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Middle East as the Center of the Foreign Policy Universe

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Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

It may have seemed that with the Arab Spring somewhat settling down over the past year, and U.S. troops leaving Iraq, that the Middle East was going to cease being the primary focus for the foreign policy of the United States.

However, between Syria’s government preparing to use chemical weapons on its citizens, Egypt’s president pressing for more powers and the Gaza Strip in a very tenuous cease fire, the Middle East looks to remain the center of our foreign policy universe.

You can tell that it is the center of the universe because, like the sun, everything else is revolving around it. The U.S. has complicated relationships with countries like Russia and China. But the majority of the conversations with those countries revolve around their ally Syria and their relations with other players in the region.

It’s impressive that the Middle East can retain this kind of importance while the United States is still in a war in Afghanistan. U.S. troops are in harm’s way everyday, with attacks still going on daily, and news of those events come pages later in any newspaper after issues happening in the Middle East.

The more serious implication of this status is that there is a growing likelihood that the United States will be pulled into some of the uproar that is rearing its ugly head right now, and not in a good way.

It was a great victory for the United States when we were able to assist the Libyan rebels in defeating their leader, Moammar Khadafy, without one American soldier’s boot landing on Libyan soil. However, this kind of victory is very hard to pull off. It takes the exact right combination of both resources and good fortune. Finding that combination again in other situations would be very difficult.

President Obama made headlines this week with his stern warnings to leaders of both Syria and Egypt. And while those warnings do hold some weight, Obama’s options to back up his words are somewhat limited. He cannot treat either country the way he treated Libya.

In the case of Syria, the United States may not like what’s going on, especially as the government contemplates using chemical weapons against its own people. But the government has strong allies in Russia and China. Those allies are not going to rush into a war against the U.S. over Syria, but they also will make any potential sanctions or other punishments difficult to pull off.

Egypt holds different pitfalls for the United States, but they come with equal difficulty. We must hold a firm stand against violence against citizens, but supporting the current president, especially during Morsi’s absolute power grab, is awkward. But while Morsi is not the ideal ally, it’s not like there are a long line of other potential suitors for power that can keep Egypt at peace.

And do not get me started with the variety of potential issues for the United States that lie within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

None of this may seem like a bold revelation to anyone. However, we need to keep in mind that if a region that is so full of hidden pitfalls is the center of our foreign policy universe, it will be very easy to imagine how issues there can affect our everyday lives here. From destabilizing the oil market, to committing forces, the Middle East will do its best to keep our rapt attention, whether we like it or not.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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