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After bin Laden: Bremmer Sees ‘Reset’ of U.S. Policy in Arab World … For Better or Worse

Aaron Task
Editor in Chief
Fin - Daily Ticker - US

Following the death of Osama bin Laden, the Obama Administration is seeking a "reset" of U.S. policy in the Arab world, The NY Times reports: "Some administration officials argue that the heavy blow to Al Qaeda gives the United States the chance to be more forward-leaning on political change because it makes Egypt, Syria and other countries less likely to tip toward Islamic extremism."

Easier said than done, according to Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group.

"Whether or not we want a 'reset', a reset wants us," Bremmer says. "This is the most geopolitically volatile region in the world, and it's the most geopolitically volatile time they've had in last 20 years. Every piece in the Middle East is in play."

Due to the combination of huge oil reserves in the region, concerns about Iran's ambitions and America's strategic relationship with Israel, this is obviously going to be a critical foreign policy challenge for the Obama administration, and several to follow.

Following bin Laden's death and ongoing fallout of the so-called "Arab Spring," Bremmer sees two major issues of concern in the Middle East:

  • Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are becoming "much more cohesive and less willing to coordinate with the U.S."
  • The Israeli-Palestinian issue is heating up again and Israel is "on the wrong end of every major trend" that's shaping the region.

"We're not going to have the same relations with all these countries we used to," he says. "There's a reasonable view the U.S. is not going to play the same kind of role as it has historically. "

And then there's Pakistan.

Less Important, More Volatile

Considering bin Laden was living literally under the nose of Pakistan's military establishment, it's pretty clear a "reset" of U.S.-Pakistani relations is likely to emerge, if it hasn't already. Several Congressman have called for a review of America's aid to Pakistan, which has topped $20 billion since the 9/11 terror attacks.

In the short-term, expect "more cooperation" on counter-terrorism from Pakistan because of the "egg on the face" of the ISI and military, Bremmer says. "But Pakistan's willingness and capacity to provide support to U.S. on these issues is limited and going down real fast over the long term."

Over time, expect Pakistan to become "less important" to America geopolitically as the U.S. draws down in Afghanistan, even as Pakistan itself becomes "move volatile," he says.

Bremmer, for one, does not foresee Pakistan becoming a "failed state" because of the strength of its military. But considering Pakistani establishment literally and figuratively took a "see no evil" approach to bin Laden, and views Islamic fundamentalism as a strategic tool, "less important and more volatile" is a potentially toxic combination for a country with nuclear arms.