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Wednesday: Mideast Peace Talks Begin, Hurricane Earl Downgraded

Hours after a primetime address marking the end of combat operations in Iraq, President Obama pivots Wednesday to another complex and vexing Mideast issue: Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

President Obama will host talks in Washington with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as well as leaders from Egypt and Jordan. The talks formally begin with a dinner at the White House Wednesday night.

David Sanger of the New York Times looks at the president’s attempts to take on three big Mideast tasks: Iraq, Israeli-Palestinian peace and Iran as part of his foreign policy push:

History shouts that all the odds are against him. White House officials, eager to show concrete progress on the hardest foreign policy challenges at a time when Mr. Obama is struggling with a variety of domestic issues, contend that that the president has changed the political climate in all three arenas and has the best shot in years at creating positive and interlocking results.

The fatal shooting of four Israeli settlers near Hebron Tuesday may cast an early shadow on the talks. Hamas took responsibility for the shooting, a reminder that they remain an important force in Palestinian politics, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

And Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy magazine explains the while the first direct peace talks may be kicking off today, in reality many discussions have already begun – and there are apparently no prearranged deals on settlements or other key issues.

On the topic of Iraq, be sure to check out the Morning Line, which has a preview of Margaret Warner’s interview with Vice President Biden this morning in Baghdad.

Hurricane Earl Downgraded

Hurricane Earl has been downgraded to a Category 3 storm, but still threatens parts of the East Coast. Vacationers and residents of some of the islands off the North Carolina coast have been told to evacuate.

Still, any ocean-side businesses along the Mid-Atlantic hoping for a last blast of summer tourism dollars over the Labor Day weekend may find their hopes quashed by the storm.

The Washington Post looks at satellite images of the storm here. And here’s the Wednesday morning update from NOAA.

And among other stories we’ll be watching this Wednesday:

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission opens two days of hearings on systemic economic risk in the U.S. system and how the government decided which institutions to bailout during the 2008 meltdown.

Auto sales figures are due to be released.

And continued fallout from the arrests of two U.S. residents of Yemeni origin after a flight from Chicago to Amsterdam.

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