Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
In Schenker’s article about China (copied below), he omits one fact. Iran and Syria are forced to look to China because America has closed all doors to them and is sanctioning them. Turkey does not have to look East, but if it wants to trade with Iran and cultivate good relations with Russia, Syria and the neighborhood, it cannot afford to remain so dependent on the US and Israel for its defense and economic needs. What is more, Turkey was excluded from the EU; America’s closest ally just killed 9 of its citizens. These are all reasons that turkey is increasingly looking East to Russia and China. It does not want to alienate its new friends, who ahve the potential to help drive its economy forward. The US is insisting that Turkey sanction Iran, a 10 billion dollar a year trading partner. Asia is the future. In 2008, Asian nations as a group passed the United States with $387 billion in research and development spending, compared with $384 billion in the United States and $280 billion in Europe.
Every Middle Eastern country is beginning to make calculations similar to Turkey’s. They are discounting US power and counting on China and India to be able to soften US sanctions in the future. The US should not be following use more sanctions and more sticks to force regional states into capitulating to US and Israeli demands. Instead, the US should soften its diplomacy in the region. Most importantly, it should back away from confrontation with Iran. It should also avoid greater conflict with Turkey. Using sanctions as its main tool of diplomacy with Syria and Iran is isolating the US and producing deep resentments in the region that will inevitably find a way to express themselves as anti-Americanism.
The most compelling argument against using sanctions, is that they produce the wrong outcome. They are counter productive because they make Middle Easterners poorer. The only real solution for improved US – Middle East relations is growing a bigger middle class. Only when Middle Easterners are better educated and better integrated into the global economy will we see serious movement toward democracy and liberalism in the region. The US should apply the same logic it applies to China to the Middle East: more prosperity will eventually lead to a more democratic regime and better relations.
It is worth reading Fareed Zakaria on this question in today’s Washington Post. I had dinner with him on Monday, when he visited the University of Oklahoma and we discussed the wisdom America’s decision to make Iran its number one security threat and arm twist regional powers such as Turkey, India and Russia to sanction it. He writes about sanctions and containment, as follows.
By undertaking this trip to India, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia, Obama was making America’s opening move in a new great power game unfolding in Asia. Until now, China’s rise had been talked about more as an abstraction. But events over the past few months have made the rise of China tangible in the eyes of many Asians. They are watching how the United States will react. The right reaction is not containment….
China’s Rise in the Middle East
BY: DAVID SCHENKER AND CHRISTINA LIN | LOS ANGELES TIMES
It’s unrealistic to expect that Washington could have excluded Beijing from the Middle East. But the rate of Chinese progress occurs amid a perception that the U.S. is withdrawing from the region.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in China this month touting the “new cooperation paradigm” between Ankara and Beijing. Just a week earlier, a top political advisor to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao spent five days in Syria signing deals and planting olive trees in the Golan Heights. The Middle Kingdom, it seems, is planting deep roots in the Middle East these days.
The reach of the People’s Republic is far and wide, extending from the Far East to Africa to Latin America, and its interest in the Middle East is neither new nor surprising: China gets more than a quarter of its oil imports from the Persian Gulf and has billions invested in Iran’s oil sector. Recently, though, Beijing appears to be making greater headway, a development fueled by Washington’s creeping withdrawal from the region.
Starting in the 1990s, China filled a void in Syria left by a decaying Soviet Union, providing the terrorist state with a variety of missiles. Today, Syrian President Bashar Assad is fulfilling his 2004 pledge to “look East” toward Asia to escape the Western hold on the Middle East. In addition to serving as an ongoing and reliable source of weapons, China has invested heavily in modernizing Syria’s antiquated energy sector.
More striking, however, has been Beijing’s rapid inroads with the Islamist government in Ankara headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In October, Wen was the first Chinese premier to visit Turkey in eight years. Erdogan and Wen inked eight deals, including an agreement to transform the ancient SilkRoad into a “Silk Railway” linking China and Turkey.
Of more concern than the budding economic relationship, however, is the nascent military relationship between NATO partner Turkey and China. The most recent manifestation of these ties was the unprecedented inclusion in October of Chinese warplanes in the Turkish military exercise Anatolian Eagle, maneuvers that previously had included the U.S. and Israel.
Although Turkey reportedly left its modern U.S.-built F-16s in their hangars during the exercises and instead flew its F-4s, which the U.S. Air Force retired from service in 1996, the damage was done. Chinese participation in the exercise exacerbated the already extant crisis of confidence between Washington and its NATO partner. The joint announcement in October that China and Turkey had formally upgraded their bilateral relationship to that of a “strategic partnership” only makes matters worse.
Beijing did not choose Iran, Syria and Turkey as the focal point of its regional “outreach” by accident. These northern-tier Middle Eastern states all have complicated if not problematic relations with the United States and increasingly close ties with one another. To complement this triumvirate, China appears to be looking to Iraq as the next target of its charm offensive.
China is the leading oil and gas investor in Iraq, and it is paying millions to protect its investment there. That’s not surprising since Iraq has the world’s largest known oil reserves. China has also purchased extensive goodwill with Baghdad by forgiving $6 billion to $8 billion in Iraqi debt accrued during the Saddam Hussein era. And Beijing has gotten in on the sale of weapons — worth in excess of $100 million — to the new government in Baghdad….
“… As negotiations on a missile defence shield enter their final days before a Nato leaders’ meeting in Lisbon, Turkey is turning out to be more of a problem to the alliance than Russia, whose hostile attitude towards its former Cold War enemy is starting to fade.
One of the main sticking points in agreeing the final text of Nato’s new strategic concept is the language in which countries describe the potential missile threats to Europe, EUobserver has learned.
Despite being one of the early members of the military alliance which it joined in 1952, Turkey has grown increasingly at odds with its Western allies as it seeks closer ties to its eastern neighbours Iran and Syria, which the US and also some European allies, such as France, want to name as threats.
Not mentioning the Middle Eastern hotspots would create renewed difficulties with Russia, Nato diplomats say, just as Moscow has started to give signs that it no longer considers the shield to be directed against itself.
Other Nato sources say that “it is not Turkey alone” which is creating a problem for the shield, but a broader “nexus” of issues connected to missile defence, such as France’s reluctance to join the aim of a “nuclear-free world” and Germany’s insistance on nuclear disarmament….”
“…India, fresh off a visit by US President Barack Obama, is being put in a dilemma by the Iranian government which says it has until the end of December to put up or shut up about its proposed investments in Iran’s rich South Pars gas field.
A senior official at the petroleum ministry told Asia Sentinel that it is a “tough ask for New Delhi to balance India’s energy needs with America’s discomfort about any country doing business with Iran.”
Although contracts have been signed, the money that has flowed so far has not been enough to invite US sanctions. However, this will need to change if the South Pars project is to move forward.
Roger Cohen argues that Hillary Clinton will be successful in negotiating a just two state solution to the Arab-Palestinian conflict. Few others respond to the latest Washignton offer to Israel in such a positive light. Read Hitchen’s article which follows Cohen’s.
Madam Secretary’s Middle East
BY: ROGER COHEN | THE NEW YORK TIMES
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken charge…. The heavy lifting is now in Clinton’s hands. Officials in Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah tell me that the secretary of state will lead what her husband recently called the attempt to “finish Rabin’s work.”
“She’s not insecure about Israel, she will call the shots as she sees them,” a senior U.S. official said. “And she would not be engaged if she did not feel there was a way to get there.”
Clinton’s new role was evident last week. During a video conference with Fayyad, she announced $150 million in direct U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority (and said America was “deeply disappointed” by “counterproductive” Israeli housing plans in East Jerusalem). The next day she went into nearly eight hours of talk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that opened the negotiations door a crack.
Before I get to that, some background. The Clinton of today is not the Clinton of a decade ago. Compare that sharp criticism of Israel’s East Jerusalem building with her 1999 position that Jerusalem is “the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel.” Somewhere in the past decade her conviction hardened that the state of Palestine is achievable, inevitable and compatible with Israeli security.
“A bit of an epiphany,” in the words of one aide, came in March 2009 on the road to Ramallah. “We drove in a motorcade and you could see the settlements high up, and the brutality of it was so stark,” this aide said. “Everyone got quite silent and as we approached Ramallah there were these troops in berets. They were so professional, we thought at first they were Israel Defense Forces. But, no, they were Palestinians, this completely professional outfit, and it was clear this was something new.”
That “something” is fundamental: the transition from a self-pitying, self-dramatizing Palestinian psyche, with all the cloying accoutrements of victimhood, to a self-affirming culture of pragmatism and institution-building. The shift is incomplete. But it has won Clinton over. And it’s powerful enough to pose a whole new set of challenges to Israel: Palestine is serious now.
Another moment came in September 2010 when Clinton held a meeting with Fayyad that threw her schedule off because it ran so long. Fayyad is Mr. Self-Empowerment, the Palestinian who, at last, has put facts before “narrative,” growth before grumbling, roads before ranting, and security before everything. Clinton, I was told, has “strong views” on Fayyad. She said last week she had “great confidence” in him….
Israel’s Shabbos Goy
Why America will come to regret the craven deal Obama is offering Netanyahu.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Nov. 15, 2010
Those of us who keep an eye on the parties of God are avid students of the weekly Sabbath sermons of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. In these and other venues, usually broadcast, this elderly Sephardic ayatollah provides an action-packed diet that seldom disappoints. A few months ago, he favored his devout audience with a classic rant in which he called down curses on the Palestinian Arabs and their leaders, wishing that a plague would come and sweep them all away. Last month, he announced that the sole reason for the existence of gentiles was to perform menial services for Jews: After that, he opined, their usefulness was at an end….
Read Clinton on Syria: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton give a speech during her visit to Government House in Melbourne on November 7. Syria has failed to meet Washington’s hopes since the Obama administration started to engage with the former US foe, Clinton said in an interview published Friday.… George Mitchell has engaged with Syria on the Middle East peace progress, and my Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman has had good consultations with Syrian officials about Iraq,” she said. “But we have also had some very difficult discussions with Damascus about its actions in Lebanon and elsewhere,” the secretary said.
Clinton’s remarks on Friday. After Hassan Nasrallah said his group will “cut the hand” of anyone who tries to arrest its members for the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri….Clinton said: “Hezbollah should know that resorting once again to violence in Lebanon runs completely counter to the interests of the Lebanese people, the interests of the region, and of the United States … They should also know that if the goal of violence is to stop the tribunal, it won’t work …
Rafik Hariri murder probe hinders progress on Lebanon-Syria ties
Blandford in CSM
The Hariri murder probe is getting closer to issuing indictments, straining ties between Lebanon and Syria and complicating US goals in the region.
Last week, a senior UN official warned that Lebanon was in a “hyper-dangerous” situation.
Despite the focus on Hezbollah, Syria remains within the circle of suspicion for the murder of Hariri, as well as other prominent anti-Syrian figures, and would like to see an end to the tribunal, analysts say……
But there are signs recently that the US may be toughening its attitude toward Damascus.
“Rather than playing a positive role, recent Syrian behavior and rhetoric has had a destabilizing effect on Lebanon and the region, and has contributed to these recent tensions,” says Jake Walles, deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, citing the transfer of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah and the indictments against 33 Lebanese figures. “These types of activities directly undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty and directly undermine Syria’s stated commitments to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence.”
Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, says that the US may adopt more of a balanced “hybrid policy” with Syria than outright engagement in the coming months.
“By now most policy makers expected there would be daylight between Syria and Hezbollah, but the arrest warrants forced everyone to go back to the drawing board,” he says.
Jerusalem Post: MI Chief: Iran and Russia giving Syria advanced weapons
Outgoing Head of Military Intelligence General Amos Yadlin made his final appearance in front of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday, saying that he has seen “three defense ministers, two chiefs of the general staff and two …
“… In addition to supplying long range weapons such as M-600 and scuds missiles to Hezbollah, Syria was recently reported to have entered into a military alliance with Hezbollah, consisting of joint headquarters which would take hold in the event of war with Israel…..
While it remains a distinct possibility that Israel would attack Lebanese targets during a future conflagration with Hezbollah, it is doubtful that Israel would willingly extend the war to Syria. This remains the case even if Israel were to set itself an ambitious (and unrealistic) aim of eliminating Hezbollah. Israel would inevitably face condemnation from all corners of the international community; from allies and even the US, and would be hard pressed to find approval from Washington, keen to engage Syria and concerned about Syria’s ability to make life difficult for troops in neighboring Iraq. An Israeli attack and the lack of US support would make the likelihood of an emergency UN Security Council meeting and subsequent binding resolution a near guarantee, limiting Israel’s time and ability to launch a credible and effective operation against Syria. Indeed, expanding a war against Hezbollah would effectively assure Israel of international isolation. Following the US lead, Europe, Canada and Australia would outwardly condemn Israel’s actions in the harshest tone possible and would add fuel to the fire of the ‘boycott Israel’ movement. Much closer to home, Israel would face unrest not only in the Palestinian territories, but also in Arab neighborhoods in the north of Israel. Egypt, Jordan and Turkey would recall their ambassadors (assuming that Turkey’s ambassador will soon be re-stationed in Tel Aviv) and face virulent public demands that future relations with Israel be reassessed….
But assuming that, as Leiberman predicted, Israel did go to war against Syria, attacking Syrian targets, and destroying its airforce and the Assad regime, the question of Assad’s successor would become urgent. It is highly doubtful that Israel would want to open such a pandora’s box. Despite the rhetoric, posturing and concern over Syria’s ties to Iran and Hezbollah, Israel has enjoyed over two decades of relative quiet on its Syrian front…..
A future war between Israel and Hezbollah is unlikely to involve Syria, and if there were any kind of engagement it would be on a small scale, with Israel most likely attacking the transfer of balance-altering weaponry. If Israel were to attack Syria without a significant casus belli, it could face unprecedented diplomatic isolation as well as thousands of rockets aimed at its population centers and military targets. Assad, on the other hand, stands to lose his hold on power if he becomes embroiled in a large-scale conflict with Israel. Both parties have compelling reasons to want to avoid such an eventuality. There is no cause for complacency, however. In a border wherehedging trees can lead to a fatal exchange of fire, and Iranian nuclear ambitions could provoke an Israeli attack, unpredictability remains the best presumption.”
Syria: U.S. Can Keep it’s Diplomatic Advice
2010-11-04 AP. CBS News’ George Baghdadi in Damascus.
Syria on Thursday slammed advice given by a senior U.S. diplomat as to how the Middle Eastern nation should manage relations with its neighbors and internal political groups, …
Syria Must Wield Influence in Lebanon to Help U.S. Relations,
Says Top Diplomat, By Glenn Kessler, Nov. 1 (Washington Post)
Feltman discounted Iranian influence on Syria, saying that unless Damascus mends relations with Washington, it has no chance of winning the return of the Golan Heights, which was seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Syria has said that it wishes to have its territorial expectations met through a peace agreement with Israel and that Syria recognizes the essential role that we can play in achieving that,” Feltman said. “So this suggests to me that Syria is in fact interested in a better relationship with us. But our interests in a comprehensive peace doesn’t mean that we are going to start trading our other interests in Iraq or Lebanon in order to get Damascus to like us better.”
But Feltman refrained from naming any consequences for Syria and Iran if they undermine the Lebanese government, except to say that Syria risked losing an opportunity to improve ties with Washington. … Feltman said that the administration is “deeply concerned” about Lebanon.
Haaretz: Outgoing MI chief hints at Israel role in strike on Syria nuclear facility
Outgoing Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin took part Tuesday in his final meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, ahead of his imminent departure from the post which he has held for the last four years. In his …
A century of dispute peaks in south Beirut
by Rami Khoury, The Daily Star – Opinion Articles -
Zvi Bar’el writes Thanks to our friend at War in Context:
“Iran is not the enemy, Israel is the enemy,” the head of the Center for Strategic Studies in Saudi Arabia declared in an interview with Al Jazeera. This was his response to a question on whether the $60 billion arms deal between Riyadh and Washington was meant to deter Iran. The American efforts to portray the deal as aimed against Tehran doesn’t fit with the Saudi point of view, and it seems this isn’t the only subject over which these two countries fail to see eye to eye.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia twice last week, and Iran reported that a senior Iranian official would visit Riyadh soon. It’s not clear if it will be Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki or the head of the National Security Council, Saeed Jalili.
But the frequent contacts between Iran and Saudi Arabia are not over the big arms deal or Iran’s nuclear plans. The two countries have concluded that they need to reach an agreement on two other issues regarding their sphere of influence in the region: Iraq and Lebanon.
Regarding Lebanon, Iran is trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to help stop the work of the special international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. This would prevent the collapse of the Lebanese regime. While Iran is worried about Hezbollah’s status, it also doesn’t want Lebanon to collapse or fall into another civil war, whose results cannot be ensured.
In this respect, Tehran doesn’t have to make too great an effort to get Riyadh’s support. This became clear last week to Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and a former U.S. ambassador to Beirut, when he visited Riyadh. During his meeting with King Abdullah, the monarch tried to figure out America’s position if the international court’s work were stopped. Arab sources say Feltman was “furious but restrained,” and made it clear to the king that Washington was determined to support the tribunal.
With all due respect to the American insistence, if the client that is supposed to pay Washington $60 billion decides it’s vital to halt the tribunal’s work, it won’t make do with consulting the Americans. It will throw its full weight behind the efforts. Meanwhile, the indictment the tribunal is due to publish is not expected before February.