A shift in U.S. foreign policy

Feb. 11, 2009 at 4:43 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- The foreign policy focus of the United States is shifting east from Jerusalem to pressing issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan, an analyst says.

Washington's policy in the Middle East is migrating from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a broader initiative focused on emerging threats in the Persian Gulf and farther east, writes Jon Alterman for the World Politics Review.

This suggests U.S. foreign policy is migrating away from longstanding regional conflicts to challenges that cover the broader region from Baghdad to Islamabad.

U.S. President Barack Obama made this shift clear in his interview with al-Arabiya television, saying it was "impossible" to define policy objectives in the Middle East simply in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The shift evolved in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States but continued to envelop energy security and the broader influence of the U.S. military in the region.

U.S. policymakers have embraced a historical separation between the Near East and South Asia, but some government officials in Washington are coming to realize that distinction does not exist, writes Alterman.

"Religiously inspired radicalism in the Muslim world often takes its inspiration from the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, but it plans and trains in Afghanistan and Pakistan," he adds.

With Egypt and Lebanon taking a back seat in the area of top strategic initiatives, the broad-reaching doctrines of the previous administration may shape the decisions of the new one more than many had originally considered.

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