September 24, 2007

Syria Gets An Invitation

The State Department will invite Syria to its upcoming conference on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, along with Saudi Arabia. According to Condoleezza Rice, the invitations will require that nations take a positive, productive attitude which includes acknowledging the right for both Israel and the proposed state of Palestine to exist. The Arab states want an equally provocative prerequisite as well:

The United States intends to invite Saudi Arabia, Syria and other Arab countries that do not have relations with Israel to a Middle East peace conference that will be held in the United States this fall, a senior State Department official said Sunday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, noting that invitations have not yet been issued, seemed to put some conditions on attendance later Sunday. "Coming to this meeting also brings certain responsibilities," which includes renouncing violence and supporting the right of both Israel and Palestine to exist, she said.

Rice spoke after a whirlwind of meetings here with top Arab officials and members of an international peace coordinating body known as the Quartet. The Quartet, which includes the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, met with its representative for building Palestinian institutions, former British prime minister Tony Blair, and issued a statement saying that it expects the Middle East conference to "affirm its support for the two-state solution based on a rejection of violence."

The announcement of the invitation list raises the stakes for a meeting that President Bush announced over the summer. The administration had been coy about who might be invited, though officials privately made clear they hoped the Saudis would attend because Riyadh, unlike Jordan and Egypt, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

This sounds like a dinner party from Hell, but it could pay off politically for the US if successful. The gathering of antagonistic nations like Syria and Saudi Arabia with Israel could result in some easing of tensions, but it may also create more problems for their governments back home. The Lebanese, for instance has already made clear that they will be the last Arab nation to make peace with Israel after last year's war in the sub-Litani region, and Hezbollah will not rest quietly if Beirut sends a representative to this event.

The Arab nations have to get something in return for their cooperation to head off the expected outrage of their people. Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, says that the Arab League will not attend the conference without a moratorium on settlements. The Israelis may decide to agree to that; after all, any peace agreement would almost certainly involve rolling back some West Bank settlements. It doesn't make much sense to continue building them, especially given its provocative nature. If the League gains that kind of assurance, they can claim a nominal victory that will allow their participation.

It seems odd to include Syria in this conference, given current circumstances. The US just green-lighted an attack on a rogue nuclear facility in Syria, and Syria just assassinated another Lebanese politician in a car-bomb attack. Bashar Assad doesn't seem particularly interested in getting along with his neighbors, even the Muslim nations on his border. After the Israeli raid, Assad could get motivated by self-preservation, but his support for Hamas and Hezbollah doesn't give much confidence that Syria will add any productive energy to this effort.

The conference is not likely to produce much more than political cover for the Bush administration's efforts in the Middle East, anyway. If Rice can pull off an upset and reach some substantial agreement on the "core issues" -- Jerusalem and final borders -- she will be seen as quite a magician. If not, the White House will at least get some credit for making the effort, and the onus will fall back to the moderate Muslim nations to start getting more traction for their security proposals.


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Comments (10)

Posted by Ed | September 24, 2007 9:37 AM

Lest the Arabs not forget that we secured the right of Ethenic Albanians... and their right to exist in a newly craved out state in the Balkins!

Posted by Rovin | September 24, 2007 9:44 AM

Of course, this all falls under the category of diplomacy, which (according to the left) the Bush Administration has no interest in pursuing. /sarc off

"Coming to this meeting also brings certain responsibilities," which includes renouncing violence and supporting the right of both Israel and Palestine to exist, she said.

While Condi is usually only cast into a light of failure by both sides of the political spectrum, it seems here that she is following a protocol that may force the parties concerned to either come to the table or eat the crumbs of isolation.

Posted by Sergio | September 24, 2007 10:08 AM

This promises to be one of the biggest failures of all times. Just take a look at the cast of characters:

  1. Prime Minister of Israel who is under multiple criminal investigations and will do anything to survive politically even at the expense of Israeli security.

  2. Abbas, a holocaust denier, who is himself barely clinging to power while running the Palestian Authority which still has not changed their charter to recognize Israel's right to exist, has not officially denounced the use of terror, still supports the Al-Asqa Brigades and has not lived up to a single commitment signed with Israel.

  3. Syria, which, in addition to assassinating people who don't agree with it and supplying weapons to Hezbollah and Iraqi "insurgents", is one of the founding members of Bush's "axis of evil".

  4. A bunch of Arab nations that have absolutely nothing to do with the "Israeli-Palestinian" question other than refusing to recognize Israel and overtly or covertly supporting terrorism.

What is the result of this conference? The Arab nations have nothing to offer other than a vague "recognition" of Israel - which they can't afford to do politically. The Palestinians have nothing to offer - they've already repeatedly promised to stop terrorism and have failed to do so. What makes this time different? That leaves Israel, which has already given up the Gaza Strip and ceded control of much of the West Bank. In both cases, terrorism has continued or increased. Now all the players will be asking for more Israeli concessions. Who wins and who loses? Israel loses no matter what it does or doesn't do. If it concedes territory it loses security and if it doesn't, it becomes the obstacle. Bush has lost as well. By inviting Syria and continuing to deal with the PA in spite of the continuing terrorism, he has proven that he is willing to negotiate with terrorists after all.

Posted by naftali | September 24, 2007 10:53 AM

Game. Set. Match. James Baker.

Posted by RBMN | September 24, 2007 11:17 AM

This is how I heard the UN explained:

The largest group in the UN is the "non-aligned" segment, and the wealthiest and most influential part of the non-aligned segment is the Arab Middle-East. And, to those Third World non-aligned leaders, nothing speaks louder to them than a "friend" with plenty of money.

Posted by Dale Michaud aka TexasDude | September 24, 2007 12:54 PM

You know, Israel is truly the problem in the Middle East.

If only that country were wiped off the map, along with its Jews, would the area be peaceful and the world would be wonderful.

What a pantload!

The true problem with the Middle East are the Arabs and the Muslims!

Posted by Carol Herman | September 24, 2007 1:26 PM

An interesting article I read this morning, over at Lucianne's site. Condi Rice was TURNED DOWN by ABC, and NBC, when she asked to appear on the Sunday talk shows. SHe was told that she's "too boring." And, too incoherent. To be considered a good talk-show guest.

Again, where's VikingO1, to help with this analysis?

Anyhoo. Rice was turned down this summer, by the Pope.

And, "life lines" to Assad? Who the heck knows?

It's not as if Bush doesn't know about the nukes. Doesn't know how hurt he got when the UN refused to admit Saddam had nukes. And, that they were transportable. Ending up in syria.

That there are "big holes" in the syrian desert, now? Fer shur.

That it means anything important to diplomatic-kleptocratic-pants-dancers?

Well, the talent was the last to discover the audiences had left vaudeville. No customers? Well, that produced empty stages, too. Made business bad for the talent.

What will the Internet do with all the old garbage? I have no idea.

But if I had to guess? Condi Rice's "dance card" is empty when it comes to getting "better partners."

If she's dancing with Assad? The woman is desperate! SHows ya what became of State. Bunch of communists, not worth a hill of beans.

Posted by Bryan | September 24, 2007 10:40 PM

I think this move by Condi Rice is interesting considering the recent military whatever-it-was. I think it's the US's way of inviting Syria to come in from the cold.

This is a rather smart diplomatic move. Asad has to be rethinking what kind of security he has bought by signing up with Iran. If anything, a close relationship with Iran only drags Syria into a potential conflict with the US--not a very secure place to be. The message we are communicating is clear: "We've proven your defenses useless against us. Now cut out the crap you're pulling and we can find a way to live with you even if we will never like you." While they are down right bastards, I'm sure we want Syria to abandon Iran should push come to military shove with Iran much like Asad's father did with Sadam during the Gulf War.

We need to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran. Syria is not (yet) the radicalised cess pool that Iran is--it's bad to be sure, but not yet on the level Iran is. I think this diplomatic move is meant to be interpreted in the context of the Isreali shot across the bough. Any Syrian participation--even if only symbolic--will be a blow to the Iran-Syria alliance.

Posted by firedup | September 25, 2007 12:10 AM

Condi Rice is making me sick.
Go back to Stanford already.

Posted by SDR | September 25, 2007 12:41 AM

With the new developments linking Iran, North Korea, and Syria in efforts to establish programs to create nuclear weapons, it seems even less likely that the peace conference of the Middle East States will make any headway, assuming that with current tensions within the region such a conference can still take place. “It seems odd to include Syria in this conference, given current circumstances. The US just green-lighted an attack on a rogue nuclear facility in Syria.” However, it is interesting that the advantage of intelligence information and preemptive action has tilted further back towards Israel and the United States. But, there is another possibility which must not be overlooked. With the Western powers united against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, the increased pressure on the Middle East as a whole may force the parties to come to better terms. It is unlikely that this will come to pass in the near future because support from Western powers will be based on proof provided by Israel and/or the United States that Syria and North Korea were cooperating to create a nuclear Syria.

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