“Over the coming weeks, US foreign policy attention will be focused on the Middle East. Here, the way ahead in the maze of conflicting pressures is not becoming any easier to discern. On the Middle East peace process, the announcement of a rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas has been greeted with caution in Washington. When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses Congress later on May 22nd, US officials expect him to take a hard line against any accommodation with Hamas as well as to possible recognition of a Palestine state at the UN General Assembly in September. With Republicans rallying firmly to this position, President Obama’s freedom of maneuver is limited. As we have reported, a speech addressing the peace process is in draft, but we do not expect Obama to risk much if any political capital on this issue. In parallel, he faces political pressure to take a firmer line against Syria. The Administration’s cautious response is being contrasted to the ongoing military actions in Libya. State Department officials have sought to reconcile the two positions, but we see little possibility that the Administration’s actions will go beyond tougher economic sanctions. On Libya, Pentagon officials tell us privately that their assessment is that the war is headed toward a stalemate. They are also receiving private reports of atrocities committed against black African members of Libyan government forces. For the moment, however, the State Department is leading policy on Libya, with Secretary of State Clinton due to make the case for sustained engagement at the May 4th-6th meeting of the Libya contact group…”
Israeli-American-Mubarak-Suleiman resistance to dealing with Hamas in power & according Israel greater importance than Palestine, prevented a reconciliation earlier
“… The Egyptian government’s constructive and impartial mediating role that brought about Palestinian reconciliation stands in stark contrast with the pro-Fatah and anti-Hamas tilt of the Mubarak regime and its prime purveyor of political and intellectual dishonesty, former intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman. The differences between Fatah and Hamas were all related to political and security matters that had logical solutions, because they emerged from short-term political actions rather than long-term structural differences. Israeli-American-Mubarak-Suleiman resistance to dealing with Hamas in power and the decision to accord Israeli concerns greater importance than Palestinian rights prevented a reconciliation earlier on. The agreement now, so soon after Mubarak-Suleiman have left the scene, is a telltale indicator of where the problems really were. So was the speedy, almost Pavlovian, comment by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within hours of the reconciliation accord that Fatah could have peace with Hamas or with Israel, but not with both… … …
The reactivation of Egypt’s regional role is also significant because it comes at a time when four other important foreign policy developments are under way in the Middle East. The first is the dynamism among some Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, three of which (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar) have, unusually, sent troops beyond their borders to engage in martial diplomacy in Bahrain and Libya. The second is the global intervention in Libya through the U.N. Security Council, now aiming to overthrow the Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi. The third is the increasingly important counsel and role of Turkey in the region. And the fourth is the increasing regional and global pressure being brought to bear on the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis, combined with Damascus’ preoccupation with its domestic condition.
In this context of an ongoing structural reconfiguration of Middle Eastern foreign policy actors and influences, an Egyptian foreign policy refreshingly based on integrity, national self-interest and plain old common sense represents the first significant move toward redressing the most glaring imbalance in the region since Egypt slipped out of the Arab order in the late 1970s. The region’s security architecture since then has been defined by interactions among four non-Arab powers – Israel, Iran, Turkey and the United States – which has left this area as a playground for their scheming and rivalries. A robust Egypt that may coordinate more closely with the GCC states, while Syria is preoccupied at home and the Palestinians present a unified face to Israel and the world, means we should expect important changes ahead in the four overriding regional dynamics that continue to link the Arabs, Israelis, Iranians and major Western powers in mostly uneasy relationships…”
… and Obama appointed this guy to head the CIA?
“GAFFNEY: We won’t have time here to go through this. Let me just mention several different ways in which this kind of influence operation is being run against those sorts of target sets. An important part of it is keeping us ignorant of what they are doing. I’m sure most of you witnessed General David Petraeus, the much admired military leader, responding to the Quran burning down in Florida by Pastor Terry Jones. Saying that the holy Quran – repeatedly – the holy Quran must not be desecrated, and in other ways, suggesting that what we are doing here is a kind of submission to this program, lest we give offense, which is a blasphemy and a capital crime under Sharia…”
Six people are killed as Syrian troops seize control of a mosque which was a centre for anti-government protests in the city of Deraa, witnesses say.
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Rebel leaders and Nato dismiss a call by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for a ceasefire and negotiations.
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- Joshua Stacher, “Reinterpreting Authoritarian power: Syria’s Hereditary Succession.” On the Asad succession and how to understand it.
- Joshua Teitelbaum, “The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, 1945-1958: Founding, Social Origins, Ideology.” History of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s origins and ideology down to the 1958 union with Egypt.
- Matt Evans, “Exacerbating Social Cleavages: The Media’s Role in Israel’s Religious-Secular Conflict.” The haredi/secular divide and how newspapers reflect it.
- William F. S. Miles, “Border Pedagogy in Israel.” A study of geography texts and atlases and how they reflect the ambiguity about borders.
- Hilde Henriksen Waage, “The Winner Takes All: The 1949 Island of Rhodes Armistice Negotiations Revisited.” Using newly available sources, a Norwegian historian plumbs the papers of UN Secretary General Trygve Lie as well as those of other participants to study the negotiating history of the Egypt-Israel armistice negotiations on Rhodes.
And of course, as always, our Book Reviews cover the field, with a main review article by Neil Caplan dealing with books on competing narratives of the Holocaust, while our Chronology continues a record begun in 1947.
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