the E.U. and Russia.
White House spokesman Jay Carney welcomed the talks. “And we applaud the efforts of King Abdullah of Jordan and his foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, to bring the parties together. We are hopeful that this direct exchange can help move us forward on the pathway proposed by the Quartet," he said.
But Carney has not said the Obama administration would offer any new ideas on how to get the Mideast talks moving again.
The U.S. and Jordanian leaders will likely address other Middle East crises, including rising tensions between Iran and Israel and Western nations. Ambassador Ahmed expects that King Abdullah will try to dissuade Mr. Obama and America’s Israeli allies from solving their Iran problem by force. “And, I suspect, discourage any kind of military adventurism in Iran. Although other Arab neighbors may want the West or want America or the Israelis to go in for that kind of an adventure, but certainly not the King of Jordan, knowing his temperament," he said.
The president and the king are both said to be outraged by the violent response of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to protesters. Ahmed believes the two leaders are likely to discuss steps against the government in Damascus, possibly including economic or diplomatic sanctions, and potential aid to those opposing Assad.