Murmurs of a Renewed Focus for Secretary Rice on Israel-Palestine

Jim Hoagland’s op-ed in the Washington Post yesterday highlights the substantial expectation that Secretary Rice may turn her attentions to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking in the near term:

 “Bush will signal whether Iraq will remain the center of his grand designs for the Middle East or will recede to being one more troublesome conflict in a zone of deadly turbulence and trade-offs. Events, and one key aide, point Bush toward the latter course, with its promise of salvaging his legacy elsewhere.

The aide is Condoleezza Rice, who has developed a personal exit strategy for Iraq. She is tossing that reputation-damaging hot potato to John Negroponte, a former ambassador to Baghdad who is resigning as director of national intelligence to become Rice’s deputy at the State Department.

His arrival will allow Rice to continue her minimalist personal engagement with Iraq. She will focus her considerable management skills instead on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A day or so after the president’s midweek speech, she will embark on a high-profile Middle Eastern trip dedicated to reviving the two-state solution Bush has endorsed.”

Further, Hoagland delineates a four point strategy for Bush to clarify and bolster US purposes in Iraq and the Middle East broadly:

“As the first president to have explicitly endorsed a Palestinian state, Bush should use Rice’s new burst of Middle East activism to reinforce the changes in Iraq strategy his speech will disclose. U.S. officials hope Rice can get Israel to release 450 Palestinian prisoners soon as a first step toward Hamas giving up the kidnapped Israeli soldier it holds.”

Full article after the jump.

Clarity on Iraq, and Beyond

By Jim Hoagland
Sunday, January 7, 2007; B07

President Bush’s choices on Iraq come down to two: clarity, or continued confusion of goals, methods and priorities. His impending address to the nation will reveal which choice he has made. It will also mold his foreign policy agenda for the gathering twilight of his presidency.

Bush will signal whether Iraq will remain the center of his grand designs for the Middle East or will recede to being one more troublesome conflict in a zone of deadly turbulence and trade-offs. Events, and one key aide, point Bush toward the latter course, with its promise of salvaging his legacy elsewhere.

The aide is Condoleezza Rice, who has developed a personal exit strategy for Iraq. She is tossing that reputation-damaging hot potato to John Negroponte, a former ambassador to Baghdad who is resigning as director of national intelligence to become Rice’s deputy at the State Department.

His arrival will allow Rice to continue her minimalist personal engagement with Iraq. She will focus her considerable management skills instead on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A day or so after the president’s midweek speech, she will embark on a high-profile Middle Eastern trip dedicated to reviving the two-state solution Bush has endorsed.

Negroponte’s move — which may enhance the influence of new Defense Secretary Robert Gates, given his own intelligence background — is a key element in the changes of military commanders and diplomats that have been unveiled to frame Bush’s speech. But the president must not confuse the administration’s organization chart with a blueprint for a way out of Iraq. Only clarity of purpose will lead to that outcome.

Here is a four-point program that Bush could adopt to clarify and bolster U.S. purposes, especially if he is going to “surge” more troops into the Iraq theater, as is widely anticipated:

* Bush should acknowledge that his hopes for establishing Iraq as a united, free-market democratic model for the Arab world have fallen far short. Iraqis have chosen a more violent, sectarian and decentralized national reality that they must now stabilize or destroy on their own.

The best way to dramatize that shift would be to call a one-month halt to U.S. offensive actions — a truce, in effect — and encourage Iraqis to do the same. This would facilitate the holding of a peace conference in Baghdad, in which blood-stained radicals such as Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Hadith al-Dari, the inflammatory voice of Sunni insurgents, would be asked to participate.

* Bush’s speech should recognize that Iran has legitimate interests in security in Iraq and the Persian Gulf region, and he should pledge that the United States will not use Iraq as a springboard for action against the Iranian regime.

These implicit security guarantees — if met by a proper response from Iran — could be the basis for a broad U.S.-Iranian dialogue and an eventual regional conference to endorse and implement the work of the Baghdad conference.

* The United States should also be prepared to extend guarantees of territorial security for Arab states in the Gulf region. Bush should announce that he wants consultations with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and other Arab states — as well as principal U.S. allies in Europe — on extending a U.S. or NATO nuclear umbrella over friendly states in the Gulf.

This would be a direct defensive response to Iran’s destructive drive for a nuclear program that can produce atomic weapons. U.S. guarantees would enable Arab states to forgo developing their own nuclear arsenals, just as the U.S.-Japan bilateral security treaty is intended to keep Japan nuclear-free.

*As the first president to have explicitly endorsed a Palestinian state, Bush should use Rice’s new burst of Middle East activism to reinforce the changes in Iraq strategy his speech will disclose. U.S. officials hope Rice can get Israel to release 450 Palestinian prisoners soon as a first step toward Hamas giving up the kidnapped Israeli soldier it holds.

But this heavy new U.S. involvement in the peace process must be included, along with the nuclear guarantees and the Baghdad conference, in a binding U.S. offer to the region’s Sunni rulers in return for their cooperation in calming Iraq now. Bush must show the Saudis, Jordanians and others that they have much to gain from cooperation and much to lose from continuing to tolerate or encourage the catalytic Sunni-initiated violence that is destroying Iraq and increasing Iran’s influence.

There are many challenges to overcome in constructing this Grand Bargain. But proposing and pursuing it gives Bush his best opportunity to explain to Americans and the rest of the world the complicated and dangerous new realities that his policies have helped create. Desperate times demand desperate measures, and desperate speeches.

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: