- Pursue peace relentlessly. The U.S. is the only global power capable of bringing the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the table for sustained negotiations. The challenges are immense, but as Senator Mitchell noted, there is "not a shred of evidence" that suggests a better deal for both sides will materialize down the road. The risks of inaction are great, and it's critical that both sides capitalize on this current window of opportunity. The framework for a deal is known. Secretary Kerry's unrelenting pursuit to restart the talks was endorsed as a necessary and appropriate use of America's attention.
- Negotiate with Iran now. The election of Hassan Rouhani, who has declared his openness to international dialogue, presents a critical opportunity to jumpstart negotiations on Iran's nuclear program before it's too late. And while the panelists agreed that it is too early to expect trust on either side, Ambassador Burns suggested we adopt a play on President Reagan's phrase for dealing with the Soviet Union: "Engage Iran, don't trust yet, but verify." We should engage with a defined objective and a clear timeline.
- Level the playing field in Syria. The brutal slaughter of over 100,000 Syrians demands American leadership. It is not only a humanitarian disaster but a fundamental threat to regional stability and American interests in how it has strengthened extremists, contributed to the sectarian spiral in Iraq, and burdened key allies such as Jordan and Turkey. Iran and Hezbollah are 'all in' in Syria. It is in the US interest not only to give the Free Syrian Army the resources it needs to level the playing field, but also to invest in our allies that are bearing the greatest costs of the war.
It is appropriate to be deliberative and cautious with our engagement, but windows of opportunity are closing and threats continue to accumulate. If Secretary Kerry's shuttle diplomacy is any indication, the president recognizes that now is the time for renewed American leadership on some of the region's most vexing issues. These were the bets shared at the Aspen Ideas Festival on U.S. strategy in the Middle East. What are yours?