Posted by Joshua on Monday, January 12th, 2009
NEW YORK: The Obama team is tight with information, but I’ve got the scoop on the senior advisers he’s gathered to push a new Middle East policy as the Gaza war rages: Shibley Telhami, Vali Nasr, Fawaz Gerges, Fouad Moughrabi and James Zogby.
This group of distinguished Arab-American and Iranian-American scholars, with wide regional experience, is intended to signal a U.S. willingness to think anew about the Middle East, with greater cultural sensitivity to both sides, and a keen eye on whether uncritical support for Israel has been helpful.
O.K., forget the above, I’ve let my imagination run away with me. Barack Obama has no plans for this line-up on the Israeli-Palestinian problem and Iran.
In fact, the people likely to play significant roles on the Middle East in the Obama administration read rather differently.
They include Dennis Ross (the veteran Clinton administration Mideast peace envoy who may now extend his brief to Iran); Jim Steinberg (as deputy secretary of state); Dan Kurtzer (the former U.S. ambassador to Israel); Dan Shapiro (a longtime aide to Obama); and Martin Indyk (another former ambassador to Israel who is close to the incoming secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.)
Now, I have nothing against smart, driven, liberal, Jewish (or half-Jewish) males; I’ve looked in the mirror. I know or have talked to all these guys, except Shapiro. They’re knowledgeable, broad-minded and determined. Still, on the diversity front they fall short. On the change-you-can-believe-in front, they also leave something to be desired….
Former Amb. Martin Indyk vs. Author Norman Finkelstein: A Debate on Israel’s Assault on Gaza and the US Role in the Conflict: Listen to or read the debate moderated by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now TV and Radio here.
Amal Saad-Ghorayeb in her article, “Will Hizballah intervene in the Gaza conflict?” argues that Hizbullah may well attack Israel if it believes Hamas is on the verge of destruction.
Ben Simphendorfer describes how the fighting in Gaza is viewed in China on his blog, “The Silkroad.”
The fighting in Gaza shines a spotlight on relations between China and the Arab world. No surprise, but the state of relations has changed rapidly over the past decade…..
Ahmed Mussa speaks good Chinese. He should. He’s the Palestinian Authority’s envoy in Beijing. I watched his interview on Xinhua, China’s state news agency, earlier this week. For thirty minutes he argued the Palestinian case in front of his Chinese host. He criticized Israel. But also opposed the rocket attacks by Hamas. He talked of the links between Arab Jews and Arab Muslims. He also worried that the Arab states would fail to unite in opposition…. There are also many Chinese supporters of Israeli to judge by the attitude of bloggers. Take a comment by one blogger
Istanbul Calling is written by Yigal Schleifer, a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, Turkey, where he works as a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and the Eurasianet website, covering Turkey. He describes how:
Israel’s attack on Gaza continues to put Turkey and its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a difficult spot. Turkey still very much wants to play the role of regional mediator (and the country would likely be a key part of a multinational force that may end up monitoring the Egypt-Gaza border as part of a cease-fire agreement), but Erdogan’s harsh criticism of Israel has some critics asking (see this New York Times article) whether Turkey has now lost its chance to play the role of honest broker between Jerusalem and its neighbors.At the same time, Erdogan and his government are confronting an unprecedented level of public anger in Turkey over Israel’s actions in Gaza. Large protests have been held almost daily throughout Turkey. An Israeli basketball team recently playing in Ankara had to flee to the safety of the locker room after angry protesters rushed onto the court. With local elections coming up in March, Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) certainly don’t want to be seen as too close to Israel right now. Some of the anti-Israel protests are already featuring signs and placards showing Erdogan shaking hands with Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, accusing the Turkish leader of “collaborating” with Israel. A recent poll taken in Istanbul found the liberal Islamic AKP losing ground, partially to the old school Islamists of the Felicity Party (SP), which has been a driving force behind several of the large anti-Israel protests.
Who killed Mr Lebanon?: The hunt for Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s assassins
The Independent, January 11, 2009
In 2005, a 1,700kg bomb ripped through the heart of Beirut, taking with it Lebanon’s former premier, Rafiq Hariri. His alleged assassins are due in court in The Hague early this year. But will a trial with potentially explosive implications for the entire Middle East ever be allowed to go ahead?
The vast magnitude of the Iraqi refugee crisis is likely to be sustained for some time to come. … In this context, it is important to acknowledge that the Syrian authorities are not coping very well with the resulting crisis as it places intolerable burdens on its fiscal policies and the economy, while state surveillance and control of Iraqi refugees appear to be faltering. Meanwhile, Iraqi frustrations about being abandoned by the Syrian authorities, host communities and by the international community are mounting.
…the expectation that the Iraqi refugee crisis will cause a spillover of Iraq’s violence to Syria is unlikely to materialize in the future. Political violence, such as sectarian clashes or the mobilization of refugees by parties to the Iraqi conflicts, has been rare. The main explanation for this lies with the Iraqi refugees themselves. Given their specific demographic and social traits (including age composition, education levels and professions, and to a more limited extent religious affiliation), in addition to refugees’ sectarian segregation, an overwhelming majority of Iraqi refugees are and remain victims of the violence in Iraq; they are extremely unlikely to become its perpetrators. …. Iraqi refugees are not bringing their fights to the host countries primarily because they had not been fighting in the first place.
Although the conflicts in Iraq are currently not being replicated in Syria, socio-economic destitution and the failure to provide humanitarian assistance will cause tensions between Iraqi refugees and the host state and host communities. Accumulating frustrations, in combination with possible dramatic events such as large-scale deportations, may remove Iraqi refugees’ inhibitions to engage in violent protests, and may set off confrontations between refugees and Syrian state security forces. For Syria and Iraqi refugees alike, the consequences may be as serious, but the conflicts that would arise as a result are to be viewed separately from the violent imbroglio in Iraq and would therefore not constitute a “spillover” effect as such.
… third country resettlement of the most vulnerable among the Iraqi refugees… is a means to prevent further destabilization of the region. This conclusion stands in sharp contrast with the present preoccupation of US and European refugee policies and of many refugee studies alike to contain refugees in the regions of armed conflict, for patently self-interested reasons. … The probability of Iraqi refugees’ growing malaise negatively affecting stability in the host countries calls for prioritising humanitarian assistance over US foreign policy misgivings vis-à-vis Syria and the EU’s concerns over the recipient state’s institutional capabilities, which are now holding back a serious aid effort. The Iraqi refugee crisis, next to the daily ordeal it signifies for its victims, has produced yet another pressing reason for the US and its allies to engage Syria, thereby adding to an expanding list of rationales to do so.