Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Neocons in History: Part II, A Clean Break ... Goes Bust

In a keen foreshadowing, Jim Lobe wrote a note in 2002 called, "Neoconservatives Consolidate Control over U.S. Mideast Policy", in opining about the rise in the Bush administration of Elliott Abrams:

Neoconservative hawks in the administration of President George W. Bush have won a major battle against the State Department in the fight for control of U.S. Mideast policy with the surprise appointment of Iran-Contra figure Elliott Abrams to the region's top policy spot in the National Security Council (NSC).

For the first time, someone who has publicly assailed the "land-for-peace" formula that has guided U.S. policy in the Arab-Israeli conflict since the 1967 war has been appointed to a top spot in Mideast policy.

Years later, we get the following numbers, which suggest that "Peace through Boldness", as Lobe shorthands it, has brought sentiment well past the point of constructive tension:

In a nutshell:
Egypt: favorable 13% unfavorable 73%
Jordan: favorable 5% unfavorable 90%
Lebanon: favorable 31% unfavorable 64%
Saudi Arabia: favorable 11% unfavorable 82%
UAE: favorable 35% unfavorable 61%

Among the most interesting figures, however, is that 45% said that being a Muslim was the most important part of their identity--more than the number who referred to their Arab or national identities. That's nearly double from the 2002 poll result.

That is about as bad a policy outcome as one could imagine, in a conflict in which military power is arguably secondary (or only an integral part of a wider whole) ...


This bad news comes at a critical juncture for I/P policy, whether or how to continue to confront the Hammas, as recent talks have produced little forward motion, but plenty of pressure points (not all of neocon making, but also not looking like neo-con inpsired solutions will bring anything):

From Amman, limiting "provocations" and the primacy of negotiations, under even adverse circumstances:
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

His Majesty King Abdullah II called on the Israeli government to revive the peace process with the Palestinians and overcome obstacles that hinder the resumption of negotiations between the two sides in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions.

During a telephone conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, His Majesty also urged Israel to stop "excavation work" near Al Aqsa Mosque, adding such acts threaten the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem and contribute to increasing tension in the region. - Petra News Agency

From Israel, pre-conditions of negotiations (not even peace) and trust-building gestures:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert demanded yesterday in talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Palestinian unity government recognize Israel, renounce terror and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Olmert said Israel would reject alternatives to the three conditions that are meant to make the unity government appear acceptable in the eyes of the world. The conditions were first set by the Quartet, comprised of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

Israel will not have any contact with Palestinian figures who are considered moderates, such as finance minister-designate Salam Fayad, if they serve in a government that does not accept the Quartet's conditions, Olmert said. In the Jerusalem meeting, he rejected the suggestion that Israel negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Abbas, thereby freeing Hamas of the requirement to recognize Israel.

Olmert also demanded that the Palestinian government release captive soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted near Gaza in June. He also wants the government to stop the arms-smuggling between the Sinai and the Gaza Strip and deploy forces in northern Gaza to prevent Qassam fire.

Olmert promised that Israel would maintain contact with Abbas, but [Olmert] said the relationship would be limited to two subjects: fighting terror in accordance with the first phase of the roadmap and making the daily lives of Palestinian civilians easier.- Haaretz

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