Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MEPGS: "...If you don't stop them in Lebanon, they will come to the Gulf..."

".....US officials have been working behind the scenes to affect the summit. The most obvious example of this was seen in Vice President Cheney's visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this week where he found, as expected, his hosts' willingness to work to undermine Syria's efforts to regain its standing in the Arab world.
What US officials see as Saudi Arabia's "uncharacteristically bold" approach toward Syria ... based mainly on two considerations. The first is the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a long time confidante of the Saudi ruling family. The second and more strategic consideration is the belief, as one Arab diplomat put it last week, "The Syrians need to be taught not to rely on Iran." Indeed, it is the fear of a rising Iran and the radicalization that it promotes, that has led to the conclusion, as one veteran diplomat put it last week, "If you don't stop them in Lebanon, they will come to the Gulf.
....Still, the US has its work cut out. Veteran US analysts believe that the Saudis are convinced the Bush Administration is to blame for the growing problems of the region. One US analyst explained the Saudi view this way, "We let Iran into Iraq..."after seven years in office, the Administration is, in the view of one well placed official, "...seen to it that the US is neither, feared, liked or respected."
Still, US officials from the President on down, continue, in fact, have redoubled their efforts to address regional problems. President Bush will make his second visit this year to the Middle East in May... attend[ing] ceremonies marking Israel's 60th independence and[ing] again with Palestinian leaders ....also surely include a stopover in Amman, omitted from his last visit.... the President may make return visits to Riyadh and Cairo, say
Administration insiders...Rice, too, will continue to make regular visits to the region, including one this weekend. Her focus tends to be on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which US officials describe as "going well as can be expected" considering the situation on the ground in Gaza, where Hamas rules and the fact that talks are being conducted by two weak leaders, Palestinian Abu Mazen and Israeli Ehud Barak. ..."These are `shelf' talks. No wonder they are going well. They are going nowhere"....[ leaving ] key (US) official has repeatedly call[ing] for the "decapitation" of Hamas leadership, arguing that such an approach worked in 2004].
......Aware that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict always has the potential for deflecting attention away from other issues, the Syrians have tried to steer the Arab League summit agenda in that direction. If successful in warding off Arab attention from its role in Lebanon, a number of key US officials say privately that time will be on their side. "Short of us whacking them, what can possibly derail Syria's comeback in Lebanon?" asks one veteran US official. The US response, so far, has been underwhelming, in the view of a number of officials. Several weeks ago the destroyer USS Cole ......other measures of support have proven to be equally
ineffective, not to mention equally embarrassing to some. Last week, for example, Secretary Rice met with former Christian warlord Samir Geagea, prompting one of her aides to defend the decision by pointing out that he was "no worse" a character than Druze leader Walid Jumblatt who has gotten ..."the full White House treatment ." Other measures to help the Lebanese, such as support for its national army has again been more rhetorical than real. The explanation offered privately is that any serious arming of the Lebanese Armed Forces runs the risk of falling into the hands of Hezbollah some time in the future....
.....Ultimately, some veteran US officials predict that the current Lebanese government will suffer, in the words of one State Department official a "slow, slow death." Speaking for a number of his colleagues he says, "As long as Syria and Hezbollah want Lebanon to be weak, there is no way to turn this thing around." Even the prospect of the convening of an International Tribunal to investigate the assassination of Hariri, scheduled to be up and running by June... elicits little prospect of altering the situation on the ground in Lebanon. Although it does rattle the Syrians ...(but) recent signs from those involved in putting together the prosection have not been encouraging.
According to informed sources, the Dutch, who will host the Tribunal in the Hague, are getting increasingly nervous as they confront the prospect of a trial which exposes them to danger but has little prospect of bringing the perpetrators to justice....
A Syrian comeback will be yet another gain for its more powerful ally, Iran. And waiting in the wings, especially if Barack Obama is elected President, is the likelihood of the next Administration beginning a dialogue with Iran. "It's the Saudis greatest nightmare -- a grand bargain between Iran and the US," says one key State Department official.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"a "slow, slow death.""
Yalla, the slower the more painfull, the better.

By the way, Great blog GPC