As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is traveling in the Middle East with fellow GOP Sens. John Barrasso, Saxby Chambliss, and James Risch. The group has now met with Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, in addition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. They reportedly met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday.
No word on what McConnell discussed with Odierno or the two Israeli leaders, but possible topics of discussion include:
2. The June 30 deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraqi cities. Odierno said it may get pushed back, as forces in Mosul and Baqubah in northern Iraq may need to be increased.
3. The U.S. congressional politics of a Palestinian state. Ha'aretz recently reported that Obama is preparing for a clash with Netanyahu over the creation of a Palestinian state--and that the clash could play out in Congress. The administration has briefed Democratic lawmakers on the peace process and the positions of the Netanyahu/Barak government; Ha'aretz says this is a preemptive move, anticipating that Netanyahu will try to rally opposition to Obama among allies in the U.S. Congress.
4. Iran. Netanyahu recently told The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg that stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is one of the Obama administration's "two great missions" (the other being to fix the economy). McConnell's party, of course, blasted Obama repeatedly during the campaign for promoting a more open dialogue with the Shi'ite nation. Yesterday, McConnell listed Iran's nuclear ambitions as a top concern of Middle East leaders; so, beyond the Obama administration's diplomatic approach (including his video message to Iran and its citizens), Israel's shared interest with Sunni Arab states could be on the agenda.