During President Barack Obama’s first term, much was made of his administration’s “pivot” toward Asia. Given the increased strategic and economic significance of Asia to the United States, there are strong arguments for this rebalancing of focus. Nevertheless, the symbolism was lost on no one when, in late-November, Obama was forced to interrupt his trip to Asia to address the latest flare-up in violence between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. As Obama begins his second term, it is safe to assume that events in the Middle East will continue to occupy a considerable amount of bandwidth for the administration, even as Washington continues to manage a rebalancing of U.S. security investments.
Chief among the president’s Middle East agenda items will be Iran. While the Obama administration is working on a number of important issues in the region, its priority is the continued multilateral effort to achieve a negotiated end to possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, while also avoiding another costly and unnecessary military conflict. It is important, however, not to see the Iran issue in isolation, but to attempt to understand how other regional dynamics relate to and impact those efforts. ...
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