The Diplomatic Bridge To Somewhere In The Middle East

Ten days after the election, I wrote what turned out to be, at the time, a somewhat controversial piece on the meaning of the hints by Obama that Hillary Clinton might be his Secretary of State.

Indeed. But what strikes me is that, if Obama really has made the offer to Clinton, he may have in mind not just the obvious skills (and potential detriments) that Hillary Clinton could bring to the job, but also making a bold play for mid-east peace and specifically the Israeli/Palestinian component of it.

George Bush has never paid more than lip service to honest brokerage of real peace and rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians. Even the supposedly vaunted "Roadmap" was nothing but rhetorical roadkill on delivery, and his efforts have gone downhill since then. Condi Rice has been useless at best on the issue, and Dick Cheney, well, enough said there.

Now that office has been assumed, both Barack Obama and his agent, Hillary Clinton, have been methodical in their moves affirmatively and diplomatically on the mid-east foreign policy front; however they have been aggressive and far more enlightened than the Bush/Cheney regime. And, let’s be honest, this is not something that could be done precipitously or overnight. I am critical of Obama on several domestic fronts, but as to foreign policy, with the possible exception of Afghanistan, there is some healthy credit due. Here are just a few of the signs.

From the LA Times:

In her trip through the Middle East and Europe last week, Hillary Rodham Clinton was warmly received in most places by audiences who are fascinated by the life of the former first lady — and delighted that George W. Bush resides once more in Texas.

She was applauded vigorously by reporters at a news conference in Egypt, a highly unusual gesture from Arab journalists toward a U.S. official. Officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, some of whom felt shut out by the Bush administration, grilled her in a private meeting on the Obama administration’s intentions, then applauded as well.

Love-fests aside, Clinton moved with a speed few expected on her second voyage as secretary of State. Billed as no more than a modest "listening tour," Clinton’s trip offered the most complete picture yet of how the new administration hopes to overhaul American relations with the world.

Clinton took steps toward possible new relationships with Syria and Iran that could redraw the map of the Middle East. She declared herself committed to plowing ahead to build a separate state for Palestinians, despite widespread skepticism about the prospects for such a project.

Indeed there does seem to be dedicated activity and it looks like obtaining additional stability and dialogue with the region in general, and Syria and Iran specifically, will be the warm up to full on tackling of the Israeli/Palestinian problem. The New York Times reports on the engagement of Syria:

“We look forward to making progress in achieving results in the bilateral relationship and in terms of regional issues,” said the envoy, Jeffrey D. Feltman, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, who was visiting Syria with Daniel B. Shapiro, a senior director at the National Security Council.

The United States has long wanted Syria to drop its support for the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, which have undermined Middle East peace efforts. The United States also hopes to peel Syria away from its alliance with Iran, and would welcome Syrian help on Iraq, Lebanon and inter-Palestinian reconciliation.

The Syrians want a strong American hand in Middle East peacemaking to help them regain territory they lost to Israel in the 1967 war. Improvement in bilateral ties also could result in easing economic and diplomatic sanctions imposed by Washington.

The Obama administration’s decision to send Mr. Feltman and Mr. Shapiro to Syria is the most significant sign yet that it is ready to improve relations with the Syrian government after years of tension. The two met Saturday with the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem.

A useful first step with Syria, and necessary after the Bush policy of arrogance, belligerence and abandonment. The same cautious entry to Iran is underway as well. From Reuters/Haaretz:

Iran said on Saturday it would consider a U.S. invitation to take part in a meeting on Afghanistan and it was ready to offer any help to its neighbor.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that President Barrack Obama’s government intended to invite Iran to an international conference on Afghanistan planned for this month.

"If America and European countries and others need to use Iran, they should give us (the invitation). We will review it with the approach that we are ready to offer any help to Afghanistan," Iranian government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham told a news conference.

Obama, in a turnaround from Bush administration policy, has said the United States wants to engage Iran on a range of issues. The conference invitation would be the start of diplomatic initiative to Tehran.

These are small steps in each instance, but powerful in the change of tone and willingness to engage. The signal is unmistakeable that there are rational adults back in charge of American foreign policy. Not all is golden on the foreign front – Obama seems a little wobbly on Afghanistan/Pakistan, he needs to engage much more in Latin America and, of course, the festering sore of the I/P issue hovers over all. Still, all that said, it is quite refreshing to see the increased attention being paid, and efforts at engagement made, by the Obama team in the short time they have been in office. It is a foundation to build on.

112 replies
  1. Leen says:

    “small steps” but good ones
    Clinton rebukes Israel over demolition plan
    By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

    Thursday, 5 March 2009…..37734.html

    Orders to bulldoze Palestinian apartments in East Jerusalem spark first criticism by US Secretary of State

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticised Israel’s plans to demolish more than 80 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem as “unhelpful” and a violation of its international obligations.

    • macaquerman says:

      I think that I read (in Ha’aretz) that the US has lodged four protests concerning demolitions since Obama assumed office.

      • Leen says:

        Jim Jones a good sign too

        If we can push them to focus on the illegal settlement expansion. Even 43 brought this up.
        Peace Now: Settlements expanded faster in 2008

        On day US Mideast envoy arrives in Israel, Peace Now movement publishes report on settlement expansion activity last year. Yesha Council pleased with ‘documentation of Zionist enterprise’…..05,00.html

        Israel planning mass expansion of West Bank settlement bloc
        By Akiva Eldar
        Tags: settlements, Green Line

        Despite the state’s formal commitment not to expand West Bank settlements, a government agency has been promoting plans over the past two years to construct thousands of housing units east of the Green Line, Haaretz has learned.

        ##### When Chris Matthew, Rachel,Keith Olberman or one of the heavy hitters on one of the MSM stations start shedding the light on illegal settlements well then we would know the earth was moving under our feet.

  2. freepatriot says:

    Jebus bmaz, the Dude has been President for less than two months

    what kind of timetable did you have in mind ???

    • bmaz says:

      Maximum Now! No, seriously, my point was that there has been substantial good movement in a very short time; I think it is fairly impressive actually.

  3. archiebird says:

    bmaz–you forgot to mention that Clinton was in Turkey as well, and now Obama’s going there this week. Huffington post just announced that that 12,000 troups are coming home and they’ll be using Turkey as an exit route.

    • bmaz says:

      Excellent point. And Clinton made an envoy to Indionesia as well. It is like day having overcome night from the pitiful diplomatic existence of the last eight years.

  4. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    It’s so nice to see Clinton coming into her own — as a global citizen.
    Call me sentimental, or call me crazy, but I don’t find it credible that after all her years of work with kids and health that she doesn’t approach issues in a fairly fresh way — certainly in contrast to her predecessors (!).

    Now, if Levin can get the money laundering legislation through the Banking Committees and then the Senate, maybe that’ll give Hilary even more help. Because I’m sicking of getting punk’d (along with almost everyone else I know) by money launders, fraudsters, and militarist nutjobs, ALL of whom appear to align themselves with different forms of extremism.

    The cleaner the finances, and the cleaner the books, the less control extremists will have.
    And that ought to help Hilary, Obama, and other legitimately elected/appointed leaders move things back to a more stable, even keel so we can address global warming, food supplies, etc, etc, etc…

    • Petrocelli says:

      Yep, I’ve always preferred her being SoS as opposed to Veep. Hillary & Bill have a huge amount of Political Capital around the World, which has only grown over the past 8 years.

  5. bobschacht says:

    I agree that these are good signs.
    Are Clinton’s appointments for Middle Eastern desks at State fully staffed by now? I haven’t seen any commentary on that. If so, that might be another good sign, depending on who those appointments are. Anyone have a clue?

    The org chart for the U.S. Dept of State shows 5 top level officials:
    1. The Head of US AID
    2. The “permanent” representative to the UN
    3. The Deputy SoS
    4. The Chief of Staff
    5. The Executive Secretary
    Under these are 6 Undersecretaries, and a “Counselor”. Their duties are described on a State Dept webpage which, unfortunately, does not include the names of the current officeholders.

    Wikipedia lists two Deputies, James Steinberg, Deputy Secretary, and
    Jacob J. Lew, Deputy Secretary. Per wiki, “Lew is the State Department’s chief operating officer and is primarily responsible for resource issues, while James Steinberg, who is also serving as the Deputy Secretary, will be responsible for policy.[1][2]”

    “Steinberg, along with Daniel Kurtzer and Dennis Ross, were among the principal authors of Barack Obama’s address on the Middle East to AIPAC in June 2008, which was viewed as the Democratic nominee’s most expansive on international affairs.”

    I don’t have the time to see if Clinton’s 12 top officials are fully staffed by her own appointments yet.

    Bob in HI

  6. macaquerman says:

    OK, peace in the ME, then cleaning up financial irregularity.
    What’s on the agenda for June and July?

    • MarkH says:

      OK, peace in the ME, then cleaning up financial irregularity.
      What’s on the agenda for June and July?

      There’s a lot to do. Health care reform, energy (cap & trade is part), financial industry regulation (perhaps with reorganization of exec branch regulatory system), investigation of Bushies, more on Afghanistan/Pakistan/AlQaeda, next budget (not due ’til October), world trade meetings and meshing with US regs, (I’d like to see a 9/11 commission), other smaller things like naming post offices & the like.

      Really this should have all been done by the day after Inauguration Day, but Republicans are holding up nominations and they’re entirely to blame for the delay. Heh.

      • bmaz says:

        Heh indeed. Compare and contrast with when Bush came into office with the seemingly sole priority of cutting taxes and squandering what had been built up during Clinton’s term. Bit more on Obama’s plate.

  7. Arbusto says:

    So Hillary is doing head faints; Hamas isn’t a legally elected Gaza Government and the corrupt Palestinian Authority is legitimate. Yep, that one will really throw the Israelis during any discussions leading to discussions, leading to discussions,… when Obama comes out in favor of popularly elected governments.

    Show me an end game where the Palestinians don’t count in the US strategy, other than now that is.

  8. Petrocelli says:

    Having Kerry, Mitchell, Hillary, Bill, Carter, Biden & Obama dealing with the ME gives a lot of us hope that slowly but surely, the conflict will be resolved.

    If Netanyahu & Lieberman think they can push the skinny kid around, they’ve got another think coming.

    • Leen says:

      That “pushing” has always worked before. More awareness around this issue than ever before even some of the so called progressive blogs opened up.

      Steve Clemons site has always been open to healthy discussions around this issue. Steve has also hosted numerous forums on the conflict.


      83 tanbark….good points. Go to Steve’s if you do not want to get slapped down for opposing views

  9. bell says:

    nice to see this page taking up an issue that is very central to many, especially the us political class that only appear able to bend over for israel and take it in the rear… i can’t remember any talk while israel was using white phosphorous, incinerating innocent folks in gaza, but since i am not here all the time, i might have missed it.. that hillary clinton used such a strong word “unhelpful”on the demolition of arab houses in east jerusalem is apparently an improvement… i look forward to more tough talk from the rest of them on issues that have been lingering so long the usa has lost all credibility in the region…

    • Petrocelli says:

      What she told the Israelis in private was with much stronger language, you can be sure.

    • bmaz says:

      Actually Siun at FDL was all over that story; she does just a ton of work on middle east issues and is very good and well sourced.

      • EdwardTeller says:

        You’re right. Good to see this article, though. I’m not optimistic.

        Until Avigdor Lieberman’s role in the new Israeli government clarifies, and until people like Kerry who are being used as water testers are given a REAL role, I’ll remain pessimistic. I regarded HRC’s remarks on demolitions to be quite tepid, almost meaningless.

        I just wrote about this – sort of – with a poll:

        Should Israel:

        Be allowed to continue to expand

        Be forced back to the 1967 borders

        Be forced back to the 1947 borders

        Frozen at current settlement levels

        Be allowed to expel all non-Jews (from inside Israel) and expand (to occupy ALL the West Bank)

        • Petrocelli says:

          ET !

          I think that Obama has to use some people on the Repub side to drive the message for peace and reconciliation. Olmert pretty well knew the Golan Heights has to be returned … the Arabs have to guarantee Israel blanket security for such an exchange, however.

          It’s not the peace that is as important as what happens afterward.

          The next flare up in the ME will likely be the last …

          • EdwardTeller says:

            As long as the settlements themselves are allowed to continue to expand and more territory is seized from Palestinians in the West Bank – for whatever reason – there will be no lasting peace regarding Israel.

      • bobschacht says:

        Yes, Kudos for Siun, whose work is always “must read.” And it is also excellent that GorillaGuides often hangs out here. Excellent stuff.

        Bob in HI

  10. Xcroc says:

    In Africa AFRICOM continues the militarization of political space. Mostly the same people are running Africa policy that ran it under Bush. As Steve Coll writes:

    The larger issue here is the momentum that military liaison creates when it becomes the heavily funded nexus of U.S. policy. Africa Command’s mission is to “engage” with brother armies, its commanders have a professional bias to action, and they often do not take strategic direction from civilians until they are ready to present their war, engagement and training plans, whether in Colombia or Pakistan or Uganda. Military liaison, even if it is conceived progressively, becomes its own self-fulfilling destination, especially when the rest of the U.S. government is starved, by comparison, for resources.

    I am hoping there will be a change in direction, funding, and focus for Africa as well.

  11. eCAHNomics says:

    in their moves affirmatively and diplomatically on the mid-east foreign policy front; however they have been aggressive and far more enlightened than the Bush/Cheney regime.

    Well, better-than-Bush is not good enough on the economy. I wonder whether it will be on foreign affairs. Some of Obama’s statements (like on Iran’s nuclear program) are “not helpful.”

    • Petrocelli says:

      Evenin’ ma’am … can I pour you a glass of Shiraz ?

      I saw Obama’s statement about Iran’s “nuclear plans” as a way of taking away the Repugs’ key talking point.

      • eCAHNomics says:

        Thanks, but getting ready to go out to eat.

        Hard to know what Obama’s statements mean. I’m no mind reader so I’ll stick with what he sez until I see some actions that I can judge him on.

        • Petrocelli says:

          True nuff … I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out.

          Bon appetit !

  12. hackworth says:

    Wasn’t too long ago (about the third quarter of last year) that we were genuinely concerned that Shrubco would attack Iran in the waning days of Shrubco. Then, also, the Iran rhetoric coming from Obama and Hillary and Biden was hairy chested bombastic and warmongeringly stupid and did nothing much to alleviate our concerns. So there’s this good news.

    The Military Industrial Complex will have to be satisfied with looting our bankrupted treasury via the Iraq “drawdown” and a refortified Afghanistan Misadventure with a side order of Pakistan.

  13. bell says:

    bmaz -i don’t follow firedoglake, or fdl .. i visit emptywheel from time to time and realize the mandate is probably different.. that said, i agree it is nice of you to post your thoughts on how some early signs are mildly positive in the usa foreign policy area… i still think the usa is completely disqualified as any neutral voice in the mideast.. the usa is power on the wane on a few important levels..

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, there is some truth to what you say there; however, weakened or not, it won’t get done without the US so we might as well get to work. It is light years better already from the last eight years.

      • EdwardTeller says:

        It is light years better already from the last eight years

        true, but that’s like bragging about being the best attorney in Tombstone Arizona in 1890…

      • Petrocelli says:

        If I were writing Hillary’s lines, I would address the Arabs with an ending like … “Let’s work together to get this done by 2012, unless some of you would rather wait for the next Republican administration.”

        There would be laughter in that room of a volume to reach American Shores …

        • macaquerman says:

          Not only funny, but really true. There’s a reasonable chance for peace if the countries in the area are willing to work in support of it.

          • Petrocelli says:

            It will be hopefully known in America that Iran & Syria want a lasting peace in the ME but Bush & the NeoCons
            did not.

            • macaquerman says:

              I agree about Syria but have a hard time in trying to understand what Iran really wants or what it’s willing to do.

              • Petrocelli says:

                That really depends on who in Iran you are referring to … the people in Iran (Persians) or the Arab Dictators running the country.

                Most Persians feel betrayed by the Americans … that it is American Foreign Policy keeping the Ayatollahs in power, rather than a progressive Gov’t which is friendly to Western Countries.

                • macaquerman says:

                  I surely don’t mean the people being repressed, but the government seems pretty well entrenched.

                  • Petrocelli says:

                    I know that’s what you meant. Moving Iran away from control of the Ayatollahs will be a daunting task but the Persians will keep pushing for it.

                • ratfood says:

                  They also take a longer view of history. Most Americans are not even aware that the U.S. placed the Shah in (sole) power back in the ’50s, then effectively propped him up setting the stage for the Iranian revolution in the late ’70s. The Iranians could make a strong case that just because they are paranoid does not mean people aren’t out to get them.

                  • libbyliberal says:

                    Gore Vidal calls us The United States of Amnesia. Maybe after the country gets over its media love affair with American History and the founding dads.. some international history will get addressed. As Whitehouse says… looking at the ugly stuff is necessary, though repelling.

                • bobschacht says:

                  That really depends on who in Iran you are referring to … the people in Iran (Persians) or the Arab Dictators running the country.

                  WTF??? Arab dictators running Iran??? Have you been smoking hemp again? Please explain.

                  Bob in HI

              • hackworth says:

                Paraphrasing Noam Chomsky: The only nations (with resources the US covets) safe from US aggression are ones with nuclear weapons.

                That assertion appears to be historically accurate.

                  • PJEvans says:

                    Well, I don’t think we could take the Canadians and the Scots in curling, and the Canadians are good in ice hockey, so that leaves Peru and Mexico – what, we should start a war with our drug suppliers? [/s]

                    • macaquerman says:

                      We can always get new suppliers, but damn if it doesn’t seem like we could beat these guys and wars we win are pretty scarce lately.

        • MarkH says:

          If I were writing Hillary’s lines, I would address the Arabs with an ending like … “Let’s work together to get this done by 2012, unless some of you would rather wait for the next Republican administration.”

          There would be laughter in that room of a volume to reach American Shores …

          Good point, but …

          I think a lot of Israelis are truly scared into not thinking. Then, there are some who could think of the future, but might not be able to really consider changes (sort of like Republicans).

          If the recent elections represent the public well, then it doesn’t appear the far right will let the peace-loving DFH Israelis talk Peace with any real intent of getting there — sort of a show of good will to simply delay, stall and avoid real solutions.

          That said, Netanyahu wants to make a mark for himself and might move towards a peaceful future. Whether the Knesset would let him seal any such deal is doubtful — though it might be close.

          What’s missing in Israel is any thought that they can’t keep playing their current hand forever. They don’t seem to see the world changing around them in a way that they could change to adapt to. For some strange reason they seem to think they must fight to the death and there is nothing else possible.

          They can see Iran as a serious threat, but what is missing is the idea that they can somehow adapt and change to get to peace without losing their state. They’re extremely insecure about that.

          What I suggest is a lot of hand-holding and a move to establish the Palestinian state and a DMZ between it and Israel. If Israel can’t move, then bring Peace to them. This fits in somewhat with Bibi’s previous stand about encouraging economic growth for the West Bank.

  14. rich2506 says:

    I’ve got a buddy in the Green Party who I work with and respect a lot, but I did a piece on The US, Russia and Georgia showing that (Thank Heavens!) we’ve apparently decided to ditch Georgia and what looks like the entire neocon policy of hostility to Russia. My buddy responded with the Naderite assertion that there are no differences between the Rs and the Ds. Sorry, but the above piece and the news that Boehner wants to freeze spending in the midst of an economic downturn convinces me that, despite Obama’s actions on presidential authority (Very bad), that yes, there are indeed very substantial differences.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      It’s really too bad that U.S. foreign policy thinks it must choose between belligerents. Between Russia and Georgia, there not a lot of good vs. bad. Somehow I wish (first time I’ve expressed a wish in several decades) that the U.S. could call out behaviors and events, not sides.

  15. shootthatarrow says:

    So has President Obama condemned Israel’s misuse of American provided weaponry to inflict levels of death dealing that he still also has not denounced or condemned in Gaza during December 2008 or Jan.2009?

    Many here seem determined to overlook or deny Israel’s occupation abuses,ongoing and growing hostile Israeli policy of settlement creation in the West Bank and ruthless killing and destruction sprees in Gaza.

    Perhaps if President Obama’s family was undergoing what many Gazan families have had endure for years now he might not be so passive and indifferent.

    The indifference on full display with President Obama’s ongoing failure to condemn Israeli brutal and lethal conduct in Gaza.

    Killing Gazan children makes Israel blameless how again?

    Secretary Clinton did not speak out when and where she needed to.

    The moral indifference on full display as she stood with Israeli war criminal Olmert smiling.

    Thus far Obama and Clinton surely demonstrating in plain ways Israel will not be brought to heel anymore than Bush or Rice ever insisted upon.

    The indifference or worst still passive approval expressed in the article above seems unaware or uninterested in dubious ways to what SoS Clinton did or said in light of Israel’s dishonest and war crimes based occupation and warmongering.

    Evidently if it happens to Gazan children or innocents SoS Clinton or President Obama cannot or will not bothered much over it.

    SoS Clinton not even bothering to visit Gaza firsthand.

    So what SoS Clinton actually said or did or has said or done is so much different than now departed SoS Rice how again?

      • ratfood says:

        I’m inclined to agree with author Paul McGeough in yesterdays book salon when he said that we should judge the Obama administration by their actions not their statements.

        The rhetoric is mostly necessary posturing. It is too soon to judge their actions, although the apparent willingness to engage in dialog with perceived adversaries is some reason for cautious optimism.

        • Petrocelli says:

          Agree on all points ! The optimism is not misguided, given the speed at which this admin has moved on these issues. I would include the actions of the Repugs & NeoCons, who still have a great deal of power inside the State Dept. and all other agencies.

    • EdwardTeller says:

      down, firepup, down – this place – firedoglake – is learning from experience. Back before the Hezbollah War, one’s comments went into moderation for such terms as “AIPAC.” We had to spell it A*P*C, or whatever.

      bmaz’s hope that the discussion in the Obama administration will evolve far beyond the Bush years is reasonable. As important blogs go, shootthearrow, this one is far more open to debate on I/P issues than 80% or 90% of them.

  16. ctrenta1213 says:

    This sounds great and all and it is an improvement from the Bush-Cheney years. However there’s still lots of improvement that needs to be done… and that doesn’t mean cleaning up the Bush years. Electronic Intifada wrote a great report on how Hillary Rodham Clinton likely sabotaged a Palestinian reconciliation. It sounds crazy, but it’s not. Click here to read more about the story.

    • macaquerman says:

      This is the third time this thing has been posted on FDL, and it hasn’t gotten any less lame.

    • bmaz says:

      Not only is that article awfully overly reactionary, your summary of its contents is scurrilous. Perhaps that is your goal, it is hard to discern any other basis to be honest. First off, Clinton’s comment on the fly most certainly did nothing of the sort you allege. Secondly, of the actors discussed in that piece you cited Clinton appears the least involved. I could go on, but will simply stick with your acknowledged “It sounds crazy” Indeed it does, and so you seem.

  17. libbyliberal says:…..-jerusalem

    “unhelpful” … applied to illegal annexation of property in East Jerusalem does seem like a “tepid” word. 2 houses down, 88 houses illegally scheduled for demolition to go — i.e., lacking permits. Israel has legitimate security concerns there article says but is now “over-reaching” (another careful word) and jeopardizing peace yet again.

    I hope HRC and BO can work it out. On the one hand, amidst death, blood, phosphorous and rubble in Gaza, this parsed language seems so minimizing but in the world of diplomacy even the shift to “unhelpful” may seriously resonate and maybe “tough love” rather than knee-jerk codependency is getting applied to our intense, forever ally, Israel.

  18. Petrocelli says:

    Gotta go make Popcorn for the kiddies and watch a movie … have a great evening, all !

  19. libbyliberal says:

    Big question. So where does our $900 million dollars go in cautiously disignated aid for Gaza? Does it actually get to the Gazans? Does it go to the allegedgly corrupt US-recognized Fatah regime rather than, of course, not to Hamas, and will they reliably get it to the Gazans who are in serious need? Or is this another international this time version of TARP injustice? Throwing our taxpayer money at the undeserving?

    • ratfood says:

      My understanding is that if delivered, it will go to Fatah so it amounts to an empty gesture (or worse) to the people in dire need of assistance.

    • macaquerman says:

      It probably does get to Gaza and is probably part of the effort at forging a unity government for the Palestinians.

      • hackworth says:

        Aid money often gets usurped by the recipient nation’s leaders. Never to trickle down to the people. This may be the equivalent of a political donation to Fatah.

        • macaquerman says:

          Possibly, but we and the Europeans are long tired of the Fatah kleptocracy, almost as fed up with it as the Palestinian people.
          The recently resigned Fatah PM, Fayyad (if I’m remembering his name correctly) is an honest guy and the financial minister.
          I get the idea that the donation money, from us and from the Saudis, is only going to appear if the Palestinians can form a working arrangement between Fatah and Hamas. It’s a pretty damn big bribe and there should be enough, even after rake-offs, to do plenty of good.

    • jackie says:

      Another thing, If they are really serious about helping the people of Palestine the money should go directly to the Organizations already heavy involved on the ground, Docters with Borders, Red Cresent (or Palestinian version) etc, and all the many others who know EXACTLY where the aid needs to go to first and foremost. If not its all just political word games.

  20. libbyliberal says:

    Interesting quote from an article in informationclearinghouse via The Independent by Antony Lerman.


    None of this justifies one single act of anti-Semitism against Jews perpetrated because someone claims to be angry about Palestine. But we can’t have it both ways. If you’re close to Israel, you can’t just own your connection with the country when all is quiet; you have to own it when what Israel does provokes outrage. The consequence of this is recognising that by provoking outrage, which is then used to target Jews, Israel bears responsibility for that anti-Jewish hostility. If Israel were truly concerned about Jews worldwide, it would think long and hard about the implications of this reality.

    The incongruous truth is that while we are drawing attention to anti-Semitism more comprehensively than at any time in the past 30 years, I sense that so much of the Jewish world is more comfortable with an identifiable enemy that hates us than with a multicultural society that welcomes Jews on equal terms.

  21. tanbark says:

    Interesting that in that feel-good piece, the word “Iraq” did not appear by BMaz. It’s almost as if it were the Bush administration speaking, who didn’t want to talk about the fact that there are more troops now in Iraq than were there at the beginning of the surge, and that it’s still costing us that $2.5 billion a week to string this out…to what purpose is not fully known.

    I’m not into optimistic “mid-east” reports just now. When we leave Iraq what is left is not going to be user friendly to us. Nor, to the Fortune 500. And we ARE leaving, because if Obama hasn’t made substantial withdrawals by the mid-terms, we will lose most of what we gained in 2008, and if he doesn’t have us down to a bare minimum, by 2012, he may be a one-term president.

    I’m also not hopeful that the factionalism that Bush released/created is going to continue to lie relatively doggo if we even cut our troop levels by half. Baghdad is a rat’s maze of checkpoints, blast-barriers, and ethnically cleansed neighborhoods. The south, where most of Iraq’s reserves are, will have very little incentive to continue to support the central government, without our troops there to back up Maliki’s security forces.

    Iraq has never been anything but a ticking time bomb, as long as we occupy it and try to determine it’s future.

    As regards Hillary; it IS encouraging that Obama seems to have put her on a short leash and has told her to stay the hell out of Iraq, and to not lend Petraeus and Odierno, the vestigial warbots, any credibility by staging photo-ops with them. I hope that restriction continues long enough for him to get a time-window to “reassign” those two worthies before they get into full-on monkeywrench mode.

    Now, are “the good old” days in Iraq. The Brits are pulling their 4,000 troops out by June and when Al-Sadr decides to start flexing his street muscle, and when the Sunnis don’t have to worry as much about CentCom sending troops back into their turf, it’s going to get rather dicey, to put it mildly.

    Oh; the last time I checked, Iraq was part of the mid-east.

  22. JoeBuck says:

    I think that appointing George Mitchell was a great move, but that most of Hillary Clinton’s actions have not helped. She really hasn’t said anything that the Bush administration wasn’t saying, and hasn’t done anything about healing the wounds inflicted by the Gaza conflict, which has greatly damaged Obama’s position in the Arab world. It was one thing to say “we have only one president at a time”, but then for Clinton to mouth the same awful platitudes that American politicians feel they must say for domestic audiences, only on an international stage, is just disasterous (justifying Israel’s destruction of Gaza as legitimate self-defense) and harmful to US interests.

  23. bobschacht says:

    Hey, can I ask a question for the lawyers?
    What is the difference between a (Special) Counsel and a (Special) Prosecutor?

    On the practical level, is it that there is no such thing as a (special) prosecutor any more? Or if there can be a (special) prosecutor, who can appoint one? I understand that Jerry Nadler’s new bill talks about a special *prosecutor*, and has been talking about this since 2007 ( and again last December (

    BTW, I am starting with the assumption of the information about the Special Counsel linked above.

    Bob in HI

  24. tanbark says:

    What was predictable was your propensity for ignoring the uncomfortable truth of what Obama and we, face in Iraq.

    Your talking-goody-two-shoes assessment of the middle east, in which you seem to feel that Iraq isn’t part of the equation there, was straight out of a bushCo press conference.

    It’s just like with Roland Burris:

    You may not believe in reality, but reality sure believes in you. :o)

    And, JoeBuck nails it. Hillary’s little junket is basically more of the same republican “Let’s enlighten the wogs” bullshit.

    “Um, you understand that Clinton carries out Obama’s policies as opposed to setting her own, right?”

    So far, Hillary hasn’t wandered off the reservation, but we’re not at push-come-to-shove yet. That will come as the troop levels drop to a point that there won’t be enough of them there to maintain the stick portion, to match the U.S. Treasury carrot.

    As I said, that Obama hasn’t allowed her to go to Iraq to swap media spit with Petraeus and Odierno is a good sign. But is her show-the-flag trip over yet? Video clips of a smiling Clinton schmoozing with Petraeus and/or Odierno, will be worth at least as much to the warbots as were Clinton’s repeated statements that McCain would make a better commander-in-chief than would Obama, during the election.

    I don’t see how the current relative “tranquility”

    can be sustained. If you do, Bmaz, then maybe you can give us your mid-east thoughts on that.

  25. tanbark says:

    I agree, Maq; the less heard from Ms. AIPAC, the better. This is one appointment that I think is going to bedevil Obama to the point that he’ll regret ever making it.

    • Leen says:

      keep your fingers crossed and keep pushing. Let’s hope the Obama administration does not buckle…we can be sure Hillary is under a great deal of Aipac pressure and it has always worked before

      • tanbark says:

        Woops, sorry. I should have know better. You’re another one for whom reality is a four-letter word. I won’t make the mistake again.


        • macaquerman says:

          My objection to your comments is that they seem to be nothing beyond negative.
          It requires no great vision to see that there’s plenty wrong, but you seem to want to roll around in it.
          Bitch all you want, but offer something beyond that every now and again.

        • Leen says:

          Tanbark you bring a piece of reality not “negativity” that many do not want to hear. Your part in the debate has a place, do not take the bait for a fight. Stay focused on the facts (Hillary has been beholden to the I lobby) and stay open to a bit of hope.

          Just had a long conversation with my dear friend Art Gish who just spent 3 months in the Palestinian village of At Twani and 2 weeks in Hebron. (this is is 12th or so trip there)

          We discussed the situation there. He said the situation is worse than ever, but many Palestinians are o.k. with the Netanyahu/Lieberman coalition. They believe that the racism that permeates Israel and many of their policies will become even more evident to the public.

          One story he shared was one of his conversations with one of the Israeli soldiers that he talks with everyday. The soldier asked him what he was doing in Hebron…he explained. Art then asked the Israeli soldier what he was doing there the Israeli soldiers answer “I don’t know, I really don’t know”

          Art also brought up that Bethelehem is slowly but surely being surrounded by illegal settlements. Have not heard anything about this until he brought it up.

          Art spent quite a bit of time with this group in Hebron

  26. shootthatarrow says:

    Leen @ 97

    Thanks for the heads up for Worthy site.

    It is not difficult to encounter very real pushback at many sites if one chooses to take the blinders off regarding Israel’s occupation history in West Bank and Gaza.

    Needless to say one can easily imagine how Nazi Germany was able to pull off what it did during the 1930’s out thru 1945.

    Gaza is now getting the same basic treatment here in United States.

    Too many Americans refuse to face and see what Israel is doing in West Bank and Gaza. Do not want to take the blinders off.

    It is easier to stay blind. To find comfort in false myths and storytell.

    Israel is not the innocent victim. Is not worthy of the levels of American funding/militarism support it gathers or demands from WashingtonDC. Israel is not the victim in ME to be sure.Going right back to the start Israel has inflicted much death dealing on the Palestinians.

    Israel likes to portray itself as the eternal victim but Israel is a liar in doing so.

    Just ask the children of Gaza. Those the IDF and IAF have not killed.


  27. tanbark says:

    [email protected]: Thassit. Obama can’t afford to let Hillary get full-on into her Sister-Lieberman mode. It will be right down the old Wolfowitz-Perle turnpike and once it starts, it will be awfully hard to reverse it.
    All of her apologists keep saying of her positions and tactics during the primaries (and afterward) that it was just campaign rhetoric. I have yet to see any evidence of that. She was backing a very conservative horse, to carry her to the White House. It was, as we know now, a political mistake the size of the Himalayas.

    The only foundation that was laid in her maiden junket was the foundation of getting her back in the news.

    Obama is currently enjoying a honeymoon extension, partly because he’s trying, and partly because of Limbaugh and the republicans who shit green nickels when he sics his retardo Rottweillers on to them for not being as batshit crazy as he’d like them to be.

    I keep telling my friends that Limbaugh is no threat, but at this point, is a gift to all of us who want to see the country move back from the conservative precipice that we’ve been living on for so long. I’m as serious as a heart attack when I say that I hope he runs in 2012. With that Jabba-the-Hut ego, you KNOW he’s thinking about it. :o)

    • macaquerman says:

      Have you been having difficulty finding pieces that concern Iraq? I’ve noticed no shortage.

  28. tanbark says:

    when you’re talking about mid-east progress.

    Along with the economy, that is going to be the crunch for continuing to move the country back into the political center.

    BTW, is the next thing we hear from you the phrase “nattering nabobs of negativity”?

    We have 142,000 of our troops tied down in what is essentially a hostage situation in Iraq. It’s costing us astronomical sums of money at a time when our economy is tanking the worst since the great depression.

    Obama’s Secretary of State was in bed with the Bush administration on this issue for six-plus years. You can be Mary Poppins if you want to, but I think that threads about laying “foundations” in the mid-east in which the word “Iraq” doesn’t appear, isn’t being “positive”…It’s being willfully ignorant. And I don’t care who’s doing it; they need to be reminded of it.

    Thanks, have a good day. :o)

    • macaquerman says:

      ha! I always kinda liked that “nattering …..”
      I coulda sworn that Obama won, not Clinton. He said that he would get us out of Iraq, and he’s offered a timetable.
      Remind away, though I don’t think you’re going to find anybody here who wants to prolong the Iraqi misadventure.
      There are, however, other countries and other topics.

  29. tanbark says:

    He did win, for which I am thankful, but I think he made a mistake in giving Clinton state.

    There ARE other countries, but none of them has the importance of Iraq. Not even Afghanistan. Offering a timetable was tough enough, when the current military leaders there clearly didn’t want one. We won’t even start drawing down until September, when 12,000 troops are scheduled to leave. What’s it going to be like when we get down to half of that 142,000?
    Tell us, Maq; do you think that the Iraqi security forces will go into Sadr City to shut down mortar attacks on the green zone without our help?
    Excuse me, but I am negatively skeptical.

    The Iraqi parliament STILL can’t meet outside of Fortress Amurka.

    What you and the rest of the people who don’t want to talk about Iraq are betting on is the same come-card that Bush and Co. were peddling to us; that we were creating something in which the Iraqis would join hands and sing the song. In plainspeak, I think it was bullshit when Bush said it, and it’s bullshit when a democrat says it.

    When we leave, the best that can happen is a fractious-to-the-point-of-random-killing “country” most of which will be dominated by the nearly 2/3rds Shiite majority there. Which will also be exchanging ass-rubs with Iran; the big winners in operation endless clusterfuck. BTW: Hillary’s jawboning of them is as laughable as was Rice’s. Time is on their side, and they know it.

    Additionally, the kurds give fuck-all about “greater Iraq” and what they will do is anyone’s guess, but article 140, the referendum on who rules Kirkuk, is their hole card, and they can play it anytime they want to.

    It’s not that I don’t see enough pieces on Iraq. It’s just that when some blogger starts talking about progress in the mid-east, WITHOUT mentioning the realites of Iraq, little bushian bells start going off. That they don’t for you, is your problem, not mine.
    So far, all that Obama has done is agree to keep stringing out this wretched mistake. Ostensibly, for another 19 months, with all kinds of vaguery about “combat forces” V.
    “training units”, etc., etc.
    The fact is, he’s going to have to bite the bullet and get us out, and when that happens, what’s left is not going to be an asset to us, in any way, shape, or form. What he needs to do is can Petraeus and Odierno, preferably in the next 3-4 months, and then move that schedule up, with WAY more numbers leaving, in this period of relative tranquility. Now is the time for the bandaid-on-the-hairy-leg solution. If he waits until just before the mid-terms (and the withdrawal, at this point, is so end-loaded that, as YOU chose, the operative word IS “offered”) then the risks from getting us out will be compounded times over.

    The short of it is this: The surge succeeded. It kept the lid on until the people who created this bloody Venusian firedrill, could get out of town and drop the pinless hand-grenade in Obama’s lap. The longer he waits to dispose of it, the worse it’s going to be when he does…IF he does. And ignoring this while chortling about Hillary’s maiden junket, is toting the hod for the people who helped get us into this mess. We don’t need to be doing that.

    Watch Basra and it’s environs, for the results of the Brits leaving. If the Sadrists and the other militias start moving and stirring, and Maliki sends troops in again, it’s likely that they won’t be able to suppress it, without our military to help them. And that’s the first little mine canary that bears watching.

    I think the top end of our military, now purged of realists like Fallon, would, in their heart of hearts, be perfectly at ease with a reversion to the bad old days. It would validate their staying, and cut the legs off Obama’s plan to leave. Which is why I say he should take advantage of the stability that’s there now, to make big draw-downs relatively soon.

    It’s also why I say that talking about mid-east progress without mentioning Iraq, is laughable.

    • macaquerman says:

      Interestingly, I’ve probably read ten thousand times that Iraq is nothing compared to Israel/Palestine.
      I like a lot of what you say about the Venusian fire-drill, but while I seldom chortle, I do think that Obama came into office with many places unsettled.
      Do you think that he has to advance on all fronts at the same time, that only Iraq should occupy his attention, or just that things are too fouled-up to ever improve?

    • Leen says:

      Many people would still be alive if they would have sent in the numbers Shensiki said the Bush administration needed for their unnecessary war. Surge right away….oh I think that is called the Powell Doctrine

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