Friday, October 30, 2009

"Lebanon is one arena where US policy goals do not seem to be advancing ..."

MEPGS: Excerpts:

Iran's apparent rejection of the offer by the P-5+1 (Russia,China, the US, France, Britain and Germany) to send most of its stockpile (2,600 lbs.) of low enriched uranium ("LEU") to Russia for enrichment purposes, appears to dash what flickering hopes officials from these countries had that President Obama's outreach to Iran could produce positive results...
Most analysts, US as well as foreign, had held out little prospect
that Iran would entirely adopt the P5+1 proposal. "We knew with whom we were dealing," said one well-placed official with a laugh. ... "Only `Yes' would open a new chapter in relations with Iran."......
[The thoughgt inside the beltway is that] political upheaval as a constant, a number of US officials believe that now is the time to press Teheran. "This is a deeply split regime," says one European analyst, echoing the views of key US officials. "Put simply, the moderates want to reach out to the international community in order to legitimize their rule at home. The radicals fear such an outreach will further weaken the regime." While no official speaks of a simple approach to bring around Iran, their is wide spread agreement that pressure on a number of fronts could have an effect.
... With little prospect of enticing Russia or China into the group, the option of another UN Security Council resolution has faded from discussions. However, other countries, which usually await a UN imprimatur, such as South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, now seem prepared to join the effort.
Even those impatient with this approach, credit the Administration with focusing on Iran in a way that the Bush Administration, for all its bombast, did not. France, under the personal direction of President Sarkozy, has been openly pressing the US for action and appears satisfied with what it has heard so far from Washington. Even the Israelis, who have been clamoring for US-led international action for more than a decade, see the Administration moving in the right direction. Dennis Ross, who moved over from the State Department to be the senior advisor to the President on this and other Middle East issues, clearly is taking a hard line role.
Administration insiders say that Ross is also becoming more deeply involved in Arab-Israeli peacemaking. Until now, under the exclusive purview of Special Envoy George Mitchell, the White House now appears to have changed direction somewhat. Having been defied by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on its insistence that he freeze all new settlement activity, the Administration, while not discounting this issue's importance to the Arabs, is said to be focusing on the underlying Arab demand -- a return to pre-1967 borders as a basis for restarting negotiations. Since the Israelis and Palestinians have privately come tantalizingly close to a border agreement (the key issue of Jerusalem excepted and land swaps for areas in the West Bank densely populated by Israelis), this seems to a number of Administration insiders as a good place to start. Ross, who spent the better part of a decade deeply involved in this issue had been kept at a distance by Mitchell and his team. Now, however, with ideas once backed by Ross, such as holding multilateral talks as an alternative means of engaging Arab states, notably Saudi Arabia, in the process, a number of State Department officials already see the seeds of competition between Mitchell and Ross [A development unwelcome in the Arab world, where Ross is looked upon as too sympathetic to Israel].
With Afghanistan taking center stage in Administration discussions of fighting wars abroad, US officials are quietly expressing confidence about the trend of events in what is quickly becoming "the other war." Despite some horrendous bombings in recent weeks and continuing political deadlock between Kurds and the central government on a number of issues, the June 30th withdrawal of US forces from major population areas has dramatically changed, for the better, Iraqis view of the future, say veteran US officials. "They never believed we would leave," says one State Department official. "Now that they are no longer our wards, they have begun the serious business of making some sort of country for themselves after we leave." According to this view, the Sunnis were the first to come to terms with an Iraq they did not run. The Shias only later
accepted that power would be theirs. And despite the recent upsurge in violence, US officials point out that September recorded the lowest number of civilian casualties in Iraq since the start of the war....

One arena where US policy goals do not seem to be advancing is Lebanon. Months after the election which somewhat unexpectedly brought victory to a pro-Western alignment, its leadership is still unable to form a government. While US officials express dismay at what one well-placed insider calls the "Lebanese political morass", the US may be contributing to it by pressing for a Cabinet that not only reflects the views of the pro-western victors, but also diminishes the influence of the Opposition, including the most powerful faction in Lebanon, Hezbollah. There had been some hope that recent meetings between Syrian and Saudi leaders would lead to a compromise. But the latest reading by some in the Administration is that those two countries have something more important in mind -- Iran.

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