Recent statements by President Obama suggest that he has a coherent strategy for American policy in the Middle East. As he told the New Yorker, he wants to create “geopolitical equilibrium” in the region by balancing Washington’s longtime ally Saudi Arabia against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has had an adversarial relationship with the United States for 35 years. This balancing act, the president suggests, will bring some stability to an especially volatile part of the world, now engaged in what appears to be a sectarian civil war.
However, the fact that this Sunni-Shiite conflict is only getting more deadly, reaching now from the Iraqi desert to the shores of Lebanon, is evidence that the White House’s efforts at creating a regional stability are failing. Moreover, it suggests that maybe, in spite of the president’s compelling vision for the Middle East, there really is no coherent strategy. The question then is, does the Obama administration have a real Middle East policy, or is it just, as editor of The American Interest Adam Garfinkle recently put it, “distracted ad hocery”?
On March 11, Hudson Institute senior fellow Lee Smith will moderate a panel with Hillel Fradkin, Adam Garfinkle, Robert Satloff, and Tamara Cofman Wittes to discuss whether or not the Obama White House has a real strategy for the Middle East.