Secretary Cohen Alerts CNN to CALME

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer from Cairo, Egypt on Wednesday, former Defense Secretary William Cohen answered a question on whether anyone thinks jump-starting the Israeli-Palestinian peace proces is “doable” by saying that he is involved with CALME because he hopes it is.

“I think they [Gulf leaders] all feel it’s fundamental, that this process has to be reenergized.

“As a matter of fact, I will be talking about the so-called CALME, the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East, the Internet petition that we have all been working on to get as many thousands of Americans who support this and to support President Bush’s initiative to have a two-state solution.

“It becomes more difficult at the moment, because U.S. credibility has been called into question. The Kadima Party, obviously, under Prime Minister Olmert now, is under attack. So, it’s a very challenging thing. But I think that there’s no doubt it has the support of all of the Gulf states, and it will have support, I believe, of the Quartet, the United Nations, Russia, Germany, and the United States.

And, so, I think it’s very important that we move forward as quickly as we can, again, to — to change the dynamic and give the perception and the reality that we want to see the — the Palestinian- Israeli conflict resolved. ”

Full transcript after the jump.

BLITZER: Welcome back.

As the Bush administration plans its way forward in Iraq, how might what happens there actually affect what happens elsewhere in the Middle East?

Joining us now from Cairo, Egypt, is our world affairs analyst, William Cohen. He’s the chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group, former defense secretary of the United States.

Secretary Cohen, you have just been in — not only in Egypt, but in Saudi Arabia. There’s a lot of concern that the Saudis might actually intervene in the Anbar Province to help their fellow Sunni Arabs.

Is — is there a real sense that you got that that is possible?

WILLIAM COHEN, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: I’m not sure that the Saudis would physically try to intervene by sending troops into Anbar Province. But, certainly, they could continue to send resources to those who are waging the effort, and encourage other Sunnis throughout the Gulf region to lend their assistance to the resistance of the insurgents under those circumstances.

I doubt very much whether we would see military action. They’re more concerned, I think, at this point about protecting their own borders and finding a way to build a wall to prevent Iran and others, perhaps, from posing any threat to their security.

BLITZER: What’s the general reaction that you found to the president’s latest initiative, as far as Iraq is concerned? How are America’s allies in the Arab world dealing with this?

COHEN: Well, they have expressed support for the president’s initiative. But, frankly, many are skeptical that Prime Minister Maliki has the will or the ability to control the violence. And, therefore, they are very concerned about the situation spiraling out of control.

Secondly, they are unanimously in favor of moving forward on the Middle East peace plan, as Secretary Rice has indicated she intends to energize that as quickly as possible. That could serve to help change the dynamic somewhat, so that it’s a positive force that’s being executed by the — by the United States and our allies, the so-called Quartet, rather than simply responding to the day-to-day violence, which has people very concerned.

So, I think, on two occasions, they want to see if Prime Minister Maliki can’t gain control, with U.S. assistance, but they’re very skeptical that he has the will or the ability to do so.

BLITZER: You say they — you…

COHEN: But the Quartet and the Middle East peace plan becomes critical.

BLITZER: You say they don’t have much confidence in Nouri al- Maliki. Do they seem to have confidence in President Bush?

COHEN: Well, there’s doubt now, in terms of whether the president can gather the support, the political support, from the United States Congress and the American people.

It’s one of the reasons I felt that the administration should have at least embraced some parts of the Baker report, and perhaps agreed to modify it somewhat, but to hold a bipartisan coalition together.

By rejecting the Baker report as it came out, everyone now is a free agent. And, so, the bidding is going up on the political side, to see who can offer the best-phrased resolution, about either putting caps on, or, in some way, altering the current strategy.

So, I think that was a failure to seize an opportunity with a bipartisan report that could have at least gained the president some time. Right now, I think everyone is a free agent, as I have indicated.

BLITZER: You mentioned the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — Condoleezza Rice going through the motions, certainly, right now, trying to jump-start it.

But does anyone there really think that’s doable?

COHEN: I think they all feel it’s fundamental, that this process has to be reenergized.

As a matter of fact, I will be talking about the so-called CALME, the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East, the Internet petition that we have all been working on to get as many thousands of Americans who support this and to support President Bush’s initiative to have a two-state solution.

It becomes more difficult at the moment, because U.S. credibility has been called into question. The Kadima Party, obviously, under Prime Minister Olmert now, is under attack. So, it’s a very challenging thing. But I think that there’s no doubt it has the support of all of the Gulf states, and it will have support, I believe, of the Quartet, the United Nations, Russia, Germany, and the United States.

And, so, I think it’s very important that we move forward as quickly as we can, again, to — to change the dynamic and give the perception and the reality that we want to see the — the Palestinian- Israeli conflict resolved.

The second key point is, I believe, fundamentally, we have to go to the Chinese and the Russians to get their support to control Iran. That’s also a major piece in this whole Middle East conflict. Most of the countries over here, all of them, are seriously worried that Iran is moving forward, going to spread its power as a hegemony in the region, building nuclear weapons.

They are now indicating, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others, they may have to turn to nuclear weapons themselves. So, this is something — it becomes important that we get control of the Iranian piece, as well as trying to bring the Iraq situation under control.

BLITZER: What a nightmare, all around.

Secretary Cohen, have a safe trip back here to Washington. We will see you back in the United States. Thanks for joining us from Cairo, Egypt.

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

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