The Bush administration is not about to bomb Iran (trust me). It’s using diplomacy to build a coalition to balance it, and reverse an ugly tide.
That, according to NY Times columnist David Brooke in Present at the Creation is the reason for Condi Rice’s Quixotic Israel-Palestine peace conference to be held later this month in Maryland.
Rice is constructing a coalition of the losing. There is a feeling among Arab and Israeli leaders that an Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance is on the march. The nations that resist that alliance are in retreat. The peace process is an occasion to gather the “moderate” states and to construct what Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center calls an anti-Iran counter-alliance.
It’s slightly unfortunate that the peace process itself is hollow. It’s like having a wedding without a couple because you want to get the guests together for some other purpose. But that void can be filled in later. The main point is to organize the anti-Iranians around some vehicle and then reshape the strategic correlation of forces in the region.
It’s no wonder Rice has acted so forcefully to forge the “moderate” coalition. She seems to sense what leaders in the region say privately: It’s not so much that they have high hopes of peace; it’s that they are terrified they will fail. If they cannot restart the peace process and build an anti-Iran alliance upon it, then the days of the moderates could be numbered.
Finally, there is the peace process itself. There is remarkably little substance to it so far. Even people inside the Israeli and Palestinian governments are not sure what’s actually going to be negotiated and what can realistically be achieved.