Sunday, March 16, 2008
News that Vice President Dick Cheney left Sunday for a trip to the Middle East doesn't appear to be any cause for optimism. Cheney plans to visit Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Turkey on his nine-day trip, where he plans to discuss U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Middle East peace, and the skyrocketing price of oil. "It's a very long list and rich agenda," said John Hannah, Cheney's national security adviser, according to the Reuters international news service. "Clearly, our ongoing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan will be discussed," John Hannah, national security adviser to Cheney, told reporters. "Middle East peace, Iran, the situation in Syria, Lebanon, the violence in Gaza, energy -- it's a very long list and rich agenda." Cheney is expected to ramp up the diplomatic pressure on the Palestinians and Israelis to make progress in their negotiations. President Bush visited the region in January and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was there earlier this month. A senior U.S. official also told Reuters that Cheney would be pushing Arab states to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iraq and exchange ambassadors for the post-Saddam Hussein era. "The United States can do a lot for Iraq, but we cannot provide Iraq with an anchor in the Arab world, a kind of legitimacy for the new Iraqi project that comes from being fully integrated in its neighborhood," the unnamed official said.