Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Former US Ambassador Speaks Out

From a former US ambassador to an Arab country writing to Ray Close, the former CIA bureau chief in Saudi Arabia, who kindly sent this to me. Here it is:

First, the US is in a weaker position to influence the outcome of this crisis than any time in the last three decades. Our influence in the region couldn't be lower. Our identification with Israel couldn't be higher. And our ability to work with Arab moderates and have them defuse the situation seems nonexistent. Does anyone really believe that Hezbullah or Hamas are going to listen to the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia?

Second, I do not see how Hezbullah can be defeated, much less dismantled. Israel is liable to realize the limits of air power and be sucked into a major ground operation that would turn into another quagmire. Or it will be compelled by world opinion to reduce drastically its military objectives in Lebanon and effectively abandon plans to destroy Hizballah. At that point, its U.S. support will also "go wobbly", you can be sure.

Clearly, Israeli military power and deterrence do not work with nonstate actors like Hezbullah. After all, the entire Israeli army could not gain control over the Gaza Strip in almost forty years of futile efforts --- with no holds barred!

I see no way under these circumstances how any of the proposals being discussed can work -- a beefed up international force, deployment of the LAF to the south, etc --- unless Hezbullah agrees. And I cannot imagine what national government(s) or assemblage of international diplomats would be able to persuade them to do so voluntarily. An international fighting force? Forget it!

Third, the Bush Administration looks at what is happening in the region through the narrow prism of terrorism. As Rami Khouri makes clear, Arabs do not see it that way. For many Arabs, what Hezbullah and Hamas are doing is something that Arab countries have been incapable of doing -- standing up to Israel. They are winning admiration for that.

I fear that our policy has become so misguided that we will end up only making matters worse. We don't know what the situation will look like in a month, but it is liable to be very bad for Arab moderates and for the US.

18 Comments:

At 7/19/2006 04:08:00 PM, Blogger Leila said...

Josh - could you put quotes around the letter, or indent it? Because it reads as if it is your opinion...

Leila

 
At 7/19/2006 04:21:00 PM, Blogger Metaz K. M. Aldendeshe said...

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At 7/19/2006 04:28:00 PM, Blogger Joseph ALi Mohammed said...

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At 7/19/2006 04:34:00 PM, Blogger Syrian Nationalist Party said...

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At 7/19/2006 04:41:00 PM, Blogger Syrian Nationalist Party said...

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At 7/19/2006 04:53:00 PM, Blogger Joseph ALi Mohammed said...

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At 7/19/2006 04:57:00 PM, Blogger Pascal The Fucking Arab Barbarian said...

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At 7/19/2006 04:59:00 PM, Blogger Ivanka said...

I would like to say that I am proud of what many normal Syrian citizens are doing to help refugees from the war. The attitude of Syrians has been of help and hospitality in many cases I saw. Of course the victims of Israel's attack deserve more than we will ever do to help them.

Some of my lebanese friends told me about cab drivers doubling the charge and other things like that, and of course these things exist also, i am sure.

still, i was able to see many people act in a very humanitarian and organized way also the red cross and crescent are doing all they can and they are doing well.

 
At 7/19/2006 08:26:00 PM, Blogger Joshua Fucking Landis said...

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At 7/19/2006 08:27:00 PM, Blogger Joshua Fucking Landis said...

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At 7/19/2006 08:27:00 PM, Blogger Joshua Fucking Landis said...

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At 7/19/2006 08:34:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

Joshua,If president Bush is smart he will appoint you as his adviser on the midleast ,too sad for the US he might not be.

 
At 7/19/2006 08:58:00 PM, Blogger Metaz K. M. Aldendeshe said...

Why did you delete this comment above Landis, what is wrong with it?

Would not dispute a word from this letter nor the assumptions and conclusions it makes. It is a shame that those intelligent (smart and informed) U.S. Officials involved here, are "FORMER" and America today have to rely on some of the dimmest people ever, they are the (CURRENT) losers.

 
At 7/19/2006 09:05:00 PM, Blogger troutsky said...

Could we consider that US policy is in fact to create crisis and chaos , not to stop it? Why? Check out my latest post, I think there is a "logic" at work here that is not aparent on the surface.

 
At 7/19/2006 09:10:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Haaretz interview with Uri Sagi who headed the IDF Intelligence Corps for four years (1991-1995)


Negotiations with Syria

A question about the fighter planes that buzzed over Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace elicits a chuckle from Sagi. "That was pompous behavior that does not in any way enhance our deterrent ability. Assad doesn't need these displays to know that Israel is a lot stronger than him. He has gotten enough hints. If you want to shoot - shoot, don't talk."

It is not that he is suggesting taking aim at Syria. On the contrary. Sagi, who headed the Israeli team negotiating with Syria and spent hundreds of hours talking to key Syrian figures, defines the break with Syria as "a fatal error."

According to him, Israel is blindly following the Americans, who think that because there has been a decline in Syria's importance, it can be totally ignored.

"I told Dan Kurtzer (the previous U.S. ambassador to Israel), that hatred is not a policy. His answer was 'so go ahead and talk to them and we won't object.'" Unfortunately, since the negotiations were stopped during the Barak government's tenure, Israel has not seen fit to establish a channel for dialogue with Damascus and lost the most important leverage it had with the Lebanese government. "Israel was insulted and is using military force in Lebanon, and that's important and perhaps even necessary," continues Sagi, "but without a new arrangement in Lebanon the benefits of this operation will go down the drain. Everyone understands that the only ones capable of changing the order are Syria and Iran, or a determined international equivalent. Lebanon will not be able to do it alone."

Sagi believes that six years ago, Israel missed a rare opportunity to sign a peace treaty with Syria under Hafez Assad. "The United States did not stand by its word to Assad and Barak got cold feet at the last minute." He wants to believe that the day is not far off when the younger Assad will finish the job and even surpass his father. He is convinced that the key to Israel's long-term security problems lies with Syria: the options of neutralizing the actual Syrian threat, a road to an arrangement with Lebanon and even opening a window through it to Iran are all in Syria. He notes that the Iranians in 1991 gave Syria a green light to join the Madrid Conference and promised not to disrupt the negotiations with Barak.

Sagi has argued for years that it is easier to reach an agreement with the Arab countries, including Syria, than it is to reach one with the Palestinians, because the conflict with them involves fewer holy sites and less messianic fervor.

"Imagine if we were to wage a fight against Hamas and Hezbollah when we have a peace agreement with Syria, Jordan and Egypt," he says. Sagi points out that during the negotiations with Syria, it was agreed that upon the signing of a peace agreement, they would close all offices of Palestinian terrorist organizations. He notes that Assad was tough to work with, but after he signed an agreement, he upheld it down the last letter.

"I don't people to gather from my remarks that I think that the Syrians are real saints," Sagi concludes, "but if you talk to them and convince the Americans to provide them with economic aid and perhaps to gently back off on Assad regarding the Hariri assassination, Syria, with all its weakness, can be a stabilizing force in the region." In the midst of a war of missiles, Sagi insists that peace and stability are "a security factor of the utmost importance." To those who don't believe it, he suggests taking a walk along the border with Egypt and Jordan.

 
At 7/19/2006 10:40:00 PM, Blogger Contemptuous said...

Lebanon was, is and will be free, democratic and independent because it is the CHOICE of the people of Lebanon, and despite Josh’s nonsense. This choice is not dependent on outside help or support. The Honorable Prime Minister of Lebanon was appealing for international help to stop the madness inflicted on Lebanon by outside forces. Those who are using the plight of Lebanon to put forward suggestions for regional agendas, namely those of Syria, are the most despicable of humans and deserve nothing but contempt. Syria is out of Lebanon once and for all and there is no return. This is Syria's last gasp in its despotic existence, and Lebanon will prevail as the minaret of Democracy and Freedom.

 
At 7/20/2006 12:45:00 AM, Blogger John said...

Clearly, Israeli military power and deterrence do not work with nonstate actors like Hezbullah. After all, the entire Israeli army could not gain control over the Gaza Strip in almost forty years of futile efforts --- with no holds barred!

This is silly nonsense. First of all, the Gaza Strip was very much under Israeli control until the implementation of the Declaration of Principles in 1994. I do not think that one could plausibly argue that Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the various Popular Resistance Committees would have the capability they do now if the pre-1994 levels of control and surveillance would still be in place. In the pre-DOP days, the Shin Beth would simply invite potential informants to its headquarters in the middle of Gaza City. How much more control can there be? Second, the above quote is erroneous in claiming that Israel faces and faced no constraints to its military action in the Gaza Strip.

 
At 7/20/2006 01:11:00 AM, Blogger Ivanka said...

well killing 300 innocent people in 1 week is pretty much killing with no constraints. I mean if you did all this and you had constraints, how many people would you kill if you were free to kill as you want? 1000 in a week. Maybe 6000 like in iraq..

 

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