[Marxism] US/Israel Policy Shift towards Iran/Syria/Hezbollah/Hamas?

Dbachmozart at aol.com Dbachmozart at aol.com
Fri Jul 18 03:42:56 MDT 2008


 
<_http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/world/middleeast/18mideast.html?ref=world_
 
(http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/world/middleeast/18mideast.html?ref=world) >
 
By _MICHAEL SLACKMAN_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/michael_slackman/index.html?inline=nyt-per) 
Published: July 18, 2008
 
BEIRUT, _Lebanon_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/lebanon/index.html?inline=nyt-geo)  — After years of escalating 
tensions and  bloodshed, the talk in the Middle East is suddenly about 
talking. The shift is  still relatively subtle, but hints of a new approach in the 
waning months of the  Bush administration are fueling hopes of at least 
short-term stability for the  first time since the invasion of _Iraq_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/iraq/index.html?inli
ne=nyt-geo)  in 2003. 
Much is happening, adding up not to any great diplomatic breakthrough, but to 
 a distinct change in direction. _Syria_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/syria/index.html?inline=nyt-geo)  is 
being welcomed out of isolation by Europe and  is holding indirect talks with 
_Israel_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/israel/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) . Lebanon has formed a new government. 
Israel has  cut deals with _Hamas_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/hamas/index.html?inline=nyt-org)  (a cease-fire) and 
_Hezbollah_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/hezbollah/index.html?inline=nyt-org)  (a prisoner exchange).  
On Wednesday, the United States agreed to send a high-ranking diplomat to  
attend talks with Iran over its nuclear program, and was considering  
establishing a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time since the 1979  
revolution and hostage crisis.  
“The overall picture is moving in the direction of cooling the political  
atmosphere,” said Muhammad al-Rumaihi, a former government adviser in Kuwait and  
the editor of Awan, an independent daily newspaper there. 
Many underlying problems, including the _Palestinian_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/p/palestinians/index.html?inline=nyt-cla
ssifier) -Israeli conflict, are not on the verge of  resolution. Afghanistan 
has recently seen a sharp spike in violence. In the  Middle East, optimism can 
fill the void left by even a temporary lull in  violence, like the recent — 
and still fragile — stability gains in Iraq.  Nevertheless, not long ago, the 
fear was that Lebanon would descend into civil  war and that either Israel or 
the United States, or both, would attack Iran.  That seems less likely at the 
moment. 
The United States, Israel and some of their European allies have begun to  
recognize that their policy of trying to defeat their enemies by isolating and  
vilifying them has failed. 
The West’s opponents — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas — also appear to  
recognize that the cost of ratcheting up tensions may be too high. Syria and  
Iran are suffering serious economic problems and could benefit from better  
relations with the United States and Europe. “We are seeing the outlines of a  
general thaw in the region,” said Osama Safa, director of the Lebanese Center  
for Policy Studies in Beirut.  
This is not necessarily good news for Washington’s traditional Arab allies,  
including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Leaders there were content to have the 
United  States keep pressure on Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, which threaten their own 
 power. 
But it represents a pragmatic recognition among Western nations, analysts  
said, that those deemed rogues in the West have often generated popular support  
in the region. Hamas, Hezbollah and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have 
repeatedly  shown nimble political instincts that have allowed them to exploit 
democratic  openings urged by Washington to enhance their influence.  
There is also recognition that the players who can deliver in hot spots like  
Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza are the same ones that Washington had shunned — Syria, 
 Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. 
“You may have to deal with governments on political issues, but when it comes 
 to security, they have to deal with nonstate actors like Hezbollah and Hamas,
”  Mr. Safa said. 
Simon Karam, a former Lebanese ambassador to Washington, said Hezbollah and  
Hamas also seemed to have followed the path taken by _Yasir Arafat_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/a/yasir_arafat/index.html?inl
ine=nyt-per)  and his _Palestine Liberation Organization_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/p/palestine_liberation_organiza
tion/index.html?inline=nyt-org) , which was also  condemned as a terrorist 
group before it found its place at the negotiating  table. 
“I witnessed a similar process with regard to P.L.O., _Fatah_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/f/fatah_al/index.html?inlin
e=nyt-org)  and Arafat,” Mr. Karam said. “Both Americans and  Israelis are 
more inclined to accept the status quo.” 
Not long ago, for example, when Fatah leaders negotiated a cease-fire with  
Israel, it was Hamas that had to be pressed to abide by the truce. Now Hamas,  
having negotiated a cease-fire with Israel in Gaza, has tried to rein in 
groups  like _Islamic Jihad_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/i/islamic_jihad/index.html?inline=nyt-org) .  
The United States and Israel may have failed to dislodge Hamas from Gaza,  
weaken Hezbollah in Lebanon, stop Iran’s nuclear program or force any pronounced 
 change of behavior in Syria. Yet, each of those players has now seen it is 
in  its interests to deal, too. The process of talks confers on them new 
diplomatic  and political status, but maintaining that status requires some 
moderation in  their policies. 
The emerging phase in Middle Eastern dynamics was on display on Wednesday.  
Emotions ran high when Israel and Hezbollah completed the deal to trade five  
Lebanese prisoners for two coffins with the remains of the Israeli soldiers  
captured two years ago. It was a clear Hezbollah victory, yet it was also seen  
in Lebanon as a deal to reduce the chances of a fresh cross-border conflict,  
analysts said.  
On the same day, the United States announced that it would send William J.  
Burns, the under secretary for political affairs at the State Department, to  
attend talks with Iran over its nuclear program. The White House said there  
would be no negotiating. But that did little to mask the new approach, and was  
undermined by the talk of establishing limited diplomatic ties with Tehran. 
“The presence of the representative is a move towards calm between Iran and  
the United States, especially within the Iraqi context,” said Mr. Rumaihi, the 
 former Kuwaiti government adviser. “The Iraqi scene is also witnessing a  
political cooling through the announcement made by the Emirates, Bahrain and  
finally Kuwait about sending ambassadors to Iraq.”  
Events in this part of the world can change quickly. Lebanon could erupt next 
 spring, when parliamentary elections are scheduled. If diplomatic overtures 
to  Iran fail to dissuade it from pursuing what the West fears is a nuclear 
weapons  program, military options could again take center stage.  
Some analysts suspect that Israel and the United States may be trying to  
placate their other enemies in advance of a military strike on Iran that they  
consider all but inevitable. But these days, for everyone who sees diplomacy as  
a cover for military action, someone else sees saber rattling as a cover for  
compromise.  
“The Arab side is unable to grasp the speed with which the change is  
happening,” said Salama Ahmed Salama, a daily columnist in Al Ahram, Egypt’s  
largest state-controlled newspaper. “Newspapers in Egypt and Saudi are all  talking 
about the coming war between the United States and Israel on the one  hand and 
Iran on the other. They can’t understand that a compromise can happen  at any 
time.”




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