Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WINEP wants the 'Haqq(iqah): "Hunting for Hizballah"

AIPAC does Pennsylvania Ave. while Schenker (and his soul-mate, Michael Young) do Moawad Street! From the looks of it, Schenker is delegating these reports to a 13 years old ... WINEP/ here

"........ Then, in May 2009 Der Spiegel published an article that reported in great detail on how Hizballah operatives participated in the murder, and how the IIIC had discovered the connection. Apparently, one of the militia's operatives "committed the unbelievable indiscretion" of calling his girlfriend from a mobile phone used in the operation, enabling the investigators to identify the man. The revelations contained in the Der Spiegel article sent shock waves through Beirut.....
For the pro-West March 14 coalition in Lebanon, the allegations of Hizballah involvement in the murder should come as little surprise. Not only would the militia have had the capacity to carry out the operation, its close allies in Damascus had the motive. Members of the coalition had also been at odds with Hizballah for years, and particularly so since the Hariri assassination and the subsequent Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. At the same time, a Hizballah connection to the crime would not in any sense absolve Syria -- which then occupied and controlled Lebanon -- of culpability.
Yet the IIIC's targeting of Hizballah comes at an awkward time for the March 14 leadership. Although the coalition won national elections this past summer -- and with this victory, the opportunity to form a government -- the opposition compelled the majority, led by Rafiq Hariri's son Saad, to establish a national unity government to include members of the Shiite militia and provide the organization with preponderant influence. Strange bedfellows indeed.
Worse, in the months following the election, the March 14 coalition, which had remained fairly stable since its establishment in 2005, started to fray as its leading international backers in Washington and Riyadh sought rapprochement with Damascus. Consequently, in recent months both Saad Hariri and the March 14 coalition's influential Druze leader Walid Jumblat have looked to mend fences with Hizballah and Syria. In the case of Jumblat, the price for this accommodation has been to apologize publicly for his anti-Syrian disposition of recent years, request forgiveness from Syria's Bashar al-Asad regime, and embrace -- at least rhetorically -- Hizballah's "resistance" agenda.
For Jumblat, who cut his teeth as a warlord during the Lebanese civil war, rapprochement with Syria was a simple choice between justice and chaos. Given the IIIC's change of focus to Hizballah, Jumblat sensed that implicating the militia in the crime could present a threat to the fragile state's stability. While the Druze leader has not repudiated the tribunal publicly, he appears to be hoping that indictments will not be forthcoming.
For Rafiq's son Saad (is WINEP on first name basis?), the calculations are different. As the current leader of Lebanon's Sunni community, Saad cannot afford politically to forgive and forget the reported transgressions of Hizballah. Indeed, Saad Hariri's motto since 2005 has been al-haqq (a 'qiqa' is missing)-- "the truth" -- an allusion to the necessity above all else to find out who killed his father. While Saad demonstrated a sense of pragmatism by visiting Syria this past December, the prospect of forgiving his father's killers would be less palatable.
In addition to domestic considerations, Hariri and his government's support (or lack thereof) for the tribunal could have an impact on Lebanon's foreign relations. Because the tribunal was established by the UN, if the government fails to meet its
obligations, then Beirut could encounter bilateral difficulties with Washington and Europe. Clearly, the government of Lebanon is not in a position -- and likely would not be expected -- to render subpoenaed Hizballah suspects to the IIIC. But how would the UN respond if Hizballah were able to engineer the defunding of Lebanon's $23 million annual financial obligation to the tribunal from the state's Ministry of Justice?
With two years remaining in its current mandate, the IIIC will probably issue indictments by the end of this year. The threshold for charges in the international criminal court is so high that convictions almost always result. Given the attendant risks, should the tribunal indict even low-level operatives, it is doubtful that Hizballah will allow the accused to live, much less stand trial.
At the end of the day, if hearings do occur, they will likely be held in absentia. .......It will be more difficult -- both from an evidentiary and a political standpoint -- for the IIIC to establish connections between the Hariri murder, Damascus, and Tehran that would sustain further indictments. For Washington and the credibility of the tribunal institution, however, it is important that the investigation be given time to unfold.....'

AIPAC to pressure Obama by "exploiting differences in the Administration"...

The Guardian/ here
America's main pro-Israel lobby group is mobilising members of Congress to pressure the White House over its bitter public confrontation with Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.
The move, by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), appears aimed at exploiting differences in the Obama administration .....
Signatories to Aipac's letter include Steny Hoyer, the Democrat majority leader, and Eric Cantor, the Republican whip. The wording is similar to an email Aipac sent out during Netanyahu's visit, describing Obama's criticisms of the Israeli government as "a matter of serious concern" and calling on the US administration "to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish state".
But while Aipac has for years influenced US policy on Israel, by targeting members of Congress who criticise the Jewish state, it may no longer have the same impact.
Robert Malley, a former special assistant to President Bill Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs, said the administration's decision to take a once routine disagreement over settlement construction in East Jerusalem and turn it in to a confrontation is a reflection of the determination in the White House.
"This episode tells us more about the past and the future than the present. It's a reflection of the accumulated frustration and mistrust of the Netanyahu government by the White House. For the future, they're headed for a collision on the pace and nature of peace negotiations," he said. "We're seeing determination."
A source, who is consulted by administration officials on Israel policy but did not wish to be named, said that having chosen to take Netanyahu on, Obama cannot afford to back away. "The administration's credibility is at stake – in Israel and the Arab world. Netanyahu thought he had the better of it last year after he humiliated the president by rejecting his demand for a settlement freeze. If the administration does not follow through on this, or reaches some compromise that takes the heat off the Israelis, I suspect it will be almost impossible for us to get anything off the ground," he said.
Netanyahu appears to have been caught off guard by Obama's stand, perhaps because he was overconfident of being able to bypass the administration by relying on strong support for Israel in Congress. But while Aipac has been able to mobilise support for its letter, Congressional leaders have remained largely silent on the substance of the dispute.
That is, in part, because there is little enthusiasm for Jewish settlements. In addition, the White House has played an unusual card in suggesting that Netanyahu's intransigence is endangering US interests in the Middle East, and the lives of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan..."

John Kerry CODEL: "... to investigate the political situation in Syria & Lebanon ..."

John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is due to arrive in Beirut, Lebanon Wednesday before heading to Damascus, Syria on Thursday........."to investigate the political situation in Syria and Lebanon and the prospects for progress in the Arab-Israeli peace process," a CODEL manifest from his office said. He is traveling with Middle East advisor Perry Cammack and committee staff director Frank Lowenstein, his office said, with no other members on the trip.
In Beirut, Wednesday, Kerry is due to meet with Hariri, Suleiman, and Berri; and in Damascus he's due to meet with President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem. .."

Lebanon's 'Harirites': A Syrian-Saudi-Turkish 'deal' to change the Iraqi political map ...

Is this "help us with Allawi , we'll tone down the Mughniyeh did it campaign"? Written by am 'insider' who has his wires crossed! Al Mersad Al Iraqi/ here
تدعو مصادر سياسية لبنانية مطّلعة ومقربة من «تيار المستقبل» لمتابعة نتائج الانتخابات العراقية وكيفية تشكيل الحكومة العراقية المقبلة، لأن ما يجري في العراق سيكون له انعكاسات مباشرة على الوضع اللبناني استقراراً أو تأزيماً. وتعتبر هذه المصادر أن الانتخابات العراقية اعادت خلط الأوراق بين القوى الحزبية وعلى صعيد الطوائف والمذاهب، وان الصراع في العراق حالياً لم يعد صراعاً مذهبياً أو طائفياً أو عرقياً، بل هو صراع سياسي داخلي - خارجي، وان كل دول المنطقة وخصوصاً السعودية وتركيا وإيران وسوريا إضافة الى الدول الكبرى (اميركا، بريطانيا، روسيا، فرنسا)، معنية بما يجري في العراق، لأن الانتخابات العراقية النيابية الحالية هي التي سترسم الخريطة السياسية الجديدة في العراق والمنطقة، وهي التي ستمهد للانسحاب الأميركي عام 2011 وتتحدث هذه المصادر عن «وجود مشروع سياسي تتولاه تركيا وفرنسا والسعودية بالتعاون مع السوريين والإيرانيين من أجل ضمان الاستقرار في لبنان والعراق ولفتح صفحة جديدة في المرحلة المقبلة ولمنع حصول أية تفجيرات ضخمة أو حرب كبرى في المنطقة». فما هي أبرز دلالات الانتخابات العراقية وانعكاساتها على الوضع اللبناني؟
وما هي التوقعات السياسية على صعيد الأوضاع في المنطقة وطبيعة الدور التركي - السعودي - الفرنسي للحفاظ على الاستقرار ومنع حصول حرب كبرى على ايران أو اعادة تفجير الوضع اللبناني؟

الانتخابات العراقية والوضع اللبناني

تعتبر المصادر السياسية المطّلعة «ان العلاقة بين ما يجري في العراق والوضع اللبناني مسألة تاريخية وليست مستجدة، فعندما حصل الانقلاب في العراق عام 1958 وأُطيحت الملكية، قام الأميركيون بإنزال عسكري في لبنان ودعموا الرئيس كميل شمعون ضد المعارضة، وتوصلوا لاحقاً مع المصريين الى الاتفاق الشهير للاتيان بقائد الجيش فؤاد شهاب رئيساً للجمهورية، وعقدت القمة الشهيرة بين الرئيس جمال عبد الناصر والرئيس شهاب على الحدود السورية - اللبنانية للاتفاق على الوضع اللبناني مستقبلاً وبعد حرب الخليج الثانية وقيام صدام حسين باحتلال الكويت ومشاركة سوريا مع الأميركيين «بتحرير الكويت» من العراقيين، حصل اتفاق سوري - أميركي أدى الى انهاء تمرد» العماد ميشال عون وقيام الجيش السوري باقتحام المناطق المسيحية والبدء بتطبيق اتفاق الطائف وانتهاء معارك أمل - حزب الله، وتم تسليم سوريا إدارة الوضع اللبناني من عام 1990 حتى عام 2005. وهذه الأحداث التاريخية تؤكد العلاقة بين ما يجري في العراق وما يجري في لبنان
وتضيف المصادر: «واليوم، الانتخابات العراقية ونتائجها سيكون لها تأثير مباشر على الوضع في لبنان والمنطقة، وهناك معطيات عن وجود صفقة غير معلنة بين السوريين والأتراك والسعوديين، بدعم سعودي وعدم ممانعة ايرانية، على تغيير الخريطة العراقية والإتيان بحكومة ائتلافية برئاسة إياد علاوي أو شخصية قادرة على اعادة ترتيب الوضع العراقي تمهيداً لحصول الانسحاب الأميركي من العراق عام 2011. واذا تمت هذه الصفقة، فإن ذلك سيدخل لبنان والمنطقة في مرحلة جديدة، ما سيعيد خلط كل الأوراق ويُنهي كل الانقسامات التي كانت قائمة في السنوات الماضية بين 8 و14 آذار، وسيترك آثاره على مواقف «تيار المستقبل» وحلفائه، وخصوصاً على صعيد العلاقة مع سوريا وحزب الله والقوى الأخرى وتوضح المصادر ان الانتخابات العراقية أدت الى اشراك السنّة بشكل كبير في العملية السياسية وانتهاء الخلافات المذهبية لمصلحة الخلافات السياسية وان السعودية اصبح لها دور أكبر في الواقع العراقي، اضافة الى تزايد الدور السوري على حساب الدور الايراني، ما يعني ان الأجواء السلبية السعودية تجاه الوضع العراقي ستنتهي في المرحلة المقبلة

جهود تركية - سعودية - فرنسية

أما على صعيد الوضع اللبناني والتخوف من حصول انفجارات داخلية بسبب المحكمة الدولية أو بسبب احتمال حصول حرب اسرائيلية أو اميركية على ايران، فتجيب المصادر السياسية: «قد يكون صحيحاً ان هناك مسألتين قد تؤديان لتفجر الأوضاع في لبنان والمنطقة، هما القرارات المتوقعة للمحكمة الدولية واحتمال توجيه الاتهامات الى عناصر حزب الله، ما قد يؤدي لردود فعل سلبية. والثانية اهتمال حصول حرب اسرائيلية أو اميركية على إيران. تتابع المصادر السياسية: وبسبب هذه التخوفات هناك جهود حثيثة تبذلها تركيا والسعودية وفرنسا من أجل حماية الاستقرار في لبنان ومتابعة الشأن اللبناني بشكل دائم بالتنسيق والتعاون مع السوريين. وان الفرنسيين والأتراك والسعوديين ابلغوا الأميركيين عدم موافقتهم على شنّ حرب أميركية أو اسرائيلية على ايران، لأن حصول هذه الحرب سيدخل لبنان والمنطقة في أتون معركة كبرى لن تكون في مصلحة أحد
وتختم المصادر السياسية: «ان المطلوب اليوم متابعة الأوضاع في المنطقة وعدم التلهي بالقضايا الصغيرة، لأن هذه التطورات هي التي ستحكم مسار التطورات، وعلى القوى السياسية والحزبية اللبنانية ان يتركز اهتمامها على ترتيب الوضع الداخلي لحماية لبنان من أية انعكاسات سلبية لما يجري في فلسطين والعراق، والعمل أيضاً على معالجة الأوضاع الاقتصادية والمعيشية وزيادة الاهتمام بالقطاعات الانتاجية بدل التركيز على زيادة الضرائب. أما السجالات والخلافات التفصيلية، فلن تفيد أحداً، والجميع مدعوون لقراءة المتغيرات الحاصلة في المنطقة وعدم البقاء في المرحلة السابقة من التأزم والخلافات

" ... The world is sick of us ..."

Eldar in Haaretz/ here
".... Israel has become an environmental hazard and its own greatest threat. For 43 years, Israel has been ruled by people who have refused to see reality. They speak of "united Jerusalem," knowing that no other country has recognized the annexation of the eastern part of the city. They sent 300,000 people to settle land they know does not belong to them......
It is true that for many years, we have managed to grope our way through the dark and keep the pressure at bay. We did so with the assistance of our neighbors, who were afflicted with the same shortsightedness
On Sunday, however, the Arab League marked the eighth anniversary of its peace proposals, which offer Israel normalization in exchange for an end to the occupation and an agreed solution to the refugee problem, in accordance with UN Resolution 194. But Israel behaves as if it had never heard of this historic initiative. For the last year, it was too busy realizing its dubious right to establish an illegal settlement in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Benjamin Netanyahu, turning a blind eye to reality, ........ simply refuses to see that the world is sick of us. It's easier for him to focus on his similarly nearsighted followers in AIPAC. Tonight they'll all swear "Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem" - including the construction in Ramat Shlomo, of course.
Hillary Clinton is not Jewish, but it was she who had to remind the AIPAC Jews what demography will do to their favorite Jewish democracy in the Middle East. A few days earlier, she had come back from Moscow, where she took part in one of the Quartet's most important meetings. Israeli politicians and media were too busy with the cold reception awaiting Netanyahu at the White House. They never gave any thought to the decision by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations to turn Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's state-building plan from a unilateral initiative into an international project. ....
For 43 years, the Israeli public - schoolchildren, TV viewers, Knesset members and Supreme Court judges - have been living in the darkness of the occupation, which some call liberation. The school system and its textbooks, the army and its maps, the language and the "heritage" have all been mobilized to help keep Israelis blind to the truth. Luckily, the Gentiles clearly see the connection between the menace of Iranian control spreading across the Middle East and the curse of Israeli control over Islamic holy places.
Monday night, when we read the Passover Haggadah, we should note the plague that follows darkness. That may open our eyes."

Monday, March 29, 2010

"High-jacking" Lebanon & the World: The 'Hariri Tribunal' carnival...

Michael Young (who, as we say in Lebanon, "still has a souk") inches closer to switching from the 'blame-Syria' to the 'Blame-Hezbollah' mode..... in a 'Happy' Foreign Policy, here

"We're happy to feature today an excerpt from Michael Young's new book, that explores the immediate aftermath of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri on February 14, 2005. I caught up with Young to hear his thoughts on how this event continues to reverberate, both in Lebanon and in the international arena. Here's what he had to say:

FP: How does Hariri's assassination continue to affect Lebanese politics today?

MY: ...........Indictments may come later this year or early next, and Lebanese political life is bracing for the consequences, given that although Syria likely gave the order and a suicide bomber actually carried out the attack, Lebanese parties -- many people in Beirut believe Hezbollah -- participated in some capacity. There is fear that an accusation against Hezbollah, if the party was indeed involved, or against other Lebanese might destabilize Lebanon. Still, the Lebanese authorities have a responsibility to go through with this, since from the outset those who supported the investigation and tribunal knew where it might lead, and saw these measures as a way of preventing similar killings in the future. On a more personal level, I feel that for the tribunal to truly succeed, it has to identify all the guilty, not merely low-level enablers. However, I'm not at all sure that this will be the outcome. (but that would do for Michael, bless his heart, as long as the 'low-level enablers' are members of Hezbollah)

FP: You discuss how Hariri's murder caused a fundamental split between the Lebanese Sunni community and the Syrian regime. Has this relationship healed with time, or do Lebanese Sunnis still largely hold Syria responsible for the death of Hariri?

MY: The Sunnis know who killed Hariri (headed by Sunni gliteratti such as Said Mirza & Mufti Qabbani), but the imperatives of Arab politics have intervened to alter the Sunni-Syrian relationship. Just over a year ago, Saudi Arabia began a reconciliation process with Syria--its intention to draw Damascus away from Iran, whose rise the Arab countries, particularly those in the Gulf, view as a threat to their own regimes. An implicit quid pro quo emerged, whereby the Saudis gave Syria greater latitude in Lebanon, in part to contain the pro-Iranian Hezbollah. The Syrians gladly took that offer in order to reimpose their writ in Beirut, but have offered little in exchange. Syria's regime has maintained its close ties with Tehran and continues to arm and support Hezbollah. A byproduct of that Saudi-Syrian rapprochement was a so-called ‘reconciliation' last December between Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, Rafiq's son who is politically beholden to the Saudis, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

FP: The Obama administration recently announced the appointment of Robert Ford as ambassador to Syria -- the first ambassador to the country since the United States withdrew its ambassador following Hariri's assassination. What was the U.S. reaction in response to this attack, and is its resolve to bring the perpetrators to justice waning?

MY: I don't see evidence that American interest in bringing the perpetrators to justice is waning, and from what I'm hearing that's not the case. But can we be sure? (but you're 'hearing' Michael, from say, Erich Follath? so you have to be sure?!) The Hariri investigation (which was independent, we should remember) was and is a complex case that has suffered from investigative flaws. Those shortcomings have tested the commitment of many countries, amid continued reluctance at U.N. headquarters to deal with the consequences of a potentially destabilizing investigation. I don't necessarily believe that Robert Ford's appointment is a sign that Washington has given up on the Hariri investigation. My problem with the step is that the Obama administration got nothing in exchange for that concession; but paradoxically that may only increase its interest in seeing the Hariri tribunal through, in the hope that the ensuing accusations allow it to squeeze the Syrians. That's not to say the indictments, if or when they come, will serve a specific political agenda, but there is no doubt that they will have political consequences. "

"High-jacking" Turkish foreign Policy: "..is there another country in our region that has nukes? Yes, ...have they been subjected to sanctions? No..."

In Haaretz/ here
"... Merkel urged NATO ally Ankara to be ready to support the imposition of sanctions through the UN ...."We would be happy if Turkey votes in April on the Iran issue together with the United States and the European Union," she said.
Turkey, frustrated by the slow progress of its EU membership negotiations, doubts the effectiveness of sanctions and its trade would inevitably suffer if sanctions were imposed on its fellow Muslim neighbor.
"Turkey shares a 380 km (240 mile) border with Iran and it is an important partner, especially in energy. When appraising our relations we shouldn't ignore this," Erdogan said.
He also raised doubts about the results of three earlier rounds of milder sanctions against Iran.
In an apparently veiled reference to Israel, the Turkish leader referred to another country in the region that possessed nuclear weapons. Israel is widely assumed to have the bomb but has never admitted to possessing nuclear weapons. "We are against nuclear weapons in our region. But is there another country in our region that has nuclear weapons? Yes, there is. And have they been subjected to sanctions? No," Erdogan said.
Turkey is worried about the potential for a nuclear arms race in the region between Iran and Israel, though it does not feel directly threatened by either country.
"If the world trusts us, we would fine a middle path with Iran. I hope that we will reach a result if we continue to work," Erdogan said.
Despite good relations with Tehran, Erdogan's own attempts to persuade the Iranian leadership to make moves needed to allay international concerns have so far come to naught.

Blog, "high-jacked", by an Obama henchman

"Obama's 'Oval Office' as per the Pro-Israel lunatics..."
Jeffrey Goldberg, coming to the rescue of Denis Ross ... Very Funny ... In the Atlantic/ here
Laura Rozen (story) allows an anonymous Administration official to hijack her blog and accuse the National Security Council's Dennis Ross of dual-loyalty:

"He [Ross] seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu's coalition politics than to U.S. interests," one U.S. official told POLITICO Saturday. "And he doesn't seem to understand that this has become bigger than Jerusalem but is rather about the credibility of this Administration."
What some saw as the suggestion of dual loyalties shows how heated the debate has become...."

An alternative explanation might be that Ross, who is a well-known critic of Netanyahu's, understands the internal dynamics of Netanyahu's dysfunctional coalition, and is looking for smart ways for President Obama to manipulate the situation so that progress -- not merely rhetorical progress, but actual progress -- can be made, both in bringing about the territorial compromise needed for peace, and in stopping Iran from going nuclear. But in today's neo-Lindberghian climate, if a Jewish Administration official suggests a course of action that can be interpreted in any way as sympathetic to Israel, he will be called a dual-loyalist, in this case by a coward hiding behind a screen of anonymity erected by Politco."

Bashir Gemayel ... cozy

Via AngryArab/ here

Sunday, March 28, 2010

In Obama's White House: "... a suggestion of Denis Ross's "dual loyalties"..."

Smith & Rosen in POLITICO/ here
" ... Sources say within the inter-agency process, White House Middle East strategist Dennis Ross is staking out a position that Washington needs to be sensitive to Netanyahu’s domestic political constraints including over the issue of building in East Jerusalem in order to not raise new Arab demands, while other officials including some aligned with Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell are arguing Washington needs to hold firm in pressing Netanyahu for written commitments to avoid provocations that imperil Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and to preserve the Obama administration's credibility.
POLITICO spoke with several officials who confirmed the debate and its intensity. Ross did not respond to a query, nor did a spokesman for George Mitchell.
“He [Ross] seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu's coalition politics than to U.S. interests,” one U.S. official told POLITICO Saturday. “And he doesn't seem to understand that this has become bigger than Jerusalem but is rather about the credibility of this Administration.”
What some saw as the suggestion of dual loyalties shows how heated the debate has become.
Last week, during U.S.-Israeli negotiations during Netanyahu’s visit and subsequent internal U.S. government meetings, the official said, Ross “was always saying about how far Bibi could go and not go. So by his logic, our objectives and interests were less important than pre-emptive capitulation to what he described as Bibi's coalition's red lines.”
When the U.S. and Israel are seen to publicly diverge on an issue such as East Jerusalem construction, the official characterized Ross's argument as: "the Arabs increase their demands ... therefore we must rush to close gaps ... no matter what the cost to our broader credibility.”
A second official confirmed the broad outlines of the current debate within the administration. Obviously at every stage of the process, the Obama Middle East team faces tactical decisions about what to push for, who to push, how hard to push, he described.
As to which argument best reflects the wishes of the President, the first official said, “As for POTUS, what happens in practice is that POTUS, rightly, gives broad direction. He doesn't, and shouldn't, get bogged down in minutiae. But Dennis uses the minutiae to blur the big picture … And no one asks the question: why, since his approach in the Oslo years was such an abysmal failure, is he back, peddling the same snake oil?”
Other contacts who have discussed recent U.S.-Israel tensions with Ross say he argues that all parties need to keep focus on the big picture, Iran, and the peace process as being part of a wider U.S. effort to bolster an international and regional alliance including Arab nations and Israel to pressure and isolate Iran. This is an argument that presumably has resonance with the Netanyahu government. But at the same time, Arab allies tell Washington that Israeli construction in East Jerusalem inflames their publics and breeds despair and makes it hard for them to work even indirectly and quietly with Israel on Iran. They push Washington to show it can manage Israel and to get an Israeli-Palestinian peace process going that would facilitate regional cooperation on Iran.
The surfacing of the fierce internal debate underway comes as sources said that the Israeli government is expected to announce as soon as Sunday or Monday that it has struck a deal with Washington on U.S. requests for confidence building steps to advance peace talks.
But officials even disagreed over the nature of the deal or understanding reached.
“There's no deal as would be understood by most,” the first U.S. official said.“That is, there's no shared, negotiated and agreed document. Instead, the Israelis have told us a few things we accept as positive, along with much we don't. So I expect you'll see us put out something that emphasizes our acceptance of only part of whatever the Israelis say.”
On Friday, before details of the internal administration debate surfaced and in response to Israeli news reports that a spokesman for the Prime Minister had suggested an understanding had already been reached between the Israeli and American governments, a White House spokesman said there was no deal yet.
“United States policy on Jerusalem has not changed,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said by email. “We have not reached any understandings on this issue with the Israeli Government. This is an issue on which the US government has had long-standing differences with multiple Israeli governments and the President believes that the only way for the parties to resolve these issues is by returning to negotiations. That’s why we’ve been talking to the Israelis about how to create an atmosphere that will allow the negotiations to succeed. Those conversations have been productive and will continue, as will our conversations with the Palestinians, about how to make the talks successful.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Yediot: "Arabs inch towards Iran"

YNEtnews/ here
"Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Arab states would not accept "Israel's aggression in Jerusalem and the holy sites – unconditionally".
Speaking at an Arab League summit held in the Libyan town of Sirte, Erdogan criticized the government's decision to approve more housing units in east Jerusalem.

"The Israeli interior minister says Jerusalem is the capital, but this is crazy. We are not obliged to accept this. The construction in east Jerusalem is unacceptable and unjustifiable," Erdogan said.

He mentioned the Mideast Quartet's condemnation of the construction and added, "Israel is not only violating international law but also the laws of emotion and conscience. Inflaming tensions in Jerusalem means inflaming tensions in Palestine and the entire Middle East."

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa warned against the "Israeli nuclear threat" and called for the improving of relations with Iran.

"We have to open a dialogue with Iran. I know there is a worry among Arabs regarding Iran but this situation confirms the necessity of a dialogue with Iran," he said.

Moussa also proposed establishing a Mideast bloc which would include Turkey but not Israel. "Israel does not have a place among us as long as it considers itself above the law," he said to a raging round of applause.

Moussa said the peace process with the Palestinians had reached a turning point and that it was time for Arab states to stand up to Israel.

"We have to study the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure," Moussa said. "It's time to face Israel. We have to have alternative plans because the situation has reached a turning point," he said.

"The peace process has entered a new stage, perhaps the last stage. We have accepted the efforts of mediators. We have accepted an open-ended peace process but that resulted in a loss of time and we did not achieve anything and allowed Israel to practice its policy for 20 years."

The 22nd summit was attended by just 13 of 22 leaders of Arab states. It was hosted by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Gaddafi, who is taking over the Arab League's rotating presidency, used his speech at the summit to castigate what he said was years of failure by Arab states to take strong collective action in standing up to Israel."

What planet do these people live on?

Paul Woodward in WarInContext/here

A letter signed by 300 members of Congress and sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declares:

... A strong Israel is an asset to the national security of the United States and brings stability to the Middle East....

What an accomplishment! That so many fallacies could be packed into a single sentence! But the lunacy isn’t confined to Congress. Right in the middle of what is being described as the worst rift in US-Israeli relations in decades, when it comes to the business of business it’s business as usual:

... Even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the full wrath of the Obama administration, the Defense Ministry and Pentagon were concluding yet another huge deal.

Israel will buy three new Hercules-J transport aircraft, built by Lockheed Martin, at a cost of $250 million. The planes will be manufactured according to Israeli specifications and include many systems produced by Israeli military suppliers.

The deal goes to show that a continuing diplomatic crisis between Israel and the United States has still to make itself felt as far as defense relations are concerned....

"... Obama has limited time to press Israel before it becomes a major domestic political issue during midterm elections ..."

McClatchy's/ here

"...... Obama, fresh from his legislative victory on health care, is planning an attempt to turn the current disaster into a diplomatic opportunity, according to U.S. officials, former officials and diplomats.

The administration is said to be preparing a major peace initiative that would be Obama's most direct involvement in the conflict to date, and would go far beyond the tentative, indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks that were torpedoed earlier in the month.

"It is crystallizing that we have to do something now. That this can't go on this way," said one of the officials who, like the others, wouldn't speak for the record because of the issue's sensitivity.

Because of the U.S. political calendar, Obama has limited time to press Israel before it becomes a major domestic political issue during midterm elections. Netanyahu, who this weekend confers with his closest allies, has limited political space in which to operate, if he wants to stay in power. His coalition at home is populated with Israeli politicians who support Jewish settlements in the West Bank, oppose any concessions on Jerusalem and are skeptical of an independent Palestinian state next door......

The Obama administration is said to believe that Netanyahu has more control over Jewish settlements than he admits, and political flexibility to dump his right-wing partners and form a government with the moderate Kadima party if he chose. "Fundamentally, he's going to have to decide between his coalition and his relationship with the United States," the former official said......

By all accounts, the White House meetings went badly, both in substance and tone, as the Obama team pressed Netanyahu to make concessions on Jewish settlements and other issues. Netanyahu balked at some of the requests, which the administration hasn't made public.

Now, the ball is in his court."

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Netanyahu was received like the last of the wazirs from Lower Senegal.''

And when you thought that ONLY the Lebanese are racists!

In the Sydney Herald/ here

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, returned to Israel last night after an apparently disastrous meeting with the US President, Barack Obama, in Washington. According to leaked accounts reported in the Israeli media, Mr Obama humiliated Mr Netanyahu by leaving the meeting early.

''I'm going to the residential wing to have dinner with Michelle and the girls,'' Mr Obama reportedly said, adding that Mr Netanyahu should consult his aides about goodwill gestures Israel was prepared to make towards the Palestinians before renewed peace talks. '''I'm still around,'' he said. ''Let me know if there is anything new.''

The talks were shrouded in an unusual news blackout, with no statement issued after the meeting and no official photographs released. US officials said the two met alone for about 90 minutes. Mr Netanyahu then huddled with staff separately for 90 minutes before requesting a second meeting with Mr Obama.

When the President returned, Mr Netanyahu is said to have made a counter-offer which Mr Obama did not accept.

In an Israeli TV interview before leaving for Israel, Mr Netanyahu said he had made progress in his meeting with Mr Obama. "I think we are finding the golden mean between the traditional policy of all the Israeli governments, and our desire to find a way to renew the peace process. I think we made progress today."

Relations between Israel and the US were shaken this month when, during a visit by the US Vice-President, Joe Biden, Israel announced plans to build 1600 Jewish homes on Palestinian land in occupied East Jerusalem.

One congressman who met Mr Netanyahu after his White House meeting said: ''It was awful. Netanyahu looked excessively concerned and upset. He waved around those pages, eager to persuade us that because of the complicated approval process for issuing construction permits in Jerusalem, one could never know in advance when a decision would be published on the issue.''

Writing in the Israeli Maariv, columnist Ben Caspit said there was no humiliation exercise the Americans did not try on Mr Netanyahu. ''Bibi received in the White House the treatment reserved for the president of Equatorial Guinea,'' Caspit wrote.

Yedioth Ahronoth said the White House ambushed Mr Netanyahu. ''Everything was scrupulously planned, most likely, and the Israeli Premier, perhaps the most sought-after personage in the Oval Office in the past two decades, was received like the last of the wazirs from Lower Senegal.''

The consensus among Israeli commentators is that the US will continue to exert more pressure on Israel to move swiftly towards the creation of a Palestinian state.

''The US is abandoning us and effectively turning into Europe,'' Caspit wrote. ''From now on, we are completely alone. The entire world, from one end to another, talks about a Palestinian state inside territory similar to 1967.''

''Obama wants to know whether Netanyahu is there. In explicit words, in writing, not with hints, not with a 'maybe,' not with a 'yes, but'. A simple question that requires a simple answer.''

US and Israeli officials are working on a document dubbed ''the blueprint,'' which covers all issues, including Jerusalem, that need to be resolved to let talks go forward.

Mr Netanyahu will try to sell it to his cabinet while the US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, will take it to Arab and Palestinian officials for approval.

"Co-opt" Hamas ... and discover how much they hate the Shiites in Tehran...

From a fmr. head of Mossad, Ephraim Halevy, ...
TNR/ here

Under the current circumstances—with the destructive gamesmanship of the Palestinian Authority and the stagnation in Gaza—the time has surely come to explore a new relationship with Hamas. Attempts to penalize the group with exclusion have failed; perhaps, the time has come for a strategy that co-opts Hamas.

For starters, let’s consider the prospect of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that excludes Hamas. This would be a fool’s errand. Hamas has a proven ability to play the role of spoiler, to exploit such a situation for its own political ends at the expense of peace. But we don’t even need to progress that far in our thought experiment. Right now, the decaying Palestinian administration in Ramallah doesn’t have the credibility to survive the rigors of negotiations, let alone the implementation of an agreement. Abu Mazen can only speak in the name of the West Bank, and recent events have shown that his mandate there is (at best) fragile.

Israel’s current Palestinian strategy is not a winning one. That’s because it has confined itself to playing a game with rules that place it at an inherent disadvantage. It must scramble these rules to have a chance. Bringing Hamas to the table would do just that.

Hamas has demonstrated a will and a capacity to think and act pragmatically when it believes it useful or necessary. There’s no better example of this than its governance of Gaza. Yes, it continues to play the role of peace-process spoiler when that role suits its interests. But Hamas has also demonstrated a serious capacity to exercise responsibility and restraint when that role suits its purposes. It has demonstrated its ability to control Gaza effectively, to both enforce a long-term cessation of hostilities and to withstand the combined efforts of the United States, Israel, and Egypt to bring it to its knees.

Before President Obama and Premier Netanyahu proceed to negotiate with their dispirited Palestinian interlocutors, why not reconsider the options? Bringing Hamas to the table could relieve pressure on the Palestinians—who would no longer need to worry about the Islamists attacking their credibility. It might create space for a less ideological approach to peacemaking, and it might allow for the negotiation of a more achievable agreement with Israel. Why not hammer out a temporary arrangement between the three sides that would, say, extend for 25 years with a clause for renewal? Such an agreement would make for a practical second-best outcome--a durable interim understanding.

Current policy, after all, sends Hamas the signal that it is doomed to exclusion come what may and forever. But the more that Hamas is permitted inside the tent, the better the prospects of a modest (yet historic) success. Of course, there will be those who say this is impossible. They will say Hamas is inhuman, and why would the Iranians ever allow this? The answer is that Fatah hardly behaves much better than Hamas. Besides, Fatah has limited ability to deliver any sort of peace without the consent of Hamas. As far as the Iranians go, once you start talking with Hamas, you soon discover how much they hate the guts of those renegade Shiites in Tehran. I could be wrong about all of this. But given the unworkable alternatives, surely this is worth putting to the test."

Netanyahu & Obama are at point of no return: IRAN OFF THE HOOK?

Judah Grunstein has an interesting comment on the Netanyahu "Screw You" strategy:
"... Here's where the recent developments in the U.S.-Israel relationship, as well as Israel's recent "bull in a china shop" diplomatic blunders (Turkey, Dubai hit) come in. Up to now, the regional solution proposed by the U.S. was essentially: U.S. "outstretched hand" + Israel-Palestine peace track + Arab Peace Initative + Turkey-mediated Israel-Syria peace track = isolated Iran. Pick a side, in that case, looks like a reasonable alternative.
But as Akiva Eldar relates (below) , Israel has essentially said, "Screw you," to the four components of that equation, while still hoping to come out with the same result -- an isolated Iran. Instead, the alternative regional solution that we're seeing emerge is something along the lines of: Arab League hedging on Iran + Gulf states hedging on Iran + Turkey hedging on Iran = Iran off the hook. That's a decidedly weaker case for the "pick a side" argument...".
Eldar in Haaretz/ here
"The strife between Israel and the United States concerns something far bigger than the proximity talks with the Palestinians. As far as President Barack Obama and his senior advisers are concerned, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to blame for nothing less than damaging the standing of the U.S.in the Middle East and the Muslim world.
Just as Netanyahu received his standing ovation at the AIPAC conference, Obama and his advisers were ruminating over an altogether different convention - the Arab League begins a meeting Tripoli on Saturday. For the Americans, Netanyahu's Likudnik speech and the Shpeherd Hotel project matched in embarrassment the scandalous announcement of construction in East Jerusalem during Vice President Joe Biden's visit here.
This year's Arab League summit will be the scene of struggle between the allies of Iran and the allies of American, and the violation of the status quo in Al Quds - Jerusalem - has direct implications for the balance of power between the sides. Over the last few weeks, Americans have been giving life support to the Arab Peace Initiative, born at the League's summit in Beirut 2002 and set to be on the agenda this week.
The absence of Egyptian President Mubarak, who is recovering from an operation in Berlin, doesn't make it any easier for the U.S. to resist the efforts of Syria and Libya to suspend or possibly even terminate the peace initiative. The al-Mabhouh assassination, insulting as it was to the rulers of the Gulf, doesn't do much for the other proponents of the initiative, King Abdullah of Saudia and King Abdullah II of Jordan. The Saudi king had asked the Quartet for clarifications about Israel's latest moves in Jerusalem and specifically about Netanyahu's statement of intent for the Arab part of the city.
The messages coming to the White House from Riyadh and Amman, then, were starkly clear: If you don't rein in your Israeli friends, Tehran won't be the only Middle East capital where American flags will burn.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decisively supported General David Petraeus, the first American military man in years to describe Israel as a strategic burden on the U.S. Gates said America's rivals in the Middle East are abusing the standstill of the political process between Israel and the Arabs. He stressed that he had no doubt a lack of peace in the region was influencing American interests there.
Netanyahu had been hoping to buy time until November's Congressional elections, which coincide with the deadline he set for the settlement freeze. But with America's strategic interest on the line, Bibi's favorite political game (playing the Jewish community and Congress against the White House and the State Department) isn't working anymore. Obama decided his moderate Middle East coalition is more important than Netanyahu's extremist one. This is a point of no return."

"...A future in which emigration and unending Arab & Muslim hostility end the experiment.."

Lang in SST/ here

"Bibi was "dissed." Good, he needed the lesson. I think there will be more such lessons. Obama is a patient man. I now see that he favors the "ambush" style. Israeli hubris and arrogance favors an "adversary" who employs such method. They will not learn the lesson implied in this Ha'aretz editorial because to do so would require a basic change in the way they think pf themselves in relationship to the outer world and gentiles. They carry this burden in trying to deal with difficult situations. In the same way they will continue down the road of trying to deal with the Palestinians by treating them as sub-humans. That road leads to a dead end.

It leads to a future in which emigration and unending Arab and Muslim hostility end the experiment.


People keep referring to Bibi as an invited guest of the US in this visit. So far as I know this was a "self invited visit." The only thing we did was give him a visa." PL

Thursday, March 25, 2010

US Softens Sanction Plan Against Iran

WSJ, Via the RFI/ here

The all-too-predictable dynamics surrounding a potential new Iran sanctions resolution in the United Nations Security Council continue to play out just as we have anticipated. As some commentators are leaping on media stories that one of China’s diplomats took part in a P-5+1 conference call yesterday about a possible resolution, The Wall Street Journal reports today that the Obama Administration is already backing away from a number of the “tougher” measures that it originally included in the current draft resolution, primarily to maximize chances for winning Russian support and Chinese acquiescence (at least) for a watered-down resolution. According to the WSJ,

“Among key provisions removed from the original draft resolution the U.S. sent to key allies last month were sanctions aimed at choking off Tehran’s access to international banking services and capital markets, and closing international airspace and waters to Iran’s national air cargo and shipping lines…The cargo sanctions initially named Iran Air and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and demand a blanket ban of their airplanes and ships from other countries’ airspace or territorial waters.”

As the WSJ points out, these measures “would have made it difficult for Iran to insure imports and exports of oil and other essential commodities, by barring foreign insurers from serving international transport contracts from Iran.” Other provisions deleted from the original draft text would “have barred Iran’s access to international capital markets by prohibiting foreign investment in Iranian bonds.”

According to the WSJ, the current draft still contains a prohibition against states offering financial assistance or credits for trade with Iran as well as a comprehensive international arms embargo against Iran. Furthermore, the current draft contains provisions specifically targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. In particular, the current draft

“would force an international freeze on the assets of the entire Revolutionary Guard and ‘any individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction,’ and on ‘entities owned or controlled by them, including through illicit means’…If enforced, the proposed sanctions could force the Revolutionary Guard to divest itself of some holdings to prevent major disruptions in the economy. The Revolutionary Guard’s affiliation with the country’s telecom operator, for example, could prompt foreign partners to stop connecting international calls.”

We would anticipate that some, if not all of these provisions would be watered-down or perhaps even eliminated before a final text of a new sanctions resolution could move ahead. Obama Administration officials remain relatively confident that they can win Russia’s support for a new sanctions resolution, but they will almost certainly have to give up more on the extent and rigor of the specific measures included in the resolution to guarantee Moscow’s backing. Russia, for example, has consistently insisted that proposals for an international arms embargo against the Islamic Republic be excluded from previous sanctions resolutions. Getting Beijing to abstain, at least, is essential for any resolution to move forward—and that, too, is likely to require more concessions on substance from Washington and its European partners. It seems unlikely that China (or even Russia, for that matter) would ultimately endorse a blanket prohibition on dealing with the Revolutionary Guard and U.S. Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey’s “hit list” of Revolutionary Guard affiliates and asset holdings—including in the Islamic Republic’s all-important energy sector.

And, of course, the United States and its European partners continue to face an uphill battle to get Brazil and Turkey (two of the Security Council’s most important rotating members) to support a new sanctions resolution against Iran. But this, too, will be necessary to get to what Obama Administration officials identify as their goal of a 14-1 vote in New York in favor of additional sanctions. (The Administration privately acknowledges that Lebanon is unlikely to do more than abstain.)

Looking ahead, the most probable endgame will play out along the lines we have anticipated: the United States and its European partners will get a new sanctions resolution, but it will be greatly watered-down from the measures they originally proposed. Moreover, the Obama Administration is likely to fall short of its goal of a 14-1 vote in the Council, which will mean that this resolution will be passed by a more divided Security Council than any of the three previous sanctions resolutions adopted against Iran. And, it’s much more likely to be June, rather than April, before we get there.

So what, exactly, is all of this going to do to advance U.S. interests? In an article this week in Time, Tony Karon recounts Secretaryy of State Hillary Clinton’s pledge to “prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” Reviewing the state of play on international sanctions, Karon then argues that,

“The actual level of progress on the Iran sanctions front, however, has not yet caught up with Clinton’s tough talk — and there’s little sign that any of the pressure being mustered will realistically stop Iran from slowly acquiring the means to create a nuclear bomb (though the U.S. believes Tehran has not yet decided to actually build such weapons).”