Why the Next U.S. President Will Be a Wartime Leader

[Washington Institute for Near East Policy] Michael Eisenstadt - The next U.S. president will face unprecedented challenges and dangers in the Middle East, with few good options and precious little time to waste. At the current reported rate of enrichment, Iran might have enough low enriched uranium by late 2009 necessary for its first bomb. Iran's progress toward acquiring nuclear weapon capabilities is already transforming the regional security environment in ways inimical to U.S. interests. The U.S. should avoid public advances toward Iran prior to the country's June 2009 presidential elections because Iranian President Ahmadinejad might claim credit for any diplomatic progress, thus increasing his electoral prospects. The U.S. should also roll out plans for a regional security framework to contain and deter a nuclear Iran, which will make the point that acquiring nuclear weapons will harm, rather than help, Iran's security. The new administration must be prepared to support PA and Israeli efforts to quash Hamas-inspired violence in the West Bank. Providing political support to the PA and Israel, and bolstering U.S. efforts to build a professional and effective Palestinian security force, will be vital to keep Hamas at bay in the West Bank in the short-run, and to bolster PA influence in the long-run. The current Israeli-Hamas ceasefire is unlikely to last indefinitely, and Israel eventually will reenter Gaza to remove the rocket threat or dismantle Hamas' terror and governmental infrastructure. In Lebanon, Hizbullah, with the help of Syria and Iran, has rebuilt its rocket forces. It had 13,000 on the eve of the 2006 war and has more than 30,000 now - in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. In the event of another war, the U.S. needs to coordinate with Israel so that the next war is much shorter, and succeeds in significantly weakening Hizbullah and undermining the interests of its Syrian and Iranian patrons. The writer is a senior fellow and director of the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute.

2008-11-05 01:00:00

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