When war broke out in the Caucuses between Russia and Georgia, the government of Israel immediately knew it had a difficult situation in its hands. The early phases of the conflict forced Israel to walk a difficult diplomatic path. Before long, Israelis realized that the new global reality reflected by the conflict meant an even more challenging environment in which to handle threats to their security. The rumblings of a new Cold War could well mean that cooperation between the West and Russia on matters crucial to Israel, particularly Iran, is coming to an end. Even worse, a possible new […]

Listening to Iran

I’ve been developing the case for listening to what the Iranians are saying recently, and I think the aftermath of the recent Geneva talks are a perfect example. The P5+1 expected an up or down response to their proposal, a proposal that offered significant incentives — including a very serious American gesture of goodwill — in return for Iran freezing its nuclear enrichment program. In that context, the actual Iranian response, which Hurriyet got a copy of, is of course disappointing. So off we go for another round of sanctions, neither guaranteed to be passed nor likely to be very […]

Turkey’s Iran Shuttle Diplomacy

Speculating over whether the U.S.or Israel will launch military strikes against Iran’s nuclear program is a pretty crowded market these days, so I prefer to concentrate on reading the tea leaves about potential diplomatic solutions to the crisis. And if you look at who’s racking up the frequent flyer miles in the Middle East these days, there’s some thought-provoking possibilities. Fresh off his trip to Tehran, where he denied carrying a message to the Iranian leadership, Syrian President Bashir Assad decided to take a little seaside vacation in Bodrum, Turkey, where he will be joined by Turkish PM Recep Tayyip […]

Behind the Scenes at Geneva Iran Talks

Call it coincidence, but on the very day that the two-week ultimatum for Iran to respond to the P5+1’s “freeze for freeze” offer runs out, Le Monde got its hands on detailed minutes of the Geneva meeting between Javier Solana and Saeed Jalili, attended by William Burns, two weeks ago in Geneva. And not surprisingly, the account isn’t very flattering for Jalili. Apparently he managed to completely ignore Burns, seated only two chairs away from Solana, who spoke only to say the following: I’m happy to be here to transmit a simple message: the United States are serious in their […]

TRIPOLI, Lebanon — On the road into Tripoli from the south, Lebanon’s condo- and casino-dotted coastline rises sharply inland to hills crowded with apartments, churches and mosques. Cable cars running to the high ground provide spectacular views of the turquoise Mediterranean to the west, and of Beirut to the south. Further on, as traffic enters Tripoli, a reassuring sign overhead reads: “Relax, you are in Al-Mina, the city of waves and horizon.” Al-Mina is the name for the section of the city surrounding the pristine harbor, where tourists can take boat trips to islands in the Mediterranean, under the shadow […]