Posted by Joshua on Saturday, December 13th, 2008
Ex-President Carter is in Damascus today– Saturday – for talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In Lebanon Carter stressed that steps taken by both Israel and Syria would be “a major step forward to achieve peace in the region.” He told the reporters that diplomatic ties between Lebanon and Syria should speed up, adding “I am proud of the development in relations between Lebanon and Syria.” He expressed hope that “peaceful, transparent and democratic” parliamentary elections would take place in Lebanon next spring, urging the Lebanese to vote and choose their leaders without external pressure.
Syrianews is reporting that Carter told Assad that the Obama administration will send an American ambassador to Damascus.
كارتر:عند استلام الإدارة الأمريكية الجديدة سيعود سفيرها إلى دمشق الاخبار السياسية
Israel Responds to IAEA’s Letter on Syria’s Site Wall Street Journal
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s letter of Dec. 3 (“Probing Syria’s Nuclear Project“) defending the agency’s record in investigating Syria is astonishing, but not surprising. Each time the agency comes under political criticism for handling of a Middle Eastern country’s flagrant breaches of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or its safeguards agreement, the agency immediately resorts to publicly invoking Israel’s name….. Nothing should stand in the way of the agency’s search for evidence. The claim that Israel is withholding critical information on the site is nothing but a smoke screen. Targeting Israel is a poor excuse. It will not absolve IAEA of its prime duty to get to the bottom of Syria’s nuclear activities…..
Does Syria need nuclear power?”, Middle East Online. Syrians trapped between urgent need for alternative fuel and US double standards on nuclear energy.
US, UAE close to nuclear cooperation deal. Middle East Online
The United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are close to clinching a deal for civilian nuclear cooperation, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday. … McCormack was commenting on a report in the Wall Street Journal that said the Bush administration plans to sign a nuclear cooperation deal with the UAE, the first such pact with a Middle East country.
US shows Syria yellow card, Sat, 13 Dec 2008
The US ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency has warned that Syria might face punitive measures over its ‘nuclear program’.
Citing an al-Sharq al-Awsat interview with Gregory L. Schulte, the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot quoted the US diplomat as saying that Damascus should decide whether it wants to cooperate on its alleged atomic program until March or it will face punishment. “The international agency is giving the Syrians an opportunity to cooperate, and they have an extension until the next meeting to cooperate,” Schulte said on Saturday.
“I hope the Syrians reach the conclusion that they should cooperate for the sake of their own interests” he said, adding that if Damascus failed to cooperate “this would lead to a negative response, and serious questions would be raised”…..
Can Obama avert an Arab-Israeli disaster? Bernard Debusmann
Time is running out for Israel and the Palestinians. Barack Obama is probably the last American president to have the option of pursuing an accord leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the so-called two-state solution. Commentary
If that fails, another generation will be locked into bloodshed and strife. That is the bleak scenario painted by two senior American Middle East experts in a new book, Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President. … The authors of the chapter on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Steven A. Cook and Shibley Telhami, see American involvement in peace diplomacy as indispensable and say last month’s presidential elections opened new opportunities. But they note that after years of unsuccessful negotiations, there is a
growing sense of disbelief in the possibility of a peaceful agreement.
“More troubling, an increasing number of Palestinian and Arab intellectuals are abandoning the idea of a two-state solution and are now advocating a one-state solution in which Jews and Arabs coexist in a binational state. In Israel some mainstream voices are now arguing that the two-state solution is unachievable…”
… Pressing Israel to freeze building settlements in the West Bank is high on their list. So is getting Hamas into the negotiating fold as part of a unity government. (So far, the U.S. and the European Union brand Hamas a terrorist group that cannot be a negotiating partner).
So can Obama do what is necessary to end the impasse? Is the only alternative to a two-state solution renewed, large-scale bloodshed?
NO SIGNS OF FRESH THINKING FROM OBAMA…
…What’s remarkable in the Brookings/CFR analysis is the concern it expresses that in the absence of a peace settlement, secular elites will turn their back on the notion of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and instead opt for one country (Israel, the West Bank and Gaza) in which Arabs and Jews are equal….
One of the most vocal proponents of the idea is Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian-American activist and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. “All the talk of a two-state solution, all the diplomatic initiatives are divorced from the reality of what Israel is doing on the ground,” he says. “A Palestinian state requires the removal of settlements and that’s not likely to happen.”
Most Israelis reject the notion of one state for all,… Abunimah, a co-founder the The Electronic Intifada, a website critical of U.S. and Israeli policies, has something in common with the more moderate experts from Brookings and the Council on Foreign Relations. “Solving the Arab-Israeli conflict requires a sledgehammer,” he says, “Not a scalpel.”
“Obama to inherit an international mess,” blares Politico. “Mr. Obama has inherited a world of pressing troubles,” moans the Economist. “It’s pretty difficult to think that any administration left its successor a worse situation in [the Middle East],” analyst Anthony Cordesman laments to the Washington Times.
As the Bush administration prepares to hand off foreign policy to Barack Obama, it has become an article of faith that our new president is inheriting something akin to a global Superfund site. It isn’t clear if Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is reading these epitaphs. But over lunch in the State Department, it’s clear she has a different view of the world.
For starters, Ms. Rice is of the opinion that any talk of “inheritance” has to start with a consideration of what the Bush administration itself “inherited.”
Sipping her soup, talking in her measured voice, the Secretary of State begins with the broad point that they inherited a terrorism problem that had been ignored for years and allowed to grow until it exploded on 9/11.
“Not just that, but we inherited a law enforcement mentality where you punished the crime after it happened, instead of trying to prevent the crime,” she says. The new team is in fact getting a national security structure that has, over eight years, been retooled to deal with the terrorism threat. No small thing.
Ms. Rice then begins a world tour. “What we inherited were the failed Camp David Accords, and as a result the Second Intifada.” She recalls Palestinian bombings of clubs and pizza parlors, the shelling of the Bethlehem Church of the Nativity. “Yasser Arafat was in power, stealing people blind and working with terrorists. Ariel Sharon was elected not to bring peace, but to defeat the intifada.”
Fragile as the situation remains, Ms. Rice notes that last year Bethlehem was the site of a huge investment conference, hosted by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, aided by Israel, and held in the open air. She riffs on last year’s Annapolis conference to further peace negotiations. She argues that certain Bush principles are now more accepted in the region, including Israel’s right to defend itself, and the need for a Palestinian state.
She moves on. “We inherited a Lebanon with Syrian forces there for 30 years. Now, Syrian forces are out. There is a democratic government in power — yes, being challenged by Hezbollah — but the prime minister has survived and they’ve elected a president. The Lebanese army is out in the country for the first time. And,” she says, “they are friendly to the United States.”
Iraq. “Then? Saddam Hussein dragged the region into a war and lost over a million lives. It dragged the U.S. into war. He murdered his own people, terrorized his neighbors and sought weapons of mass destruction. Today? You have a multiethnic, multiconfessional democracy that isn’t threatening its neighbors.”
“So, I just don’t understand this argument that it is so much worse. I always say, ‘as opposed to what?’ Syrian forces in Lebanon and no democracy. Saddam Hussein in power, threatening his neighbors and us. The Taliban in Afghanistan. The Palestinians and Israelis in an open intifada. That was the better Middle East?….
…Iran is paying a heavy cost. When that cost will finally result in a change of policy, I don’t know. But the cost shouldn’t be underestimated. And with oil prices coming down, the cost will be even more acute.”….
SSNP News from Antoun Issa: It appears the election of Assad Hardan as president of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) has brought along some substantial change.
According to my source, the SSNP has put its political allies on notice (Hezbollah, Amal, FPM, Marada) that its votes in the 2009 parliamentary elections will not be in vain. The SSNP expects something in return……. (read the rest at his blog)