Addressing the Middle East

May 19, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

This morning at 11:40 a.m., President Obama will deliver a foreign policy address at the State Department. President Obama will discuss recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa, and U.S. policy in the region.  Stay tuned to for in-depth analysis on the President’s speech and the International Affairs Budget.  To watch live, click here.  Also today, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) has indicated he will make an announcement about his plans for an FY12 budget resolution. Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) have set the stage for Senate votes next week on two FY12 budget proposals, neither of which are expected to pass.  Senator Reid plans to will bring to the floor the House GOP budget resolution, in order to force a politically difficult vote for Senate Republicans.  In turn, Senator McConnell will bring to the floor the Obama Administration’s FY12 budget proposal, which also lacks the votes to pass.  The House-passed FY12 budget resolution cuts the International Affairs Budget 34% from the President’s request.

Must Reads
Who’s In the News

Why is the Senate stalling on the debt debate? (Senator Tom Coburn – the Washington Post)

Our country is facing the greatest threat to our freedom and future since 1941. Any honest view of our debt, deficits, size of government and demographic challenges shows we must make major changes if we are going to pass on the American way of life to our children…  If these facts are true — and very few policymakers deny them — why has the U.S. Senate become the least deliberative “greatest deliberative body” in the world?

Arab Spring, Mideast peace (Brent Budowsky – The Hill)

When great men shape world history, there is no better subject for reflection than President Reagan towering above his times to shape the world in ways that will be honored centuries from now.

Smart Power

Obama to announce billions in aid for fledgling Mideast democracies (Leo Shane III – Stars and Stripes)

President Barack Obama will outline plans for billions in foreign aid to Egypt and Tunisia as part of his speech on Middle East policy Thursday morning, highlighting those nations as “positive models of change” in the region, senior administration officials said.  The speech at the State Department will be a major policy address designed to seize upon “a moment of opportunity” and to illustrate the United States’ commitment to helping young democracies thrive well into the future, the officials said.

Getting smart on aid (Nicholas Kristof – the New York Times)

Now we reach a central question for our age: How can we most effectively break cycles of poverty? For decades, we had answers that were mostly anecdotal or hot air. But, increasingly, we are now seeing economists provide answers that are rigorously field-tested, akin to the way drugs are tested in randomized controlled trials, yielding results that are particularly credible and persuasive.

Islamic finance could aid development (Ajaz Ahmed Khan – The Guardian)

Interestingly, although it has received much less attention, Islamic financial institutions (IFIs) and development practitioners are also beginning to explore the role that Islamic finance can play in supporting development. IFIs are in fact encouraged to allocate a proportion of their profits to support charitable projects by the Islamic scholars who sit on their advisory boards. Potentially, this represents a huge (and largely untapped) source of funding for a huge range of development activities, from providing clean water in rural communities to promoting the welfare of orphans.

Politics/Foreign Policy
Obama administration in full court press ahead of Middle East speech (Josh Rogin – The Cable blog)

The Obama administration has been furiously advancing its regional diplomatic efforts on a wide range of issues in the run-up to the Middle East speech that President Barack Obama will deliver at the State Department on Thursday.

The debate over US aid to Pakistan (Isobel Coleman – Council on Foreign Relations)
In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death in Pakistan on May 2nd, U.S.-Pakistan relations—already fraught—are experiencing new tensions. Senator John Kerry, the administration’s go-to guy on Pakistan, was in Islamabad earlier this week telling Pakistani leaders that Washington wants to hit the “reset button.” The two sides are also publicly bickering over U.S. military support, with Washington rejecting 40 percent of the claims that Pakistan has recently submitted for compensation for military operations against extremists.

Power shifts on US foreign policy team (Jay Solomon and Adam Entous)

When President Barack Obama lays out his vision for the Middle East in a speech Thursday, he will also be tacitly drawing attention to another upheaval: Tumult in the Arab world has accelerated a shift in the standing of Washington’s foreign-policy power players.

US aid needs ‘freedom first’ conditions (James Jay Carafano – the Washington Times)

In the field of security assistance, Congress should have drawn an important lesson from “the Arab Spring”: It’s time these assistance programs put freedom first.