Thursday, May 28, 2009

Israeli Settlements: U.S. Department of State press conference, May 27, 2009

Question: Does the Administration consider itself bound by the contents of the letter former President Bush sent to then Israeli Prime Minister Sharon in 2004? Additionally, does the Obama administration consider itself bound by the unwritten verbal understandings of 2005 between the Israeli government and the Bush administration regarding settlements?

Answer: As Secretary Clinton said, “With respect to settlements, the President was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here: He wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. We think it is in the best interests of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease. That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly, not only to the Israelis but to the Palestinians and others. And we intend to press that point.”

Israel's riposte.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dennis Ross and the denial of the obvious: linkage

The position espoused by Ross in new book (and David Makovsky) puts him directly at odds with Barack Obama on the issue of whether the Arab-Israeli conflict is integrally connected to other major regional issues.

Dennis Ross vs. Obama: No link betwen Iran, Mideast peace - Haaretz - Israel News

Monday, May 25, 2009

How serious is Obama about freezing Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank?

As the linked article explains, freezing settlement growth will require much more than identifying violations of Israeli commitments or gaps in Israeli reporting. It remains to be seen if the U.S. president is ready for the tough political battle he will have to wage in order to impede Israel's colonization of the West Bank.

What is obvious is that the present Israeli government will not cooperate with the U.S. to stop settlement growth. The article suggests that initial steps to remove unauthorized illegal settlements (as opposed to illegal settlements) would likely bring down the present government and thereby permit the formation of a coalition centrist government under Netanyahu. That scenario presumes that Netanyahu will resolve to move against unauthorized settlements, which is most unlikely.

As I have noted here before, the trope of Netanyahu's pragmatism and opportunism may be true in the general realm of Israeli politics, but the idea that he is willing to cooperate in the long term freezing and even reduction of settlements in order to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel is illusory. Therefore, an appropriate if unstated goal for U.S. policy should be to look forward to Netanyahu's exit from the Prime Minister's office not the prolongation of his stay.

See this related article about Netanyahu pressing on with settlements. And this one about archeology in the service of colonization in East Jerusalem.

Friday, May 22, 2009

An exchange on the Margalit/Walzer piece

'Israel & the Rules of War': An Exchange - The New York Review of Books
Original piece.

British Foreign Secretary offers a reasoned and impressive call for political dialogue with Muslim majority governments and organizations

David Miliband, an articulate and engaging speaker, delivered this talk to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (video excerpt). The thread that ran through the presentation was a commitment to political dialogue, including with those groups or governments that avow ideologies that may conflict with our own. He emphasized that such dialogue is conditioned upon an embrace of politics rather than a commitment to violence intended to destroy the political process.
The q+a session is not reproduced on the ministry website. Miliband was asked several interesting questions, including whether the two European permanent members of the U.N. Security Council should give up a seat to allow a major Muslim country to enjoy permanent member on the Council. He replied that if dialogue is to take place then it would not make sense to exclude the U.K. Asked about Israeli settlements in the West Bank and their long-term status he noted that the British government referred to them as "illegal Israeli settlements." He emphasized the steps that Britain has taken to insure that British imports do not include goods produced in the illegal settlements. He was reminded of colonial era British understandings with Pushtun tribes that allowed them to retain arms and he seemed to agree that these understandings added to the complexities of the Pakistan situation. When asked about Hamas he seemed at pains to color within the lines: He endorsed Egyptian efforts to pursue Palestinian reconciliation, underlined that the PA was the responsible body for conducting negotiations, and described Hamas as not accepting a two-state solution (which is factually debatable).


"What I want to argue today is that the central task for foreign policy is the creation of arenas of politics, national and international, in which different values and ideas can be argued out, and in the process recourse to violence marginalized; and that the central danger is the failure to create such arenas, with consequent strengthening of those committed to violence."


"That means being prepared to encourage reconciliation with organisations whose values we may not share but who are prepared to pursue common interests."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Purification rites

An erudite, thoughtful comparison of the Indian and Israeli cases, particularly in terms of the treatment of Muslim minorities.

Purification rites - The National Newspaper

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Honor killings--excused murder in my book--in Turkey

Honor killings are hardly unique to Turkey, but also occur with distressing regularity in Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria and a variety of other societies, including parts of Europe and Latin America where "protecting family honor" is used to justify the murder of women who may have done little more than to behave imprudently.

In a case that I know of in Egypt, a young women who worked as a maid for a Cairo family was given leave to visit her family during an 'eid. She took the wrong train from Cairo and ended up in a town where the next train was not until morning. A sympathetic women put her up over night, but her brothers, sure that "something" must have happened, were intent on killing (the method in this case: to be tied in a sack weighted with rocks and thrown in the Nile). Incidentally, the woman was illiterate and could not read the signs at the train station. As it happened, she was saved through the intervention of her Egyptian employers, but perhaps she only earned a reprieve.

In her recent posts on Turkey, Jenny White has periodically addressed honor killings there. As she notes about a recent case in which a woman was horribly mutilated, as well as stabbed, but still survived, what is most appalling is the role of the police. After the woman fled the threats of her husband, the police foricibly returned her to her spouse, who claimed the woman was fabricating.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Important news from Kuwait: four women win election to the majlis

When a group of us launched the Civil Society in the Middle East program in the early 1990s, women were still struggling for the right to vote in Kuwait, which they did not win until 2005. The electoral victory of these women in Kuwait is a moment that deserves to marked as important.

Added: Greg Gause from Kuwait on the elections

Video link: Mustafa Akyol's Boston U. lecture, April 15, 2009.

BUniverse - Yes, We Can! Toward a Brave New Turkey

"Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol discusses Turkey’s historical and contemporary struggle toward political and cultural modernity in the 2009 Campagna-Kerven Lecture on Modern Turkey. Since 1996, the lecture series has brought leading scholarly and popular authorities to Boston University to speak on Turkey’s changing society and its role in the Middle East. Although the country has long sought to embrace Western values, Akyol argues, recent developments are causing many Turks to reconsider what “westernization” actually means.

"Akyol begins with an overview of the region’s history, from the Ottoman Empire to the creation of the Republic of Turkey in the 1920s to the present. He argues that many observers wrongly overlook the religiously and ethnically diverse — and surprisingly tolerant — Ottoman society when seeking an explanation for Turkish Muslim’s relatively progressive attitudes: “The sum of the dichotomies between Islam and democracy was actually sorted out by Islamic intellectuals back in the nineteenth century,” Akyol asserts. He explains the rise of the Republic in the context of Turkey’s tendency to equate modernization with westernization. Throughout the last century, he notes, liberals have tried to force social reforms on the Turkish people, while “democracy” has been equated with allowing people to live more traditional lifestyles (such as a Muslim woman choosing to wear a headscarf). Now, he says, the Turkish middle class is beginning to regard religious freedom as more of a Western idea than as enforced modern customs.

"After examining both historical and current episodes in Turkish life, Akyol concludes that, despite a growing Islamist sentiment within the country, religious struggles ultimately will not destabilize the nation. It is rising Turkish nationalism, he says, and not traditional Islam, that “has turned into a force which opposes anything that is new.” But, he says, the people who have corrupted Ataturk’s legacy — such as two retired generals who are now on trial for attempting a coup — are showing Turkish citizens that “the people who claim to be patriots can also be criminals.”"

BU Universe videos.

Amira Hass on what's banned, what's not in Gaza

The few items merchants are allowed to trade in are divided into three categories: food, medicine and detergent. Everything else is forbidden - including building materials (which are necessary to rehabilitate Gaza's ruins and rebuild its infrastructure), electric appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines, spare machine and car parts, fabrics, threads, needles, light bulbs, candles, matches, books, musical instruments, crayons, clothing, shoes, mattresses, sheets, blankets, cutlery, crockery, cups, glasses and animals. Many of the banned products are imported through the tunnels and can be found in Gaza's markets.

Pasta, which had been forbidden in the past, is now allowed, after U.S. Senator John Kerry expressed his astonishment at the ban during a visit to Gaza in February. But tea, coffee, sausages, semolina, milk products in large packages and most baking products are forbidden. So are industrial commodities for manufacturing food products, chocolate, sesame seeds and nuts. Israel does allow importing fruit, milk products in small packages and frozen food products as well as limited amounts of industrial fuel.

A related article by Uri Avnery.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What pressure looks like: I

On May 11, 2009, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a Presidential Statement on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.  Such statements lack the implementation or enforcement measures associated with resolutions, but this statement was 
noteworthy for several reasons:

  • It was passed unanimously in a draft form that closely coincides with the public position of the White House.
  • The statement unequivocally reiterates the validity of all prior agreements and undertakings, including Quartet's Road Map, which gathered dust during the ineffectual mediatory efforts of Condoleezza Rice.  Implicitly, the statement reiterates the Road Map's requirement for a freeze to Israeli settlement expansion and construction.
  • The 2002 Arab League Initiative is explicitly validated in the statement.
  • Palestinian reconciliation is endorsed under the aegis of the PA, and through the offices of Egyptian diplomacy.
  • The statement endorses a conference "in 2009" under Russian auspices.

If you wonder, what significant, carefully designed pressure looks like, just ponder this statement.  It is one of a series of important signals emanating directly or indirectly from the Obama administration.  All very smooth, almost seamless in design.

Do you want to guess if diplomatic pressure works?

"The move followed the broadcast of a video alleging to show Sheikh Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a half brother of Abu Dhabi’s ruler and the United Arab Emirates’ president, severely beating the Afghan and driving over his body.

"A senior member of the ruling family has never been publicly detained before in Abu Dhabi. The footage has damaged the reputation of Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the UAE, and raised questions about the rule of law in the Gulf nation, while also threatening to complicate a nuclear deal between it and the US."


"The incident leading to Sheikh Issa’s detention allegedly took place in late 2004 but resurfaced last month when the video was broadcast on ABC News. The allegations were made by Bassam Nabulsi, a US citizen and former business associate of the sheikh who is suing him in the US over a separate business deal.

"The claims came as the Obama administration was reviewing a Bush-era deal that would permit civilian nuclear trade with the Gulf nation and have prompted some Congressmen to question whether that should go ahead. The UAE announced plans last year to set up a civilian nuclear programme to meet rising energy demand. The deal with the US was negotiated by the Bush administration shortly before it left office."

The next, more telling step will be to see if a usually protected person, a shaykh, is actually punished as opposed to inconvenienced and embarrassed a bit.

For the gruesome video see this post.

Campagna-Kerven lecture at Boston University audio feeds added

Monday, May 11, 2009

Jordan's 'Abdullah--The Times: Israel has the opportunity to make peace

In a piece that fills much of the front page of The Times, 'Abdullah argues for a series of bilateral negotiations that would culminate in a comprehensive peace. Israel would not be only be making peace with Arab enemies, but it would be gaining acceptance by the Muslim world (one-third of humanity by his inflated count). The alternative, as he sees it, is another war as soon as a year or eighteen months from now.

The monarch claims that he has been giving shape to the bargain on offer in hand with President Obama. Whether or not 'Abdullah is exaggerating his own role, he certainly speaks accurately in noting the widespread hopes associated now with U.S. diplomacy. Obama will have to tamp down expectations, but he will need to also show evidence of progress during the upcoming meeting with Prime Minister Netanyau.

Meanwhile, on Sunday Netanyahu declared that he would not relinquish control of the Golan Heights. This is no surprise, but it is consistent with his earlier pledges, for instance in 1997, that the Golan belongs to Israel "forever". This is not simply posturing before Netanyahu meets Obama next week, but a position from which Netanyahu has wavered a bit but never deserted.

King Abdullah of Jordan's ultimatum: peace now or it’s war next year - Times Online

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Four contenders register for Iran's presidential elections on June 12, 2009

Presuming that four main candidates compete, a run-off is a certainty. In the last run-off, which brought Ahmadi-Nejad to office when he defeated Hashemi Rafsanjani in 2005, the cleric and candidate Mehdi Karroubi complained loudly of interference in the balloting. In fact, Karroubi claimed that he, not Rafsanjani should have been in the run-off. Some of his supporters argued that Ahmadi-Nejad's supporters, not least Supreme Leader 'Ali Khameinei, preferred Rafsanjani as an easier to defeat rival, given widespread knowledge of his corruption. Karroubi is running again, and he has issued pre-emptive warnings about his demand for an unfettered election.

So, it will be Karroubi or Mir-Hossen Moussavi (supported by former President M. Khatami) vs. Ahmadi-Nejad or Mohsen Rezaei, the former Pasdaran commander. My hunch is Ahmadi-Nejad's showerings of patronage will buy him a lot of popular support, while former Prime Minister Moussavi will find more support than Karroubi (the office of Prime Minister was abolished in Iran more than two decades ago); however, Iran's elections, despite the systematic tampering by the regime, are not always very easy to call. Khatami's 1997 election was a complete surprise, and Ahmadi-Nejad's victory was not widely either. / Iran - Four contenders register for Iran polls

"Mr Karroubi, the most outspoken reformist amongst the candidates, called on the interior ministry, which is in charge of holding the election, to protect the integrity of the voting system.

"“I have come to run in a free election without the interference of basij, armed forces and rogue agents,” Mr Karroubi said, vowing to stand “firm” against any irregularity.

"The basij, the 10m-strong voluntary arm of the Revolutionary Guards, played a crucial role in mobilising Iranians to vote for Mr Ahmadi-Nejad in 2005. Reformists say this runs counter to the constitution which bans military groups from interfering in politics."

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Has U.S. policy on aid to Egypt changed?

The Wapo editorial criticizes the Obama administration for reducing aid dedicated to the promotion of civil society and political reform. In fact, the U.S. has spent very little to support such activities. If one were to question a U.S. diplomat two, five or seven years ago about how the U.S. is supporting political reform in Egypt, as I have, you would learn that most of the reform activities being supported with U.S. funds are quite anemic, or simply have little to do with substantial reform. Instead, many of the program beneficiaries are business-oriented groups, or other activities that seldom if ever challenge the exisiting authorities. In fact, when I have asked the question my interlocutor usually has to strain to find examples of reform-oriented recipients.

Since 2000, the Mubarak regime has aggressively intimidated and suppressed activists. The repression began with Saad Eddin Ibrahim, once believed immune from attack, and is now understood by NGOs to mean that Egyptian NGOs only take foreign funding at their severe peril.

There were moments when the Bush adminstration push hard for reform, for instance in 2005, but the pushes did not last long. In my view, pulling back was a mistake because Egypt is quite vulnerable to U.S. pressure, but the Bush adminstration was so spooked by the Hamas victory in January 2006 that it played right in authoritarian Egypt's hands.

One hopes that the Obama people will re-evaluate the U.S. relationship with Egypt, but that is not a matter of a few more million for NGOs, but rather a more serious posture insisting on change.

What Will Unconditional Aid Buy From Egypt's Hosni Mubarak? -

Friday, May 08, 2009

Signals with deniability

As I noted here previously, the Obama adminstration may affect the calculus of Israeli officials with subtle signals, which seems to be what they are doing quite well.

Jerusalem worried over breakdown of U.S.-Israel cooperation under Obama - Haaretz - Israel News


Behind the scenes of the Peres-Obama meeting | The Cable

The SG's Board of Inquiry report on 9 incidents in the Gaza war

The Secretary-General Off the Cuff

The full report has not been released but an extended summary, which Ban Ki-Moon claims is faithful to the full report, was prepared by the UN Secretariat. The summary is available here. Even in summarized form the report--examining a total of nine incidents--reveals pattern of intentional targeting of UN facilities by the Israeli army, which exercised inadequate regard for protected persons and sites. Several untruthful claims by Israeli officials are noted. In one instance it found Hamas gunmen responsible for firing, in another it did not determine responsibility.

See this informative Guardian report, and UN-Truth has a nice summary about the release of the Board of Inquiry report.

The Israeli reaction to the report was to accuse the investigators of bias and negligence. Citing Israel's own inquiry, the statement claims that the IDF did not intentionally fire on UN installations. "The State of Israel rejects the criticism in the board's summary report, and determines that in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee. The board of inquiry has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organization, and by doing so has misled the world."

Perhaps the most noteworthy component of the Israeli statement is in the final paragraph: "Israel views the publication of the report's findings as the end of the internal UN inspection process." In that regard, Ban Ki-Moon has indicated that there will no further investigations, in contrast to the recommendations of the Board of Inquiry.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Black Site

A Black and Disgraceful Site - The New York Review of Books

Brzezinski on the new Haass book.

A Tale of Two Wars | Foreign Affairs

The book title refers to the U.S.-led wars against Iraq in 1990-91 and 2003. The first is described by Haass as a "war of necessity" and the second as a "war of choice". For anyone who has followed the debate over the merits of invading Iraq in 2003 the arguments will be familiar. Haass offers, and BZ endorses a realist critique of the 2003 as a war launched by conviction and fear-mongering rather than by a careful weighing of evidence and defining of objectives.

I find the comments on the Israeli-Palestinian more directly relevant to the challenges facing the Obama administration today. Haass argues that the first Bush administration made a key decision to assert U.S. leadership to reach a settlement in the core conflict. Of course, Bush failed to win re-election and rather than the peacemaking momentum being sustained by the subsequent Clinton administration "waffled" (BZ's term) until the last year in office. As for Bush II, he endorsed a vague roadmap that offered Israel license to do pretty much what they pleased and he failed to lend the weight of is office to reach a settlement, notwithstanding face-time with Mahmoud 'Abbas. George W. Bush promised a settlement by the time he left office, but instead the hapless Condoleezza Rice gained ownership of a U.S. effort that earned derision in both Palestinian and Israeli circles.

Those of you who have read my Current History essays over the years, will recognize the critique.

In his review, Brzezinski builds on Haass's critique to argue that President Obama has to lead if there is to be a settlement:

"President Barack Obama should draw an important lesson from Haass' insightful memoir. If the new president is to avoid in the Middle East not only the gross errors of his immediate predecessor but also the much too long-lasting passivity of the Clinton years, he truly has to lead. Admittedly, making matters more difficult for him is the legacy of the last 16 years, when a subtle shift took place in the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the United States moved from being a genuine mediator seeking to nudge both sides toward peace to holding a posture of thinly veiled partiality in favor of one of the parties to the conflict. The result has been detrimental to the prospects for peace -- for without engaged and genuinely forthright U.S. mediation, the two parties to the conflict have shown themselves to be unable to reach a genuine compromise."

And there is little time left on the this BBC piece on Bethleham illustrates.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Should Israel's nukes be negotiable?: An important article

Israel's nuclear arsenal of at least 80 warheads is seldom discussed in Washington, yet it is the reality of that arsenal that helps to provide a rationale for other regional powers seeks a nuclear weapons capability. When the idea of a Middle East nuclear free zone is mooted, it is typically dismissed by U.S. officials and analysts as implausible given Israel's refusal to comply. This piece suggests that it is possible the Obama administration will be more open to the idea of an arms control regime in the Middle East that will include Israel Frankly, the evidence is little more than suggestive, although some officials are known to favor the idea.

As I have noted here previously, some experts known for their concern of the Middle East nuclearization are remarkably quiet about Israel's arsenal. Perhaps, just perhaps, that might change.

One intriguing items in the Washington Times article is a reference to a highly secret 1969 agreement between Golda Meir and Richard Nixon, in which Nixon committed the U.S. to preserving Israel's nuclear weapons program.
EXCLUSIVE: Secret U.S.-Israel nuclear accord in jeopardy - Washington Times

A link to the famous 1986 London Times article in which Mordechai Vanunu revealed, for the first time, evidence confirming Israel's nuclear bombs. [Informed reporting on the kidnapping of Vanunu.]

Turkey - Yes We Can!

Listen to the 2009 rendition of the Campagna-Kerven lecture on modern Turkey, which was presented at Boston University on April 15, 2009.
Turkey - Yes We Can! | Boston University's World of Ideas

For more information on the speaker and the lecture series go to the website for the series. A streaming video of the event will be posted shortly.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses AIPAC in 1997 (revised with additional links)

As you read this twelve year old speech in which then as now Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects the idea of a Palestinian state ponder how much he has grown or changed over the course of a dozen years. My guess is not very much, notwithstanding reassurances by none other than the President of Israel.

Addressing AIPAC Policy Conference today, May 4, 2009, in Washington, D.C., President Shimon Peres argues that Netanyahu "knows history and wants to make history. In our tradition, making history is making peace, and I am sure that peace is his priority." We'll see. Peres is seen by his admirers as a man of vision, but he has an established record for offering soft-hued assessments of hardline Israeli policies.

By my reading, it was notable that Peres reiterated (in contrast to Foreign Minister Lieberman) Israel's committment to honor agreements signed by previous governments, that he referred positively to the Arab League initiative, and that he referred to the 1947 Partition resolution and the vision of two states living side by side. What is not clear is that Peres' words accurately anticipate the stance that Netanyahu and his government will reveal in the coming days and weeks, except perhaps Peres' emphasis on the threat posed by Iran's "fanatic leaders".

In contrast, Lieberman's words are roughly hewn, but they are reminiscent of the first Netanyahu government with their emphasis on "concrete results," which are understood to mean that the Palestinians will be expected to meet a variety of pre-conditions before Israel adopts politically difficult concessions. In practice, this is a way to placate the U.S. while the colonization of the West Bank continues at a brisk pace. [The full extent of the settlement project is revealed in this previously secret Israeli government database, which was leaked in January 2009. The database details the extent of "illegal" or unauthorized settlements.]

That approach worked in the late 1990s when Bill Clinton and company did not hide their annoyance at Netanyahu's impolitic obdurance but did little to obstruct his active efforts to undermine the Oslo process. Recall the crowning glory of that period, namely the 1997 Hebron protocol, which was supposed to mark the beginning of final status negotiations that were to be completed by May 1999.

Netanyahu: Veteran U.S. diplomat's appraisal

No more make-believe in the Middle East |

"From the field, the relationship was always reminiscent of the scene from the 1967 comedy "A Guide for the Married Man," where a man and his mistress, caught in flagrante by the wife, simply deny, deny, deny until they have calmly dressed and the mistress has departed, leaving the wife wondering whether to believe her eyes. "

Squashing dissent in New Mexico: Billboard company apparently folds under pro-Israeli activists' pressure

Mondoweiss: Billboards criticizing US aid to Israel taken down under pressure

Coalition site.

MondoweissTaking down the board 1

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Gaith Abdul-Ahad: Insightful report on Nouri al_Malaki's consolidation of power

Six years after Saddam, new Iraqi strongman tightens his grip | World news | The Guardian

"Any self-respecting Iraqi politician who wants to build his own power base must first establish or acquire his own intelligence service. After a couple of weeks in Baghdad talking to politicians, members of parliament and intelligence officials I came to the conclusion that Iraq has seven separate intelligence units. Or maybe eight. No one could agree on the precise number.

"An Iraqi journalist with links to some government officials explained. "People shouldn't blame Maliki. The security situation creates from the leader a dictator, and that's normal and logical, to surround yourself by people you trust; your friends and family, because you don't trust the others.

""Maliki and the leadership of Dawa [Maliki's party] managed to obtain the loyalty of military and civilian institutions and commanders and now those officers are loyal to Dawa and moved their alliances from other parties.

""Officers, even if they are not part of Dawa, want to kiss the hand that feeds them they become part of the matrix because they are appointed by Maliki. For example, officers attached to the supreme council changed their loyalties to that of Dawa."

"Faryad Rawandousi, a member of the security committee in the Iraqi parliament, said: "There are a lot of appointments of officers, brigade commanders and above - 140 ranks that come directly from the prime minister without obtaining the approval of the parliament. These appointments are done without going back to the constitution, using existing laws of the former regime without taking into consideration that we are in a very different political system."

""The big commanders are loyal to whoever puts them in power," an official in the ministry of defence said. "They support Maliki because he is not imposing on them difficult conditions and some moved their alliances from other parties.""

"Awakening" militias rejoining the insurgency in Iraq

Few of the "Sons of Iraq" militiamen been integrated into state security forces, many of them are being poorly paid or not paid at all by the Iraqi government, so disaffection is growing and defections are multiplying. This is not a surprise, but it is a serious development.
Iraq bloodshed rises as US allies defect - Times Online

Friday, May 01, 2009

Probable Pick For New Israeli Envoy Often at Odds With U.S. –

Probable Pick For New Israeli Envoy Often at Odds With U.S. –

Worries in Bibi-land

Advocates a more assertive role in U.S. peacemaking role in the Arab-Israeli zone have sometimes confused pressure with persuasion, particularly in bi-lateral U.S.-Israeli relations. Overt pressure on Israel is politically risky for U.S. Presidents and it often evokes spurious claims of bias, even anti-Semitism. Instead, the key is to persuade the Israeli leaders that it is in their interest to change course

President commands a pulpit to which the informed Israeli public is obsessively attentive. This is why when Bibi Netanyahu comes to town Barack Obama will have considerable leverage to legitimate or undermine Netanyahu.

I do not expect Netanyahu to arrive with a parcel of palatable ideas for moving toward a two-state solution. A Syria-first program will be high on the list of the Israeli delegation. So he will come with ideas to be sure, but on examination they will be constructed to protect Israel's colonization of the West Bank. If so, then a bit of cold shoulder and firmness will be just the parting gift for the Israeli leader.

My view remains that compelling U.S. interests dictate movement promptly toward a two-state solution. I do not see Netanyahu as capable of making that journey. I would love to be proved wrong. We'll see.

Obviously, there are other pieces of the puzzle still scattered, not least the disunited and confused Palestinian leadership, as well as the construction of a system of guarantees that will satisfy the belligerents on both sides.