Bush's Options in the Mideast

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Whenever there is trouble in the Middle East, there is also trouble for the current president of the United States.

Since the Iraq War, President Bush has been criticized for ignoring the problems between Israel and its neighbors.

Now, the administration is looking for a way to deal with the crisis between Israel and Hezbollah, a militant Muslim group in Lebanon.

So far, the conflict has killed more than 200 people in both Lebanon and Israel.

Much of the world heard what the president thought should happen when he was caught talking candidly -- unaware of a live microphone -- to British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the G-8 summit.

He said that he believed Syria was behind Hezbollah's actions and that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan should put pressure on that nation to get Hezbollah to stop its aggression.

The world, however, is still waiting to see what the United States will do.

One option is sending troops to the region, but U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has rejected the prospect of a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

"It should be the policy. … To strengthen Lebanese institutions, not to create new multilateral institutions," Bolton said.

Others say that Bush should dispatch high-profile envoys.

Up to this point, he's only dispatched a few midlevel state and White House officials. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to make the trip next week.

So far, the Bush administration has rejected any attempt at shuttle diplomacy of the sort that former Secretary of State Warren Christopher conducted 10 years ago.

Another problem is that the United States has no diplomatic relationship with Syria or Iran, the keys to Hezbollah's and Hamas' strengths.

The United States is leaning on third parties and is counting on relationships with Jordan, Egypt and European allies to make a difference.

Jordan and Egypt are reluctant to be seen acting in conjunction with the United States, and Europe often has a different political view that is more critical of Israel.

"I think what we've seen largely from the administration is that they make rhetoric and they make war. They've been less successful at pursuing diplomatic means and diplomatic solutions to problems," said Judith Kipper of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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