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Solutions to Mideast crises, stuck in limbo Wednesday, 20 August, 2008

Posted by Farbod in Features.
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Press TV – Solutions to Mideast crises, stuck in limbo.

Tue, 19 Aug 2008 10:49:50 GMT
By Daryoush Bavar, Press TV, Tehran

The Middle East is one of the most conflict-prone regions on the face of the Earth. But efforts to find solutions to the crises in the Middle East are seemingly stuck in limbo and major players are on a wait-and-see gear to see who will the next occupant of the Oval Office.

Amongst its many crises, the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict stands out as the mother of all problems in the region. According to the former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not just one regional conflict amongst many. No other conflict carries such a powerful symbolic and emotional charge even for people far away.”

The much-touted Annapolis Conference, proposed by the US President George W. Bush to make peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority before he leaves the White House in January 2009 has failed to produce anything that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can brag about.

Since the conference in November 2007, Israel has failed to live up to its pledges. It has relentlessly built and is planning to build more Jewish settlements. And it is clear that the White House is either unable or reluctant to put pressure on Israel to meet its obligations.

For the Palestinians who are partners to the Annapolis peace talks, things do not look promising. They put their faith in President Bush’s outlook but their hands remain as empty as they were before the Annapolis initiative.

At the current juncture, it is certain that a viable Palestinian state will not exist by the time Bush will leave office and the conclusion one can safely come to is that Bush’s initiative is, if not dead, in a comatose and the chance of reviving it is nonexistent.

On the other hand, despite an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in June 2008, not much has changed for the Strip’s 1.5 million people. The truce has virtually ended the firing of the improvised Palestinian rockets into Israel, but there is no respite in sight for Gazans as Israel continues to enforce its siege against the coastal strip.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) say the health system in Gaza is “collapsing” and has suffered a “severe deterioration” under the pressure of shortages of equipment and spare parts, fuel and trained staff.

On August 4th, Ahmad Yusef, an advisor to the Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyah told Press TV that he was dissatisfied with the status quo in Gaza.

Iraq is another hot spot in the Middle East. The US war there and its recent grappling with the Iraqi government over a long-term security agreement and a time table for its troops withdrawal represent a witch’s brew of problems in the region.

Iraq was occupied under the name of fighting terrorism; instead it has become a hotbed of extremism and terrorism. The US had earlier waged the war in Afghanistan to eliminate Al-Qaeda. But it did not. Then it invaded Iraq with one justification being that Al-Qaeda is present there. They were not there then, but are now.

US President George W. Bush has resisted agreeing with a firm timeline or scheduling for pulling troops out of Iraq. However, in August, the White House said Bush and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki agreed on a general “time horizon” to withdraw. But in the past recent months, Baghdad has been saying that it wants a pullout timetable and deadline.

In another indication that Iraq is hardening its stance over a withdrawal demand, the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said on August 10th that the US must provide a “very clear timeline” for its troops to withdraw in the ongoing negotiations on a security deal.

The deal is to replace a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the US presence, which expires at the end of this year. One sticking point in the negotiations has been Washington’s insistence that its troops must be immune from the Iraqi law. Other stumbling blocks include the power of the US military to detain Iraqi citizens, and their authority to conduct military operations.

In Lebanon, a new national unity government won a vote of confidence. The vote followed days of debate exposing rift among the Western-backed alliance of March 14 and the opposition bloc led by Hezbollah on the issue of the weapons held by Hezbollah and other resistance groups.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese and Syrian presidents agreed to establish full diplomatic relations. Despite these developments, Lebanon’s political factions remain deeply polarized. On the surface, the vote of confidence has brought together the March 14th bloc and the Hezbollah-led alliance.

With the balance of power is in favor of Hezbollah and its allies and with the next Lebanese parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2009, the Western-back alliance will hold its breath in anticipation to see who will be the US President and how he will support the alliance.

There are also uncertainties about a compromise over Iran’s nuclear program. Some experts say the US President George W. Bush is eager to strike a deal on the issue to bolster his party position in the November elections. Others say if President Bush does not show enough flexibility, his successor might be willing to do so.

On the other hand, there are experts who speculate that the US and Israel are considering attacking Iran’s nuclear sites before Bush the White House. At the same time, there are people who argue that the neoconservatives might let Israel attack Iran after election day and before new US President takes office.

On May 29, 2008, Deputy Director of the US National Intelligence Donald Kerr told The Washington Institute for Near East Policy that “Indeed, to some people, the natural inclination is to just slow down and wait. The next (US) administration, they figure, will have its own ideas, and there’s no sense doing something that will only be undone by the next occupant of the Oval Office.”

Today, the Middle East is entangled in various crises and the situation has become more complex than it was in the past. Finding proper and quick solutions to these crises requires realism and attention to the facts on the ground.

There are experts who warn that the void can be a bad sign. Given the recent threats of military action by Tel Aviv against Iran and the Hamas government in Gaza, these experts argue that the possibility of extremist measures or adventurism by the Israeli regime is not unexpected.

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