Wednesday, May 20, 2009


"Middle Eastern disappointments are mounting and some of the Arab hopes in Obama have begun to fade. The Syrians are saying that in three months Obama’s policies in the Middle East should be clear. By that time elections in Lebanon and Iran will be over and the dust will have had time to settle. If US policy changes have not taken shape by then, they probably will not take shape at all. A number of Syrian officials got mud on their faces with the sanctions fiasco. They had supported the notion that Washington had indeed turned a new page.

Palestinian officials said they were disappointed that Monday’s round of U.S.-Israeli talks in Washington produced no clear progress on the removal of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank or other issues they feel are crucial to rejuvenating stalled peace negotiations.

Israel stood firm against demands from Barack Obama on Monday to cease the construction of Jewish settlements and embrace the “two-state solution” to achieving peace in the Middle East".

"Is Obama turning into a Bust", 18th May 2009, in

"Tout commence en mystique, et tout finit en politique,"

Charles Peguy, Notre Jeunesse (1910).

My distant friend Joshua Landis' Syria Comment, is no doubt the best source for information and news about the regime in Damascus. Of that there is as the French say: il va sans doute. However, as I have had a chance to observe on more than one occasion, Landis' reading of American policy and indeed at times European policy in the region leaves a lot to be desired. For example in the late Winter and Spring of 2008, he was predicting that the European powers would 'break' with the Bush regime's policy of boycotting Syria, and, indeed engage the latter `a la what Turkey has been doing. At the time, I wrote and told Joshua Landis directly that this is a rather unlikely scenario. And, subsequent events unfortunately perhaps have proven me rather than Landis correct. Similarly, with the election of the new American administration, Syria Comment, was initially widely enthusiastic, taking for real coin, the drops of symbolism that was (and is) coming out of Washington. Whereas, I on several occasions, going back to mid-November, opined that due to a variety of factors, including the staffing of the new administration, the caliber of the new American President, and, indeed, certain patterns of behavior that one can expect from new President's, most especially Democratic Party Presidents, one should expect very little indeed from the new regime in Washington. And, that especially in the case of Syrian-Israeli relations, while the new administration would most definitely not block or attempt to block any ongoing peace negotiations between Tel Aviv and Damascus, it would most definitely not endeavor to 'jump start', the same either. In short, any progress between the Israelis and the Arabs would come due to progress between the parties themselves, and, not due to any American pressure or positive policy. `A la 1977 (Sadat's Trip to Jerusalem) and 1993 (Oslo Talks). So the same has come to pass. With the electoral triumph of Netanyahu and his coalition partners in the recent elections, any idea of an organic Israeli-Syrian peace process, has become completely unstuck. Consequently, any moves along the path to peace at this point depends upon the Americans forcing the pace, and, indeed, specifically forcing the pace on the Israelis. In light of Netanyahu's recent meeting with his American counter-part, there does not appear to be any signs of anything like this occurring. Apparently, only now is Landis willing to acknowledge that the Apostle Paul does not have at the moment any American devotees...


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