Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Tuesday, November 15.
1) The loss of Ross

Douglas Bloomfield recounted an incident from Dennis Ross's "The Missing Peace:"
Ross described a meeting in Washington with Netanyahu shortly after he became prime minister the first time in 1996. "In the meeting with President Clinton, Netanyahu was nearly insufferable, lecturing and telling us how to deal with the Arabs." Ross recounts that afterwards a frustrated President Clinton remarked, "He thinks he is the superpower and we are here to do whatever he requires." Ross added, "No one on our side disagreed with that assessment."
The arrogance displayed in this passage is incredible. It's important to remember that Netanyahu narrowly won the premiership because the peace process had, instead of bringing peace to Israel, brought an increase in terror. That not a single peace processor thought that the occasion of Netanyahu's election was a cause for reexamining his own assumptions about the Middle East demonstrates is outrageous. (For the complete context see here. The title of the chapter in question is, tellingly, "Bibi wins; will peace lose?")

From that early encounter and onward, Clinton and Netanyahu had a rocky relationship. It was clear that Clinton could not work well with Netanyahu. Charles Krauthammer observed that Clinton actively supported Ehud Barak's effort to unseat Netanyahu as Prime Minister in 1999.
Having failed to topple Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic, Bill Clinton had to settle for Benjamin Netanyahu. In a characteristic display of partisan glee, Clinton toasted political consultant Robert Shrum on Tuesday night (reports Lloyd Grove in The Washington Post) to congratulate him (and implicitly, the administration) for helping the Israeli opposition bring down the prime minister Washington loves to hate.
So Barak won and with Netanyahu out of the way, Clinton could achieve his dream of bringing about Middle East peace and winning a Nobel Peace Prize. But it was not to be. Barak and Arafat went to Camp David. Barak made Arafat and unprecedented offer. Arafat refused it and two months later started the so called Aqsa intifada, demonstrating once again that he had never sincerely renounced terror. At the time, Clinton was aware of who shattered his dreams. In a phone call with Arafat shortly before he left office, Clinton complained bitterly to Arafat:
Nearly a year after he failed to achieve a deal at Camp David, former president Bill Clinton gave vent to his frustrations this week over the collapse of peace in the Mideast. And Clinton directed his ire at one man: Yasir Arafat. On Tuesday night, Clinton told guests at a party at the Manhattan apartment of former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke and his wife, writer Kati Marton, that Arafat called to bid him farewell three days before he left office. "You are a great man," Arafat said. "The hell I am," Clinton said he responded. "I'm a colossal failure, and you made me one."
Clinton said he told Arafat that by turning down the best peace deal he was ever going to get-the one proffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and brokered by Clinton last July-the Palestinian leader was only guaranteeing the election of the hawkish Ariel Sharon, the current Israeli leader. But Arafat didn't listen. Sharon was elected in a landslide Feb. 6 and has gradually escalated his crackdown on the Palestinians despite a shaky ceasefire negotiated two weeks ago by CIA chief George Tenet.
Note that Clinton treated Arafat's perfidy as a fault, but no worse than the election of Ariel Sharon. He didn't rethink his position that Arafat was a worthy peace partner.

Clinton a few weeks, apparently forgot about Arafat and is once again blaming Netanyahu.

I bring up this history because now Dennis Ross will be resigning from the Obama administration. The New York Times reported, Obama’s Influential Mideast Envoy to Resign:
A Middle East adviser to five presidents, Mr. Ross, 62, is known for his painstaking approach to diplomacy and longstanding ties to Israeli leaders, which made him a behind-the-scenes interlocutor with Israel but also stood in stark contrast to the bolder instincts and the more distant approach of his boss.
But Mr. Ross’s departure, effective in December, is not a result of disputes over policy, several officials said. He helped formulate Mr. Obama’s most recent proposal to revive peace talks, under which the Israelis and the Palestinians would negotiate the contours of a Palestinian state using the prevailing borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, adjusted to account for Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Mr. Obama’s proposal failed to break the deadlock, and in September, the Palestinian Authority petitioned the United Nations for membership, against the objections of the United States. In his final months on the job, Mr. Ross made several trips to the West Bank to try to persuade the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, not to go ahead with his campaign.
I find it hard to believe that there was no policy difference that led to Ross's departure. (According to the Times he promised his wife that he'd spend no more than two years in the administration.) Ross, in 2008, explained why he supported candidate Obama:
Israel cannot afford four more years of seeing the threats grow against it. It cannot afford four more years of U.S. policies that are tough rhetorically but soft practically. It cannot afford four more years of America being on the sidelines diplomatically.
When I was in Israel a few weeks ago, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Sheikh Hamid of Qatar were all visiting Damascus, and Israelis asked me who was there watching out for Israel's interests? Similarly, who was there to watch out for Israel's interests when Qatar brokered the understanding that gave Hezbollah a veto over any Lebanese decision after the fighting in May? Israel can surely watch out for its own interests in the indirect negotiations that Turkey is mediating between Israel and Syria, but will Turkey be as concerned for Israel's interests as America would be?
It should come as no surprise that when America sits on the sidelines in the Middle East, it creates a diplomatic vacuum, and others invariably fill it. Since the Bush administration would not engage Iran, the Europeans have taken the lead on the diplomacy. While their efforts have been serious and genuine, it is clear that they have not generated the pressure that America in the lead might have produced -- and absent that pressure and absent the Iranians being forced to make a choice, Iran will not change its behavior.
Nearly every one of these criticism apply now - some more critically than three years ago. As with Netanyahu, I wonder if Ross possesses the circumspection to question his own assumptions about the administration that he has served for nearly three years.

In addition to Ross's resignation, other reason I quoted from "The Missing Peace," (and the reason Bloomfield quoted the incident) is because of the recent incident where France's Nicholas Sarkozy insulted Netanyahu and President Obama seemingly agreed with him. Barry Rubin writes:
Why suddenly has Sarkozy turned against Netanyahu? I can’t prove it but I think there is evidence for the following scenario. Sarkozy decided that he was going to broker a major deal at the UN, showing that France was a leading great power in the world. (A theme I think you have heard before is a major French goal.) So he went to Netanyahu with a proposal: Israel would accept unilateral independence for Palestine and Sarkozy would get Israel something from the Palestinians (perhaps recognition of a Jewish state?).
Netanyahu played along a bit but, of course, knew that Sarkozy wouldn’t get anything from the Palestinian Authority. Sarkozy’s idea — like that of virtually all the well-intentioned or bad-intentioned, naive or cynical, friendly or hostile to Israel busybodies who think they are going to make peace — just didn’t make real sense. At any rate, Sarkozy thought he had something from Israel that he didn’t. His UN speech implying he wanted to support unilateral independence was certainly bad from Israel’s standpoint.
The deal fell through — it was doomed from the start since the Palestinian Authority wouldn’t compromise — and, of course, he blamed Israel and not the Palestinians. Hence his fury that Netanyahu was a “liar.”
What Rubin is describing are the premises of the peace process. Peace is good (unassailable). Peace requires both sides to compromise (unassailable). Peace is possible (dubious for now.) Peace requires that Palestinian aspirations be addressed and Israeli security needs be met (contradictory).

It's like the riddle. Q) How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb. A) One. But the light bulb really has to want to change.

So it is with peace. Both sides really have to want it. And until the Palestinian side changes, it won't happen. Peace processors can't believe this because their rarefied world view, peace is always possible. If it isn't it must be because of the fault of one of the parties.

Since Israeli leaders are the only ones in the equation who are accountable and subject to political and diplomatic pressures, they are invariably the ones called upon to compromise. If they don't, they are the ones who are "obstacles to peace." The point that escapes peace processors like Ross or would be peace processors like Clinton and Sarkozy is that one sided compromise doesn't work.

2) Barack's new buddy

Soner Cagaptay describes how Barack Obama and Recep Tayyip Erdogan have become close:
It took time and hard work to get to this point. Until last year, Turkey's relationship with Washington was wavering: Ankara's Iran policy was oscillating, which often challenged Washington's efforts to impose internationally backed sanctions on Tehran.
In June 2010, for example, Turkey voted at the U.N. Security Council against a proposal for U.S.-sponsored sanctions. For about two months, it looked as though this vote would sever U.S.-Turkish ties. But the straightforward conversation Obama had with Erdogan on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Toronto in July 2010 changed everything.
Obama told Erdogan how upsetting Turkey's U.N. vote had been to him, and his candor helped clear the air between the two, as Turkish and U.S. officials and friends have told me. And Turkey's policy soon changed: Ankara stopped defending Tehran and began working with Washington.
Cagaptay is hopeful. He believes that after the America withdrawal from Iraq, Turkey's competition with Iran over influence in Iraq will drive it to ally itself more with the United States.

However Barry Rubin explains why this friendship is not a positive development:
I would also stress that Erdogan is Obama’s tutor on Middle East affairs:
–When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other Obama Administration officials claim that Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood are really moderate and will be further moderated by being in power, the only example provided was that Erdogan’s regime is moderate.
–The U.S. government announced last September 11 its self-described main initiative for the tenth anniversary of the attacks on America. It was an international counterterrorist organization with Turkey as the sole co-chair. Israel was not invited to join.
–When the Turkish regime has engaged in anti-Israel tirades–which Turkey’s opposition leader has called going to the verge of war with Israel–no U.S. criticism, pressure, or lessening of the Obama-Erdogan love affair has taken place. By acting in this way, Obama has licensed Obama’s anti-Israel policies and his regime’s at times antisemitic rhetoric.
–Despite the Turkish government’s opposition to additional sanctions on Iran last year and Erdogan’s effort to sabotage U.S. efforts by cutting a separate deal with Tehran, Obama was not perturbed.
–Erdogan’s close and supportive relationship with Hizballah and Hamas have not brought any U.S. negative reaction.
–The U.S. government and mass media have systematically avoided talking about this regime’s ties to terrorist groups, including its sponsorship of the Gaza flotilla which was organized by the IHH terrorists. The Turkish regime has also been involved in antisemitic actions, like an antisemitic website sponsored by the Turkish Education Ministry.
–Erdogan has publicly stated that he believes Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons and that Iranian President Ahmadinejad was his friend. Lately they haven’t been getting along so well. Why, Turkish moderation? No, Erdogan wants a Sunni Islamist regime in Syria; Ahmadinejad wants the current Damascus government which is his ally.
–The regime’s foreign minister Ahmed Davutoğlu wrote a book in Turkish saying that his plan was to move from alliance with the West to one with the Islamist world in order to fight the West. The book has never been translated and the regime has bought up copies. No Western news media has written about it. Recently, he wrote a book in English saying the regime wanted to be friends with everyone and loved the West. This has been widely reviewed and favorably discussed.
–Far from being a moderate Muslim or even a moderate Islamist, Erdogan has been carrying out the fundamental transformation of Turkey into an Islamist dictatorship.
–Under the guidance of Erdogan’s regime, much of the Turkish media has been generating anti-Americanism. Polls show a huge rise in anti-American public opinion which Erdogan has augmented, not combated.
–Incidentally, Erdogan uses the warm report he receives from the Obama Administration at home for political purposes. If the Americans like us, the government tells voters, we couldn’t possibly be Islamists. Far from isolating Turkey, our policies abroad (alliance with Iran, Syria–up until recently–Hamas and Hizballah) shows our government’s success. Everyone in Turkey knows that the U.S. government is helping the regime in electoral terms.
–Among Erdogan’s past statements was his famous remark that democracy is like a streetcar and you just must decide where to get off. The Turkish model is inspiring Islamists elsewhere not toward moderation but merely toward patience in implementing their programs. They participate in elections not because they believe in democracy but because they know they will win the elections and then can consolidate power and irreversibly transform their societies along the lines they wish.
–U.S. embassy reporting from Ankara, as we can see from Wikileaks, showed the radical Islamism of Erdogan’s regime on many occasions. Obama simply ignored it.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home