|Southwest Asia News Digest
Pressure on Obama To Push for Israel-Palestine Solution
Nov. 21 (EIRNS)Three prominent figures in the American foreign-policy establishmentBrent Scowcroft, Henry Siegman, and Zbigniew Brzezinskihave called on President-elect Obama to take immediate action, on Jan. 21, 2009, to reach a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In a Nov. 21 Washington Post op-ed, Scowcroft and Brzezinski called for a Presidential announcement on the day after the inauguration: "A key element in any new initiative," they wrote, "would be for the U.S. President to declare publicly what, in the view of this country, the basic parameters of a fair and enduring peace ought to be. These should contain four principal elements: 1967 borders, with minor, reciprocal and agreed-upon modifications; compensation in lieu of the right of return for Palestinian refugees; Jerusalem as a real home to two capitals; and a nonmilitarized Palestinian state." While acknowledging weaknesses in the current situation, including the Hamas-Fatah split and the upcoming elections in Israel, the authors asserted, "This weakness can be overcome by a president speaking out clearly and forcefully about the fundamental principles of the peace process; he also must press the case with steady determination. That initiative should then be followednot precededby the appointment of a high-level dignitary to pursue the process on the president's behalf, a process based on the enunciated Presidential guidelines."
In an Nov. 13 article in Al-Hayat, Henry Siegman, the director of the Middle East Project at the New York Council on Foreign Relations, on whose board sit both Scowcroft and Brzezinski, warned that "the next occupant of the Oval Office will be the last American president to be able to save the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. If he does not pursue and achieve this goal during the first year of his Presidency, the two-state 'horizon' that President George W. Bush pursued so ineffectively is likely to disappear for good." Siegman added, "The terms of a workable agreementformulated in the Clinton Parameters and elaborated in the Taba discussions that followedare well-known, and enjoy near-universal support. What has been missing is the political will to get the parties to act on these parametersa political and moral failure that has doomed all previous efforts. This failure has not been the result of ignorance, but of cowardicea willful disregard by successive American administrations and by much of the international community of certain unchanging fundamentals that underlie this conflict."
Sources close to the Obama Transition Team report that a private memorandum, signed by Siegman, Scowcroft, and Brzezinski, was delivered to the President-elect, making the essential points of the two op-eds. These sources say that the pressure on Obama to act immediately after his inauguration is tied to the Israeli elections in February. Siegman et al. believe that if Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is elected, the peace opportunity is dead, and that a strong signal from the new President about serious focus on the Israel-Palestine situation could be the decisive factor in defeating Netanyahu.
Siegman is known to act independently of the CFR, although he maintains an office on its premises and enjoys CFR sponsorship of his Middle East efforts, because he draws a significant amount of money into the Council. Two big financial backers of his Project are members of the Crown and Pritzker familiestwo of the earliest and biggest backers of the Obama Presidential campaign.
Miliband Visits Syria To Renew Intelligence Links
Nov. 19 (EIRNS)The London Times reports that the main reason for British Foreign Secretary David Miliband's visit to Damascus was to renew high-level links between the British and Syrian intelligence services. This had already been brought up during a meeting between Miliband and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in New York earlier this year, according to Syrian sources cited by the Times. Moallem invited Miliband to take British intelligence officials with him when he visited Damascus.
Miliband's visit to Damascus was the first by a British Foreign Secretary in seven years, and is being presented as an attempt to give President-elect Barack Obama a message that he should drop the Bush Administration's anti-Syrian policy when he enters office. A more likely intention is that the British intend to run interference against a positive U.S. role in the region, in line with their Sykes-Picot strategic policy of dividing the Mideast into competing fiefdoms under imperial control.