Monday, July 24, 2006

Turning Points in the Middle East?

The debate on the Middle East, it seems to me, is now increasingly going to focus around the question of "widening" versus "containing". To what extent are the Iran nuclear issue, the ongoing insurgency in Iraq, and the Hamas/Hezbollah clash with Israel all part of one larger problem? And is the approach one of widening and expanding (e.g. increasing pressure on Syria and Iran now with existing U.S. deployments as they are in the Middle East) or trying to separate, isolate and contain each situation?

The transformationalist vision is always compelling--but the problem is that the U.S. seems to lack the will and staying power to see it through. And I still see no evidence that people here in Washington want to face the reality that democracy promotion and sustaining and deepening pro-U.S. governments don't always go hand in hand.

I think the following obtain:

1- The power to undo nuclear Iran is not there; this is a moot point.

2- Israel & Hizbollah just destroyed US political position in the Levant.

3- US is hated by the Sunni Arabs.

4- There is a war between Judaism and Islam that includes Israel and the Occupied Territories.

5- Iraq is in the middle of a civil war with no end in sight; it is finished as a political process.

6- Turkey and PKK are going at it again.

7- Mubarak has passed his shelf-life.

8- Demographic bomb is ticking in the Persian Gulf states.

9- Jordan is shaky.

We do not need widening of conflicts to Iran and Syria: US cannot dictate the terms of the peace (unless she uses nuclear weapons).

We cannot try containment; that was the game in 1990s, it is over now.

What we need is tedious, persistent, and high-level engagement on all fronts at the same time.

We need to take the Syrian suggestion and work on a comprehensive framework to settle the Isla-Judaism War. This should take the first priority.
Another aspect of realism here is to take into account the President's personal views about ME. One has to be cognizant of the President's parameters in constructing a policy.

It seems to me that the President had made up his mind who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, whom to trust and whom not to trust, and whom to embrace and whom not to embrace.

Thus, it may be that there is no productive and realistic approach possible until the President leaves offic in 2008 (may be not even then).
you cannot have rational middle east policy if you think god is handing out real estate deeds. you cannot be trusted as honest broker to resolve conflicts if you make it clear that one side is always going to be blameless.
It isn't clear to me that "widening" and "containing" are on the same level. If the consequences of events in the Middle East can be isolated from the rest of the world (either all along or after a brief interval), then conflict in the region has already been contained, whatever local widening does or does not take place to link the various tensions there. The real question is whether anything that happens in the Middle East is self-containing, or is self-widening in the sense of permanently upsetting the larger balance in the eastern hemisphere.
David Billington

There is no balance just jockeying for position & power.

What are US aims in the Levant?
What are US aims in the Persian Gulf?
Are they achievable?
If not, what is achievable?
US has always had contradictory aims. Great relations with Arabs, cheap oil, and Israel. I dont know, anonymous 7:12 AM, whether there are now simultaneously achievable, not without a big bad overbearing Soviet threat that caused the kings of Saudi Arabia to seek US protection.
There's a wide gap between democracy promotion and dealing with the results of democracy promotion. Hamas and Hezbollah were part and parcel of the democratic middle east within the past year. That may be exactly the problem - its one thing to promote democracy, but how do you deal with it when it installs terrorist groups into power? What do you do then - move the goalposts and call for "peaceful democracy". I don't see an answer to this conundrum.
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