Monday, June 11, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 6/11/2012: Putin Has Obama Cornered On Syria

From DG:
1) In Syria

Jackson Diehl writes about Obama’s Iran and Syria muddle:
Obama, of course, is eager to avoid military action in Iran in any case. But his strategy — striking a diplomatic bargain to stop the nuclear program — also narrows his options in Syria. A deal with Tehran will require the support of Russia, which happens to be hosting the next round of negotiations. Russia, in turn, is opposed to forcing Assad, a longtime client, from power by any means.
If Obama wants the support of Vladi­mir Putin on Iran, he may have to stick to Putin-approved measures on Syria. That leaves the administration at the mercy of Moscow: Obama is reduced to pleading with a stone-faced Putin to support a Syrian democracy, or angrily warning a cynically smirking Putin that Moscow is paving the way for a catastrophic sectarian war. 
At the root of this trouble are confused and conflicting U.S. aims in the Middle East. Does Washington want to overthrow the brutal, hostile and closely allied dictatorships of Assad and Iran’s Ali Khamenei — or strike bargains that contain the threats they pose? The answer is neither, and both: The Obama administration says it is seeking regime change in Syria, but in Iran it has defined the goal as rapproachment with the mullahs in exchange for nuclear arms control.
John Bolton suggests What to do about Syria:
First and foremost, we should cut Syria off from its major supporters. The television images from Syria will not change permanently until the underlying strategic terrain changes permanently. Russia should be told in no uncertain terms that it can forget about sustained good relations with the United States as long as it continues to back Assad. We should resume full-scale, indeed accelerated, efforts to construct the limited missile-defense system designed by George W. Bush to protect American territory not against Russia but against rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. But we should immediately make it clear to Moscow that we will begin to consider broadening our missile-defense program to deal with Russian and Chinese ballistic-missile capabilities. We should also announce our withdrawal from the New START arms-control treaty, and our utter disinterest in negotiations to prevent an “arms race” in space.  
Let Moscow and Beijing think about all that for a while. The magnitude of such a shift as a response to the conflict in Syria may seem startling, but each of these proposals is meritorious on its own terms. Wrapping several major policy redirections around the Syria problem thus advances multiple objectives simultaneously. Both Russia and China think Obama is weak, that America is declining, and that they can ignore our views on Syria and many other issues with complete impunity. It is time for a wake-up call to the Kremlin and Zhongnanhai.
The difference between the two is that Diehl is outlining what the administration is (or isn't) doing and Bolton includes a prescription for action. Bolton is also more cautious with respect to reaching out to anti-Assad forces.

Meanwhile the Times of Israel carries a report originating in the Los Angeles Times that Christians are, once again, bearing the brunt of the Arab spring:

Much of the Christian population of the besieged Syrian city of Qusair has abandoned the town after an “ultimatum” from the rebel military chief there, reports Agenzia Fides, the official Vatican news agency. 
The ultimatum expired Thursday, the agency reported, adding that most of the city’s 10,000 Christians have fled the city, situated in the battleground province of Homs. 
"Some mosques in the city have relaunched the message, announcing from the minarets: 'Christians must leave Quasir,' " read the report from the Vatican agency, which has sought to document the parlous plight of Syria’s ancient Christian community.
2) Imagining Palestine

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, The time for a Palestinian State is Now, (access to the full article is available through the link here) Maen Rashid Areikat writes:
This is our story despite the 45 years of occupation. Imagine what Palestinians would accomplish if they were freed from the current constraints.
Areikat's assertion of a 45 year occupation is false. The occupation was over in December, 1995. The lack of agreement since then is a border issue.

In addition, Petra Marquardt-Bigman writes in response:
The problem with this call to imagine a bright future for Palestine is that whatever the constraints imposed by the Israeli occupation, Areikat’s article illustrates all too well that the Palestinians are in no way ready to give up one all-defining and entirely self-imposed constraint: the idea that their identity centers in one way or another on being the long-suffering victim of a cruel and militaristic Israel which stands against everything that is good and right – and the implication is inevitably that everyone who is as good and right as the Palestinians must stand against Israel.
This is the ideological reason there will not peace anytime soon. Marquardt-Bigman also points out historical problems with Areikat's argument and, at the end, an economic one too.

For the economic one, I'll use George Gilder's synopsis:
Between 1967, when Israel took over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 1987, when the first intifada erupted, those two territories were one of the fastest-growing economies on earth. GDP surged 30 percent a year for a decade, the Arab population nearly tripled, six new universities were launched, and Arab longevity jumped from 43 years to 74.
In other words before the intifada (i.e. under occupation) the Palestinians enjoyed a growing economy. Now the Palestinians are looking forward to a leadership that reserves most economic benefits for itself and increasingly aggrandizes power for itself. In other words if it follows its current trajectory, the Palestine I'd imagine would look a lot more like Mubarak's Egypt than Switzerland.
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