Tag Archives: Middle East

Syria Interested In Israel Discussions

The government of Syria has indicated its willingness to hold talks with Israel as long as such discusisons do not interfere with current Israel interactions with the Abbas Palestinian Authority. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mosilem emphasized his nation’s desire to explore all possible alternatives and indicated it would attend a conference in Moscow that would deal with Middle Eastern issues, particularly since the Golan Heights will be discussed. However, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, he did not believe another conference was necessary and he was continuing his own talks with Abbas. Lavrov was told by President Shimon Peres that Syria continued sending arms to Hamas and the Russian promised to explore that issue.

Former Israel Justice Minister Dan Merdor urged his government to investigate any possiblities with the Syrian government about issues between the two nations. He believes Syria feels isolated and is ready to negotiate to get resolution on some of its issues with Israel. He emphasized talks might help break the axis now existing between Syria and Iran.

An ongoing problem in the Middle East is lack of a coherent plan to deal with such varied issues as Hamas, Syria, the Palestinian Authority, Gaza or Egypt. Political oppportunists like John McCain make dramatic dramatic statements and fly away to talk to someone else another day. There is no “roadmap” other than vague rhetorical utterances.

John McCain Exudes Confidence In Iraq Victory

Senator John McCain continued his whirlwind tour of the Middle East and Europe by arriving in Grreat Britain to announce that al-Qaeda was on the run and he was running straight for victory in the coming November election.He told Prime Miister Gordon Brown, “With all due respect I remained concerned about the situation in Basra. There ae different factions which have taken over certain areas. Everybody know that, it’s not a secret.” His comments were in reference to the decision of the Brown government to withdraw British troops from southern Iraq. As part of his desire to come across as a man who could get along with world leaders, McCain was mum about British plans to withdraw even more troops from Iraq.

Sentor McCain acknowleded the British people have been “frustrated by sometimes our lack of progress in both areas(Iraq and Afghanistan).” However, he assured one and all tht things would improve once he is in charge.

Part of the problem with such hurried trips to critical areas and pronouncements about success or failure is providing an impression talking with a few top leaders will provide insight into the issues at hand. McCain never spoke directly with President Abbas– he had a telephone chat– but spend considerable time with Israel leaders. He never spoke with other Arab leaders like President Mubarak of Egypt. However, there were plent of photo ops to be used in the November election.

Arab-Israel Peace Efforts–What Works Or Doesn’t?

Jmes Zogby, writing in the Egypt Daily News, analyzes what has been successful and what has not worked in attempts to bridge Israel-Arab differences. He cites a new report released by the US Institute for Peace entitled: “Negotiating Arab-Israel Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East,” which argues “Bush 41″ tried to dopt a balanced view in moving ahead on this topic. His major failure was not being able to build a viable coalition in America for peace and then being distracted by his re-election attempt. The report says Bill Clinton was more effective in creating a domestic support base but was “less disciplined and less strategic than his predecessor.” The report blames Clinton for not focusing sufficiently on Palestinian politiclal needs and leaning too far toward being concerned about Israel security needs. Unfortunately, Clinton did not become personally involved in the peace process until the last few months of his administration which was too late to have lasting impact.

The administration of the current George Bush is subject to the most criticism saying there is a lack of strategic clarity purpose and initially he was more concerned with “regime change” than with creating conditions for peace between Israel and Palestinians. When Bush got involved it was more at the rhetorical level with little or no follow through. His mismanagement and blunders in Iraq have made America disliked in the Middle East which hampers assuming leadership in peace efforts.

Autors of the report emphasize the importance of creating a peace process which is viewed in the Arab world as balanced and American leaders should be working to further compromise on the part of all parties. Zogby believes a new president must be “willing to use pressure and politics not only to bring Israelis and Palestinians together, but also to transform US, Israel, and Palestinian atittudes-building a new consensus that recognizes the necessity and benefits of Middle Eastern peace.”

Hopefully, a new US president will move beyond words towards action and use the office of the presidency as a force for compromise on the part of all parties.

Post Annapolis-Rockets, Assassinations, Death!

Two months ago, President Bush convened a conference at Annapolis whose goal was creating conditions for peace in the Middle East. He deliberately refused to invite groups like Hamas or Hizbullah because of his belief the only way to deal with terrorism is to kill its leaders, During the ensuing seventy days there has been non-stop rocket attacks on Israel cities, and leaders of terrorist orgaizations killed without any change in death and destruction. A report in the Sunday Times suggests Mossad agents played a role in the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh in Syria by replacing the headrest of his car with one containing explosives.

Mughniyeh was reported working with Syrian and Iranian sources on a plan to strike at Israel targets to avenge an IDF attack on a Syrian installation in 2007. Fears of Israeli attacks have now compelled Hamas leaders in Gaza to avoid using telephones. The attack and counter-attack syndrome is the basis for dealing with political issues in the Middle East. Each side claims the right to strike because the other side killed someone. The assumption killing leaders somehow results in destroying an organization has rarely been accomplished in history. The strategy of killing civilians to prevent the other side from attacking has never been proved successful in history.

It is time for a real conference, perhaps chaired by someone like Kofi Annan or Nelson Mandela whose agenda is dealing with step one of any peace process– how to end the immediate killings on the part of all sides.

Female Air Pilots Fight In Iraq

Although their numbers still remain small by comparison with those of males, women increasingly are playing an important role in the air war of Iraq. DefenseDepartment restrictions prohibit all services from placing women in direct ground combat. But Air Force women have been clelared to fight from the air in fighter jets, bombers and gun-ships since the mid 1990s. Female pilots have also paid with their lives and the two gulf wars have resulted in the death of about 104 female service members. Master Sgt. Kimberly Sullpeck, has flown an estimated 450 hours on AC-130H gunships in Afghanistan which has placed her directly in the path of gunfire. Women are3 proving they can handle difficult combat missions.

Obviously, the presence of females fighting in wars upsets even some of America’s closest allies in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia. In the Gulf War, the presence of American females in army uniforms was a factor in Saudi women demanding rights such as the right to drive a car. The increase in the number of women fighting in the Middle East is bound to impact militants who regard their presence as a threat to the male dominated world they desire to impose on women.

Bush In Israel-Shambles In His Trail!

George Bush made another trip in order to assist in the quest for peace, in the aftermath of his short stay in several Middle Eastern nations lies a trail of confusion, anger, and missed opportunities to help resolve conflict. President Abbas made it clear that “Palestinians aren’t committed to Bush’s proposal for monetary compensation to Paletinian refugees.” Hizbullah leder, Sheikh hassan Nasrallah, referrred to the Bush idea as allowing Israel to “give crumbs to Palestinians.” and gunmen in Gaza wrecked an American school(which has no affiliation with any American agency) and killed a Hamas policeman in the process as they attempted to demonstrate anger against the American president. In Kuwait, Bush once again laid blame for violence in Iraq on the shoulders of Iran. “Iran’s role in formenting violence has been exposed,” declared the man who originated violence in Iraq.

President Abbas needs much more than what was granted by the benevolent US president who apparently believes Israel should obtain all of its goals even if some damage the ability of Palestinian leaders to work on a compromise. A more reasonable solution would be for West Bank settlement to be evacuated, buildings turned over to some Palestinian refugees as a symbol of reconciliation, and monetary payments be made to those who settle in the new state of Palestine. Such a dramatic proposal might capture the imagination of Palestinians and persuade them to accept much less than they desire in terms of the return of refugees. Israel simply can not absorb so many Palestinian refugees withouot completely altering the nature of the nation of Israel.

Arab World Concerned About Iran’s Influence

Salah Nasrawi, writing in the Turkish Daily News, emphasized the growing concern among Arab nations regarding the increased power of Iran in the Middle East. many share America’s anxieties, but regard a military option an an invitaton to disaster. Among there greatest fears is an American-Iran military confrontation could set the Middle East ablaze and give rise to violence and insurgency. Iraq and Lebanon are major concerns among Arab leaders since both nations are suseptible to Iranian influence, particularly, since Iran is funding insurgent groups. Even befoe America got into the picture, Arab leaders have been attempting to curtail Iran’s influence over what happens in Lebanon and trying to hedge in Hizbullah which is closely linked to Iran.

Many Middle East experts like Steven Cook at the Council on Foreign Relations, are warning that Arab leaders are probably hedging their bets rather than lining up behind the United States. Bush has confused most Middle Eastern nations, and they still wonder if he is serious about an Israeli-Palestinian peace or whether he simply lacks a copherent approach to dealing with the problem. That underlines the importance to Bush of being decisive and working to ensure both sides in the conflict are ready to accept compromise and move on rather than remained paralyzed in rhetoric.

Flash-Osama bin Laden Wants West Out Of Middle East!

In another example of Osama bin Laden attempting to come across as a real threat, the terrorist leader urged European leaders to get out of the Middle East for their own good. He noted, “with the grace of God…the American tide is receding and they eventually will return to their home across the Atlantic, it is in your own interests to force the hand of your politicians(away from) the White House.” He said the United States and the Europeans would soon be out of Afghanistan which would allow its neighbors to “settle their scores.’ Osama bin Laden also claimed he alone was responsible for 9/11 and the Taliban knew nothing about his plans or actions. He expressed concern that Americans deliberately bombed innocent children and women in order to break the spirit of the mujahideen.

Osama bin Laden is undoubtedly hiding in some mountain cave in Pakistan, distant from any serious military action and increasingly becoming a voice from the past. He expresses horror at the killing of innocent women and children by NATO and American planes, but not a word about his followers who commit suicide amidst women and children. Thousands have died because he encouraged suicide attacks in crowded areas where Muslims gather because of his mistaken belief that somehow he alone is communicating with God. The tide is receding, but he forgets it is also the tide of disgusted Iraqis and Afghans who are tired of the senseless deaths caused by al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden is as much impressed by his own voice as Bush is impressed with his grasp of the Middle East. Both men believe themselves in communication with a God who seeks violence and death in the name of God. Their God is not the God of Muslims or Christians or Jews.

Migrant Workers Abused In Middle East Claims Report

The Middle East is now temporary home to hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who mainly come from Asian nations like India, Pakistan,Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The Human Rights Watch has issued a report on the conditions faced by Sri Lankan immigrants in the Middle East that is entitled: “Exported and Exposed: Abuses Against Sri Lankan Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates.” The immigrants are mainly women and they encounter a variety of abusive behaviors such as not getting paid or being under paid, physical and psychological abuse, sexual abuse, long hours of work, confiscation of passports so they cannot readily return home, and restrictions that make it difficult for them to learn what are the norms in their new country of residence. It is estimated many of the Sri Lankan women work 18 hour days, seven days a week and receive about $100 a month for their labor.

The condition of the migrant workers is among the most ignored stories in any discussion of Middle Easter issues. Migrants constitute a rather large percent of several small nations like Kuwait or Omar. They lack leverage on the system to bring about changes and most Middle Eastern nations tend to believe that migrant workers are better off, with all the abuse, than being elsewhere.

Tony Blair Plan Infuriates Palestinians

Tony Blair presented a plan for resolving conflicts between Palestinians and Israelis that left Palestinians wondering if the former British prime minister was truly an objective third party. His proposal calls for increasing the effectiveness of the Palestinian government in combating Hamas and other Islamic militants. He argued without successful operations against Palestinian resistance movements in the West Bank, there is no hope of reaching a settlement in the conflict. Blair wants a strengthened judiciary which will try members of the resistance and ensure they are not released from jail until completion of their sentences. He wants more European police assistance to train Palestinian police in becoming effective. His plan would lclreate a thee person committee to oversee implementation of the recommendations including Israel’s Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak.

A main issue between israel and Palestinians is the return of refugees. Blair proposes building a new city on the West Bank which would include housing to repatriate those who had fled. Palestinians are upset at what is never discussed in the plan as much as what it contains. No mention is made of dealing with oppressive measures used by the Israel government towards Arab residents of the West Bank. For example, since the beginning of the year, 350 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bullets while terrorist organizations have killed five Israelis.

According to human rights organizations, West Bank settlers have committed thousands of assaults on Palestinians just in this year. Settlers have obtained laws allowing them to dig deeper wells than Palestinians s well as obstruct free movement of people. The report speaks of “reform” of the Palestinian judiciary, but ignores changes in the Israel system of justice for Palestinians. The Blair Report indicates it was a mistake to allow Tony Blair, a close ally of George Bush, to serve in a mediating role between Israelis and Palestinians. There was desperate need of an individual who could be viewed by both parties for his/her impartiality.