The Obama Plan for the ME?

Arableaguemap "Barack Obama is to pursue an ambitious peace plan in the Middle East involving the recognition of Israel by the Arab world in exchange for its withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, according to sources close to America’s president-elect.

Obama intends to throw his support behind a 2002 Saudi peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League and backed by Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister and leader of the ruling Kadima party.

The proposal gives Israel an effective veto on the return of Arab refugees expelled in 1948 while requiring it to restore the Golan Heights to Syria and allow the Palestinians to establish a state capital in east Jerusalem.

On a visit to the Middle East last July, the president-elect said privately it would be “crazy” for Israel to refuse a deal that could “give them peace with the Muslim world”, according to a senior Obama adviser. "  Times on line


Words can not express my disappointment if this is the foreign policy that the Obama Administration will follow in the Middle East.

The "Abdullah Plan" is not a plan.  It was a public relations stunt in its beginnings when it was exaggerated in meaning by the American media, and it remains that.  Crown Prince Abdullah used to have the habit of telling visitors that if the Israelis would do this or that, and withdraw from this or that, then he would appeal to the Arab League for recognition of the State of Israel.  In the atmosphere that prevailed following the failure at Camp David II, this was taken as good news by Tom Friedman who visited Abdullah then and who made this Rotary Club "pitch" into a column.  Rejoicing took place in the media and at a previously scheduled meeting of the Arab League in Beirut a cornered Prince Abdullah proclaimed his "plan."  The League produced a document.  Problem:  The text says that when the Israelis and ALL the disputants to various issues with the Israelis resolve their differences, then the members of the League will CONSIDER recognition of Israel.

It is true that optimism is the soul of diplomacy, but a measure of realism should be accepted in exercising that optimism.  The list of issues between Israel and the members of the Arab League is too long to enumerate here.  Are we to believe that these issues will all be resolved in a way that has never occurred before so that a future general meeting of the Arab League votes to declare the "Peaceable Kingdom?"  Are we to believe that an Israeli government of the day will yield gracefully to the demands of these many Arab "players" to produce this happy condition?

This is nonsense.  Liberal partisans of Israel have long sought such an outcome.  There are many such among Obama’s backers.  They will be disappointed again, a sad thing, but the truth.

Is there any possibility that the "Happy Valley" scenario of the "Abdullah Plan" might unexpectedly succeed?  Yes!  Certainly!  There could be a wave of good will and/or emotional exhaustion with conflict that might sweep the region and carry all before it.  I will welcome this if it happens, but will not hold my breath until then.

And then there is what is reported in the Times on Line piece of the supposed Dennis Ross plan for dealing with the Iranian missile and nuclear programs.  He is reported to think that Russia can be persuaded to "muscle" the Iranians into giving up these programs.   What would be the Russian motivation?  An American cancellation of anti-Iranian missile emplacements in eastern Europe?  Do we want to "outsource" our diplomacy to Russia?  One must ask why the Iranians would yield to Russian pressure.  They have not yielded to any other pressure.

I do not believe in the Tooth Fairy.  I do not believe in sacrificing the interests of the United States to benefit any other country.  I do not believe in sudden outbreaks of good will.

I believe in hard headed negotiations on a country by country basis to reach attainable results.  To do that one must be willing to compromise, and to bargain seeking win-win solutions.

If President Obama goes down the road outlined in the Times on Line piece, then at the end of his first year in office he will have accomplished nothing in the Middle East.  pl

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41 Responses to The Obama Plan for the ME?

  1. Col., what do you see as the policy goals in the Middle East in general and regarding the Israel/Palestine impasse in particular, the Obama administration should pursue, and what specific actions should they undertake at its outset to pursue them? If you have addressed all or part of these issues in previous posts by all means provide links.
    This would be very useful input from someone as familiar with the area and its issue as you are, for citizens who seek to be informed.

  2. Patrick Lang says:

    The goal IMO should be a reduction in tensions in the region that allows ordinary people to live in relative safety and to develop their economies enough to live comfortably.
    The accomplishment of such goals would enable us to remove our forces and abandon the neo-colonialism of the Bush Administration.
    We should not entertain the idea of permanent involvement in the politics of the region. pl

  3. TomB says:

    Col. Lang wrote:
    “Problem: The text says that when the Israelis and ALL the disputants to various issues with the Israelis resolve their differences, then the members of the League will CONSIDER recognition of Israel.”
    This puzzles me Colonel. If I recall correctly (and a quick Googling of the initial reception had by the “Abdullah Plan” doesn’t disagree, though I didn’t look up the actual text) the overwhelming problem that was had with the plan by those Israelis who were and are against it wasn’t this at all. It was instead the Plan’s essential call for a *complete* evacuation of *all* (or damn near all) the post-1967 settlements, and sharing Jerusalem.
    And given there are something like 400,000 armed Israelis in those settlements who aren’t likely to go gently into that good night, and given Israel’s torment over merely getting some few hundred out of the Gaza strip, and given the Israeli devotion to Jerusalem, those make more sense to me.
    But you say it’s this game-playing clause here, huh? Are you sure that Abdullah hasn’t indicated that in fact the Saudis would indeed categorically recognize Israel and throw their weight behind same with others if the Israeli’s did indeed evacuate and divided J’salem?
    Not saying I think the plan has any chance, but just that I thought Abdullah’s offer was a genuine one and that the killers were the ones asking the Israelis to evacuate and divide J’salem. Those 400,000….

  4. Will says:

    piecemeal, the negotiatians are already agreed. they just have to be sold and passed. you don’t sell the steak b/ the sizzle.
    The Taba Accords addressed the Israeli-Palestinian Issues including the Refugee Problems. The Geneva Accords are similar to those and are published many places.
    The Golan, Jebel Druze, issue has been fleshed out in detail. The Golan as a park basically w/ access to the Israelis b/ w/ Syrian soveriegnity.
    Olmeret has had the courage to announce the division of Jerusalem where Ehud Barak dared not utter it.
    We just have to see now if Tsiopora, the tall drink of water, can win the election. She’s got more guts than Barak ever had had.
    The Persicos will not give up the technology b/ all sides will make up all kinds of accomodating noises.
    The difference now is a POTUS that starts ME PEACE at the start of his first term instead of his demise after untold addition of Israeli West Bank settlements

  5. Dave of Maryland says:

    Big surprise. Obama’s solution for most everything is a superficial slogan.
    The best thing about Obama is the mob he has unwittingly unleashed. I was pleased to hear that last Wednesday, mob members unleashed 1.2 million copies of a fake NY Times special edition. Headline? IRAQ WAR ENDS.
    And a fake NY Times webpage to go with it: NYT fake. Looks to me like there’s money in that mob. And brains, too.
    This is the best we have to hope for from Mr. Obama, and it ain’t much.
    Bill O’Reilly was on the Daily Show last Thursday. Said he was scared to death Obama would “do something”. And then, for examples, cited the fact that as a US Senator, Obama had done nothing. As an Assemblyman from Illinois, Obama had done nothing. Stewart, still punch-drunk on Obama, failed to ask the obvious question, Why should anyone fear that Obama will “do something” as president?
    Why, indeed. Slogans are enough. Aren’t they?
    Should Hillary be his Secretary of State? Wouldn’t that risk her actually doing something & in the process, upstage a president mired in slogans?
    But it’s a happy thought. If Hillary won’t replace Harry Reid as Majority Leader, what further use is she as a Senator? If she were the left’s answer to Henry Kissinger, she could neatly position herself to be Obama’s replacement. In the event, of course, that by 2012 slogans hadn’t been enough. Or if, in the meanwhile, Obama got bored with his office, resigned & took his idiot VP with him.

  6. Paul says:

    The colonel’s skepticism is well-founded but events of the past year may foretell events that defy rational explanation.
    It was my long-held belief that a black man would never be elected to the presidency. Who would have thought that the packaging of simple US-based mortgage debt would unravel the world’s financial financial network?
    Were those event Providential or the results of perfect storms?
    Maybe Middle East peace as suggested by the colonel will emerge from unknown forces.

  7. Curious says:

    I agree. It’s pretty much more of the same, grand talks with no semblance of reality on the ground.
    I give that declaration 2-3 weeks before everybody says “yeah whatever. Let’s start shooting and snipping again.” It’s Annapolis with more puffy words.
    I for one think we should create some sort of military equilibrium. In that everybody realizes what boundary and military power exist on each side.
    That anybody cross the boundary will start a real war that will annihilate each other.
    Israel is certainly more polite toward Syria after Russia arming them with advance missile and warning radar. Same with Lebanon. Israel now knows their ground limitation and readily accept UNIFIL authority.
    Once we stop arming Isreal with more weapons, they pretty much realize they have to behave and start negotiating.
    If Hamas is able to stop ground attack in Gaza, then they are credible power. Israel will then have to talk with them.
    With global economy crashing and only arab oil country has money, Israel better smarten up quickly. Iran economic growth is projected at 6%+ still. They can afford escalation war. Israel can’t once US pulls the plug on aid.

  8. Bobo says:

    Sorry to see Obama placing so much importance in a ME Solution when we know it can only (start) be resolved locally by an Israeli willingness to compromise. As to the Iranian problem, only negotiations will resolve it, and if they fail so be it as we can live with another member of the nuclear club.
    I had hoped he would place more importance in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America where the emergence of future problems will arise.
    Our military will be extracted from the ME in his first term and hopefully it is done patiently. Then we need to re-build our military not gut them as we have done after past conflicts.

  9. Duncan Kinder says:

    In response to the credit crunch, the United States’ need to borrow has expanded to such a degree that it no longer is clear from where the funds for the loans we need could be had.
    One of the few such sources would be Arab sovereign wealth funds.
    This will likely affect the tenor of future US MidEast policy whether Obama or other domestic interests like it or not.

  10. Charles I says:

    Your goals are humanely reasonable and attainable, even without the advent of democracy across the middle east. But they would require some “incentivization” Bush might call it, apart from a blockade of Gaza, invasion of oil state or or the demonization of Iran. If NOTHING changes, nothing will change.
    “We should not entertain the idea of permanent involvement in the politics of the region. pl”
    And yet this precisely what American politics, AIPAC, big oil and the birthright to consume 25% of the world’s resources unto Armageddon demand.
    You cannot be elected to the Presidency without obsequious protestations that amount to a vetting, that America stands unconditionally behind Israel come hell or high water, and without an extremely high tolerance for Arabs suffering from within or without.
    While I do not believe America can really impose Arab/Israeli peace in our time, I’m certain America can prevent it simply by never sanctioning Israel, never calling out Arab monsters as naked emperors keeping the money, arms and technology flowing. I often wonder what the effect of closing the taps to Israel would be, or just spending all that defense money on buying the damn oil. Or, Hell, just cut a check for $700 bn to the citizens and see what that market would demand of American Mideast policy makers and oil suppliers but I don’t think we’ll ever see it.

  11. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Ross, the agent of the Jewish Agency, has done enough damage to US national interests during his career. Why should President-Elect Obama have to bother with him? Obama has Rahmbo at his elbow anyways.
    Here is an interesting take on US-Iran relations from John Brennan:
    (click to download pdf)
    There are not a few American specialists on Iran, inside and outside government, who have realistic and well-informed perspectives. This republic does not need the advice of Ross and his fellow Zionist travelers anent Iran.

  12. Jose says:

    Colonel, I agree with you, but we should be careful about this article.
    1. might simply be a Bibi planted story or planted by Bibi supporters (NeoNutties).
    2. A reach by the Gulf Staes to presssure Obama
    3. or more likely, just wishful by the newspapper since Obama keeps secrets so well.

  13. Ormolov says:

    Although Obama didn’t mention Jerusalem in his weekly YouTube address, he did talk about something that speaks to the heart of the larger Middle East conflict: he reiterated his pledge for a $150 billion green energy program.
    Democrat controlled Congress + $150 billion in government handouts to non-petroleum resources + global warming + the total exhaustion of normal channels (both diplomatic and military) throughout the Middle East = peace in our time?
    I know, I know. You continue holding your breath. But the avenue of realism you advocate contains an equal number of intangibles, patience, and hope for a generational and cultural change at the street level. Which political impossibility will lose first: the intransigence of American consumers’ love affair with oil or the intransigence of the Arab street’s love affair with its anti-Israeli cause?
    They are linked. They must be. There is no way this country continues to support Israel with such zeal when their neighborhood isn’t the primary source of American energy. And our schizophrenic colonial relationship with all their opponents can be renegotiated from the ground up.
    Yes, yes. The green revolution will take time. All these avenues will take time. The desert and oasis peoples in civilization’s cradle relish nothing more than a nice fat protracted dispute. But this is still all about oil, and our new man in charge is making the best case possible for why we should kick the habit. This is no longer an abstract consideration regarding the Middle East of the future. This proposal–or at least a watered-down compromise version of this proposal–may soon be official policy.

  14. lina says:

    I’m not clear why you are objecting to this approach. Is it the pan-Arabic, macro, broad-brush nature of this “plan”?
    Why can’t we do “hard headed negotiations on a country by country basis” in addition to the feel good PR stuff? Why are they mutually exclusive? Why not attend to the “big picture” while simultaneously working through the nuts and bolts of individual agreements between countries?
    From my layman’s point of view, it seems like the hardest thing to achieve would be getting Israel to stop reacting militarily to every individual suicide bombing. Seems like 60 years of a failed strategy would be enough.

  15. Grumpy says:

    As I read, Lang’s post, the whole post, word for word, I noted the red highlighted section. ‘Before even considering any agreements with the Israelis, the Israelis must withdraw to the pre-1967 borders.’ Colonel, I fully agree with your goal as stated to “Chuck 16 Nov 2008 10:36AM.” To have some kind of normalcy, is a laudable goal.
    Now comes that infamous word, “BUT”. As the ME looks at this, they’re many things to be considered FIRST. This is not just a political issue. It is a religious law, cultural and Security issue for the WHOLE World. For this type of an agreement to work, BOTH sides need to come to the table seeing each other as EQUALS IN PERPETUITY. Then and only then, should the Israelis begin the tough work of considering this “Land for Peace Deal.” -Grumpy

  16. J says:

    such goals are unattainable as long as AIPAC money and blackmail run roughshod over our elected politicians and u.s. foreign policy in the region.

  17. R Whitman says:

    Perhaps Obamas real goal in the Middle East is to endorse a policy already endorsed by the Israeli foreign Minister and , although half-heartedly, by the Arab League. If it suceeds he gets a lot of credit, if it fails, as it probabably will, he can say “I tried, it failed, now don’t bother me.”

  18. ISL says:

    I would highly advise President Obama to avoid deep involvement in the ME peace process other than disengaging Iraq in a careful manner for his first year. The fiscal collapsar will need full attention.

  19. different clue says:

    One thing Obama could perhaps do is push for freezing ongoing aid to Israel in “mid-pipeline” and freezing any joint activity relating to the Reagan era Strategic Agreement in the “same mid-pipeline”; until Israel had demonstratably evacuated each and every Jewish Settler from each and every Settlement in the West Bank and in Golan Heights and in Occupied East Jerusalem. Then we could unfreeze the pipeline and aid and Strategic Agreement activities could resume and stay resumed just as long as
    The Occupation remained a low-profile security occupation with zero material-economic benefit going to Israel and just as long as zero Jewish Settlers went back into the de-Settlerized Occupied areas. Then the Arab States
    and peoples could contemplate peace with Israel at their leisure, and
    if they all agreed on peace,
    Israel could retreat from the Occupied Areas as part of that All Around Treaty.

  20. jlcg says:

    I read psalms several times per day. If Jews are in most part convinced of the sacredness of those texts I cannot imagine that they will stop pushing for the realization of the promise that God through the psalms has made to them. The Jews would have to reject credit in their foundational myths in order to participate in a peace that does not offer Israel dominion from the River to the ends of the Earth.

  21. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    New foreign policy advocacy group anent Iran:
    “U.S. efforts to manage Iran through isolation, threats and sanctions have been tried intermittently for more than two decades. In that time they have not solved any major problem in U.S.-Iran relations, and have made most of them worse. Faced with the manifest failure of past efforts to isolate or economically coerce Iran, some now advocate escalation of sanctions or even military attack. But dispassionate analysis shows that an attack would almost certainly backfire, wasting lives, fomenting extremism and damaging the long-term security interests of both the U.S and Israel. And long experience has shown that prospects for successfully coercing Iran through achievable economic sanctions are remote at best.
    Fortunately, we are not forced to choose between a coercive strategy that has clearly failed and a military option that has very little chance of success. There is another way, one far more likely to succeed: Open the door to direct, unconditional and comprehensive negotiations at the senior diplomatic level where personal contacts can be developed, intentions tested, and possibilities explored on both sides. Adopt policies to facilitate unofficial contacts between scholars, professionals, religious leaders, lawmakers and ordinary citizens. Paradoxical as it may seem amid all the heated media rhetoric, sustained engagement is far more likely to strengthen United States national security at this stage than either escalation to war or continued efforts to threaten, intimidate or coerce Iran.”

  22. Andy says:

    In addition to the problem TomB identifies of Israeli national will to remove 400k Israelis from the territories, there’s a problem that’s potentially just as vexing on the other side: Who speaks for the Palestinians? I don’t see a leader with the standing to unite Palestinians, much less get them to collectively agree on any kind of deal.

  23. Matthew says:

    Col: Won’t Iran have to be “flipped” in order for us to have some type of foothold in the Caspian? Bombing the Iranians into humility and pro-Americanism does not seem like a workable solution.

  24. Trent says:

    jlcg, most Israelis do not read Psalms once a day, once a week or once a month. A fair portion of those that do think that an Israeli state/”dominion” is a hindrance to their approach to God.
    James, Baker and Bush didn’t have to go all the way to stopping aid, they just threatened to freeze loan guarantees. It’s rarely either/or in the ME or anywhere. Cheers, Trent

  25. Will says:

    Clarification : the Taba accords were negotiated with the PLO. Now there is a new kid on the block, HAMAS. There offer a truce instead of PEACE, a HUNDA, but for a very long time. This is what the Crusader States and the Saracens(Arabic for Easterners) engaged in.
    INSIGHT. from reading Uri Avnery, Begin had no qualms about giving up the Sinia (Oprah), nor would he have had any problems likewise w/ giving up Golan b/c it was not included in his conception of Eretz Israel (land of Israel) handed down from the Irgun founder Jacokitnsky (sp?). Eretz Israel included the West Bank and indeed TransJordan if they could’ve gotten their hands on it.
    Sadat felt betrayed b/c Begin didn’t fulfill his promise toward the Palestinians as part of the Peace deal and indeed Dayan resigned in protest. But it was a failure to communicate. All the bullcrap about security was a smokescreen. The grab for the West Bank was part of the fullfillment of Eretz Israel. I don’t think Gaza is part of Biblical Eretz.
    This is what is so momentous about the statements of Olmeret now. As a former Likud member, his divorcing himself from his past and is willing to cede part of the the Eretz. (Arabic Ard)
    Perhaps a reciprocal HUNDA. The Zealots wouldn’t be ceding Samaria and Judea. They would be merely giving a Hunda for 99 years. Likewise Hamas would be cedeing the plain of Sharon and the coast for 99 years. In 99 years all the zealots would be long gone and a new generation would be in charge.

  26. PhilDS says:

    Since the Arab Israeli problem is to FU’ed to get my head around, (I believe both sides have valid claims from their point of view without there being a real middle ground.) I want to ask the colonel if he could clarify why the Russians are not as afraid of Iran having nukes than the west is.
    As I see it, Iran shares a border with Russia, and in the south there are a lot of Muslims who in the future might decide that the want independence. Some of those must be Shiite and would get at a minimum the tacit help of Iran.
    So I don’t see why Moscow doesn’t think it’s in their interest of Iran being nuclear free.

  27. PhilDS says:

    Looking at a map, it seems Iran and Russia don’t share a border. My bad, but still the question stands I think.

  28. RickH says:

    Any plan for ME peace would appear to be doomed as long as Iran and a number of minor power brokers look to project or collect power though destablizing the region. There are so many surrogates with munitions and nothing to lose.
    I dont think POTUS has a chance at real peace in that region. That will take a lot of the folks who live there deciding to stop and accept the real world reality they live in and start working to improve the business and political climate for the future.
    In the case of the new POTUS, his experince is in rhetoric, not actual results. His lukewarm (at best)regard for the Jewish nation will be more likely to encourge trouble than solve it. Just being (or voting) “present” is not a hallmark of action or having a plan.

  29. mo says:

    Colonel, perhaps I misunderstand your misgivings, but this plan is the only thing that will remotely bring peace to the region. Israels issues with various members of the Arab league will mostly dissipate if they were to return to the ’67 borders. That would end issues with Syria and Lebanon. If they were to also sign a deal with the Palestinians (and on the Palestinian side its the deal that matters not who signs it) that would end the Iranian threat. What other nations have “issues” with Israel? Libya? Hardly a player. The rest of the North Africans that haven’t already (as well as the Gulf nations) would be only too eager to sign.
    However, as others have already pointed out the problem with this plan is all on the Israeli side. If they truly believed it was just a stunt they would have accepted it and called the Arab bluff. But they know the league is easily malleable. So they wont do it.
    Evacuating what are ostensibly Jewish extremists from Judea and Samaria has a very high risk of imploding, even leading to extreme civil strife if not civil war.
    Giving up the West bank also means giving up water, something Israel is in crisis over right now even with control over West bank water.
    And giving up half of Jerusalem? Whatever Israeli leader tries that had better have a pretty big electoral mandate.

  30. mo says:

    “as long as Iran and a number of minor power brokers look to project or collect power though destablizing the region. There are so many surrogates with munitions and nothing to lose.”
    RickH, don’t believe the hype.

  31. kao-hsien-chih says:

    There is one thing that always confused me: too many people like to talk about some sort of peace between Israel and “the Arab World,” or even the “Muslim World,” but most of the Arab World, let alone the Muslim World, is not really in any shooting conflict with Israel. They are in a state of a cold war, or cold peace, one might say. The principal “conflict” lies in the realm of public sentiments–many Arabs and Muslims hate Israel, but nothing could really be done about it, even some diplomatic recognition might be achieved.
    The actual “shooting” conflict exists between Israel and its immediate neighbors, especially the Palestinian entity that technically does recognize Israel diplomatically. I don’t see how the situation involving Israel and its neighbors would be any different whether or not the “Arab World” recognizes Israel or not. Syria might be bought out–but only with American, rather than Israeli, money–ensuring even further entanglement in the region on our part. I don’t see any kind of bribe that would settle the Palestinian issue–not even a return to the 1967 borders, which will still leave the Palestinian “state” bissected and nonviable, without further concessions (like transit rights and access to various services, like electricity) by the Israelis–which will not be forthcoming, especially if they actually wind up retrreating to the Green Line. The Lebanese price, I suspect, will be acceptance of (and more or less non-interferences with) Hizbullah as the dominant political force in the country–even as it might muscle aside its opponents, who happen to be our (and Israel’s) allies in that country’s political scene…which will be, at minimum, difficult–if at all possible.
    Just my two cents…

  32. arbogast says:

    Bush was the best friend AIPAC ever had.
    Clinton (generic Clinton) was the second-best friend that AIPAC ever had.
    Obama faces some pretty stiff headwinds…including Murdoch’s shilling in the Times.
    Looking at the future is tough.
    Looking at the past, I see a man who managed probably the most effective political campaign in American history. He’s a “mutt”. He has foreign policy experience comparable to Sarah Palin’s. And yet…
    I am hopeful for the post Inauguration world.

  33. Will says:

    What is the HAMAS plan? South Africa Redux
    Palestinian State per Arafat or holdout until entropy creates a BiNational State?
    Is so, then NetanYahu is their man!
    From Haaretz
    “Hamas is waiting for Netanyahu”
    By Akiva Eldar
    “On the contrary, the more Jews there are in the West Bank, the lesser the danger that Greater Israel will remain a Jewish state, and the stronger the chances that it will become a binational state, and eventually Greater Palestine.”
    Olmeret and Kadima (forward in Hebrew) have seen the danger in Bantustans and South Africa. Once Israel-Palestine becomes a civil rights issue and not a security fight, then the Israel as a jewish state is doomed.
    By the way, Dennis Ross is quoted in Haaretz as saying he was was in the same room as Abu Hussein (as Obama is called in the Arab World) and the statement in question was not made.

  34. Curious says:

    It’s official,
    Obama’s foreign policy will be neocon city. Exact same thing as Bush-Clinton era.
    Big mistake. We are going to continue all feuds and clashes. but at very weakened economic position.
    China and Russia now have all the chips.
    U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has called Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to assure Moscow’s outspoken foe of Washington’s continued support, the Georgian leader’s press service said Tuesday.
    Russia’s chilly ties with the West cooled further after its war with Georgia in August, when Russian troops launched a massive counter-attack in support of rebels following Tbilisi’s attempt to retake one of its breakaway regions by force.

  35. bstr says:

    Dear Sir, I am rarely disapointed by the comments section. However, this particular one is not much more than a jumble of jigsaw pieces from three or four different sets. This must mean that a. there is no peaceful solution: b. there are multiple solutions: c. the level of complexity is not based in rational thought but in emotional reaction by the observers.

  36. When Obama started to run for office I expressed the dour and intemperate thought elsewhere that a black man could not take the presidency in “peckerwood” America. Obama played it differently, not really acknowledging racism as an issue. Reality it appears is often shaped by expectations.
    This tactic (or is it a strategy, I always get them confused) which worked in the election I think might work in the Middle East?

  37. I would argue that the Israel-Palestine issue could consume the Presidency of Obama at almost anytime. He must pay close attention as George W. Bush did not. But what does this mean at a practical level? His Secretary of State and representatives must be truly unbiased on the past or else the saying “history is prologue” will control. Personally, I believe the dual citizenship policy of the US should be ended and of course this would dramatically impact Israel. But if we truly are going to have tradeoffs, perhaps in return we could guarantee the original 1948 borders flat out, and water rights negotiated and which are very complicated. Then of course, the implicit nuclear blackmail and guarantee of Israel must be ended and official recognition given. Unfortuantely, I believe that the ejected Arab residents of the area formed by the creation of the STATE OF ISRAEL in 1948, are no more worthy of official irrendentum guarantees (if that is correct terminology) than the say the 285 million people who speak German have rights to German citizen (to cite from a past international tragedy.)
    Hey, although I am for a kind of dual citizenship for Mexicans based on the shared history and evolution of both countries everyone else much choose the US for his/her citizenship or another country. I have never been able to get a readable history of how the US got to dual citizenship anyhow. I certainly never voted for it. The Constitutional guarantee that anyone born here is a citizen creates enough anomalies as it is.

  38. Curious says:

    Come on, come on… there should be enough information. Now that Hillary is SoS to predict possible scenario…
    I’ll start:
    1. 2009 will be recessionary economy.
    2. No change in Iraq on the ground.
    3. Hillary selection is taken by Israel as a signal of free reign. So they start complete re-occupation attempt of Gaza and west bank.
    4. Palestine and Israel is in total war. Iran and Syria inject weapons.
    5. West bank turns into Lebanon style occupation war. Section of Fatah join Hamas.
    6. Tension with Iran escalate, therefore Russia. Iran will declare nuclear probably summer if no progress is made. Otherwise they will seek to prove that their conventional power is strong enough to deter US/Israel in Iraq.
    7. Oil price increases to $70 once the tension escalate. (Crashing the very mild recovery)
    8. China and Russia recover first and consolidate entire europe and pacific.

  39. Arun says:

    Let us who Obama’s Secy. of State is before speculating on Obama’s ME policy.

  40. Harper says:

    To add another piece to the picture presented by Col. Lang: The Oxford Research Group hosted a meeting recently–I believe in London–attended by Prince Turki, as well as a number of Israelis, participants from other Arab countries, and some people from the U.S.A., including Henry Siegman. The meeting was touted as an important step towards advancing the Abdullah Plan, etc. But according to reports from the meeting itself, the Oxford Research Group sponsors pitched the idea that an Israeli-Saudi “separate peace” could be reached, with no linkage to the Palestinian issue. In other words, the so-called peace discussion was really an attempt to sound out whether both Israel and Saudi Arabia could reach an agreement–to screw the Palestinians. These days, the flavor of the day excuse for avoiding the Palestinian issue is the internal split between Hamas and Fatah. A few years back the issue was the Arafat was a tyrant and no one can deal with the Palestinian issue until he is dead. The beat goes on. I also hope that the new Administration surprises us all. What I would like to see is a revival of good old fashion diplomacy. Col. Lang should repost his own modest proposal for a mutual self-interest deal among the regional parties, which was posted about a year ago, if I recall. Timely to put it up front again on the site.

  41. pabelmont says:

    My own “recipe” is for USA to require (not request) Israel to comply with international humanitarian law (how can US Jews or Christians object to that?) to the extent of REMOVING all SETTLERS and the WALL from all occupied territories beginning soon and getting done quickly.
    After all, the ICJ (9 July 2004 advisory opinion) stated that the wall had to be removed, that all countries had to make sure it happened, and that the settlements were also illegal (which is why Israel has no legitimate stake in a wall which protects illegal settlements. The wall can of course be re-built within the “green line” of 1966).
    The settlers and wall are part of the Israeli “rubber hose” used as an instrument of “diplomacy” in the “negotiations” for “peace”. As they are illegal, they must no longer be used.
    (The closures and check-points, house demolitions, assassinations, arrest w/o trial, torture, etc., etc., are other elements of the “rubber hose” which may be considered after the settlers and wall are removed.)
    The Israelis should quietly be given an option voluntarily to publish a schedule for the removal of settlers and wall, and to keep to the schedule, but if they do NOT do so, then an “order” will have to be given, an “order” to be given in the interest of LAW and HUMAN RIGHTS.
    Once the “order” is given, Israel will either refuse or comply. Refusal would offer the USA and EU and others the justification for imposition of sanctions (such as used against Iraq, Cuba). If they’ve actually and publicly given the “order”, agreeing to sanctions should not be so hard.
    Compliance will place both Israel and the PA (or the PLO) in a tight time-frame for negotiation. The “peace process” might, in that case, become a peace process.

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