Team Obama talks tough on Iran

By Nathan Guttman, December 4, 2008
All smiles now: Barack nominates Clinton as Secretary of State

All smiles now: Barack nominates Clinton as Secretary of State

President-elect Barack Obama has won praise from Jewish and pro-Israel groups for his foreign policy and security team.

Among the nominations announced on Monday, of particular interest was that of New York Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Mrs Clinton is a well-known figure in the Jewish community and has been active on pro-Israel issues in the Senate. She led the push to have the Israeli Magen David Adom accepted by the International Red Cross and has also taken a tough line on Iran. She supported a controversial resolution — which Mr Obama opposed — calling for the inclusion of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on the State Department list of terror organisations.

In his Chicago presentation of his nominees, Mr Obama singled out the Israeli-Palestinian issue as one of his top foreign policy priorities.

“There is much to do, from preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to Iran and North Korea, to seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, to strengthening international institutions,” he said.

Mr Obama also asked current Secretary of Defence Robert Gates to stay on and appointed General James Jones to serve as National Security Adviser. Mr Jones, a former commander of US forces in Nato, served in the past year as a special envoy dealing with the conflict.

Israelis know him as a reliable professional, though in some circles he was considered pro-Palestinian.

However, Middle East experts in Washington doubt the administration will engage in a new peace process drive during its first months in office.

Though several experts, led by former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, have called on Mr Obama to make the conflict an immediate priority, other former negotiators suggest it would be wrong to try an elaborate initiative before ensuring all sides were ready.

“Manage it as best you can,” suggested former peace negotiator Aaron David Miller to Mr Obama, “but don’t think you can solve it; you can’t.”

Last updated: 4:14pm, July 22 2009