[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
By _MICHAEL SLACKMAN_
Published: July 18, 2008
(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_
ne=nyt-geo) in 2003.
Much is happening, adding up not to any great diplomatic breakthrough, but to
a distinct change in direction. _Syria_
being welcomed out of isolation by Europe and is holding indirect talks with
(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
(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_
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
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
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_
ine=nyt-per) and his _Palestine Liberation Organization_
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_
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_
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,
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
“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
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