Posted by Joshua on Sunday, October 15th, 2006
James A. Baker III, the Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan panel reassessing Iraq strategy for President Bush, said Sunday that he would suggest that the White House enter direct talks with countries it had so far kept at arm’s length, including Iran and Syria.
He noted that he had made 15 trips to Damascus to negotiate with then president Hafez al-Assad to get involved in Middle East peacemaking. It worked. Syria did become involved and Middle East violence diminished. “It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined,” Baker said. “You don’t give away anything, but it my view, it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.” The UNHCR had previously been concentrating its operations in Iraq on helping exiled Iraqis return home and helping non-Iraqi refugees living there.
According to a New York Sun article, copied below, James Baker’s group is going to propose to President Bush that he drop the objective of democracy in Iraq and the Middle East in favor of “representative” governments. Also US troops would simply try to stabilize Baghdad and go after al-Qaida in Iraq. But how can the US stabilize Baghdad without becoming involved in the civil war? Baker implies this can be done by accommodating the different groups. He makes it sound easy. They may not be accommodated. What seems to be happening in Iraq is a power struggle between the various militias. One needs to win, or at least become dominant in order to establish an order.
Secondly, as the leaker of this report explains, Baker distinguishes between a “democratic” government and one that is merely “representative.” “Baker wants to believe that Sunni dictators in Sunni majority states are representative,” the group member, who leaked this report claimed.
If the “representative” concept becomes accepted, it would mean that Syria is the one unrepresentative state in the region. (It sounds like representative is being used to denote confessionally representative.) Lebanon could be the other state that is not fully representative because the Shiites don’t have their share of power. If the US used the same representative model on Lebanon that it used on Iraq, the Shiites would have to get either the presidency or Primiership. Perhaps one could argue that Jordan would have to become a Palestinian state? Bahrain a Shiite dominated state? Clearly the “representative” word used by Baker is only a fig leaf meant to mitigate the political damage of jettisoning the concept of democracy from US goals in the region.
If the use of the word “representative” will help in dumping democracy as the military goal of US forces in Iraq, I am all for using representative. The US should always stand by the notion of promoting democracy as a civilized goal, but it must recognize that democracy cannot be forced at the end of a gun. This notion is a deception. The faster Americans recognize that democracy cannot be forced on people the better. As things stand today, the Bush doctrine of unleashing chaos on the region has only relegitimized dictatorship as a form of government.
Baker’s Panel Rules Out Iraq Victory
BY ELI LAKE
October 12, 2006
New York Sun
WASHINGTON — A commission formed to assess the Iraq war and recommend a new course has ruled out the prospect of victory for America, according to draft policy options shared with The New York Sun by commission officials.
Currently, the 10-member commission — headed by a secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker — is considering two option papers, “Stability First” and “Redeploy and Contain,” both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term.
More telling, however, is the ruling out of two options last month. One advocated minor fixes to the current war plan but kept intact the long-term vision of democracy in Iraq with regular elections. The second proposed that coalition forces focus their attacks only on Al Qaeda and not the wider insurgency.
Instead, the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, “Stability First,” argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped.
The option papers, which sources inside the commission have stressed are still being amended and revised as the panel wraps up its work, give a clearer picture of what Mr. Baker meant in recent interviews when he called for a course adjustment.
They also shed light on what is at stake in the coming 2 1/2 months for the Iraqi government. The “Redeploy and Contain” option calls for the phased withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq, though the working groups have yet to say when and where those troops will go. The document, read over the telephone to the Sun, says America should “make clear to allies and others that U.S. redeployment does not reduce determination to attack terrorists wherever they are.” It also says America’s top priority should be minimizing American casualties in Iraq.
Both Mr. Baker and his Democratic co-commissioner, Lee Hamilton, have said for nearly a month that the coming weeks and months are crucial for the elected body in Baghdad. More recently, Mr. Baker has said he is leaning against counseling the president to withdraw from Iraq….
The “Stability First” paper says, “The United States should aim for stability particularly in Baghdad and political accommodation in Iraq rather than victory.”…
But he also hastened to distinguish between a Middle East that was “democratic” and one that was merely “representative.”
“If we are able to promote representative, representative government, not necessarily democracy, in a number of nations in the Middle East and bring more freedom to the people of that part of the world, it will have been a success,” he said.
That distinction is crucial, according to one member of the expert working groups. “Baker wants to believe that Sunni dictators in Sunni majority states are representative,” the group member, who requested anonymity, said.
The following article explains how US diplomacy has retreated from democracy promotion since the Hamas victory gave democracy a bad name. David Morgan, Reuters, October 12, 2006 U.S. seen retreating from democracy push.
Pam O’Toole of the BBC writes that ever more Iraqis are ‘fleeing rising violence’ writes that ever more Iraqis are ‘fleeing rising violence’
The UNHCR says that last year about 50,000 Iraqis returned from neighbouring countries. This year only 1,000 did.
“UNHCR is monitoring the border in Syria, for example,” said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond. “Our staff [are] seeing about 2,000 people a day coming across, so it’s more than 40,000 people a month just into Syria.”
The UN estimates 50,000 Iraqis are internally displaced each month There are also increasing numbers of people leaving their homes but staying in Iraq.
“The estimate now is something around 50,000 people per month are joining the growing numbers of internally displaced inside Iraq,” Mr Redmond said. Most of those Iraqis who have fled to Syria and Jordan have not registered with the UNHCR, in what the agency calls a “silent exodus”.
The UNHCR says that tens of thousands more are moving on to Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, the Gulf States and Europe. Statistics from the first half of this year show that Iraqis were the biggest single national group claiming asylum in Europe, while the number claiming asylum in industrialised countries had risen by 50% compared to the same period last year.
The UNHCR says it has had to rechannel its efforts from helping exiled Iraqis return home to assisting those who have fled insecurity.
Peace with Syria should include withdrawal from Golan an honest Israeli Internal Security Minister reminded Israelis. Giving back the Golan is the real impediment to peace. The percentage of Israelis who are in favor of leaving the entire Golan is usually below 50%. A strong Israeli leader might be able to swing a majority behind peace with Syria, but only if he were willing to put his full attention to the task.
Official Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said on Thursday that it is impossible to reach peace with Syria without an Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights, Israel’s local daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported. Avi Dichter said that a peace agreement with Syria would have to include an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. “Those who say that the Golan Heights will remain under Israeli control after an agreement with Syria suffer from a failure in logic…they don’t understand reality,” said Dichter, adding that ” I don’t think it’s possible to reach peace with Syria without an Israeli withdrawal to the international border.” Dichter, however, disagreed with the approach of putting the Syria subject off the agenda.
He said that Israel needs to improve relations with Egypt and Jordan, and wait for (Syrian President Bashar) Assad to get ready for peace talks.
Meanwhile, Syria rejected Thursday Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres’ invitation for Assad to visit Jerusalem, saying the Israeli gesture reflected the country’s weak position after its war with Lebanon. According to a latest poll published by professors Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann of Tel Aviv University on Israel’s newspaper Jerusalem Post on Thursday, the recent bellicose declarations by Syrian President Bashar Assad were heard much more loudly by the Israeli Jewish people than his statements calling for peace. The warlike statements caused a further decline in the already low support for giving the Golan to Syria, even in exchange for full peace, and in the small number of those who believe such a peace is possible in the foreseeable future. Assad has in recent weeks renewed a call for peace talks with Israel. Last month, he told the German magazine Der Spiegel that ” We want to make peace with Israel.” But in an interview with the BBC on Monday, Assad cast doubt on Israel’s desire for peace.
Marc Perelman of The Forward explains how many liberal Jews in the States are joining the chorus of those demanding that Bush jump-start Arab-Israeli peace talks and get Syria involved. Soros and other philanthropists are also talking of setting up an alternative Jewish lobby to Aipac.
Ray Close, ex-CIA bureau chief in Saudi Arabia and a number of other Americans are worried that Bush is serious about using military power to keep Iran from gaining the bomb. Close sent around this article by former New York Times bureau chief Chris Hedges.
Chris Hedges: Bush’s Nuclear Apocalypse
Posted on October 9, 2006 By Chris Hedges
Editor’s Note: The former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times and author of the bestseller “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” reports on Bush’s plan for Iran, and how a callous war, conceived by zealots, will lead to a disaster of biblical proportions.
Egypt and Syria seem to be putting their differences behind them in order to find a working solution to the Palestinian impasse. Many Syrians are happy to see the war of words between Egypt and Syria ended. Mubarak sends message to Syria’s Assad
October 14, 2006 Damascus- Syrian President Bashar Assad received a letter from his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak dealing with “developments in the region,” Syria’s official news agency SANA reported. The report said that Assad received Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence, who delivered the letter from Mubarak which dealt with “bilateral relations and the developments in the region.”