Posted by: Tony Carson | 16 September, 2007

Creating order from the Chaos of the Middle East

With no coherent policy in the Middle East, it is next to impossible for us to suss out what will and should be Bush’s next move in the complex chess game of the Middle East (largely of his own creation). And will he make his move after consultation with Rice or Cheney, two diametrically opposed strategists.

David Ignatius at the Washington Post, in an article entitled Cooling The Clash With Iran tries to forecast:

So what are the diplomatic opportunities that might defuse this growing state of tension (in the Middle East)? I count four, and each of them would require the Bush administration to conduct more aggressive diplomacy in the Middle East:

Lebanon. The moment may finally be ripe for a bargain that ends the year-long standoff between Hezbollah and the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. The opportunity for compromise would be agreement on a new president to replace Emile Lahoud. U.S. officials agree with most Lebanese that the right choice would be someone who isn’t closely identified with Syria or with the United States. But it will take some deft maneuvering (and American help) to identify the right candidate and close the deal.

The Palestinian issue. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads back to the Middle East this week to coax Israelis and Palestinians toward agreement on a basic framework for a Palestinian state. The two sides are tantalizingly close, but they will need a strong push from Rice — probably in the form of an American draft document that summarizes points of potential agreement. In taking that step, Rice would upset the Israelis, but if she can produce an agreement in principle that could be ratified at a regional conference in November, she would disarm Iran’s most potent propaganda weapon.

Syria. Petraeus reckons that security assistance from Syria in recent weeks has cut the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq by nearly half. Many top U.S. military officers think the time to engage Syria is now; so do some senior Israeli officials. The Bush administration should be talking with Damascus, quietly.

The Persian Gulf. America’s top military commanders in the Gulf favor an “incidents at sea” agreement with Iran that would reduce the danger of a confrontation. The big problem isn’t the regular Iranian navy but the naval forces of the Revolutionary Guard. An unexpected opportunity for discussion occurred last weekend, when Central Command’s naval chief, Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, appeared on a panel with the brother of the commander of the Revolutionary Guard. This chance encounter at a Geneva meeting of the International Institute for Strategic Studies should be pursued.

The United States and Iran are playing a game of “chicken” in the Middle East. A collision would be ruinous for both. Each side needs to be careful to avoid miscalculation and to act in ways that avert a crackup.



  1. Check out my blog from today on the absolute hell that Baghdad has become. It’s unbelievable what a mess we have created of the Middle East.

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