Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sirte

Syria Disses Obama Once Again

The Obami’s engagement of Syria – like its engagement of Iran, its bow-and-scrape routine with China, and its quietude on human rights atrocities — really hasn’t panned out. To the contrary, it is earning the contempt of the Syrian regime, which senses that no behavior, no public statement, and no human rights abuses are too egregious to put it on the wrong side of its overeager suitors in Washington. The latest:

Syria and Libya teamed up Sunday to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to quit peace talks with Israel and return to violence, delegates to an Arab leadership summit said.

In the wake of that call, Arab leaders gathered at their summit Sirte, Libya on Sunday failed to reach a consensus on whether the Palestinians should resume stalled talks with Israel. …

Syrian President Bashar Assad urged Abbas to withdraw from a U.S.-supported peace strategy and resume armed resistance to Israel, according to two delegates who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

They said Assad also urged Arab countries to halt any contacts with Israel, though only Cairo and Amman have peace deals with Israel.

“The price of resistance is not higher than the price of peace,” one delegate quoted Assad as telling Abbas.

This follows Obama’s decision – without any sign of cooperation or behavior modification by Assad — to return our ambassador to Damascus. This has earned us a joint press conference featuring Assad and Ahmadinejad bashing the U.S. and turning up the genocidal language, a refusal by Assad to acknowledge let alone curb arms transfers to Hezbollah, and now a blast aimed at disrupting the peace process. Does any of this earn a “condemnation” by the Obama government? No, that sort of thing is reserved for our democratic ally Israel. Does it cause us to rethink the merits of unilateral gestures toward Assad? No sign of that yet.

The Obami seem blissfully unaware that suck-uppery to the Muslim World is earning us no credit and quite a bit of contempt. That one deluded gambit (Syrian engagement) collides with another (proximity talks with Palestinians unwilling even to meet directly with Israel) seems not to matter. They are driven by an ideological fervor immune to reason and impervious to facts. It seems there is nothing the objects of their affection could do to cause the Obami to reconsider — and as the despots realize this, they are encouraged to engage in even more aggressive and outlandish behavior. There is nothing remotely “smart” about the Obama’s Middle East policy.

The Obami’s engagement of Syria – like its engagement of Iran, its bow-and-scrape routine with China, and its quietude on human rights atrocities — really hasn’t panned out. To the contrary, it is earning the contempt of the Syrian regime, which senses that no behavior, no public statement, and no human rights abuses are too egregious to put it on the wrong side of its overeager suitors in Washington. The latest:

Syria and Libya teamed up Sunday to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to quit peace talks with Israel and return to violence, delegates to an Arab leadership summit said.

In the wake of that call, Arab leaders gathered at their summit Sirte, Libya on Sunday failed to reach a consensus on whether the Palestinians should resume stalled talks with Israel. …

Syrian President Bashar Assad urged Abbas to withdraw from a U.S.-supported peace strategy and resume armed resistance to Israel, according to two delegates who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

They said Assad also urged Arab countries to halt any contacts with Israel, though only Cairo and Amman have peace deals with Israel.

“The price of resistance is not higher than the price of peace,” one delegate quoted Assad as telling Abbas.

This follows Obama’s decision – without any sign of cooperation or behavior modification by Assad — to return our ambassador to Damascus. This has earned us a joint press conference featuring Assad and Ahmadinejad bashing the U.S. and turning up the genocidal language, a refusal by Assad to acknowledge let alone curb arms transfers to Hezbollah, and now a blast aimed at disrupting the peace process. Does any of this earn a “condemnation” by the Obama government? No, that sort of thing is reserved for our democratic ally Israel. Does it cause us to rethink the merits of unilateral gestures toward Assad? No sign of that yet.

The Obami seem blissfully unaware that suck-uppery to the Muslim World is earning us no credit and quite a bit of contempt. That one deluded gambit (Syrian engagement) collides with another (proximity talks with Palestinians unwilling even to meet directly with Israel) seems not to matter. They are driven by an ideological fervor immune to reason and impervious to facts. It seems there is nothing the objects of their affection could do to cause the Obami to reconsider — and as the despots realize this, they are encouraged to engage in even more aggressive and outlandish behavior. There is nothing remotely “smart” about the Obama’s Middle East policy.

Read Less

“Rescue” Jerusalem

What a difference a year makes. In January 2009, Arab League summitry was in disarray. Members assembling to discuss the Gaza crisis couldn’t even agree on holding a single, unified summit: “moderates” met in Kuwait that month and “radicals” in Doha, Qatar, with factional differences centering on suspicion of Iran and the rift between Fatah and Hamas. When the annual Arab League summit convened in March 2009, observers largely agreed with this assessment that the meeting ended ingloriously, yielding no decisions of substance.

The atmosphere is markedly different as the 2010 summit opens this week in Sirte, Libya. For one thing, with Libya acting as host, it appears that longstanding disputes between Muammar Qaddafi and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt are being papered over. Lebanon’s President Suleiman will not attend the summit due to a Lebanese grudge against Qaddafi dating to 1978, but he’s the only holdout. Lebanon will probably send a lower-level delegation; pressure is mounting for a show of unity by the league’s membership. Saudi Arabia is also hard at work on brokering a last-minute reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas so that a unified Palestinian delegation can be assembled for the leaders’ meetings on March 27 and 28.

The push for unity, in conjunction with Libya’s de facto readmission to the ranks of the respectable, distinguishes this summit from its predecessors over the past decade. And there is no mistaking the basis on which Libya has been restored to the fold: Qaddafi has spent the past 18 months accusing Israel of fomenting strife in Africa, charging Israel with genocide in the UN, and agreeing with Bashar al-Assad that the Arab nations must “unite against Israel.”

Reports this week have concentrated on the upcoming summit’s agenda of unifying Arabs to “rescue Jerusalem.” The wording of that theme seems to have emerged after the Obama administration overreacted to Israel’s March 9 announcement on construction in East Jerusalem. A presentation outlining the “occupation” of Jerusalem since 1967 is now promised as a summit event, with the yet-to-be-assembled Palestinian delegation on the hook to brief it.

In light of the energy building for this summit, Tuesday’s news that the Arab League is seeking closer cooperation with Iran strikes an ominous note. The impetus for that move comes as much from the regional perception that U.S. policy is ineffective as from any other source. Obama proposes, moreover, to shore up the Arab nations against Iran by arming them, an approach hardly calculated to act as a brake on anti-Israel rhetoric or actions. With Russia making landmark arms deals with Saudi Arabia and Libya (as well as Kuwait and Algeria), conditions are ripening for partisan saber-rattling — as they deteriorate for honestly brokered negotiations and a peaceful resolution.

Support for Israel in the U.S. Congress is an encouraging sign after the barrage of rhetorical attacks from the Obama administration. But it’s the president whose signals are typically decisive for both allies and opponents abroad. The Arab League’s members have been reading Obama’s signals for more than a year now. Their posture in Sirte this weekend will be a reflection of the effect he has had.

What a difference a year makes. In January 2009, Arab League summitry was in disarray. Members assembling to discuss the Gaza crisis couldn’t even agree on holding a single, unified summit: “moderates” met in Kuwait that month and “radicals” in Doha, Qatar, with factional differences centering on suspicion of Iran and the rift between Fatah and Hamas. When the annual Arab League summit convened in March 2009, observers largely agreed with this assessment that the meeting ended ingloriously, yielding no decisions of substance.

The atmosphere is markedly different as the 2010 summit opens this week in Sirte, Libya. For one thing, with Libya acting as host, it appears that longstanding disputes between Muammar Qaddafi and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt are being papered over. Lebanon’s President Suleiman will not attend the summit due to a Lebanese grudge against Qaddafi dating to 1978, but he’s the only holdout. Lebanon will probably send a lower-level delegation; pressure is mounting for a show of unity by the league’s membership. Saudi Arabia is also hard at work on brokering a last-minute reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas so that a unified Palestinian delegation can be assembled for the leaders’ meetings on March 27 and 28.

The push for unity, in conjunction with Libya’s de facto readmission to the ranks of the respectable, distinguishes this summit from its predecessors over the past decade. And there is no mistaking the basis on which Libya has been restored to the fold: Qaddafi has spent the past 18 months accusing Israel of fomenting strife in Africa, charging Israel with genocide in the UN, and agreeing with Bashar al-Assad that the Arab nations must “unite against Israel.”

Reports this week have concentrated on the upcoming summit’s agenda of unifying Arabs to “rescue Jerusalem.” The wording of that theme seems to have emerged after the Obama administration overreacted to Israel’s March 9 announcement on construction in East Jerusalem. A presentation outlining the “occupation” of Jerusalem since 1967 is now promised as a summit event, with the yet-to-be-assembled Palestinian delegation on the hook to brief it.

In light of the energy building for this summit, Tuesday’s news that the Arab League is seeking closer cooperation with Iran strikes an ominous note. The impetus for that move comes as much from the regional perception that U.S. policy is ineffective as from any other source. Obama proposes, moreover, to shore up the Arab nations against Iran by arming them, an approach hardly calculated to act as a brake on anti-Israel rhetoric or actions. With Russia making landmark arms deals with Saudi Arabia and Libya (as well as Kuwait and Algeria), conditions are ripening for partisan saber-rattling — as they deteriorate for honestly brokered negotiations and a peaceful resolution.

Support for Israel in the U.S. Congress is an encouraging sign after the barrage of rhetorical attacks from the Obama administration. But it’s the president whose signals are typically decisive for both allies and opponents abroad. The Arab League’s members have been reading Obama’s signals for more than a year now. Their posture in Sirte this weekend will be a reflection of the effect he has had.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.