Coward Old Universe…

by Jeremy G.

Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

Iran, the True Target at Annapolis

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on November 26, 2007



The upcoming International Peace Conference in Annapolis has raised many questions  and has been a source of significant pessimism.  Those who follow Middle Eastern events may remember the 2000 fiasco  in Camp David.

The scenario I find more likely is a bit different: My expectation is that this summit will result in a common declaration, underscoring progress made and a common willingness to continue.  The 2000 violent outbreak will not occur – not for now at least.  Two major reasons motivate this intuition.  Both are related to the fact that all participants, Israel and Arab countries alike, face the same two threats.

The first threat is represented by Hamas.  The terrorist movement has already made threats against Israel, and has expressed deep disappointment towards a wide Arab participation at this summit, which is thus certainly not contributing to its interests.  Most observers agree that should Annapolis fail miserably and in a clear way, Hamas will likely be the true winner, and emerge even stronger.  A takeover of the West Bank, similar to the takeover of Gaza last June, is not excluded in this context.

The second threat relates to Iran.  The Annapolis Summit is a clear opportunity for America and for Arab countries, including Jordan, Egypt, and, most of all, Saudi Arabia, to isolate Tehran.  As a matter of fact, Iran represents as big of a threat for Israel as it does for the countries of the GCC and other Sunni countries of the region.  The “Shia Crescent” – expression that was coined by King Abdullah of Jordan himself – is headed by Iran, who has found valuable allies in Damascus and in Lebanon – Hezbollah being Tehran most significant resource. 

In this context, Syria’s participation at Annapolis is a huge blow to Tehran.  Syria, headed by an Alawite – a sect of Shiite Islam – family, has been a key component of the “Shia Crescent”.  Nevertheless, the majority of its population is Sunni.  In addition, there has been subsequent evidence of a rapprochement with Jordan, demonstrating, among many other things, the fragility of Syria’s adherence to the Shia axis in the Middle East.  Combined with America’s efforts to empower the Gulf countries in the region – best exemplified by last summer’s $20 billion deal in arm sales – against the threat coming from Tehran, the Annapolis summit constitutes additional evidence that Iran has become a new focal point for America, Israel and Arab countries alike.

Claiming that this will lead to an Entente Cordiale between Israelis and Palestinians, under the pressure of America and Arab countries, is a stretch that I will not make here.  However, the lower likelihood of a miserable and violent ending similar to 2000 should temper pessimistic views repeatedly expressed on this summit.


Posted in Middle East, US Foreign Policy | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The end of Palestine?

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on June 27, 2007


Who’s fault is it? That’s an issue that has come up repeatedly. Bret Stephens probably provides the best answer in the Wall Street Journal today, but says little about the future. He only points out a fact that scares a whole lot of people: The very notion of Palestine might have died with Hamas’s coup two weeks ago.

If little is said about the future, it is most certainly because the West finds itself in a very unpleasant situation. First, the U.S., and George W. Bush, who advocated a profound change in Palestinian politics back in 2003, actively participated in Arafat’s estrangement, and was the first – and rightfully so – to denounce Hamas’s win in January 2006. So, back to square one and support for the PA? Strange situation, as Robert Satloff points out.

Next in line in this unpleasant situation is the European Union, who accepted the U.S.’s condemnation – and rightfully so – of Hamas, but must now face the monstrous dilemma it created: Choose between corruption and terrorism, knowing that the first nourishes the second. Voices are speaking out, including this one in France – although with a taint of distasteful moral relativism, as Israel, Iran and Hamas are treated on the very same level, but then again, this is the Quai d’Orsay talking… Now, Europe must deal with decades of inaction in the region. Lebanon, under Syrian rule, was the first issue to blow up in our faces. Palestine is second.

So… Where do we go from now? Historical irony let this period coincide with Blair’s departure from Downing Street. My intuition is that Blair‘s legacy will be openness to act on the international stage, and not accept historical fatalism – although some time will need to fly by before he is actually granted such legacy. It’s almost a shame that his departure coincides with Sarkozy’s arrival, as one would have liked to see how the two men’s international willingness – on the issues of Darfur and the European Construction for instance – would have been combined in practice.

But, in all likelihood, Blair will not disappear, and be named the Quartet‘s Ambassador in the Middle East. Perhaps this will be a way for the West to intervene directly in Palestine, and not let “fate” decide what occurs. And perhaps this will avoid today’s dilemma, because it is reasonable to believe that we – Palestinians included – do not need to choose between corruption and terrorism.

Posted in International Willingness, Middle East, World Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

International Reconciliation? Bachar is not laughing…

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on May 31, 2007



By ten votes to 0, and five abstentions, the UN Security Council voted resolution 1757, instituting an international tribunal to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri.  More than two years after the fact, the International Community has awakened and finally sent out a strong message to Syria, whose intelligence services, in all likelihood, are behind the murder.

Talking to Syria has constituted a very controversial subject since 9 11.  Secretary of State Condi Rice, in spite of her firmly expressed opposition to a dialogue with the country in the fall, has recently flipped-flopped on the issue.  A turn of events that was applauded by the fans of the Iraq Study Group Report that advocated such a move.  On the other side of the Atlantic, until the very end, Jacques Chirac, a personal friend of the Hariri family – who lent the former French President the Parisian residence he currently lives in – never changed his mind and refused to return to the negotiation table with SyriaChirac was in favor of sending a strong message to Syria.

This is not however incompatible with talking to Syria.  What Baker and Hamilton failed to emphasize on in their report is that American difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan give the country an image of weakness that is very harmful to U.S. interests in the long run.  The realists they claim to be could have shed some light on this part of reality.  Thru international consultation and cooperation, just as the one that occurred today at the UN, the U.S. is re-acquiring its ability to intervene – in a different fashion – in the Middle East, especially by tackling an issue that seems to constitute a consensus on both sides of the Atlantic.

But there is another lesson in this turn of events.  Repeated calls among the Western Left in favor of Justice in the Middle East have been a leitmotiv of strategic speeches that claimed to be an alternative to U.S. unbalanced behavior in the region.  The principal culprit, in their eyes, is of course Israel.  As legitimate this may sound to many observers of the region, too many of them seemed to have been blinded by another obvious fact in the region: Justice is universal, and can only be effective if applied to all actors.  Syria just understood today that it won’t be able to hide anymore.


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Al Qaeda: Knocking on Lebanon’s door

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on May 27, 2007

Recent violence in Lebanon seems to confirm a very ugly truth: After wondering why terror movement Al-Qaida had not been more involved in the Near East – although answers were brought in the weeks following 9 11– and after fearing that it wouldn’t be long before it would actually get involved soon, we now know that thru a group unknown a year ago, Fatah al-Islam, Al-Qaida is present in Lebanon and threatening the country.

While it is correct that the whole truth has not been shed yet on the nature of this group and of the violence, especially as Syrian implication is not to be excluded in the wake of growing pressure for an international tribunal to investigate the Hariri assassination, this opposition between the Lebanese army and the terrorist group is pushing Lebanon a little bit more towards complete chaos.  In this context, international involvment, especially US military aid and French efforts thru the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Kouchner, to re-affirm the international community’s solidarity with the current Siniora administration, are perfectly laudable, but fall short of being what Lebanon really needs.


Current events are just a new element confirming a structural trend: Lebanon is not on anybody’s priority list.  The 2006 war triggered by Hezbollah‘s kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers on the Southern frontier of the country was disastrous for Lebanon, but even more, in the long run, for the international community.  As a matter of fact, it proved the extent to which the latter had completely abandoned Lebanon, after feeling good about itself for having voted two useless UN Resolutions – 1559 and 1701.  The international community celebrated Syria‘s “departure” of Lebanon, pretending to believe that this withdrawal actually occurred.  It also failed to do anything about the disarmement of Hezbollah, one of Lebanon‘s core problems.

The fact of the matter is that Lebanon is being abandoned at a time the West feels it has other regional issues to deal with – namely Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  Nevertheless, the more the West remains inactive on the issue and leaves a weak Lebanon state deal with terror groups alone, the more it will suffer the consequences.  We are not talking about a group of limited individuals in Madrid or London – that were still able to inflict mass casualties in the middle of two European capitals – but a fully funded group, with a strategic base, right at the frontier with Europe.  Inactivity is not a strategy.

Posted in Middle East, World Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »