With the U.S. financial crisis taking center stage in American politics, no one these days has been paying much attention to Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or for that matter the entire Middle East.
Shortly before presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain met with President Bush on Thursday to work on a rescue plan for the U.S. financial markets, the U.S. president held two separate meetings with Lebanon's new president. Bush praised him for his efforts to promote reconciliation in a country the United States considers key to combating extremism in the Middle East. He later met with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and comforted him by stating that the administration has not given up hope on an agreement to create a Palestinian state.
But these were not the only visitors to the White House. Many of the United States' allies, who came to address the United Nations' General Assembly this week, came to New York and Washington with the intentions of conducting important business with their biggest benefactor: the United States and George W. Bush. Instead, they found themselves shuffled in and out of the White House after brief statements and photo-ops.
In January, Obama or McCain will inherit a bankrupt treasury and trillions of dollars of debt. But just as troubling is Bush's laundry list of Middle East issues that remain a threat to U.S. national security and interests:
1. The failure to deal with Iran's nuclear problem in a diplomatic manner remains one of George W. Bush's biggest failures. The possibility of a major confrontation between Israel and Iran is real. Iran is expected to develop its first nuclear bomb in 2010.
2. The situation in Iraq is still dire. While everyone in the U.S. has been patting each other on the shoulder and claiming success for the surge, Iraqis have been dying due to a shortage of medicine and basic necessities. There is currently a cholera epidemic in Iraq.
3. U.S. raids in Pakistani territories have created confrontations between Pakistani and U.S. troops. A recent attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad was planned to target the Pakistani president and his prime minister. Pakistan is also teetering on the verge of a civil war.
4. The War in Afghanistan will replace the War in Iraq in 2009. The U.S. will find itself committing more troops to Afghanistan, and attacks by the Taliban will increase.
5. The United States' War on terror has failed. Al Qaeda and its franchises can now be found all over the Middle East and North Africa. Expect attacks on U.S. interests in the region and attacks on oil and gas production facilities.
6. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains unresolved. Attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians are on the rise, and Palestinians in normally calm areas like Jerusalem have been utilizing vehicles to attack Israelis. If not contained, the situation will lead to major confrontations between settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank.
In short, the succeeding White House administration has a tall foreign affairs bill to fill with meager financial resources to do it with. After tonight's presidential debate, Americans will have to ask themselves the question: which candidate is best suited to deal with these issues?
Jamal Dajani produces the Mosaic Intelligence Report on Link TV