“The New Middle East,” by Carnegie Endowment Staff

The Carnegie Endowment has published the best short overview of the Middle East situation I have read. Read the entire Pdf file.

"The New Middle East," by Marina Ottaway, Nathan J. Brown, Amr Hamzawy, Karim Sadjadpour, Paul Salem, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 2008 .

Full Text (PDF)

Lebanon and Syria: The Bush administration narrative that sees Lebanon as the battleground between democracy and autocracy must be replaced by a more accurate perception of a deeply divided country where all factions invite outside intervention. The United States needs to work towards compromise in Lebanon, rather than promote confrontation, and realize that compromise includes accepting an armed Hizbollah and a degree of Syrian influence.

Israel and Hizballah on High Alert

Hizballah believes that Mughniyah's assassination is part of an Israeli plan to decapitate the leadership of militant anti-Israel groups as a precursor for launching a new war against the Shi'ite organization. "Mughniyah was killed in the context of an open and comprehensive war through which Israel is preparing for another war," Nasrallah said at a ceremony Friday marking the beginning of the annual "week of the resistance," in which dead Hizballah leaders are honored.

Nasrallah warned that Hizballah was more than ready to fight another war and threatened Israel that its army would be destroyed if it entered Lebanon. "We will kill you in the fields, we will kill you in the cities, we will fight you like you have never seen before," he said speaking via a large television screen before an audience of tens of thousands of supporters. "Your army will be destroyed in the south and so will your prestige and you will remain without an army. Israel cannot last without an army."

It's the Middle East, Stupid (Argues regional Israeli War could break out easily)
By Michael B. Oren
Wash. Post: Sunday, March 2, 2008; B02

Pakistan: Two conflicting stories about whether Musharraf will step down

Pervez Musharraf 'will exit in days, not months'
By Massoud Ansari in Islamabad (Feb 26, 2008)

Asif says he will seek to work with Musharraf
By Masood Haider in Dawn (Feb 25, 2008)

Comments (56)

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51. Shai said:


I very much agree with you about how ridiculous it is that Israel would require guarantees from far weaker parties in the conflict. Yet this is what I mean by the irrational aspect of life sometimes. Israelis, despite knowing their army’s might, still view themselves as victims and not perpetrators, of innate Arab hatred. You and I can argue this until we’re blue in the face, but it won’t change this reality. The far stronger side feels it is the “endangered” one, and as such needs to be assured that the far weaker sides won’t threaten Israel any longer. Take, for example, redeployment arrangements following Israeli withdrawal from the Golan. There’s not a doubt in my mind that Syrian troops will have to withdraw a distance far greater than Israelis ones from the Golan Heights. I’ve heard in the past a number of 4x the distance. Why? Because Israelis are still fearful of Syrian tanks trying to get to the Lake of Galilee and further into Israel. This is an irrational, 35 year-old fear, that still hasn’t left the Israeli psyche. Maybe we’re all in desperate need of some therapy, but that’s what most Israelis feel. As for the nukes, although most Israelis believe we have plenty of nukes to “go around”, there is a tendency to not rely on these when it comes to feeling secure in Israel. First, because we’ve never actually used them to stop any wars in the region (apparently, according to foreign sources, we could have used them already in 1967 and 1973 if it was necessary). Second, because with all our nukes and might, we still couldn’t stop thousands of Israeli deaths as a result of terrorism over the past 20 years. Despite the obvious disproportion in deaths and injuries (far more on the Arab side), Israelis STILL feel unsafe…

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February 27th, 2008, 7:06 am


52. Shai said:


If you don’t get any sleep, you’re going to wear yourself out! Remember, you’re not that young anymore… 🙂 (Okay, we’re now even…)

As for your comments to my questions, I tend to agree with the components, but certainly cannot see how their order could be followed as such. First, there’s no way in the world that Israelis will accept Syrian troops/policemen/whatever in the West Bank or Gaza, alone or as part of an international force, armed or not armed, BEFORE we sign a peace treaty, and even then, after some times passes and we begin to trust one another. It’s just not going to happen and, to be honest, I don’t see why it’s a prerequisite to anything. True, it would attest to Syria’s important role in the region, but I’m not sure that by not having it, Syria’s position would be undermined in any significant way. Second, I don’t see Israel loving too much the idea of discussing peace with everyone else while talking to Syria about the Golan. That sounds like a Madrid II, which may well take place following the inauguration of a new administration in Washington, but ultimately, the sides will have to conclude agreements separately. Remember, our whole premise was that we must make peace with Syria NOW, because it is easiest to achieve, because Syria is ready and sincere, and because it can and will create a positive momentum that will help the Israeli-Palestinian track. I just do not see a situation where Assad is able to say to his people “Look, we’re getting the Golan back finally, and so we’re going to have peace with Israel, but don’t worry, they’re ALMOST there with the Palestinians, as all of you can see…” What I think is most likely, is that after Obama or McCain start pressuring Israel and Syria to restart talks, the two will do just that, and the Palestinian track will, for all practical purposes, be put on hold.

If you start adding too many parties to the Syrian-Israeli discussions, or if you place a condition that peace with Syria is dependent on agreements or even near-agreements with any other side, the so-called “Comprehensive Solution”, I doubt we’ll be farther down the path 3 years from now than where we stand now. Perhaps that’s what has been delaying matters for this long – the perception that without a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no peace can exist in the region. But forget for a moment “real peace” (or a warm one), which obviously will only occur once ALL the issues are resolved, and once forgiveness and reconciliation begins to form. Tying everything together will lead to stagnation or more Annapolis-type summits. When Israelis and Palestinians see how Israel and Syria can sign a peace treaty in Washington, and how Israel is willing to give up land it has held for decades, they won’t want to miss the opportunity to also resolve their differences once and for all. And then, Hamas and Fatah will come together, and reach a consensus, and be willing to talk to Israel. That’s the positive momentum QN was referring to, and I completely agree with it.

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February 27th, 2008, 7:25 am


53. Shai said:

Ehsani2, Majhool,

I very much understand your concern that we are “kidnapping” these discussions in other directions. But from observing the various topics and their corresponding discussions, I noticed that this is common practice – namely, going on tangents that seem to interest enough people. It seems, at the end of the day, that the bloggers themselves enjoy going in different directions. You’re right, though, the consequence is a thinning out of an originally-intended topic discussion. Please forgive me for obviously contributing my “wisdom” mostly on Syria-Israel issues (or Arab-Israeli ones), and less on internal matters. Though these very much interest me as well.

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February 27th, 2008, 7:38 am


54. Alex said:


I just read what I wrote above and .. that’s what happens when you rush me to answer you before you go to sleep (at 9pm your time)

Now is also too late… and I will not make sense I’m sure. But I’ll try.

1) Syrian troops are not necessary at all … it is not a dream come true for Syria to have troops in Gaza next to Italian, Egyptian and Somali troops. I was simply offering one possible way you can have “guarantees” that a settlement in Palestine can be respected and implemented successfully and in an orderly manner.

Also, I did not mean to say that Syrian troops would be there before peace agreement is signed … I meant something like one year after … when it is time to implement the newly signed Palestinian agreement .. roughly one year after Syria and Israel sign. ANd I disagree with you .. I think we Syrians have so much potential charm that within one year we will make the Israeli people fall in love with us very quickly and if necessary, they will demand ONLY Syrian peace keepers, not Jordanian, and not Somalis.

and I’m only semi joking here.

2) A Madrid II is a great idea … Egypt and Saudi Arabia must be given a fun part to play … things go so much more smoothly when these two have a part to play. The leading Arab countries hate it when they don’t get invited to conferences… this includes Syria.

And more importantly … there are issues to be resolved between Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt … A settlement between Syria and Israel (followed by a Palestinian Israeli settlement) should be consistent with the national interests of Egypt and Saudi Arabia

conclusion: You are right that we should not over complicate things (otherwise it will take forever) … but … can’t ignore anything. Anyone you ignore will try his best to create obstacles … it is ok to spend a few more months to try as much as possible to talk about all the others.

My personal opinion.

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February 27th, 2008, 7:57 am


55. Shai said:


Yes, I do agree with that message. We mustn’t disregard ANY of the issues or other nations’ concerns in the region. But, while a Madrid II is indeed a very good idea, and while it should give not only a feeling but a very concrete role for the major participants (Egypt, KSA, Syria, others), it will inevitably be up to each side to bilaterally reach an agreement with Israel and, since Syria and Israel are probably closer than anyone else (or at least could be once talks restart), it is most likely that we’ll have peace between us first, and only then with the Palestinians. I was just starting to listen to Alon’s podcast (via MEI), which is why it took me a while to get back to you, but it seems that Washington is starting to realize its mistaken policy towards the region, and of course I’m talking about the potential leaders to come, not the existing leadership. If Obama, Hillary, or McCain come into power and immediately begin exploring a new approach, while embracing the various parties instead of isolating them, there is a very good chance for a Madrid II-style summit. But, if Israel’s PM and Syria’s President see that the new spirit is very favorable, they may not wish to wait any further and link progress too much to the Palestinian track. It is here that I fear Assad may end up looking more like Sadat than you and I can appreciate at this point in time. Question is, under what minimal conditions can this still work? I just cannot envision Assad taking a chance with the deeply-entangled Palestinian situation and its consequential difficulties vis-a-vis Israel, and risk not “grabbing” the Golan while he might be able to. I’m of course still skipping over much much work that has to be done here in Israel, to convince pubic opinion that the Golan is worth returning to Syria. But since I know some issues from your end are relevant, prior to Syrian so-called CBM’s, I’m raising these questions.

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February 27th, 2008, 8:47 am


56. Shai said:


BTW, it was 11 pm my time, not 9 pm, and in the end I went to bed around midnight, after reading a few more comments… 🙂

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February 27th, 2008, 8:48 am


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