TWO PROMISING DEVELOPMENTS IN
Concerning Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority (hereafter PA), following up a meeting on the 20th between PA President Abbas, and Bush, Washington agreed to the Quartet powers (USA, EU, Russia and UN), easing sanctions that were imposed on the PA, after the victory of Hamas, earlier this year. Specifically, they called on Tel Aviv, to release almost one billion dollars in customs revenues and taxes withheld, after the Hamas victory, approved additional funding for the PA (albeit not directly given to the Hamas government) and even agreed to soften the three conditions, that Hamas must agree to, id est: recognition of Israel, renouncing of violence, agreement to abide by Oslo, prior to being brought out of the diplomatic isolation, imposed earlier this year by the International Community. As the EU’s external relations commissioner, Mme. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, commented: “The Americans have shown understanding and openness’. And, while American sources denied that Washington was ‘going soft’, on Hamas, it is quite clear that the Americans have decided for once, to not veto the possibility (admittedly not very bright at the moment…) of some progress, in possibly resuming talks between Israel and the PA, supervised by the Quartet. The news that Abbas, has raised the idea of an ‘international conference’, to be attended by all the concerned parties, plus some Arab countries, is also positive news. As is the endorsement of the same by French President Chirac. Make no mistake however, the ‘road map’, is not going to be an easy road to traverse. And, indeed it would seem to be the case, which Bush, and Omert, would most likely prefer not to have to use this road to begin with. Both would prefer to spin out, negotiations, until the end of time. And, indeed, already there were claims by Israel’s right wing Likud, that ‘the Quartet’s decision, including the US, behind Israel’s back to support a Palestinian unity government together with Hamas, is very grave’. However, with the discrediting of Sharon’s idea of unilateral disengagement by the Lebanon debacle, and the all too apparent diplomatic weakness of the American position, not only in the Near East, but indeed, one is tempted to say, worldwide, neither Bush nor one hopes Omert, will have the strength of will, or position to veto, any useful proposals that the EU will throw up, in the near future.
Concerning Persia [Iran] and the EU-3, and Washington, again an unexpected (except perhaps to this observer, see my 13 September posting) development has again just occurred. Specifically, Washington has dropped, its insistence on attempting to push through the Security Council, a resolution, implementing sanctions on Persia for failing to abide by Security Resolution # 1696, which had mandated the Tehran stop enrichment of uranium. Until the beginning of this week, it appeared that the Americans were adamant in wanting to have the Council vote on a sanctions resolution of some type. No matter how innocuous the sanctions in question (‘travel sanctions’ being of course the best example of the same). Whether Chirac’s statement at the beginning of the week, made Washington change its tune, or whether or not, a mature calculation by Ambassador Bolton, that the votes for such a Resolution were not there, and or that the EU-3 were unwilling to allow the possibility of seriously resuming the talks to go for naught, which Tehran’s concessions on Solana’s trip to Persia last week has revived, is unclear. What is clear is that once again, surprising most observers, Washington was able to cast aside its preconceived notions of the dangers of diplomatic negotiations, and allow for the possibility that they may actually get somewhere. Again, let us be realistic. Official Washington is divided between those who want to pursue the ‘regime change’ option (Cheney, Bolton, Abrams) and those like who do not (Rice, Burns, Hadley [?]) who do not. As in the case of Iraq policy, the most likely outcome of such divisions, is that a policy of ‘do nothing’, is more likely to be the end result. A policy outcome, which will of course, as in the case of the negotiations with North Korea, mean that nothing positive will come of any attempt to resolve matters. An outcome which will have nothing but negative results in dealing with Persia, just as it has had with North Korea…