Three leaders from two of the most tumultuous regions in the world are hand-shaking and photo-oping their way through Washington Tuesday, as part of a packed schedule aimed at clearing a path to peace and figuring out how to neutralize the intractable threats facing their countries.
Israeli President Shimon Peres plans to meet with President Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House this afternoon.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai will speak on Afghanistan development at the Brookings Institution before getting his picture taken with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will meet with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday afternoon after the committee holds a hearing on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The heads of Afghanistan and Pakistan will meet jointly with Obama Wednesday to discuss the common challenges in their countries.
Foremost, Peres plans to discuss the Arab peace process and Iran's nuclear ambitions when he meets with Obama, according to a Peres aide. He also plans to discuss the implications of the global economic crisis and present intelligence on security threats in the Middle East.
Sources say the White House is considering offering Israel assistance on Iran in exchange for movement toward a Palestinian state. The Jerusalem Post reported this week that from the White House perspective the success of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is closely linked to efforts to disrupt Iran's nuclear program.
Though Israeli media reported that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that the Iran issue hinged on peace talks with Palestinians, a senior administration official told FOX News on Tuesday that Emanuel did not directly link the two during those conversations.
But the official said the White House believes a two-state solution can minimize the influence of Hamas and Hezbollah in Gaza and Lebanon, in turn depriving Iran of influence in and around Israel.
The Peres visit Tuesday is seen as a stage-setter for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming White House visit. Netanyahu addressed AIPAC's annual policy conference by satellite Monday, stressing his desire for peace with the Palestinians and the global threat posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions. Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the White House later this month.
Meanwhile, both Zardari and Karzai are grappling with Taliban insurgents, and Zardari's military forces are fighting to keep the extremists from spreading their influence beyond the northwest region of the country where they now have control.
Though Obama has committed himself to rooting out extremists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Zardari faces skepticism on Capitol Hill, which could explain his session Tuesday with House lawmakers.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, D-Wis., Monday unveiled a bill to spend $94.2 billion to fund war and aid efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other programs.
The package provides $1.5 billion for aid, security and development programs in Afghanistan and $2.3 billion for similar efforts in Pakistan. But Obey said he was skeptical of Obama's goals for settling unrest in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"I am extremely dubious about the ability of the administration to advance its ends in this operation," Obey said, adding that the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan "simply don't have the instrumentality to make that policy work."
Obey is requiring the Obama administration to give Congress a status report on Afghanistan and Pakistan before making another budget request next year. And he hinted that he thought the situation in Pakistan could be beyond repair.
"Sometimes when you make a mistake, it's so screwed up that you can't fix it. I hope that's not the case with Pakistan," he said.
FOX News' Reena Ninan, Chad Pergram and Major Garrett contributed to this report.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Trio of Foreign Leaders Seek U.S. Help in Troubled Spots
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