New Diplomacy for the Middle East

New Diplomacy for the Middle East
By CALME Luminary Ambassador Marc Grossman

Before they have even been drafted, the possible recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Hamilton, hang like a giant mirror over Washington.  The Administration, the Congress, the war’s critics and supporters, all see reflected back to them their ideas and policies about how to save Iraq and US interests in the region.  

The ISG will have important things to say about the future of Iraq.   Let us hope they will also connect what so urgently needs to be done in Iraq to a larger American strategy in the Middle East.  The Administration should dedicate 2007 to trying to solve simultaneously the three great challenges facing America in the region: making peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the need for Iraq to be a unified, peaceful country which can govern itself and the requirement to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. 

America can best protect its interests by acting like a diplomatic great power, and so the President should launch a three-part diplomatic initiative in the Middle East. 

First, President Bush should direct Secretary of State Rice to convene immediately a negotiation, based on the work of the Quartet and its Road Map for Middle East peace, designed to make a reality the President’s June 2002 call for an Israeli and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace.  It is past time to act on this, even in the face of the tremendous difficulties.   Just as the Madrid Conference on Middle East Peace in 1991 followed the first Gulf War, this gathering would be a benefit from the removal of Saddam Hussein and part of the struggle against extremism.

Second, the President should invite Iraq and all of its neighbors and coalition allies to join a separate meeting, chaired by Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki, to help the Iraqi government get a grip on Iraq’s future.  Iraq needs regional help to bring about an end to the violence and to become a unified, stable state.  Just as the Administration worked successfully in 2001 to establish the new Afghan government by talking with Iran, Tehran and Damascus need to be at this table.  It is fair to be skeptical about whether these two countries really want Iraq to succeed, but it is not a concession to Iran or Syria to use the force of our diplomacy to highlight that their interests will be damaged by the possible violent breakup of Iraq. 

Third, President Bush should establish another forum, which the US and the European Union might co-chair, where the objective would be to convince Tehran to give up its nuclear weapons program.  The Administration rightly supported the European Union’s effort to persuade Iran to give up this terrible project, but Tehran has spurned the EU’s offer of a way out and now seems intent on disregarding the UN Security Council.  Participants in this negotiation should include UN Security Council members, the EU, the IAEA and Iran.  There should be a deadline for Iranian compliance with UN resolutions.  If this negotiation succeeds, the world will be better off.  If it fails, the Administration, or its successor, will be in a better position to pursue harder options if need be.

In his announcement of this initiative, the President will of course say that each group is working separately on its own challenge.  But the connections between the three negotiations are apparent.  As the sponsor and intellectual force behind this initiative, the President, Secretary Rice and America’s diplomats can exploit these connections in ways others less powerful cannot (although they will certainly try) and promote our interests by leverage and linkage, always tools in creative diplomacy, even if people often pretend they are not. 

Creating these three negotiations won’t solve all of America’s problems.  America must continue the military, diplomatic and financial fight against global extremism.  Promoting democracy in the Middle East remains crucial and energy security a top US national goal.  Promotion of trade and investment to create jobs in the region is also vital.  As the world looks forward to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, Americans can hope it will encourage the Administration to pursue a three-part diplomatic initiative in the Middle East in the New Year.

Marc Grossman is Vice Chair of the Cohen Group and was the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2001-2005.

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Explore posts in the same categories: CALME Luminaries, Middle East, Middle East Peace, Two State Solution, U.S. Role

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