The Real Issues
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Washington may be getting some guests from the Middle East after all. Until the Israelis and the Palestinians actually enter the room, it is still only words. Once that step is taken, be assured the expected nine months of meetings to discuss and analyze what it is they are discussing will not be smooth sailing. If they succeed at all, it will be very slow, tough sledding, with walk-outs and consultations, etc.
The one very positive accomplishment which Kerry appears to have accomplished already is have no publicity, no playing to the media, and no leaks. This alone is a major achievement in Middle East diplomacy. The problem for the State Department and the President is that this focus on jump-starting the peace process would deflect attention from their difficulty to address the really pressing problems in Syria, Egypt, and Iran.
Syria could explode at any moment and there are no military interferences from the West which are likely to have any effect on the continuing bloodbath. Edward Snowden has created enough of a distraction that Obama’s pre G-20 meeting with Putin at the beginning of September may be in jeopardy. That was going to be the venue for the U.S. to see if it could bring Moscow to modify or qualify its support for Assad and create a more into peace-making mode. Otherwise with the presence now not only of chemical/biological weapons but also Hezbollah fighters and Iranian Revolutionary Guard members, the Government force appears to have stabilized the situation—at a minimum. With approximately 100,000 already dead and with millions wounded, displaced or refuged; with stockpiles of chemical/biological weapons only waiting to be opened; with disarray among the rebels; and with no apparent interest on the Government to resolve the conflict; the U.S. faces a phalanx of Shiite-Iranian-Hezbollah-Iraqi forces which could blow up in the region at any moment.
According to some sources, Egypt faces the possibility of civil war as soon as tomorrow after Friday prayers. With the military calling for demonstrations against the Muslim Brotherhood and the democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, the appointed temporary President, Adly Mansour, clearly is only a figurehead. While the U.S. has still not characterized the deposal of Morsi as a coup—which would effectively cut all military assistance to Egypt– the Pentagon has announced suspension of further delivery of F-16’s which had been ordered at least until the political situation is clarified. Meanwhile, if there is a physical confrontation between pro-and anti-Morsi forces tomorrow and the military intervenes, there could be blood in the streets throughout Egypt.
Finally, as the new Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, prepares to take office at the beginning of August, there have been very few indications from either Teheran or Washington suggesting any positive movement on nuclear weapons talks. The U.S. knows that the Israelis are getting much more anxious again about the possibility of Iran gaining genuine nuclear weapons capability. For Obama, there will be a test of wills; toward Israel, toward continued diplomatic action, toward increased economic pressure, and/ or toward a separate or joint (with Israel) military attack against Iranian nuclear facilities. These decisions could well become more critical during the nine month window of the projected the Israeli-Palestinian talks.