Politicians and the mass media have given much attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the quest for peace. However, to examine the Israeli-Palestinian conflict outside of the context of the Middle East is fraught with error. Israelis and Palestinians may be seen by some as the only parties. The frequent Hamas (an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawana al-Islamiya – Islamic Resistance Movement) rocket attacks on southern Israel and the subsequent Israeli incursion into Gaza give credence to this belief. Nevertheless, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was eclipsed by the Israeli-Lebanese War of 2006.
The world is transfixed at the rise of the extremist Islamic State group, contemplating its implications for the greater Middle East, and aghast at the inability of any country to stop its march across the Levant.
Nastiness is not exclusive. Nor can it be banished by noble evocations of protecting those who are in danger or being prosecuted. In politics, those distinctions become even less significant. The next chapter in the sanguinary saga of ISIS and its progress in Iraq is the involvement of US strikes, the decision for which was incubating in the White House situation room for some time. Congress was certainly not present, and the political chess players in Washington evidently feel that involving that often confused body was not in the interests of the administration.
Last week, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hosted an event titled “Iraq at a Crossroads: Options for U.S. Policy,” where it heard varying perspectives on how to deal with the situation in Iraq in the light of the recent advancement of the violent militant group, ISIS, in its territory.
A major cause of current tensions in the East and South China seas are two documents that most Americans have either forgotten about or don’t know exist. But both are fueling a potential confrontation among the world’s three most powerful economies that is far more unstable and dangerous than most people assume. Consider what has happened over the past six months.
Policymakers, especially policymakers who have never seen action, are often seduced by covert operations. They see them as the perfect policy instrument: cheap, deniable, effective. Yes, there can be tremendously effective covert or at least non-conventional operations and campaigns, but just as all intelligence operations must come to terms with the fundamental truth that nothing is guaranteed to stay secret for ever, so too these sneaky campaigns can very easily either fail or, even more likely, have unexpected consequences that may overshadow the intended outcome.
Speaking bluntly in the past three weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has unequivocally ruled out a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a speech at Tel Aviv University on June 29, Netanyahu announced that any peace agreement would include Israeli military control of the West Bank “for a very long time.” Netanyahu repeated himself on July 11, saying at a Hebrew language press conference, “There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”
There was a strong expectation in Israel yesterday once the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire terms were announced that Hamas was going to accept the deal. Even after Hamas rejected the terms and launched 80 more rockets at Israel yesterday morning, some prominent voices, such as former Israel national security adviser Giora Eiland, were predicting that Hamas would ultimately accept the deal today.
The last few weeks have been brutal on President Obama’s reputation for foreign policy leadership. Consider the following. In a just-released Quinnipiac University poll, a plurality of voters rated Mr. Obama as the worst president since World War II. A majority of respondents also judged that the Obama administration is “not competent to run the government” and believe that “strong leadership qualities” are not among the president’s attributes.
Michael Cohen published an article in Foreign Policy a couple of days ago in which he argues that the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship will be marked by “less cooperation, more disagreements, and greater tension.” The piece is headlined “The Democrats Are Finally Turning Away From Israel” with the inflammatory subhead “And it’s high time they did,” but this does not reflect Cohen’s core arguments, and I am 100% confident that he had nothing to do with the title in any way (having been published in FP on numerous occasions, I can say from personal experience that the editors choose the title on their own and the first time the writer even knows about it is when it goes live on the website).
“So far as Syria is concerned, it is France and not Turkey that is the enemy.” – T. E. Lawrence, February 1915
It was a curious comment by the oddball, but unarguably brilliant, British agent and scholar, Thomas Edward Lawrence. The time was World War I, and England and France were locked in a death match with the Triple Alliance, of which Turkey was a prominent member. But it was none-the-less true, and no less now than then. In the Middle East, to paraphrase William Faulkner, history is not the past, it’s the present.
As enemy columns began a long, arduous advance to the capital, city after city and town after town fell. With a phased American pull out that left not a single combat troop in the country, US-equipped and trained local forces began to melt away, a combination of tactical defeats, surrenders, desertions and mutinies. The outlook of reengagement looked even bleaker: more involvement in the longest war to have ever been fought in American history was a politically unpopular and untenable position.
It is astonishing how rapidly the fragile state of Iraq is imploding, as the Islamic militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS), advances on many Iraqi cities. The 2003 military intervention by the United States and its allies destabilized the political and social framework of the country, which Nouri al-Maliki has completed. Resulting in sectarian divisions, through a progressive marginalization of the Sunni population. The surrender of Iraqi troops is the result of this foolish and short sighted policy. The huge investment (about $25 billion) in their training by the international community was insufficient.
The most grotesque spectacle in recent years has been that of an Australian prime minister on tour in the United States. The bib has to be procured to capture the drool. Fawning admiration accompanies unqualified assertions of promise and valour in the face of common enemies and those who do not share the “values” of each country.
Charles Dudley Warner’s oft-quoted suggestion that “politics makes strange bedfellows” is never better illustrated than the prospect of a rapprochement between Iran and the United States. Stimulated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) rapid military advances in Iraq, both sides find themselves on the same side – albeit for vastly different reasons.