Friday, November 30, 2007

EU Official: "The US wanted Syria so much in Annapolis, that it backed off its committments to ... Saad Hariri"

Excerpts from the Middle East Policy Survey:
"...According to well-informed sources, these parties were only told the evening before the Annapolis gathering that the Israelis objected to the "internationalization" of the peace process -- a reference that only later did Quartet members take to mean they were being sidelined by the US....
Some Arab diplomats were quick to explain that this is the result of a growing consensus among moderate Arab leaders that the Palestinian issue no longer serves their national interest. "The Arabs want to get rid of the Arab-Israeli issue because it works against them," says one Arab league Ambassador, "Unfortunately," he adds, "They are less capable of helping because of internal threats heightened by this very issue..."
"...For Israeli officials, Annapolis only reemphasized the delicate balance that must be maintained between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. "Too much coming out of Annapolis hurts Olmert; too little undermines Abu Mazen," said one key Israeli official on the eve of the conclave. that in the Palestinian leader they finally have a "political partner," but not a "security partner..."
"...For some, notably Defense Minister Barak, Syria figures to be a much better bet as a security partner. But on a bi-lateral basis, a number of Israelis have concluded that with this raid going a long way to restore Israeli "deterrence" so badly undermined by their poor military performance against Hezbollah last year, now, in the words of one high ranking Israeli official, "We can talk to the Syrians..."
"...In return, Israeli has long been prepared to cede the political initiative to Damascus, when it comes to forming a government in Lebanon. However, it came as a surprise to a number of observers how quickly and completely the US was ready to back off its commitment to pro-Western politicians in Beirut, led by the son of the late Rafik Hariri, who many believe was assassinated on the expressed orders of the Syrian regime. After months of insisting that the new Lebanese President be not only constitutionally chosen but be acceptable to anti-Syrian politicians, the US appears to have backtracked. Now the Administration appears willing to acquiesce in the selection of Army chief of Staff Michel Sleiman, who technically is not eligible to be President and more important, has shown a willingness to work closely with Syria's allies in Lebanon. Some observers speculate that as the Annapolis conference loomed, Administration officials realized the last thing they needed was a contretemps with Syria over Lebanon. "By the end they wanted the Syrians at Annapolis," says one European diplomat who has been deeply involved with the Lebanon issue. And he, perhaps like a number of his American counterparts, came to believe that getting caught in the thicket of internal Lebanese politics was a no-win proposition..."
"If Syrian attendance helped make Annapolis a success, this was due, in part, to the perception that it came at the expense of Iran. Iranian ambitions, particularly of the nuclear variety, rarely stray far from Administration thinking. And some US officials believe that after making an impact earlier in the year, with such pro-active moves as the arrest of Iranian operatives in Iraq and the deployment of two aircraft carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf, the US has been unable to follow up with efforts to impress Iran of the danger of its increased isolation. [For this reason, Israeli officials believe the Administration was not at all unhappy with the message delivered by their air raid on Syria]..."
"...Now, however, time is becoming more crucial. Some experts believe Iran, at the current rate, will be producing nuclear fuel long before a new Administration comes into office. "The diplomatic timetable is quickly losing out to the technological timetable," is way one veteran diplomat puts it. In fact, some in the Administration are convinced that the International Atomic Energy Agency chief, el-Baradei already thinks it is too late. This has led some observers to conclude that the Administration may be content to leave resolution of this issue to its successors..."
"...Part of the reason for this kind of bravado may be the improving situation on the ground in Iraq. While US officials admit, no one is saying "victory," they do point to the positive consequences of the surge: a reduction in violence, the absence of "non directed fire" at the Green Zone and the splintering of both shia and sunni militant groups. And while most concede the central government will continue to be weak, a number of long time skeptical State Department officials are now saying, as one put it last week, "It just may work at a local level."

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