Petraeus Asks that Palestinians be Considered Middle Eastern and Not European – Politics Prevail over National Interest
Posted by Joshua on Sunday, March 14th, 2010
The Petraeus briefing: Biden’s embarrassment is not the whole story
By Mark Perry in Foreign Policy [See Mark Perry’s new book: Talking to Terrorists: Why America Must Engage with its Enemies– excellent]
On January 16, two days after a killer earthquake hit Haiti, a team of senior military officers from the U.S. Central Command (responsible for overseeing American security interests in the Middle East), arrived at the Pentagon to brief JCS Chairman Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM commander David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving the issue. The 33-slide 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM’s mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) “too old, too slow…and too late.”
The January Mullen briefing was unprecedented. No previous CENTCOM commander had ever expressed himself on what is essentially a political issue; which is why the briefers were careful to tell Mullen that their conclusions followed from a December 2009 tour of the region where, on Petraeus’s instructions, they spoke to senior Arab leaders. “Everywhere they went, the message was pretty humbling,” a Pentagon officer familiar with the briefing says. “America was not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the region was eroding.” But Petraeus wasn’t finished: two days after the Mullen briefing, Petraeus sent a paper to the White House requesting that the West Bank and Gaza (which, with Israel, is a part of the European Command – or EUCOM), be made a part of his area of operations. Petraeus’s reason was straightforward: with U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military had to be perceived by Arab leaders as engaged in the region’s most troublesome conflict.
The Mullen briefing and Petraeus’s request hit the White House like a bombshell. While Petraeus’s request that CENTCOM be expanded to include the Palestinians was denied (“it was dead on arrival,” a Pentagon officer confirms), the Obama Administration decided it would redouble its efforts – pressing Israel once again on the settlements issue, sending Mitchell on a visit to a number of Arab capitals and dispatching Mullen for a carefully arranged meeting with Chief of the Israeli General Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi. While the American press speculated that Mullen’s trip focused on Iran, the JCS Chairman actually carried a blunt, and tough, message on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: that Israel had to see its conflict with the Palestinians “in a larger, regional, context” – as having a direct impact on America’s status in the region. Certainly, it was thought, Israel would get the message.
Israel didn’t. When Vice President Joe Biden was embarrassed by an Israeli announcement that the Netanyahu government was building 1600 new homes in East Jerusalem, the administration reacted. But no one was more outraged than Biden who, according to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, engaged in a private, and angry, exchange with the Israeli Prime Minister. Not surprisingly, what Biden told Netanyahu reflected the importance the administration attached to Petraeus’s Mullen briefing: “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden reportedly told Netanyahu. “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.” Yedioth Ahronoth went on to report: “The vice president told his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world perceived a connection between Israel’s actions and US policy, any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism.” The message couldn’t be plainer: Israel’s intransigence could cost American lives.
There are important and powerful lobbies in America: the NRA, the American Medical Association, the lawyers – and the Israeli lobby. But no lobby is as important, or as powerful, as the U.S. military. While commentators and pundits might reflect that Joe Biden’s trip to Israel has forever shifted America’s relationship with its erstwhile ally in the region, the real break came in January, when David Petraeus sent a briefing team to the Pentagon with a stark warning: America’s relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America’s soldiers. Maybe Israel gets the message now.
Addendum: Read further about Perry’s sources at “War in Context” by Paul Woodward, “Israel is putting American lives at risk”
Ibrahim Hamidi writes in al-Hayat that the Obama administration will take several steps in the coming weeks to assure that Washington’s “engagement strategy” with Damascus moves forward.
دمشق – ابراهيم حميدي
يزور دمشق في الفترة المقبلة عدد من المسؤولين الأميركيين، بالتزامن مع عقد لجنة الشؤون الخارجية في مجلس الشيوخ جلسة استماع للسفير المرشح في دمشق روبرت فورد الثلثاء المقبل قبل التصويت على تعيينه في الأسابيع المقبلة، ما يؤكد استمرار إدارة الرئيس باراك اوباما بـ «استراتيجية الانخراط» مع دمشق نظراً الى «الدور المحوري» الذي تلعبه سورية في المنطقة.
وعلم ان فريدريك هوف مساعد المبعوث الأميركي لعملية السلام السيناتور جورج ميتشيل، سيزور دمشق نهاية الأسبوع الجاري، وان الموعد الأولي هو الخميس المقبل، وذلك في ضوء الزيارة الأخيرة التي قام بها ميتشيل لدمشق بداية العام الحالي، وتضمنت تجديد التأكيد على سعي ادارة اوباما «تحقيق السلام الشامل على جميع المسارات، بما فيها المسار السوري».
وكان ناطق رئاسي أفاد ان الرئيس بشار الأسد أكد خلال لقائه وزير الخارجية التركي احمد داود اوغلو قبل ايام «عدم وجود طرف اسرائيلي يرغب بتحقيق السلام على رغم وجود وسيط تركي نزيه يعمل مع سورية على إحلال الأمن والاستقرار» في الشرق الأوسط. وفيما قال داود اوغلو في حديث الى «الحياة» ان الأرضية جاهزة لاستئناف المفاوضات غير المباشرة بين سورية واسرائيل، وان المسؤولين الأميركيين «اكدوا بقوة» دعمهم استئناف المفاوضات غير المباشرة، ما يزال الجانب الإسرائيلي يعلن رفضه الدور التركي في عملية السلام، مع العلم ان مساعد وزيرة الخارجية للشؤون السياسية وليام بيرنز زار انقرة بعد دمشق في 17 الشهر الماضي.
وبحسب معلومات متوافرة لـ «الحياة»، فإن الاجتماع الطارئ للجنة تفعيل مبادرة السلام العربية الذي خصص قبل يومين لمناقشة قرار حكومة بنيامين نتانياهو بناء 1600 وحدة استيطانية جديدة في القدس الشرقية، تضمن تنويه ممثلي عدد من الدول، بما في ذلك الأمين العام للجامعة العربية عمرو موسى، بتحفظ دمشق على قرار لجنة المتابعة العربية لمبادرة السلام دعم مفاوضات غير مباشرة بين الفلسطينيين والإسرائيليين. كما ان دمشق دانت بقوة الانتهاكات الإسرائيلية في الحرم القدسي الشريف.
وستأتي زيارة هوف بعد يومين من جلسة الاستماع المقررة للسفير فورد في لجنة الشؤون الخارجية في مجلس الشيوخ. وتأكد ان السيناتور جون كيري لعب دوراً في تقديم موعد الجلسة لـ «تأكيد الاستمرار في الحوار بسبب الدور المحوري لسورية» بعد طلب ثمانية من اعضاء الكونغرس الجمهوريين من وزيرة الخارجية هيلاري كلينتون تأجيل بحث موضوع تعيين السفير، وقولهما بضرورة «عدم الانخراط لأجل الانخراط».
وعلم ايضاً ان واشنطن قررت إجراء اتصالات مع الجانب السوري لترتيب زيارة لوفد اميركي يضم مسؤول الشرق الأوسط في وزارة الخارجية جيفري فيلتمان، ومسؤول الشرق الأوسط في مجلس الأمن القومي دانيال شابيرو في الأسابيع المقبلة، وعلى الأرجح في الشهر المقبل بعد اعقد القمة العربية في ليبيا بين 27 و29 الشهر الجاري. وتجنبت مصادر السفارة الأميركية في دمشق تأكيد «الإعلان عن موعد» زيارة فيلتمان وشابيرو، لكنها قالت لـ «الحياة» انهما «سبق وزارا سورية لدعم استراتيجية اوباما للانخراط، وان اي زيارة مقبلة ستكون منسجمة مع هذه الاستراتيجية».
الى ذلك، اكدت المصادر ان واشنطن ابلغت وفدها لدى منظمة التجارة العالمية بـ «عدم معارضة» بدء مفاوضات انضمام سورية الى المنظمة، بعدما كانت ادارة الرئيس جورج بوش عرقلت الطلب السوري في كل مرة قدم الى المنظمة منذ عام 2001. وقالت المصادر ان قرار واشنطن «جزء من استراتيجية الانخراط عبر تحديد المصالح المشتركة وردم الفجوة في القضايا الخلافية بين البلدين»، وان هذا القرار «يعزز عملية الإصلاح والتطوير» في سورية. وتؤكد دمشق بضرورة ان يقوم الحوار بين الطرفين على اساس «الاحترام المتبادل والمصالح المشتركة»، اضافة الى «اقتران الأقوال بالأفعال» في ما يتعلق بالعمل على تحقيق السلام الشامل في الشرق الأوسط والزام اسرائيل متطلبات السلام في المنطقة.
Syrian ambassador charts route to peace for Israel in Middle East: Moustapha: Relations with U.S. better with Bush gone
By Lee Howard, The Day, New London, Conn., 12 March 2010
New London – Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha told a crowd of about 100 at Connecticut College Thursday that “there should be a historic exchange of land for peace” in the Middle East.
Moustapha, speaking to members of the Southeast Connecticut Committee on Foreign Relations at the college’s Blaustein Hall, endorsed the so-called Pan-Arab Peace Initiative. The proposal, adopted at an Arab summit in 2002, calls for Israel to adhere to internationally recognized borders – essentially giving back territories it acquired in a series of wars last century – in return for Arabs’ recognition of the Jewish state as well as normalization of relations.
“If they want to be accepted by their neighbors, they need to stop their policy of occupation and expanding settlements,” Moustapha said of the Israelis. “If they want peace … this is the only way to move forward. In my heart, I believe this is inevitable. If this is inevitable … why not do it today instead of next year?”
Moustapha, responding to a question, noted the Israelis greeted Vice President Joe Biden’s visit this week with an announcement that they had expanded more settlements into occupied Arab territories.
“When will the Israelis realize this is insane and counter to their own national interests?” he said.
Moustapha questioned Israel’s commitment to the so-called two-state solution and wondered if it would continue a policy that he said essentially has turned it into an “apartheid state.”
Moustapha blamed the United States for allowing Israel to continue the policy unchecked. While acknowledging that the Obama administration has been much more amenable to working with the Syrians than the Bush administration, he said he still believes America can do more to push peace in the Middle East.
The United States “should have the moral courage to tell a friend that what you are doing is absolutely wrong,” he said.
Still, under President Obama, Moustapha said Syria feels like it’s at the table as “part of the solution” to peace in the Middle East, rather than being depicted as part of the problem, as under President Bush.
Moustapha said Bush’s “flagrant hostility” toward Syria grew to a boiling point after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which led to 1.2 million Iraqi refugees flooding his country and 4.2 million stateless people taking up residence throughout the Middle East – what he called the biggest exodus in the history of the region.
Moustapha said he had no direct contact with high-level members of the U.S. government for four or five years after the conflict started, despite the fact that Syria, after 9/11, invited Americans to share their intelligence on the terrorist organization al-Qaida. Syrian intelligence helped snuff out al-Qaida attacks against Americans in both Canada and Bahrain, he said.
Moustapha pointed out that Syria had also joined the United States in the 1990s Gulf War after Iraq’s invasion of neighboring Kuwait. Yet when Syria tried to dissuade the United States from going to war with Iraq a second time in 2003, Moustapha said the neoconservatives in Washington “mocked us in our face.”
“That was the breaking point between us and the Bush administration,” he said. “All that cooperation came to a standstill when the United States decided to invade Iraq.”
Now, though, Moustapha sees some signs of progress in Washington’s stance toward Syria. Just a few weeks ago, the United States sent its special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad, in talks that Moustapha found encouraging.
Moustapha was not as hopeful about the future of what he called the “failed state” of Iraq. And, though he views democracy as historically inevitable, Moustapha said “democracy by brute force,” as imposed by the United States in Iraq, created a reaction that may have hindered democratic progress throughout the Arab world.
“It needs to happen from within; it can’t happen from without,” he said.
But Moustapha said he doesn’t want to point fingers. Rather than reliving the turbulent history of the Middle East and quibbling over who wronged whom, he suggested that Arabs, Israelis and Americans put the past behind them.
“The question is do you want to live in peace or do you not want to live in peace?”
From All4Syria: Mahdi Dakhlallah, Syria’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia explained that:
“Syria’s relations with Saudi Arabia went beyond traditional diplomatic ties to the extent that by now it represents a model for Arab-Arab relations. He also spoke about coordination between the two countries aiming to protect Iraq’s unity and stability through support for the national movements in Iraq facing those with ties to the United States or the separatists or the federalists”
Andrew Sullivan and Jeffrey Goldberg argue over the meaning of the following map. Goldberg claims that it is propaganda and pushes a lie. Sullivan argues that the maps tells an irrefutable truth.
“The point of the illustration was to provide some background to the now-unavoidable fact that Israel has every intention of expanding its sovereignty to the Jordan river for ever, to segregate Palestinians into walled enclaves within, and to station large numbers of Israeli troops on the Eastern border.
Via Politico/ Ben Caspit in today’s Maariv, excerpts below: [Thanks FLC]
It was supposed to be a visit that would restore our trust. It was the visit that destroyed trust. Binyamin Netanyahu kicked over the bucket that contained no milk. Biden was supposed to fill it. Instead, Biden burned with anger. “They stabbed me in the back,” the vice president said last Tuesday in meetings that he held. “They hurt me, President Obama, the United States, the peace process, trust, and everyone who believed that something could be done here.” He was furious. On Tuesday, he spoke with President Obama. The conversation included condemnatory language unfit for print. He was on the verge of canceling dinner with the Netanyahus. Again and again, he changed the speech that he was to give on Tuesday at the university. He did not know what to do with himself, where to take his frustration, his feeling of betrayal, of lost opportunity. […]
[Biden] was supposed to restart the process. To create, finally, a relationship of trust with Netanyahu. Instead, the moment he landed, he discovered a plan to construct sixteen hundred dwelling units in Ramat Shlomo. Where the heck is Ramat Shlomo? The absurd thing is that there is no significance to the registering of this zoning plan. There are no tenders or anything that could not have been done three months ago or in six months from now. Much ado about nothing whatsoever. […]
Anyone who has been listening over the past several weeks to Yitzhak Molcho, Netanyahu’s closest and most intimate representative in the political sphere, and his partner Mike Herzog (who is about to retire), heard both of them saying the same thing: the peace process is hopeless, it is all tactics, Netanyahu has no intention of going to real peace … In short, the settlers can relax. But see—the settlers are not relaxed. Because they know Bibi. Today it is one way, tomorrow it could be otherwise. It depends on who is pressuring him and who scares him more. …
High-ranking American officials said this week that Israel was not behaving like an ally of the United States. There is no worse thing to say at such a critical time, when Iran is charging toward the last stretch on its way to the nuclear bomb. At this stage, At this stage, there should have been blind coordination between ourselves and them. Netanyahu should have been Obama’s best friend. A word is a word and a promise is a promise, and all the details of the operation to stop Iran’s progress toward the nuclear bomb, including the negotiations with the Palestinians and the Syrians (even in neutral) were supposed to be kept secret for the sake of calming things down on the ground and neutralizing ticking bombs. In reality? There is nothing. Only the broken glass of the souvenir that Bibi prepared for Biden and shattered with his own hands. […]
Next year [Palestinian PM Fayyad] will show the world a quiet PA, a law-abiding PA with institutions and reforms with one military, one law, one authority. And then, he will ask for recognition of the Palestinian state in the 1967 borders. As it seems now, he will get this. From everyone except from us. [….]