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The other day, Steve Clemons cited this Daniel Levy quote (from a Guardian article) on how George Mitchell might use his experience in Northern Ireland to forge an effective approach to Hamas: In Northern Ireland, a distinction was drawn between the political wingof the Republican movement, Sinn Fein, and its military wing, the IRA.The same might be done with Hamas’s political wing and its armedmilitia, the Izz-Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, Levy said. I ran that by our very own Frida Ghitis, who sent me this link to a piece she wrote on Hamas for McClatchy, along with these remarks, which she […]

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For all the diplomatic fallout of the Gaza War, the deterioration in Israeli-Turkish relations might be the most alarming. This YouTube video of the Davos Forum where Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed off the stage (at the 1:01:30 mark) after not being permitted to respond to Israeli President Shimon Peres’ remarks, is stunning. Peres’ remarks, too, are remarkable for their passion at a forum that is known for its collegial calm. (They begin at the 39:30 mark.) Notice, too, the body language of Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa during Peres’ remarks. Erdogan’s anger was directed at panel […]

GADHAFI REACHES OUT — In recent days, Washington has been the target of a mini-media blitz by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, including an op-ed piece in the New York Times and a video conference with Georgetown University students. The advertised purpose of both was to push Gadhafi’s idea of a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, which he calls Isratine. But as commentator Dana Moss points out in the Guardian this week, the quirky Libyan leader is reaching out to the Obama administration “using his stance towards Israel as bait.” According to a Libyan source in Tripoli, Gadhafi is disappointed […]

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There’s not really a whole lot to take issue with concerning the content of President Barack Obama’s interview with Al Arabiya. In terms of the scripted aspects — Israelis’ right to security, Palestinians’ right to a state — he was on point, and where he ventured off the script, it was to offer some compelling improvisation. For me, three things stood out: the remarks about his Muslim family members; his reference not to Israelis and Palestinians, but to Israeli and Palestinian children; and his emphasis on listening. What they all had in common was the way in which they personalized […]

In his first major interview since taking office, pointedly given to the Arab-language network Al-Arabiya, President Barack Obama reached out to the Arab and Muslim world, vowing to forge “a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest.” The president reiterated his wish to engage with Iran in a sharp reversal from his predecessor. “It is important to us,” he highlighted, “to be willing to talk to Iran.” Given Obama’s new emphasis on reconciliation in the Middle East and his willingness to speak directly to controversial interlocutors, is the U.S. government hinting it will hold direct talks with Hamas? […]

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World Politics Review’s managing editor, Judah Grunstein, appeared on the French-language edition of France 24’s panel discussion, Le Débat, alongside European Parliament Member Véronique de Keyser, historian Anne Graatz and Bassam Tayara, Paris bureau chief for the Lebanese daily Al Akhbar. Topics of discussion were President Obama’s Al Arabiya interview, Middle East policy and the appointment of George Mitchell as Special Envoy. Part one of the program can be found here. Part two can be found here.

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I did another appearance on France 24 this evening, my first in French. (I’ll have a link when it goes online tomorrow.) And while waiting in the green room — which is neither green, nor really a room — I chatted with an American journalist here in Paris. He was very dismissive of Nicolas Sarkozy’s efforts to broker a Gaza ceasefire, saying that in conducting an independent diplomatic mission that simultaneously overshadowed and undermined the EU’s concurrent mission, Sarkozy had effectively signalled the death knell of the EU’s common foreign policy. And I responded by saying that if so, perhaps […]

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Andrew Sullivan cites this passage from Michael Totten: . . .While a final peace with the Arabs and Palestinians is as elusive asever, most Israelis expect a period of relative quiet now thatdeterrence has been established on its eastern border with the WestBank, on its northern border with Lebanon, and on its southwesternborder with Gaza. Totten conveys a sense of guarded pessimism. But seriously, if that’s not a time when Israel can afford to make a generous peace gesture, when is? Israel will never negotiate with an enemy it has just been “defeated” by, because that would be a sign […]

Taken as a whole, the European Union disposes of enormous foreign policy resources. Its population is larger than that of the United States or Russia. Its members have approximately 2,000 diplomatic missions. It provides more foreign aid than any individual country. Indeed, since its formation in 1993, the EU has striven to bolster its collective foreign policy capabilities, based on the underlying assumption that even the most powerful EU members will have more international influence when they unite around a common position and speak with a single voice than when they act alone. Yet, the EU’s Common Foreign and Security […]

ICC TRIAL TO TAKE AIM AT CHILD SOLDIER USE — Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court hope the impending trial of Democratic Republic of Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga will focus international attention on the plight of child soldiers, and serve as a warning to others around the world that use of children in combat will result in prosecution. Lubanga is charged with three counts of war crimes for recruiting child soldiers into the armed wing of his Union of Congolese Patriots group. Hundreds of children as young as 10, prosecutors charge, were kidnapped or recruited by Lubanga, then beaten, […]

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Muammar Qaddafi’s proposal for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will of course be dismissed as a demographic death sentence for the idea of a Jewish state. But the vision he fashions in his NY Times op-ed of the mutual benefits the two peoples can offer each other is a noble one. I’ve defended it often, despite charges of being naive, because I’d rather be naive in defense of a noble vision than realistic in defense of a bankrupt one. Beyond that, the piece is full of things I never expected to hear coming from the leader of an […]

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This IHT article on how the Gaza War has kept Arab countries from progressing on other important issues in the region — including illiteracy, education, unemployment, and food and water supplies — reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write up a report from the Strategic Foresight Group titled, Cost of Conflict in the Middle East. The report (.pdf summary here) essentially does a detailed economic analysis of the opportunity costs of Middle East conflict, and I thought I’d pass on some of the eye-opening highlights from the summary they sent me: – The countries in the Middle East that […]

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This IHT article on how the Gaza War has kept Arab countries from progressing on other important issues in the region — including illiteracy, education, unemployment, and food and water supplies — reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write up a report from the Strategic Foresight Group titled, Cost of Conflict in the Middle East. The report (.pdf summary here) essentially does a detailed economic analysis of the opportunity costs of Middle East conflict, and I thought I’d pass on some of the eye-opening highlights from the summary they sent me: – The countries in the Middle East that […]

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Very smart post from Andru Exawama on the political aftermath on the ground in Gaza. Short version: Hamas needs to be the one that rebuilds Gaza to win the war. That’s behind the skirmishes with Fatah that have already broken out, as well as Israel’s insistence that aid be delivered through the U.N. and NGOs, although Exum doesn’t mention it. And as Josh Marshall points out, polling in Israel in advance of the February elections has now shifted further to the right, with Benjamin Netanyahu still favored, but far right Yisrael Beiteinu now polling an unprecedented 16 seats. This could […]

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I agree with Greg Scoblete’s comments at RCW Blog regarding Col. H.R. McMaster’s World Affairs article on the lessons of Vietnam and Iraq. McMAsters is known as the “brain behind Petraeus” (which is kind of like saying the “muscle behind Tyson” circa 1985), and he argues that in both wars, Pentagon planners intoxicated by technological advances misjudged the nature of the war they were entering. Here’s Scoblete: If we collectively decide that the problem with the Iraq war was thatDonald Rumsfeld and company were insufficiently mindful of populationsecurity and overly optimistic about high-tech warfare, then we haven’tactually learned anything. . […]

In her Senate confirmation hearing last week, incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that American foreign policy under President Barack Obama must blend military, diplomatic and humanitarian efforts, in equal measure. “We must use what has been called ‘smart power,’ the full range of tools at our disposal.” While consistent with Obama’s longstanding call for greater international cooperation to address the world’s problems, the idea of “smart power” gained widespread popularity in military and diplomatic circles during George W. Bush’s second term. Obama’s national-power strategy represents an evolution, not a revolution. At a speech at Kansas State University in […]

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This WaPo piece (via Laura Rozen) is good news. Amid all the commentary saying how the Gaza War was a major setback for President Obama’s Middle East agenda, I remained convinced that it should not keep him from investing fully into the cleanup immediately upon taking office. It could very well be true that the realistic potential for success has been limited, but a lot of that will depend on the timing of where and when diplomatic resources are brought to bear. And George Mitchell brings a lot of cred to the job.

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