“Dialogues in public policy and the media”
I had the opportunity to listen to “ Dialogues in public policy and the media”, hosted by Bob Schieffer, which was held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, on March 16, 2010.
The topic of the discussion was, “An assessment of the Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy”, with panelists: Steve Coll, Thomas L. Friedman and David Ignatius. I must say, with such high caliber moderator and panel, the program was very informative and highly educational. Had there been a Q and A session, the program would have been even better.
On Israeli-Palestinian Issues.
The panel seemed to have a positive outlook towards the “Fayyad Plan”. (Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad). His plan is to have a functioning government with institutions such as a central bank, schools, hospitals, a police force, etc. By mid-2011, his goal is to end the Israeli occupation and establish a Palestinian State. Prime Minister Fayyad believes that Israel would have no choice but recognize a well functioning Palestinian State. Failure to do so would result in a heavy pressure of international opinion on Israel to withdraw from territories it still occupies.
Mr. Friedman appreciated Fayyad’s policy of “let’s build institutions and then declare a State”. He said, “Israel and the U.S. should support Fayyad”. He also believes that, Hamas and Hezbollah are engaged in asymmetric warfare with Israel to destroy the international stature of Israel by turning world public opinion against it.
In terms of U.S. policy makers, Mr. Friedman called them “The weakest Mid-East policy makers I have ever seen”.
Mr. Schieffer, “do you think we can live with a nuclear Iran”?
Mr.Friedman, “Nobody wants Iran to weaponize, but no one seems ready to use force to stop Iran”.
Instead of an attack by Israel, on Iranian nuclear facilities, Mr. Friedman believes it is more likely that “an accident” inside Iranian nuclear facilities are more possible. Especially, with the rise of opposition forces inside Iran. He added, “The Israeli Defense forces have a very sober view of any attack against Iran”.
Mr. Ignatius said, “The U.S. has repeatedly told the Israelis not to take any action against Iran”. The U.S has made it clear, that “it is contrary to our interests”. He also stated, “While he had seen the strength of Iranian influence in Iraq, Egypt and other places, last year, that influence seems to have dwindled after the recent Iranian national elections”.
Mr. Coll supported President Obama’s policy of” trying to make Afghanistan more stronger before exiting”. He said, the critical elements are:
- “To build Afghan security forces”,
- “To change the balance of forces within Afghanistan”, and,
- “To influence Pakistan, in terms of change in strategic thinking”.
The two most striking thoughts to ponder.
The Saudis, to visiting Secretary of Defense, “What are you and the Israelis waiting for”? (Iran)
“What if, if we haven’t seen anything yet”. (commenting on the continuous Chinese economic power) T.F.
The most poignant Q and A.
“What is the biggest threat in the world for U.S. interest”? Mr. Schieffer.
“Our economic erosion in the U.S. Our political system is in peril”. Mr. Friedman.
Thank you, the CSIS.
Professor Mekonen Haddis