Secretary Kerry is returning from the Middle East having once again continued his mission to try to jump start a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. While there are voices on both side who appear to be making the right types of sounds suggesting perhaps a willingness to begin a new dialogue, Kerry is operating at time where the turmoil in the Muslim world is so overwhelming that even a very positive thinking Secretary of State ought to be having real second thoughts about the viability of serious prospects for peace. (Kerry also needs to understand that all of this activity between himself and Abbas is “much ado about nothing” until Hamas somehow is able to enter any discussions.) It should be noted that Kerry said he would be back with some of his own ideas in June.
The situation in Syria seems to grow more and more dangerous almost daily. The Assad forces are locked in continuing combat with insurgent rebels of all types. Iranian forces are deeply engaged including some of the elite troops as are Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon. Russian missiles, anti-missiles systems, and sophisticated radar equipment are all deeply engaged at various levels as the military conflict continues to escalate. Meanwhile Sunni forces from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are supporting–at least financially–the rebel forces arrayed against Assad.
In this environment Kerry continues to apparently have convinced himself that he can bring the Russians together with other members of the P +1 to a conference in Geneva to begin a constructive approach to settling the Syrian bloodshed. What Kerry does not yet understand, apparently, is what has frustrated so many American diplomats who have sought to engage a peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians before him. There were and there remain willing partners for peace on both sides, but largely any of the political leaders who might be supportive of an active process are genuinely scared that they will end up like Sadat, murdered by his own hard liners. In fact the extremist voices today are so much more dominant and carry much more of the widespread religious fundamentalist fervor than was ever the case in the past. The most pro-peace forces today have a realistic notion that making peace in this environment is indeed wishful thinking.
Now enters the latest—perhaps even most serious—fly in the ointment. Recent activity in Boston and now in London begins to suggest that maybe anti-West, anti-Israel, radical Islamists have morphed into terror cells which are ready to open up blatant, violent attacks. Kerry might do well to consider whether those who view pro-peace Muslims as marginal and radical Muslims emboldened may truly have a more serious point than he would like to concede. All of this makes his determination and optimism sadly naïve.