An Obama second term would lack the strategic coherence of his first term. The Middle East has generated a plethora of challenges, each requiring a different policy frame. By necessity, Obama's policy has become and will remain more reactive and ad hoc.
A Romney administration would reinforce an Israel-centric strategy toward Middle Eastern affairs. Reinforcing Israel’s core security needs would be moved up the roster of America's national security concerns. However, a Romney presidency would not seek to move Israel–Palestine peace forward and would not work towards establishing a Palestinian state.
Romney may be making an interesting and brave calculation that Arab states which would otherwise be alienated by an overtly pro-Israel strategy in the region might be caught in a vice between America’s stance and the fears of Iranian regional dominance. With a diminishing US dependence on Middle Eastern oil and a foreign policy that uses Israel’s interests as a key benchmark, a Romney administration could nevertheless compel Arab states to acquiesce to and accept this standard if they wanted protection from Iran.
Israel–Palestine peace efforts will re-emerge as a priority only when a new round of violence demands attention and draws the United States and Europe back in. The turmoil in Syria and elsewhere in the region, particularly in fragile new democracies such as Libya and Tunisia, will remain higher priorities.
Disrupting and/or redirecting Iran’s nuclear course will continue to be the dominant regional objective of either an Obama or a Romney administration. Romney would also maintain the same posture as Obama in conducting an aggressive drone campaign focused on transnational terrorists.
This paper is part of the US Election Note series. Other Notes focus on: Economic Policy, The Military vs Development Aid, Trade Policy, and China Policy after 2012. Read.