The Rumi Forum presented “Urgent Business in the Middle East for the Obama Administration” with Former United States Ambassador David Mack, and Middle East Institute Scholar.

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In his inaugural remarks and by naming George Mitchell as his envoy for the Arab-Israel conflict, President Obama signaled that he places the agonizing problems of the Middle East at or near the top of his foreign policy agenda. Since then, the Administration’s statements and regional travel have dramatized the Administration’s determination to move fast and assertively on a wide number of issues. Obama wants to avoid the mistake of almost all US presidents by delaying efforts for Arab-Israel peace until events forced them to give priority to this agonizing problem. At the same time, in his first week in office Obama met with US defense officials and Secretary Clinton to develop a strategy for responsible military disengagement from Iraq. Appropriately, the Administration is moving at a more measured pace to raise the level of US-Syrian relations and to expand contacts with Iran, but the strategic direction is clear. Careful not to alarm the closest allies of the US in the region, Obama and his senior aides have entered into close consultations with leaders of the moderate Arab states, Israel and Turkey. The Administration seems mindful of the pitfalls and barriers ahead, but it is determined to deal proactively with problems before they become crises.

Ambassador David Mack is a Scholar of The Middle East Institute, a Washington-based educational organization. He is also Chairman of the US-Libya Business Association and a member of the board of the Middle East Policy Council. From 1998 until 2008, Mack was Vice President and Acting President of MEI. As a private consultant from 1995 until 1998, Mack provided policy guidance to foreign governments and companies in regard to their dealings in the United States and advised US corporate clients on trade and investment opportunities in the Middle East. For over thirty years, David Mack served in various positions in the US Foreign Service. From 1990-1993, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. In that capacity, Mack directed the conduct of relations between the United States and 12 other governments, including Iran, Iraq, the states of the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant. He provided political support for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and promoted US business interests in the Middle East. From 1986-1989, Mack was the US Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, where he was in charge of all US government activities and over 150 civilian and military personnel. In addition, Mack held diplomatic assignments in Iraq, Jerusalem, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

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