News / Middle East

Iraq Drawdown, New Israel-Palestinian Talks Mark Obama's Big Mideast Week

Medevac units play a crucial role in Afghanistan, providing emergency care and transportation to injured soldiers, and to Afghan civilians
Medevac units play a crucial role in Afghanistan, providing emergency care and transportation to injured soldiers, and to Afghan civilians

Multimedia

Kent Klein

President Barack Obama returns from vacation Monday to undertake an eventful week for U.S. policy in the Middle East.  The president will mark the end of the formal U.S. combat role in Iraq, and the start of a new round of Middle East peace talks.

The U.S. combat mission in Iraq officially ends Tuesday.

President Obama recently told a U.S. war veterans group this meets a goal he set shortly after taking office. "And that is exactly what we are doing, as promised and on schedule," he said.

Watch Kent Klein's Report:

Fewer than 50,000 U.S. troops are still in Iraq, down from a high of 167,000 three years ago.  

Those who stay will have a new mission, as of Wednesday: supporting and training Iraqi forces, working with Iraqis in counterterrorism missions, and protecting civilian and military efforts.  All American forces are to exit Iraq by the end of 2011.

President Obama will outline the mission change in a speech to the American people Tuesday.  He will preview the new U.S. mission in Iraq and discuss its relation to the war in Afghanistan.

Iraqis are especially interested in learning more about the new mission, according to Manal Omar, director of Iraq Programs at the United States Institute of Peace. "One of the most important things from President Obama's speech is to talk about what the new relationship will look like.  That's the biggest question on Iraqis' minds: What will this new relationship be," he said.

While Iraq is far less violent than in the early years of the war, a recent increase in attacks has raised concerns about Iraqi security forces' ability to fight insurgents.

Manal Omar says it was Iraqi forces who engineered recent successful raids on insurgent leaders' homes.  She says the problem is the Iraqi military is still hampered by the continued absence of a new government, almost six months after elections. "The home raids that go on, in terms of security procedures, have all been led by Iraqi security forces, so they have already demonstrated that they can do it, but it is almost impossible to do it if you do not have a government in place," he said.

As the mission change takes place Wednesday, several Middle Eastern leaders will be in Washington for the start of a new round of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

After several months of negotiating through U.S. envoy George Mitchell, the Israelis and Palestinians have given themselves one year to resolve all "final status" issues.  Mitchell expects a serious effort. "I believe that the two leaders themselves, President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, are sincere and serious and believe that it can be done, and we will do everything humanly possible to help them see that it is done," he said.

President Obama will meet separately Wednesday with Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas, and with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan.  He will also host the four leaders at a dinner Wednesday night.

On Thursday, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department.

David Makovsky, from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is optimistic that progress can be made on borders and West Bank security.  "Each side basically knows what the other side wants, and the differences are narrower, I think, than people think on those big issues," he said.

Makovsky, however, does not believe either side has prepared its public for compromise on refugee issues or the status of Jerusalem.

Mr. Abbas recently warned that his faction would withdraw from talks if Israel does not extend a freeze on its construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.  The moratorium expires September 26.  Mr. Netanyahu, whose governing coalition is divided on the issue, has not announced a decision.  

Still, both sides are proceeding with plans to attend the talks here in Washington.  And David Makovsky says that is a positive development.  "You cannot make peace if the two parties are not sitting together.  We now have this for the first time in the Obama administration," he said.

The meetings will be the first direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians in 20 months.

You May Like

Photogallery Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had earlier warned storm could be one of worst the city has ever faced More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid