Tuesday, August 01, 2006


To return to something I touched on briefly before.

Somebody remarked that, in the Middle East, all conflicts are linked, but they have to be solved one by one. I also heard somewhere that it is the radical ideology (of islamists) that unless you can solve all problems, you can't solve any. That ultimately is their justification for violence. That too is why some are prepared to 'understand' the violence in the absence of 'a long-term solution that will bring justice to the Palestinians'. The quote is from Zaki Chehab in the New Statesman, but many more examples could be found.

That is why I think it is a tactical mistake for both Rice and Blair to talk about 'making a new Middle East'. It allows the BBC to describe him as using 'neo-conservative rhetoric'. This rhetoric too entertains the idea that 'these conflicts are all linked because Islamism is a “seamless totalitarian movement” – in the words of Michael Gove.'  (Gideon Rachman, via Gregory Djerejian )

Clearly, a solution to the current crisis between Lebanon and Israel cannot wait for the problem of Israel and Palestine to be resolved (desirable as that is in itself). I suppose that Syria will have to be offered something, if only the promise of some sort of process on the Golan Heights being restarted. It has been argued, though, that Bill Clinton spent too much time trying to facilitate a deal between Israel and Syria, so that he literally ran out of time in January 2001 for getting an agreement between Israel and Palestine. Still, though the effort failed with Assad, père, it could be worth trying again with Assad, fils.

On the Gaza side, news was coming through Saturday (on the BBC WS) that a deal on the exchange of prisoners for the captured Israeli soldier was getting close.

Update: more talk this morning (1 Aug) on France Inter about an exchange of 2 Lebanese prisoners for the 2 captured Israeli soldiers. French FM Douste-Blazy is in Beirut for talks with his Iranian counterpart.

Update 2: Philippe Douste-Blazy, in his appearance last week on France Inter, had to respond to a bizarre question by a listener, suggesting that France, if it had the military means, should be intervening against the bombardment of Lebanon (by Israel). The minister replied by repeating that an international force could only go in if there is a ceasefire and political agreement (9:23-11:27). In general, he followed closely his master's voice: Liban : le plan Chirac.

For more about the talk of a prisoner exchange, see the update to The Prisoners (update).

'Robin Wright of the Washington Post, who explains how the several Middle East crisis are all linked' -  Joshua Landis. The idea that 'problems must be fixed one at a time' comes from Roger Cohen, via Greg Djerejian. Maybe it was myself who combined the two ideas.


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