In the wake of the brutal crackdown by the monarchy of Bahrain on the largely peaceful protest movement this winter and spring, the United States needs to decouple from the small Gulf kingdom. Although the kingdom is lifting its state of emergency, distrust and tension remain high between the Shiite majority and the dominant Sunni [...]
It is hard to decide which is the worst news in the International Energy Agency’s new study. The central piece of bad news is that as the world recovers from the 2008-2009 crash, it is spewing record amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In 2010 human beings sent 30.6 gigatons of carbon into the [...]
The political situation in Yemen continued to deteriorate on Tuesday. Since Sunday, 50 protesters have been killed by troops and security forces in the country’s second-largest city, Taizz. The government insisted on forcibly removing the protesters from their own version of Tahrir Square, which accounts for some of the casualties of the past two days, [...]
Memorial Day, in my view, should be a time of reflection not only on the sacrifices made for the nation in war but on whether our wars are necessary and whether they are being fought in the right way. The Iraqi people and the parliament want the US out of Iraq, and the US public [...]
The new, transitional Egyptian government formed in the wake of a popular revolt took a step on Saturday toward lifting the Israeli-induced blockade of the civilian population of Gaza. Egypt, at Israeli insistence, is still blocking import of needed material such as concrete, necessary to rebuilding the 1/8 of homes destroyed by the Israelis in [...]
Gil Scott-Heron is dead at 62. Ironically, his obituary will not be televised because television news became just what he predicted. In memoriam:
The 8 wealthiest industrial countries, meeting at the G-8, urged that the world give Egypt, Tunisia and liberated Libya (‘emerging democracies in the Arab world’) some $40 billion in aid. The sum will make headlines but there is less to it than meets the eye. The G8 is only ponying up $10 billion itself, and [...]
Between 70,000 and 100,000 members of the Sadrist Shiite political bloc rallied in Baghdad on Thursday, demanding that the some 47,000 US troops still in Iraq leave altogether. Sadrist leader Muqtada al-Sadr says that if the troops remain, he will reactivate his Mahdi Army militia. It is a powerful threat. But in some ways, his [...]
More evidence that Israel derangement syndrome is a malady among the American political class and a narrow sliver of the AIPAC elite, but that most Israelis and most American Jews are far more pragmatic and humane. 57 % of Israelis support Barack Obama’s speech on Middle East peace, and are critical of that of Israeli [...]
Dear Tea Party: If all your distrust of the federal government doesn’t cause you to vote against the so-called PATRIOT Act, your tea is weak. Very weak. Spencer Ackerman reports that Rep. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) is worried about a “secret PATRIOT Act”– that is, a set of practices and inquiries into the affairs of private [...]
The USG Open Source Center paraphrases articles in the Jordanian press on the Israeli attack on Gaza. Jordan is one of only two Arab states to have a formal peace treaty with Israel, and its intellectuals clearly want the government to abrogate it. Worse, they have been driven by the images of dead children dug out of mosques in Gaza to advocate Jordanian violence against Israel.
'Jordanian Press Says Israeli Operation in Gaza Will Not Achieve Security, Peace
Jordan -- OSC Summary
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
. . . Yasir Abu-Hilalah writes an article in Al-Ghadd[Tomorrow] on page 26, in which the writer discusses the elements of strength that HAMAS has. He says that HAMAS has around 25,000 fighters, who need training and weapons. He says that the Israelis admit that HAMAS has grown more professional after its control of the Gaza Strip and managed to smuggle a large amount of weapons and explosives through tunnels. He adds that HAMAS has hundreds of male and female suicide bombers. Then, HAMAS has rockets, which constitute a "real force of deterrence" despite the fact that these rockets are not sophisticated . . .
Fahd al-Khitan also writes an article in Al-Arab al-Yawm on page 3, in which he says that "in light of what is happening in Gaza, Arab moderates should stop marketing illusions about peace." He says that Jordan has done its utmost on the political and human level to declare solidarity with Gaza and condemn the Israeli actions. He adds:"We should conduct a profound review of the political discourse by rehabilitating a previous position, which the state had adopted; namely,supporting the right of the Palestinian people to resisting the occupation and not being satisfied by saying that negotiations are the only way for achieving peace because this path has failed to achieve anything since the peace processwas launched 17 years ago. This position should be translated into direct and public relations with the Palestinian resistance movements, alongsidecontinuing official relations with the Palestinian Authority" . . .
. . . Amman Al-Arabal-Yawm in Arabic, an independent newspaper often critical of government policies,publishes an article by Chief Editor Tahir al-Adwan on page 20, in which thewriter criticizes the delay in holding a meeting for the Arab foreign ministersto discuss the "criminal Israeli aggression" on Gaza. The writer says: "Yesterday, while I was watching the news conference of thePalestinian president and the Egyptian foreign minister, I heard one statement from both men, which is (making efforts to stop the aggression), and I had thought that the president and the minister meant what they were saying because making efforts more than 36 hours after the start of the aggression was enoughat least to reduce the severity of the Israeli aggression. However, the reality of the situation is that while the news conference was in progress, the raids wereescalating to the extent that Gaza appeared to be in a total holocaust. It is either that Israel is brushing aside the (efforts of its Arab friends) or that it hears about these efforts from news conferences only." . . .
... Amman Al-Ghadd in Arabic, an independent Jordanian daily, publishes an article on page 32 by Samih al-Ma'ayitah, in which he says that "what is required is not only expelling Israeli ambassadors and closing the embassies, but also driving Israel out of all aspects of Arab life. I am talking here about a comprehensive Arab-Islamic course that drives out the Zionist entity, and all forms of relations with it, from the Arab-Islamic political, economic, and security life."
Gitanjali Bakshi writes in a guest op-ed for IC:
After months of slow but substantive progress, recent developments in Occupied Palestine, Israel and the U.S. have been largely unproductive. If we continue along this path in 2009, it will lead to a collapse in the on-going Israel-Palestine peace process.
There are currently three main obstacles in the way of an Israel-Palestine roadmap to peace A factional split within the Palestinian administration, the instability currently plaguing Israeli politics and the uncertainty of the future U.S. administrations stance on what many consider to be the central tenet of Mid-East peace. The last few weeks have witnessed some disappointing developments in all three of these areas, leading to a rather moribund picture of future peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian entity.
To begin with, conciliatory talks between the Hamas and Fatah factions within Palestine have come to what seems to be a screeching halt. Despite insistent remarks by both sides that peace talks have not collapsed but have simply been deferred, the fact remains that Egyptian brokered negotiations have been postponed twice already due to obvious disagreements. The two rival Palestinian blocs have voiced their discontent in the media about recent political prisoner exchanges, they have bickered over the extension of Mahmoud Abbas presidential term and they have both accused each other of being funded and influenced by external actors.
The peace proposal produced by Cairo aimed to create a transitional government acceptable to all parties as well as restructure the Palestinian security forces under Arab oversight thereby dealing with contentious issues that led to the Gaza-West Bank split in the first place. However negotiations based on this proposal, last set for November 9th, have been postponed indefinitely. Who knows if Fatah and Hamas will meet before the year end and whether the Egyptian proposal will stand the test of time.
One thing is certain however President Mahmoud Abbas four year term technically expires on the 8th of January 2009 and unless the two most important parties currently in Palestinian politics agree upon an extension and subsequent synchronization of Presidential and Legislative elections in 2010, there will be utter pandemonium in the occupied territories.
Overall the situation for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah does not look promising but without a unity government at the helm of affairs in Ramallah it will be impossible to mount any considerable effort against continued Israeli occupation and the crippling blockade over Gaza.
As for the Israeli side of the peace-coin, all efforts towards a possible land for peace proposal were flung out the door when foreign minister Tzipi Livni and her center Kadima party failed to form a sizeable coalition government in October. This development has brought Israeli politics back to the drawing board, with 2009 elections ushering in a period of pandering to the public whim. It has been a proven fact in past Israeli politics that any talk of compromise on the Palestinian territories is strictly taboo during the campaign process. Peace deals have worked more for outgoing heads of state in Israel, rather than incoming ones.
Besides, two out of three contenders for the post of PM in the upcoming elections do not have the best records when it comes to the peace process. Likud party head Benjamin Netanyahu will never stand for a division of the occupied territories, especially not Jerusalem, thus dashing all hopes of a two-state solution and his last term in office has been categorized as the period in which the Oslo agreement received its mortal blow. In addition, Israeli polls conducted in May 2008 portend a bleak future for peace negotiations between Israel-Palestine with Netanyahus hard-line Likud party winning a clear majority of seats in parliament during these polls.
Our next contender Ehud Barak is known for his hawkish position in the three decade long conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians and his recently orchestrated incursion into the Gaza strip when the rest of the world stood focused on the US presidential elections displays him in a less than favorable light when it comes to the future peace processes.
Even foreign minister Tzipi Livni refrained from any bold statements in favor of the peace process during recent negotiations held in Sharm El Sheikh. Livni made it very clear in interviews to the Israeli press that she would not be presenting any dramatic reports on progress and that her main aim was to keep international pressure off Israel as the elections approached. Perhaps the only beacon of peace in current Israeli politics is President Shimon Peres but whether he will be able to carry the newly elected parliament towards a possible peace deal with the Palestinians, yet remains to be seen.
Finally the last hurdle in the pathway of Israel-Palestine peace negotiations is the current U.S. President elect and his administrations approach to the Middle East. With the U.S. as the top facilitator and sponsor of the peace process, the region waits with bated breath, refusing to move forward without the U.S. at the helm. The current appointment of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff was surprisingly faced with skepticism within both Arab and Jewish quarters. Although Rahm is the son of an ex-Irgun militia supporter and has voiced his opposition towards Hezbollah and Hamas as totalitarian entities, he is considered to be a skeptic by his Jewish counterparts in Israel and during his time under the Clinton administration he forged ties with Rabins aidesnot Netanyahus. In any case the chief of staff was chosen for his expertise on domestic issues in order to deal with the current financial crisis.
The two most important posts that we need to look at as indicators to future US-Middle East policy are the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense currently held by Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates respectively. Some of the popular candidates for Secretary of State include Sen. John Kerry who propounded a theory of negotiation during his own presidential run, Sen. Chuck Hagel who follows a Reaganist theory of international politics but was one of the outspoken Republicans against the war in Iraq, Governor Bill Richardson a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Sen. Richard Lugar who supports the down-sizing of military troops in Iraq and has extensive expertise in the field of nuclear disarmament.
Candidates for the Secretary of Defense position include Robert Gates himself although his reluctance towards unfettered negotiations with Iran seems incongruent with Obamas message of change and dialogue, John Hamre who is currently president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and wields much experience in war budgeting and rehabilitation efforts and Sen. Jack Reed who has made extensive trips to assess the situation in Iraq and was one of Obamas close advisors on his trip to the Middle East.
All these choices seem reasonable but the point remains that whatever the outcome, we will still have to wait till January 20th 2009 before the new administration even comes into power let alone starts taking decisions that will influence the region. Secondly we all know that the financial crisis currently stands as the top most priority on the U.S. to do list right now. With over 240,000 jobs lost in October alone pushing the unemployment rate to 6.5%, it comes as no surprise that the Middle East will just have to wait in line.
The end of 2008 marks the end of a benign and desperate endeavor for peace in the Middle East, known as Annapolis and resumption of hostilities between Hamas and Israel. So what do we have to look forward to? - Further friction between Hamas and Fatah, a potential regression in peace efforts in Israel and a cautious and frankly terribly busy US administration? If we continue along this trajectory in 2009 it could be detrimental to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the potential for a two-state solution.
Strategic Foresight Group
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