Three important sets of negotiations are under way in the Middle East: discussions of Iran’s nuclear program and global economic sanctions in response to it, Israeli-Palestinian talks over the future of the two states, and negotiations to end the civil war in Syria.
Agreement in each case would be consistent with President Obama’s goal of ending America’s permanent war footing. Secretary of State John Kerry is the country’s point man in these negotiations, and seems tireless in his pursuit of success.
The most successful set of talks at the moment is over Iran’s nuclear effort. Iran has reduced uranium enrichment, admitted international inspectors, and taken other steps to show its willingness to abide by a temporary agreement.
The United States has removed blocks on some of Iran’s money in U.S. banks. American and other companies anticipate an opening of the Iranian market — a bet that the accord will hold.
The Israeli-Palestinian talks also are proceeding. Signs of strain among negotiators on both sides indicate that they are being pushed toward necessary compromises. The United States, godfather to the talks, is preparing a framework agreement to move discussions along.
Smoke is rising from within the Israeli coalition government about some of the issues in the talks, indicating serious and realistic consideration. Palestinian Authority acting president Mahmoud Abbas is criticized for his position on a proposal to station Israeli troops along a new Palestinian border with Jordan. Israel is feeling pressure from international economic and cultural boycotts.
The Syrian talks in Switzerland have displayed painful fencing between government and opposition groups, with few results to show. Yet the negotiations are still officially in business.
Progress in any of these sets of negotiations is to America’s advantage.