Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, University of Malta
The election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States was widely welcomed by the majority of Maltese citizens and Malta’s press. 2009 will see the start of the Obama Presidency in the United States, and the new President comes into the White House with very high expectations and facing a very complex domestic and international agenda. Most in Malta believe that Obama has however already signaled that he comprehends the nature of the task facing him by putting into place a top notch administration of experts. The choice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is most telling as it has the potential to equip America with two top leaders at a time when the only superpower will require all the leadership it can muster to cope with the multitude of existing challenges.
Israeli-Palestinian conflict: new opportunities for UN resolutions
The first major priority that Malta would like to see Obama address is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The escalation of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians highlights clearly that the Palestinian faction of Hamas has not been handled well by Israel, Europe or the United States in recent years. 2009 must see a call for an immediate concerted effort by the Middle East Quartet to try and achieve headway towards a permanent settlement of the conflict by creating a viable Palestinian state. The elections due to be held at the start of 2009 in the West Bank and in Israel and the arrival of a new president in the White House will provide the elected leaders with a mandate to proceed with diplomatic efforts aimed at brokering a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians as stipulated in UN Resolutions 242 and 338. It is an opportunity they must seize!
Cessation of Iran’s nuclear programme
A second priority is that of ensuring the non-proliferation of nuclear capabilities. The United States and Europe need to continue working closely together to try and persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear programme. To date, Iran shows no signs of changing its determination to possess nuclear technology. Managing relations between the two nuclear states of Pakistan and India will also be a tall order particularly given the very delicate situation after the Mumbai terrorist attacks.
Transition of war efforts: US to call upon Europe
The third priority is that of a smooth commencement of the gradual withdrawal of American combat troops from the Iraqi theatre of operation. The shift in America’s foreign policy strategy will see the simultaneous redeployment of troops to Afghanistan as an escalation of military activities against the Taliban is stepped up. The United States is certain to try and seek engagement of Europe more directly in this conflict.
On 7 December 2008, former American presidential candidate Senator John McCain, together with Senator Joe Lieberman, visited Malta on a two day visit. McCain stopped in Malta immediately after a fact finding visit to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.