This week Opportunity 08 takes a closer look at the Middle East, and how the next president can engage the Middle East constructively.
Fearing further violence, Israel declared a heightened security alert in advance of the Purim holiday. The action comes as Israel seems to be moving closer to a cease-fire with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
Facilitating Arab-Israeli reconciliation is further complicated by sectarian rivalry and the decline of American influence in the region. "The United States now finds itself in the position of demandeur. We no longer can insist, as President Bush's rhetoric suggests, that 'you're either with us or against us'," says Tamara Wittes of the Brookings Institution.
Wittes says the next president will have to build a counter-alliance to the Iranian-Syrian-Iraqi Shi'a-Hezbollah alliance and "correct the tilt in Iran's favor that was the unintended consequence of the misadventure in Iraq."
Just last week, on the eve of the Persian new year, President Bush asserted that Iran has dangerous plans for nuclear weapons. "They've declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people -- some in the Middle East."
After experts pointed out that Iran has repeatedly insisted that its uranium enrichment program is for civilian electricity, national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe expanded on Bush's remarks, saying, "The president shorthanded his answer with regard to Iran's previously secret nuclear weapons program and their current enrichment and ballistic missile testing."
Ironically, shared worries over Iran's nuclear intentions could provide a new impetus to the progress in the Arab-Israeli peace efforts; Palestinian moderates are as concerned about Iranian interference in their internal affairs as Israel is concerned about Ahmadinejad's nuclear threats.