Obama Heads to UN With Syria, Iran, and Middle East Peace On His Mind
On Monday, President Obama heads to New York for the UN General Assembly meetings — a good time for him to address a number of high-priority situations in the Middle East. But what can we expect?
Even after Syria complied with deadlines for handing over a list of its chemical weapons Saturday, the international community remains concerned about whether or not Syria will violate the agreement to abstain from chemical weapons creation and use in the future. Many expect Obama to use the General Assembly meeting as a time to further a diplomatic resolution to Syria's chemical weapons use.
The UN meeting will also take place as Israel and Palestine tenuously attempt to continue peace negotiations, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The talks between the two groups are particularly strained after violence over the weekend in the West Bank left two Israeli soldiers dead and caused some Israeli officials to call for the halting of negotiations.
Obama's planned meetings include talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, whose country is taking in large waves of Syrian refugees as the threat of a punitive military strike continues.
But perhaps the most anticipated event is the potential for an unscheduled meeting between President Obama and Iran's new President Hasan Rouhani.
Rouhani has made several efforts to distinguish himself from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The new leader has extended well wishes to his country's Jewish population, and more recently tried to allay concerns over the country's nuclear program, promising that "Under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever.”
If the two leaders do decide to have a one-on-one chat, it will be the first time in about 30 years that the heads of the two countries have met.