Some Movements At ME Quartet in Berlin

"The vice president can play Bush like a violin."
Ray McGovern, retired CIA Analyst

The Berlin performance of the Middle East peace Quartet on 21 February gave some hope to the suffering Palestinians whose unalloyed misery has lasted for far too long. An international conference called by the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in end February at Washington's behest to stabilize the Iraq situation would have little chance of success unless the core of the Arab-Israeli dispute, the Palestine problem weighing on the conscience of the world, is addressed seriously. 

The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group (ISG) had recommended last December that "The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush's June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel's right to exist), and Syria." Of course Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had retorted that Iraq war had nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Nuri al-Maliki, has invited all of Iraq's neighbours - Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey, Iran and Syria - as well as Bahrain, Egypt, the five permanent members of the Security Council, the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Ambassadors are expected to meet on March 10 followed by a ministerial level meeting in April, possibly in Istanbul.

"Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, even the US and Britain have informed us they will participate," the Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister, Labi Abawi, said in Baghdad. While Syria has said yes, in Tehran Ali Larijani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told state television, "We support solving problems of Iraq by all means and we will attend the conference if it is expedient." "We believe Iraq's security is related to all its neighbouring countries, and they have to help settle the situation," he added. Syria and Iran had expressed willingness for talks after the release of the ISG Group report recommending US talk with them.

The flurry of diplomatic activity by hard liner Vice President Dick Cheney , who voyaged far and wide to allies in Saudi Arabia ,Australia, Pakistan and Afghanistan must have injected some sense of realism in him !The 'realist' faction in the Bush administration, led by Secretary of State Condi Rice appears to be gaining ground. The resignation of Cheney's long time buddy, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and dispersal of many neo-cons, responsible for catastrophic US policies has strengthened the 'realist' faction. After US refusal to negotiate and threats, an agreement has been finally been reached even with north Korea, after the latter went nuclear.

Additionally the Democratic party's majority in the Congress after last November elections and overwhelming public disapproval of the Iraq war and President Bush's policies has bought to the forefront not only Democratic party leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi , Rep Murtha and presidential candidates, such as Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joseph Biden but even some influential Republicans like Sens. John Warner and Chuck Hagel, who have pressed that ISG recommendation for talks with Iraq's neighbors be accepted.

In a piece titled 'US commanders admit: we face a Vietnam-style collapse' Simon Tisdall in 'The Guardian' of 1 March says ," this week's US decision to join talks on Iraq with Iran and Syria, after previously refusing to do so, is nevertheless seen as an indication of the administration's growing alarm at the possibility of a historic strategic failure."

In a 2004 article in New Yorker by Seymour Hersh wrote that Israel decided to step up its activities in Iraqi Kurdistan when it became clear that the US invasion of Iraq was unraveling. Israel feared it would strengthen Iran. He disclosed that the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had told Vice President Cheney that US had lost out in Iraq. Israel "had learned that there's no way to win an occupation," he told Cheney and the only issue was "choosing the size of your humiliation".

The Berlin Concert

Some positive outcome on international economic support to Palestine did emerge in the Quartet composed of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union. A statement issued after the meeting "reaffirmed" its support for a Palestinian government that would recognize Israel and renounce violence as Washington insists a priory but some of the European officials appeared more willing to hold out the possibility of funding members of a new unity government. "There are ways that we can be flexible," one European official said. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that the US and Europe should look for ways to engage Hamas.

A new factor is the involvement of Arab countries in the Quartet's efforts .The host, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said the situation had changed, and "we are finding Arab partners in a Middle East settlement." The next meeting of the Quartet would be perhaps held in an Arab country, the three obvious options being Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Jordan. This is the result of the Mecca accords in early February , where the Saudis persuaded the Palestinians, Fatha and Hamas, to establish a national unity government. But there is no clear declaration from Hamas to recognize Israel and agreements signed by PLO with Israel.

Moscow and the Arab world now feel more confident after Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 43rd annual International Security Conference in Munich on 10 February, exposed US hypocrisy and its hegemonistic policies which have undermined international institutions, are dividing modern Europe and making the Middle East more unstable. This was followed up by Putin's first ever visits to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan where he was warmly received, with signing of many agreements for co-operation in the fields of energy, technology, defence supplies. This development provides the Arabs with another option and a counterpoise to Washington's unilateralist policies.

But Rice keeps on insisting that there was no government of national unity which the U.S. could support. US would not lift the financial blockade imposed on Palestine after the Hamas election victory in January 2006, much to the discomfiture of Israel and USA.

Hamas leader Meshaal in Moscow

Following the Quartet's meeting, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal turned up in Moscow, after which he will go to Tehran.

Foreign Minister Lavrov said the Quartet was not going to boycott the Palestinian government and added that Quartet experts would meet on March 13 to discuss ways of creating a mechanism for permanent rather than temporary aid to the Palestinians. The deadline for the cabinet formation is March 22 .The Quartet will not sit and wait for the new government's first moves -- it intends to make life easier for the Palestinians now.

Moscow approves of the agreement between Hamas and the Fatah as it shows "wisdom, reason and responsibility before the Palestinian people", Lavrov said. "We are pushing for all members of the international community to support this process and make it irreversible, including efforts to lift the blockade."

After his meeting with Lavrov on 27 February, Meshaal said: "First of all, Israel has to end its occupation of Palestinian territory and put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people."

"When Israel does that, the Palestinian people will make their position clear."

A spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Olmert criticised Lavrov's remarks, saying: "This is not the international community's stand and it's not the Quartet's stand." [ Since when has Israel cared about the international community ,except for the Washington version comprising of US, Israel, UK and Australia.]

It may be recalled that Meshaal was received in March last year, much to the chagrin of US led West. He had met with Lavrov and Russia's Muslim spiritual leader Ravil Gainutdinov and head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexiy II as well. Expectedly Israel denounced Russian policy on Hamas as "stabbing Israel in the back." But later, then acting Prime Minister Olmert softened it saying that President Putin was a 'friend of Israel'.

In spite of Tel Aviv's unhappiness, Israel's only friend in the region, Turkey, also received a Hamas delegation in Ankara last year. France also made some positive noises.

European Position

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, who ended the rounds of four European capitals on 24 Feb, could not persuade any one to end crippling economic sanctions still in place even after the Mecca deal. The only silver lining was a promise from French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy to work with the unity government but without any commitments to resume the aid. "I encouraged Mr. Abbas to persevere in his efforts to quickly form a national unity government," Douste-Blazy told reporters. "France will be ready to cooperate with it." Douste-Blazy added, "And our country will plead on its behalf within the European Union and with other partners in the international community." After meeting French President Jacques Chirac ,Abbas stated, "We hope that the embargo will be lifted .If not ... the Palestinian people would continue to suffer and the sanctions would continue to cause damage."

Others, Britain and Germany and in Belgium they stuck to the US line. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told Abbas in Brussels that the EU would not make a decision on aid until a new Palestinian government took office.

Half of the Palestinian Authority's budget came from foreign assistance until much of it was frozen after Hamas' stunning win. Nevertheless the European leaders cautiously welcomed the power-sharing Mecca deal, an effort to end violent clashes between the two Palestinian factions that have left more than 130 dead since May.

Funding Abbas

While the Bush administration wants to release $86 million to strengthen the security forces of Palestinian President Abbas, Dem Rep. Nita M. Lowey, Chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations said no . Instead of training and equipping Abbas' security forces, it could end up in the hands of Hamas which received pledges of $250 million in aid from Iran. Arguing for support to Abbas, Rice said ;

"Hamas is going to continue to build its forces. I don't think we want to be in a position in which Hamas continues to build its forces and [Abbas] doesn't build his, because I don't know ultimately what will become of the Palestinian unity government," she told the panel last week. "-- if Hamas has strong forces and Mahmoud Abbas does not, that's not good for the United States, that's not good for the Palestinians, and it's most certainly not good for Israel." "It obviously poses some complications," she added.

UN report compares Israeli actions to apartheid South Africa

A 24 Page report by John Dugard, an independent investigator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was released last week by the UN Human Rights Council. It compares Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza to apartheid South Africa.

Dugard, a South African lawyer who campaigned against apartheid in the 1980s, says: "Israel's laws and practices in the (Palestinian territories) certainly resemble aspects of apartheid." The report catalogues a number of accusations against Israel, ranging from restrictions on Palestinian movement and house demolitions to preferential treatment given to Jewish settlers in the West Bank.  "Can it seriously be denied that the purpose of such action is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group - Jews - over another racial group - Palestinians - and systematically oppress them?" The report accuses Israel of "terror" by F16 fighter jets setting off sonic booms above residential areas. In the West Bank, "residents live in fear of settler terror".

The report stated that it is "grossly inaccurate" to say Israel's 2005 removal of settlers and soldiers from Gaza constituted an end to its occupation of that territory, captured from Egypt in the 1967 war. "Israel retained control of Gaza's air space, sea space and external borders, and the border crossings," "Gaza became a sealed off, imprisoned and occupied territory." [ A veritable Ghetto]

War crimes have been committed by both sides, Gugard says: "This applies to Palestinians who fire Qassem rockets into Israel; and more so to members of the Israeli Defence Force who have committed such crimes on a much greater scale."

Israeli ambassador Yitzhak Levanon in Geneva criticised Dugard for directing attacks only at the Jewish state saying , "Any conclusions drawn are therefore fundamentally flawed and purposely biased.". Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan also demurred over censuring only one government in the world, Israel's, over the abuses. But it only illustrates Israel's isolation in the international community.

Rice'Olmert'Abbas Tripartite Summit

A two hour 'Summit ' held after a lapse of 6 years at a Jerusalem hotel on 20th February between Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas and hosted by Condi Rice ended with little progress in reviving the long-stalled peace negotiations, except for a vague wish to meet again 'within a few weeks'.

"All three of us affirmed our commitment to a two-state solution (and) agreed that a Palestinian state cannot be born of violence and terror," said Rice, reading from a joint statement but without Olmert or Abbas at her side. She added the two leaders "reiterated their acceptance of previous agreements and obligations," including the much acclaimed U.S.-backed peace ' Road map' laying down reciprocal steps towards a Palestinian state. "It didn't seem like the right way to end this meeting," admitted Rice to media later. "I think the real value here was that they sat down here to talk to each other," Rice said but disclosed nothing on discussions except that they had looked at the "political horizon" as well as concerns over the (Mecca) deal.

Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said that Rice made clear "any Palestinian government must accept previous agreements and obligations." A senior Palestinian official who attended the summit said: "Olmert told Abbas during the meeting, 'you cheated me' by reaching the deal with Hamas. President Abbas responded (by saying), 'you gave me nothing and didn't keep your promises. " Olmert's office declined to comment.

Before Rice's ninth trip to the Israel, since she took office, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority had hoped that the formation of a unity government of Hamas and Fatah members would start serious discussions at the first Tripartite Summit held after six years; on final-status positions on refugees return, the future Palestinian capital, prisoners and other nation-building issues .Rice threw cold water and said US would reserve its position until the new composite government was sworn in. She and US officials reiterated their position on Hamas, US officials told Abbas, that they will boycott all ministers in a new coalition cabinet .

Israel is angry that Abbas dared sign the Mecca deal, which represents a return of Saudi Arabia in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many Palestinian see the Mecca deal as a Saudi endorsement of Hamas in the government and the reported promise of $1bn for the Palestinians from the Saudi government could ease their misery.

In a broadcast for his Kadima party Olmert reiterated that Israel and US were agreed to boycott the Palestinian government (yet to be formed), unless it renounced violence, recognized Israel and accepted existing interim peace accords. "(I thank Washington) for the unequivocal stance that it will not recognize a government that does not accept the Quartet's principles," Olmert said .He also added a new demand. Palestinians must cease rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and immediately free an Israeli soldier captured last June.

But in Gaza earlier, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas asked Washington to change its position as the unity government agenda "gives a large room for political movement."

Middle East Wars Expose Limitations of Military power
Based on Technology

Middle East has turned out to be a testing ground in exposing the limitations of only technology based military power. If the Sunni Iraqi resistance has so far kept at bay the mightiest military power in history, then last July 'August, Hezbollah in Lebanon did the same to the reputation of Israeli invincibility. As a result, Washington and Tel Aviv face colossal political failures at home with long term serious economic ramifications. While the electorate dethroned the ruling Republican party in USA, the reputation of Israeli military and the careers of Prime Minister Olmert and Defence Minister Amir Peretz are on line now. Leadership in both the countries threatened irrational actions, like attacking Iran to maintain themselves in power by keeping public on tenterhooks with motivated terror alerts and false theories of 'existential' threats to their security and existence. Consider Bush Administration claims that Al Qaeda would follow the returning troops to USA. In Israel the militarist rulers after basing their power on military-industry complex and preponderance in the ruling elite in Israel, have created the scare from its neighbours, instead of coming to agreements for peace based on UN resolutions and proposals by Arab states on the principle of peace for land. Instead the Maximalist ruling elite in Israel is trying to grab as much territory as it can.

US Opposition to Israeli Palestine Peace

In a recent piece, Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service highlighted the pro- Israeli resistance embedded in US to any peace moves in the Middle East which would require Israel to make major territorial concessions. This resistance is now some what diminished because of Condi Rice determination to show concrete progress to wards the two state 'vision' of President Bush. And the weakening of the Cabal, in the words of former chief aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell, formed by Cheney and his old buddy Rumsfeld and others. After the resignation by Rumsfeld and dispersal of Neo-Cons like Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle and others, the resistance is now doggedly led by an Octopus like group led by Cheney, in which Eliot Abraham functions as the chief operating officer.

Planted as Deputy National Security Adviser for Global Democracy Strategy, Abrams with his family kinships, old connections and networking skills with the "Israel Lobby" of pro-Likud Jewish organizations and the Christian Right wields considerable clout. Writes Lobe; "According to various sources, Abrams has been working systematically to undermine any prospect for serious negotiations designed to give substance to Rice's hopes ' and increasingly impatient demands by Saudi King Abdullah ' of offering the Palestinians a "political horizon" for a final settlement."

Henry Siegman, Middle East expert at the influential Council on Foreign Relations, says, "The Bush administration has done nothing to press Israel to deliver on its commitments, beyond Washington's empty rhetoric about a two-state 'political horizon'." "Every time there emerged the slightest hint that the United States may finally engage seriously in a political process, Elliott Abrams would meet secretly with Olmert's envoys in Europe or elsewhere to reassure them that there exists no such danger," he added.

Believer in ruthless use of force, like other neo-cons (who found fault for the US quagmire in Iraq not to their inapt policies and plans but in their implementation) Abrams has little belief in negotiations. He honed this ideology as State Department 's top policy-maker on Latin America in Reagan administration. Said Lobe, "He worked doggedly to scuttle all regional diplomatic efforts to stop not only Washington's "contra war" against Nicaragua's Sandinista government (which, among other things, he charged with anti-Semitism) and the civil war in El Salvador, but even in southern Africa, where Cuban troops helped defend Angola against attacks by South Africa and its proxies."

Lobe also quotes William Leo Grande, dean of American University's School of Public Affairs who said "He (Abrams ) opposed regional peace talks, he opposed bilateral talks between the United States and Nicaragua, and he opposed talks with Cuba." Leo Grande added, "He wouldn't negotiate with adversaries, even when negotiations promised to safeguard U.S. interests," like the final agreement that ended in the withdrawal of Cuban troops' from Africa in exchange for Namibian independence. "He (Abrams ) insisted on total victory, as if foreign policy were a moral crusade in which compromise was anathema."

After Abrams was convicted for lying to the Congress on his role in the Iran-Contra affair, like many neo-cons, he spent the 1990s at various think tanks. He helped formulate the 'Project for the New American Century '(PNAC) along with other neo-cons, mostly Jewish ,the Christian and Catholic Right, and others high on military testosterone. So Abrams strongly opposes the "land-for-peace" solution , which till the arrival of the neo-con laden train George Bush came riding on, was the official U.S. policy since 1967 as Jimmy Carter and others have pointed out many times.

After the 1991 Gulf War, under pressure from coalition partners including almost all Muslim and Arab states, even Syria, the notable exceptions being Jordan, Yemen and Sudan, President Bush Sr. forced Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to participate in the Madrid peace conference in end 1999. Abrams and a horde of neo-cons organized the Committee on U.S. Interests in the Middle East to oppose it. The Jewish Lobby then went hammer and tong to defeat Bush Sr. in 1992 elections, even after his clean triumph in the 1991 Gulf war. Bush Sr. himself bemoaned the role of Israeli Lobby ranged against him.

I remember clearly that the 1992 Presidential debate which was won on points by brash Bill Clinton. But the US media, beholden to Israeli and Jewish influence, still not so supine as most US law makers are, led by CNN and others went wild claiming a knock out victory for the challenger. I saw the power of Israeli Lobby myself when after retirement I started writing for the media. How Israeli Missions and Jews went around, calling on Editors who hosted my articles not to do so.

The corporate media in USA is very much responsible for the sad state of democracy in USA and its unenviable position abroad by failing in its duty and responsibility. Israeli lobby and media beholden to it has not strengthened Israel's mission of living in security and peace. The Jewish state has morphed into a sponsor of state terrorism, as most polls around the world indicate. Even an ally like Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayep Erdoagan repeatedly accused Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of state terrorism in Gaza.

During the Sikh insurgency in Punjab in 1980s, apart from Pakistan and its Western allies, some Sikhs in north America who supported it from outside had never even been to Punjab or India. It is a psychological problem and some idea fixee. Support by such expatriates does more harm than good in the end.

Coming back to Abrams, throughout the 1990s, he denounced the Oslo peace process in the strongest terms then being negotiated by a Likud government and slammed the Jewish Lobby in US after the second intifada in September 2000, saying that "The Palestinian leadership does not want peace with Israel, and there will be no peace..."

As his Iran-Contra conviction made his Senate confirmation difficult for a senior State Department or Pentagon post, he was inserted as National Security Council (NSC) staffer under Rice in 2001 for democracy promotion, much to the delight of his neo-cons friends and made in charge of the Middle East in December 2002 on promotion. (Shows how serious Washington is for spreading democracy in the region!)

Through his networking and a direct channel with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's top aides, the national Security Council effectively marginalised Colin Powell, who having been as the over all top military commander in 1990-91 Gulf crisis and war had wanted resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Later Abrams used the same network to work out Bush support for Sharon's unilateral disengagement from Gaza, basically to ease growing pressure from US allies in Europe and the Middle East. It emerged as the so called "Road Map" sponsored by the Quartet in the wake of growing mess in Iraq and Washington's weakened position.  But this has allowed Israel to continue building the apartheid Berlin like wall guzzling up Palestinian lands and building new settlements or increasing their habitat density.

Last summer after Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers, Rice reportedly favored a request from Olmert for Washington to quietly contact Syrian President Bashar Assad for their release, but Abrams strongly opposed this proposal. Instead -- in a meeting with a "very senior Israeli official" in Jerusalem within 48 hours of the outbreak of hostilities, he suggested that Washington would have no objection if Israel extended its military offensive from Lebanon to Syria " says Lobe .Of course the whole crowd of Neo-cons and fellow travelers like Kristol, Perle and his colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), such as David Frum, Newt Gingrich, and others repeatedly chastised Olmert for lack of robust conduct of the war and urged the Bush administration to ignore pressure from US allies to end the Lebanese war quickly, which Israel lost in any case, after having caused unconscionable destruction of civilian lives and infrastructure and leaving behind millions of banned cluster bombs .Rice herself was targeted so that she would not influence Bush.

According to the New York Times, Abrams who accompanied Rice on all her trips to the region throughout the crisis, "...kept in direct contact with Mr. Cheney's office," now the foggy bottom of neoconservatives..

After the war's end, as Rice became ' increasingly sensitized to the depth of anger in the Arab world directed against both the U.S. and Israel--acutely aware of the impatience of Washington's Quartet partners to leapfrog the Road Map and move toward "final status" negotiations, as well as the difficulty in rallying the pro-U.S. Arab states against Iran in the absence of a credible Israeli-Palestinian peace process", she tried for the resumption of the peace process to at least "offer the Palestinians a "political horizon" for a final settlement involving large territorial concessions by Israel.

"She has reportedly even reviewed the hypothetical peace settlement negotiated informally in 2003 by Israeli and Palestinian politicians and retired military and intelligence officials, known as the Geneva Initiative." Seeing the situation after the disastrous Lebanese war, some even in Israel like Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Olmert's rival in Kadima party have encouraged Rice .

The war proved a total disaster for Olmert and Amir Peretz, the first civilians to hold these posts in Israel's recent history. Having little clue of ground reality they were led on by an equally inapt IDF commander Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, from the Air Force. The myth of Israeli invincibility was shattered and both Olmert and Peretz are hanging on to power and would resort to any measure to survive. Abrams-Cheney connection is their best bet.

So Abrams and his co-conspirators in Cheney's office, having established a direct link to Olmert, on the eve of the Jerusalem Summit, organized for Olmert a personal telephone conversation with Bush. Olmert then crowed that. "The American and Israeli positions are totally identical."

"For the first time in six years, the secretary of state seems to be committed to moving this process forward," said Martin Indyk, Middle East expert at the Brookings Institute before the meeting. "But there are others in the administration who want to 'Powellize' her," he added referring to the neo-cons Cabal.

Reality Check for Israel

A sobering doze of medicine of fear and insecurity which Hezbollah missile and rockets inflicted on Israel ( under which and real violence Palestinians suffer daily), the demolition of the precious myth of Israeli invincibility and the constant war talk has aggravated a sense of defeatism in the Israeli public. This has led to loss of confidence among Israelis in their leadership's ability to defend them, while they are using the scare tactics to hang on to power. By end January, 78% of the Israeli public were "unhappy" with their leaders for highly unstable politics, corruption and moral turpitude from the top downwards and the loss of confidence in its military power. Alienation from the political /military class in Israel has never been greater.

Many educated Israelis and those who can afford, have left and others want to. It is keeping out tourists and foreign investors. Even before the Lebanese war the percentage of Jews with higher academic degrees that migrated grew steadily after 2002.

Gabriel Kolko, a leading historian on modern warfare, wrote recently that "the Iranians have mastered all of the technical bases of missile technology, according to Israeli experts, and although the quality and precision of its missiles may leave something to be desired, they can inflict immense damage. Israeli specialists also argue that the missile-defense shield that Israel possesses - in common with those of all other nations - is not sufficient to protect it. Syria has missiles also - not so effective as the Iranian ones, but much closer and capable of inflicting much damage if used. "

Sober heads are trying to redress the situation." Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, told the Israeli Knesset last December that diplomatic efforts were "far from being over" - and that an Iranian nuclear bomb was at least two years off. Many Israeli strategists, including Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet, now regard President Bush's war in Iraq as a highly destabilizing disaster for the entire region and a major boon to Iran's power, and they regret having endorsed it."

" A war with Iran would be far more dangerous. Worse yet, efforts to demonize Iran have failed. Only 36% of the Jewish population of Israel polled last month thought an Iranian nuclear attack the "biggest threat" to Israel."

Israeli strategists like Reuven Pedatzur as reported in Ha'aretz last November, believe that "mutual assured deterrence can be forged, with a high degree of success, between Israel and Iran". A study released by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University concluded that Iran would behave rationally with nuclear weapons and "that the elimination of Israel is not considered to be an essential national interest" for it. Iran "will act logically, evaluating the price and risks involved". A preemptive attack on Iran's nuclear research sites would "be a strategic mistake", Pedatzur warned that the use of tactical nuclear weapons against Iran would be a sheer folly. "Our best option is open nuclear deterrence."

Many Israeli experts now realize that US policy in the Middle East is a disaster and hampers Israel reorienting its foreign policy to face the geopolitical realities of their region. The US policy of ousting Taliban from Afghanistan and regime change in Iraq have only created an overwhelming Iranian presence. In Palestine, Western insistence on elections only brought a very hostile Hamas to power. The policy of Surge is "a total misreading of reality," "Israeli interests are no longer being served by failed US policies .It is only making Israel more isolated and hated than ever. As Bassar Assad reminded after the Lebanese war that every Arab generation hated Israel even more.

In spite of demonizing of Syrian leaders, both Bassar now and his late father have been keen on peace in exchange for Golan heights. Recent media reports indicated that secret Israeli 'Syrian talks for peace began in January 2004 in Turkey (Ankara has good relations with both Damascus and Tel Aviv and is completely opposed to the current US policies in the region, which are affecting it adversely.) The talks began with the approval of then Premier Ariel Sharon, and then shifted to Switzerland, facilitated by the Swiss Foreign Office." By August 2005 they had reached a very advanced form and covered territorial, water, border and political questions. Details remain to be ironed out, but the sides have taken a quantum leap in solving one of the region's crucial problems."

The ISG Group which recommended US negotiations with Syria ( and Iran ) was certainly aware of the secret talks and Syria's many" statements that it wished to break away from radical Islamic movements and was ready to discuss its ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas." These talks became fully public on January 8 when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in an interview with an Israeli paper accused Washington of obstructing peace between Israel and Syria. Ha'aretz' Akiva Eldar then gave details, including the draft accord, confirming that Syria "offered a far-reaching and equitable peace treaty" providing for Israel's security and separating Damascus from Tehran's embrace and " even create a crucial distance between Damascus and Hezbollah and Hamas."

But the war mongers in Washington and their puppeteers, energy and military-Industry complex made sure that the talks were undone. C David Welch, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, who attended the final meeting and two former senior CIA officials who were present in all the meetings sent regular reports to Vice President Cheney's office.

But now states Kolko, most of the Israeli establishment favors the talks "On January 28, important Israelis met publicly in Jaffa and called the Israeli response an irresponsible gamble with the state of Israel", since it made Cheney arbiter of Israeli national interests. They included former IDF chief of staff Amnon Lipkin Shahak, former Shin Bet chief Ya'akov Perry, former directors of the Foreign Ministry David Kimche and Alon Liel (who negotiated the deal and believes it is very serious), and the similar others. Shlomo Ben-Ami, former foreign minister, has since supported their position and argued that it is "too important" for Israel to endorse yet "another failure in the US strategy".

But Israel remains a crucial pillar of US policy in the region, and this policy is failing. "Israel's power after 1947 was based on its military supremacy over its weaker neighbors. It is in the process of losing it - if it has not already. Lesser problems, mainly demographic, will only be aggravated if tension persists. It simply cannot survive allied with the United States, because the Americans will either leave the region or embark on a war that risks Israel's very existence."

Many have described the close relationship between US and Israel, as one in which the tail wags the dog. When two respected US university professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published a paper last year on the 'Israel lobby' in USA , it raised quite some heat and dust. Asked to comment, Noam Chomsky stated that Israel serves as a strategic asset for the US in the Middle East. US and Israel interests coincide in the West's policy to control hydrocarbon energy resources. Western energy corporations have flourished with "profits beyond the dreams of avarice" with "the Middle East (ME) their leading cash cow."

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author.E-mail: 


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