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 Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs