Posted by Joshua on Friday, June 26th, 2009
Hillary Is Wrong About the Settlements
The U.S. and Israel reached a clear understanding about natural growth.
By ELLIOTT ABRAMS in WSJ
Despite fervent denials by Obama administration officials, there were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. As the Obama administration has made the settlements issue a major bone of contention between Israel and the U.S., it is necessary that we review the recent history.
In the spring of 2003, U.S. officials (including me) held wide-ranging discussions with then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. The “Roadmap for Peace” between Israel and the Palestinians had been written. President George W. Bush had endorsed Palestinian statehood, but only if the Palestinians eliminated terror. He had broken with Yasser Arafat, but Arafat still ruled in the Palestinian territories. Israel had defeated the intifada, so what was next?
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, President George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Jordan’s King Abdullah, June 4, 2003.
We asked Mr. Sharon about freezing the West Bank settlements. I recall him asking, by way of reply, what did that mean for the settlers? They live there, he said, they serve in elite army units, and they marry. Should he tell them to have no more children, or move?
We discussed some approaches: Could he agree there would be no additional settlements? New construction only inside settlements, without expanding them physically? Could he agree there would be no additional land taken for settlements?
As we talked several principles emerged. The father of the settlements now agreed that limits must be placed on the settlements; more fundamentally, the old foe of the Palestinians could — under certain conditions — now agree to Palestinian statehood.
In June 2003, Mr. Sharon stood alongside Mr. Bush, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at Aqaba, Jordan, and endorsed Palestinian statehood publicly: “It is in Israel’s interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state.” At the end of that year he announced his intention to pull out of the Gaza Strip.
The U.S. government supported all this, but asked Mr. Sharon for two more things. First, that he remove some West Bank settlements; we wanted Israel to show that removing them was not impossible. Second, we wanted him to pull out of Gaza totally — including every single settlement and the “Philadelphi Strip” separating Gaza from Egypt, even though holding on to this strip would have prevented the smuggling of weapons to Hamas that was feared and has now come to pass. Mr. Sharon agreed on both counts.
These decisions were political dynamite, as Mr. Sharon had long predicted to us. In May 2004, his Likud Party rejected his plan in a referendum, handing him a resounding political defeat. In June, the Cabinet approved the withdrawal from Gaza, but only after Mr. Sharon fired two ministers and allowed two others to resign. His majority in the Knesset was now shaky.
After completing the Gaza withdrawal in August 2005, he called in November for a dissolution of the Knesset and for early elections. He also said he would leave Likud to form a new centrist party. The political and personal strain was very great. Four weeks later he suffered the first of two strokes that have left him in a coma.
Throughout, the Bush administration gave Mr. Sharon full support for his actions against terror and on final status issues. On April 14, 2004, Mr. Bush handed Mr. Sharon a letter saying that there would be no “right of return” for Palestinian refugees. Instead, the president said, “a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.”
On the major settlement blocs, Mr. Bush said, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” Several previous administrations had declared all Israeli settlements beyond the “1967 borders” to be illegal. Here Mr. Bush dropped such language, referring to the 1967 borders — correctly — as merely the lines where the fighting stopped in 1949, and saying that in any realistic peace agreement Israel would be able to negotiate keeping those major settlements.
On settlements we also agreed on principles that would permit some continuing growth. Mr. Sharon stated these clearly in a major policy speech in December 2003: “Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic incentives and no construction of new settlements.”
Ariel Sharon did not invent those four principles. They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003.
They were not secret, either. Four days after the president’s letter, Mr. Sharon’s Chief of Staff Dov Weissglas wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that “I wish to reconfirm the following understanding, which had been reached between us: 1. Restrictions on settlement growth: within the agreed principles of settlement activities, an effort will be made in the next few days to have a better definition of the construction line of settlements in Judea & Samaria.”
Stories in the press also made it clear that there were indeed “agreed principles.” On Aug. 21, 2004 the New York Times reported that “the Bush administration . . . now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward.”
In recent weeks, American officials have denied that any agreement on settlements existed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on June 17 that “in looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements. That has been verified by the official record of the administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility.”
These statements are incorrect. Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation — the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza, and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank. This was the first time Israel had ever removed settlements outside the context of a peace treaty, and it was a major step.
It is true that there was no U.S.-Israel “memorandum of understanding,” which is presumably what Mrs. Clinton means when she suggests that the “official record of the administration” contains none. But she would do well to consult documents like the Weissglas letter, or the notes of the Aqaba meeting, before suggesting that there was no meeting of the minds.
Mrs. Clinton also said there were no “enforceable” agreements. This is a strange phrase. How exactly would Israel enforce any agreement against an American decision to renege on it? Take it to the International Court in The Hague?
Regardless of what Mrs. Clinton has said, there was a bargained-for exchange. Mr. Sharon was determined to break the deadlock, withdraw from Gaza, remove settlements — and confront his former allies on Israel’s right by abandoning the “Greater Israel” position to endorse Palestinian statehood and limits on settlement growth. He asked for our support and got it, including the agreement that we would not demand a total settlement freeze.
For reasons that remain unclear, the Obama administration has decided to abandon the understandings about settlements reached by the previous administration with the Israeli government. We may be abandoning the deal now, but we cannot rewrite history and make believe it did not exist.
Mr. Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A15
Deconstructing the Popular Vote by Qifa Nabki
Lebanon’s parliament Thursday elected Nabih Berri as speaker for the coming four years, extending his 17-year leadership of the chamber in a vote that underlined improved ties between rival politicians….
Hariri, 39, is a frontrunner to head the new government. His decision to back Berri is seen as supportive of Lebanon’s stability and a further sign of improved ties between Syria and Saudi Arabia, whose rivalry was viewed as a major cause of the country’s crises in recent years.
“Obama on the road to Damascus” by Sami Moubayed
….The Syrians like Obama, and this raises the chances of a successful Syrian-US summit. They don’t want him to fail in the Middle East, in sharp contrast to what they wanted for Bush. In late May, Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem best put it when he said, “We approve of President Obama, a lot.”…
The Syrians want Obama to pressure the Israeli Prime Minister to change course, then chair an international conference, bringing all parties to roundtable peace talks with Israel. Obama needs to prove to the Arabs that he can put the words of June 4 – mainly on Israeli settlements and rights of the Palestinians – into action…..
In Iraq, a Different Struggle for Power – Anthony Shadid in the Post argues that Maliki is emerging as a strong man, building a network of patronage and security forces similar to the regimes elsewhere in the Middle East. “Maliki’s Message on January Election Is Clear: Cooperate or Risk His Wrath.” A friend of mine in Centcom argues that Maliki cannot consolidate power as a dictator “so long as US troops are sitting on him.” What happens in the long term is not clear.
” ….As the mullahs’ grip on power weakens, there are new opportunities to peel away some of their allies. The United States is moving quickly to normalize relations with Syria, and there’s talk of working with the Saudis to draw elements of the radical Palestinian group Hamas away from its Iranian patrons, toward a coalition government that would be prepared to negotiate with Israel. Observes a White House official: “Iran’s allies in the region have to be wondering, ‘Why should we hitch our wagon to their starship?’ ”
…It has, of course, long been a dream of some Israelis and allies of Israel that they could “flip” Syria away from its sturdy, 30-year alliance with Iran. “Peeling them away” is a less crude and possibly more nuanced version of the same idea.
Ignatius links the administration’s current overture toward Syria, and its consideration of an overture toward Hamas, centrally to its desire to take maximum advantage of the current political problems in Tehran. I would note, however, that these moves have been under active consideration in the administration since considerably before the hotly disputed June 12 election in Iran.
Relations syro-irakiennes : Augmentation de 58% du quota de l’Irak en eau de l’Euphrate
Dans le but d’aider l’Irak à surmontehttp://joshualandis.com/blog/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=3415&message=4r la sécheresse dont il souffre actuellement, la Syrie a décidé d’augmenter de 58% le quota de ce pays [dans leur partage] des eaux de l’Euphrate suite
Syria: Economy Easing
Oxford Business Group, 24 June 2009
Indicating Syria’s economy may not be as immune to the global downturn as initially thought, the IMF lowered its assessment for growth, while exogenous factors are affecting output in the vital agriculture sector, putting an extra strain on the budget.
In mid-May, the IMF revised its growth predictions for Syria, for both this year and the next. In its latest projections, the organisation said that Syria’s GDP should rise by a still very respectable 3% in 2009, higher than the regional average of 2.6%, but lower than its previous estimates of 5.2% made late last year and 3.9% in early April.
Along with more modest growth, the IMF also predicted a slight rise in national debt, from 30.8% of GDP as of the end of 2008, to 32.6% by the close of this year. The rise in debt can be attributed to a number of factors, including increased spending on imported foods to make up shortfalls, having to import oil as local reserves can no longer meet domestic demand and the state raising expenditure to fund economic stimulation.
On a more positive note, the report said that inflation should drop significantly to almost half its 2008 level of 14.5%, to 7.5%, easing the burden on the general public of any economic slowdown.
While the IMF is revisiting its initial estimates, Damascus still expects robust growth ahead. The government foresees GDP growing by 6% this year and a further fall in inflation, which according to a report issued at the end of May by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) was 5.4% in 2008.
Although the government is looking confidently forward to growth across the board, the CBS did highlight the perilous state of Syrian agriculture, with the sector recording a 22.5% decline in its contribution to GDP and the farming industry’s input dropping to just 14.7% of the national total.
Much of this dramatic fall was due to drought conditions that have blighted the sector since 2006 and look set to continue in 2009. On June 8, officials announced emergency measures were being taken in some drought-stricken regions in the north-east of the country, including the distribution of food aid in some of the worst-affected areas. It appears that, for the second year running, Syria will be forced to import wheat, with the harvest expected to fall short of the 4m tonnes required to meet domestic requirements.
Total wheat production will be about 3.2m tonnes instead of the planned yield of 4.7m tonnes, Hassan Katana, the head of the Syrian Agriculture Ministry’s Statistics and Planning Division, told Reuters in late May.
Not only does it seem likely that Syria will have to resort to the international market to bridge its wheat gap, but it may also have to dip into the state coffers to provide support to the rural community, deepening the $5.3bn deficit forecast by the government in this year’s budget.
While no longer the driving force of the Syrian economy, having been supplanted decades ago by oil production, agriculture has remained an economic pillar, both through its contribution to GDP and to employment, with some 30% of the national workforce, and another 20% indirectly dependent on the sector.
Improved trade relations may help offset the agricultural slowdown, following signs that one long-standing hurdle for the Syrian economy, the trade sanctions imposed by Washington in 2004 during the George Bush administration, may be removed in the near future. While the main topic of discussions during a visit to Damascus in mid-June by President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, was reinvigorating the stalled peace process, US-Syrian relations were also canvassed.
Though few details of the talks were made public, Mitchell said he had held what he called “substantive discussions” with President Bashar Al Assad. The envoy also said that the US was looking establish a relationship based on mutual respect and interests.
Though there is little that the Syrian government can do to reverse the effects of the drought, its continuing rapprochement with the US could see the sanctions lifted in the near future, which could serve as a spring for other sectors of the economy and further strengthen its growth rate.
The Mountebanks & The Apostates
by Fawaz A. Gerges, 06.23.2009
From the July/August 2009 issue of The National Interest.
Reza Aslan, How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror (New York: Random House, 2009), 256 pp., $26.00.
Juan Cole, Engaging the Muslim World (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 288 pp., $26.95.
Emile Nakhleh, A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008), 184 pp., $26.95.
AMERICA’S BLOODY encounter with Islam is a failure. At heart there is an inability to understand the context and dynamics of Arab and Muslim politics; the conceptual differences and boundaries between moderate Islamists, nonviolent radical activists, local jihadists and global jihadists like al-Qaeda. For eight years, the dominant U.S. narrative blurred the lines between “Islamist,” “radical,” “militant,” “extremist,” “jihadist” and “terrorist.” The United States equated Islamists’ offensive speech with jihadists’ violent action. But there are stark differences between locally and regionally based political groups like Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah and borderless, transnational and globalized jihadist groups like al-Qaeda that have been waging war against the United States and its close allies since the mid-1990s.
Scholars of the Greater Middle East like Georgetown’s John Esposito and Michael Hudson, Harvard’s Roger Owen, Richard Norton at Boston University, Richard Bulliet and Rashid Khalidi at Columbia, along with Mohammed Ayoob of Michigan State and many others were systematically marginalized from decision making, replaced by a motley gang of irresponsible ideologues, security types and other mountebanks.
Terrorism experts and crusading commentators—including Rohan Gunaratna, best-selling author of Inside Al Qaeda; counterterrorism consultant Evan F. Kohlmann; investigative journalist Steven Emerson; academic Daniel Pipes and others—are partly to blame. Instead of adopting a more constructive approach—one that draws distinctions between the many faces of political Islam—they took the easier, reductionist approach of lumping all Islamists together. They looked backward and pigeonholed mainstream and militant Islamists through the prism of al-Qaeda. These observers, wittingly or unwittingly, endorsed the official agenda by portraying Islamism not just as jihadism, a borderless, transnational violent fringe, but also as a mortal threat to the West, an aggressive and totalitarian ideology dedicated to random destruction and global subjugation. Still others advocated an all-out war against any manifestations of political Islam.
Building on this consensus of uninformed pundits and social engineers, President Bush ratcheted up the rhetoric, grouping all mainstream and militant Islamists together under the phrase “Islamofascists.” He called on Americans to be prepared for a global war on terror, the “inescapable calling of our generation.”…….
Documents Back Saudi Link to Extremists
BY: ERIC LICHTBLAU | THE NEW YORK TIMES
Saudis Tried to Pin Khobar Bombing on Iran (Via t_desco)
by Gareth Porter, June 23, 2009
Immediately after the blast, more than 125 agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were ordered to the site to sift for clues and begin the investigation of who was responsible. But when two U.S. embassy officers arrived at the scene of the devastation early the next morning, they found a bulldozer beginning to dig up the entire crime scene. (…)
U.S. intelligence then intercepted communications from the highest levels of the Saudi government, including interior minister Prince Nayef, to the governor and other officials of Eastern Province instructing them to go through the motions of cooperating with U.S. officials on their investigation but to obstruct it at every turn.
That was the beginning of what interviews with more than a dozen sources familiar with the investigation and other information now available reveal was a systematic effort by the Saudis to obstruct any U.S. investigation of the bombing and to deceive the United States about who was responsible for the bombing.
The Saudi regime steered the FBI investigation toward Iran and its Saudi Shi’ite allies with the apparent intention of keeping U.S. officials away from a trail of evidence that would have led to Osama bin Laden and a complex set of ties between the regime and the Saudi terrorist organizer. (…)
(Inter Press Service, June 23, 2009)
PART 2: Saudi Account of Khobar Bore Telltale Signs of Fraud By Gareth Porter*
Further undermining the Shi’a explosives smuggling and bomb plot story is the fact that the Saudis had secretly detained and tortured a number of veteran Sunni jihadists with ties to Osama bin Laden after the bombing.
The Sunni detainees over Khobar included Yusuf al-Uyayri, who was later revealed to have been the actual head of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. In 2003, al-Uyayri confirmed in al Qaeda’s regular publication that he had been arrested and tortured after the Khobar bombing.
A report published in mid-August 1996 by the London-based Palestinian newspaper Al Qods al-Arabi, based on sources with ties to the jihadi movement in Saudi Arabia, said that six Sunni veterans of the Afghan war had confessed to the Khobar bombing under torture. That was followed two days later by a report in the New York Times that the Saudi officials now believed that Afghan war veterans had carried out the Khobar bombing.
A few weeks later, however, the Saudi regime apparently made a firm decision to blame the bombing on the Saudi Shi’a.
According to a Norwegian specialist on the Saudi jihadi movement, Thomas Hegghammer, in 2003 – shortly before al-Uyayri was killed in a shoot-out in Riyadh in late May 2003 – an article by the al Qaeda leader in the al Qaeda periodical blamed Shi’a for the Khobar bombing.
In a paper for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Hegghammer cites that statement as evidence that al Qaeda wasn’t involved in Khobar. But one of al-Uyayri’s main objectives at that point would have been to stay out of prison, so his endorsement of the Saudi regime’s position is hardly surprising.
Al-Uyayri had been released from prison in mid-1998, by his own account. But he was arrested again in late 2002 or early 2003, by which time the CIA had come to believe that he was a very important figure in al Qaeda, even though it didn’t know he was the leader of al Qaeda in the peninsula, according to Ron Suskind’s book “The One Percent Doctrine”. (…) IPS
Both Yusef al-Ayer and his successor, Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin, would fall into the category of “martyrs who were killed by security forces of the Saudi regime in the land of the two holy mosques” (Nicholas Blanford, Killing Mr Lebanon, London, Tauris 2006, p. 141). Once again, a transcript of the statement read (?) by Ahmed Abu Adas would be most useful.
PART 5: Freeh Became “Defence Lawyer” for Saudis on Khobar
By Gareth Porter
… Highly credible evidence soon showed, however, that the Mabahith, the Saudi secret police, did indeed use torture and coercion to get detainees to tell the stories demanded by the Saudi regime – even in front of foreign observers – and that they did so to protect al Qaeda from investigation by the United States. (…)
The Saudis even coached Sampson on what to say when he was visited by Canadian embassy personnel, threatening him with further torture if he told the embassy officials the truth. When the embassy personnel came to talk with him, Sampson’s two torturers were present for the entire interview, just as they were presumably present at the questioning of the Shi’a detainees observed by the FBI team.
The other foreigners told similar stories of coerced confessions under torture. Sampson and the five foreigners were released only after a May 2003 suicide bombing by al Qaeda on a Riyadh compound housing 900 expatriates forced Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef to acknowledge al Qaeda as a terrorist threat in Saudi Arabia. (…)
A U.N. court investigating the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon, launched a secure Web site Thursday for people to supply information on the case. The page was specifically for people ‘who have valuable …
Travel Bans Imposed on Syrian Dissidents
2009-06-26 10:36:44.786 GMT
Syrian authorities are introducing restrictions as a form of pressure, say activists, IWPR reports. By IWPR staff in Damascus for IWPR Mazen Darwish is not exactly a political prisoner. But for more than two years, this human rights activist has …
Obama State Dept. intervenes to block Free Gaza aid voyage
By Free Gaza Team
June 25, 2009
LARNACA – This is not the statement we in the Free Gaza Movement
intended to release today. We had hoped to announce that our two ships, the Free Gaza and the Spirit of Humanity, departed from Larnaca Port on a 30-hour voyage to besieged Gaza, carrying human rights activists who have travelled to Cyprus from all across the world for this journey, 3 tons of medical supplies, and 15 tons of badly needed concrete and reconstruction supplies. […]
The American consulate in Nicosia warned us not to go to Gaza…