The Obama administration will continue to press Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to drop his plan to seek recognition for Palestine as a state in the U.N. General Assembly, a move that would further damage U.S. Palestinian relations with the United States. This time around, the United States will be able to count on support from its key European allies, including Britain and France, who have been urging the Palestinians to give the new administration time to put a new team in place.
Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, said he suspects the Palestinian leader will force the issue and push for a General Assembly vote elevating Palestine to a non U.N.-member state. But he has urged Washington and Israel not to react too harshly to a move he sees as a largely symbolic gesture, albeit a "provocative symbolic gesture," on the grounds that punishing the Palestinian Authority will strengthen the hand of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement, that is being courted by Egypt, Qatar, and Turkey. "This is bad for America," he said. "Both the Palestinian Authority and Washington need to repair their relations; the Palestinian Authority, because it's essential for their survival; and Washington, because otherwise, it will have to deal with bearded guys with Qurans."
The Obama administration has been keen to pursue a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban before the withdrawal of U.S. forces and its NATO allies from the country at the end of 2014. But the American presidential election has made it tough for the Obama administration to carry through on its pledge to release several Taliban members from Guantanamo Bay detention center as a goodwill measure. In March, Taliban negotiators reportedly broke off talks with the United States, complaining that the United States was not serious about striking a deal.
Scott Smith, an expert on Afghanistan at the United States Institute of Peace, said he expects the Americans to try to revive talks, but that the failure of the previous round of talks will make it more difficult to draw the Taliban back to the table. ""What was intended to be a confidence building effort ended up eroding confidence," said Smith. "Everybody understood nothing was going to happen till after the election. But is the ball in our court or in the Taliban's court?"
For the time being, Israel and Iran appear to have stepped back from the brink of nuclear war. At the United Nations, China and Russia have made it clear that they will not approve another round of economic sanctions against Iran. And prospects for diplomatic progress with Iran at the U.N. seem pretty distant. Before the election, the New York Times reported that the United States and Iran had agreed in principle to start one-on-one negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program. The White House quickly denied the report. But the story is continuing to fuel rumors that Washington may pursue direct contacts with Tehran.
Rwanda's election to the Security Council presents a thorny new problem for the United States. A close American ally, Rwanda has come under sharp criticism for its alleged role in sponsoring and arming the M23 mutineers in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwanda has denied a role in sponsoring the mutiny. Nevertheless, the United States is expected to face intense pressure from human rights advocates to pressure Rwanda to cease its military operations in eastern Congo. "We would expect the United States to finally raise the pressure on Rwanda to stop its support for the M23," said Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. representative for Human Rights Watch. "They should make crystal clear to them that being on the Security Council starting on January 1 will not give them a free pass to continue supporting an abusive rebel group in a neighboring country."