Presented by Lapham's Quarterly and the Institute for the Future of the Book

Comments by

Raghida Dergham

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4. The Wider Regional Context, paragraph 8
January 8, 2007, 5:56 pm

Any deal between Syria and Israel should be bilateral and a sovereign right of both countries. The content of this recommendation is fine but, once again, the offense is in the linkage of this recommendation with recommendation 15 stating that “IN exchange for these actions”… The ICG repeatedly suggests MISTAKINGLY that Syria is willing to do anything and everything in order to get back the occupied Golan Heights. The larger mistake is in the insinuation throughout the report that Syria could use Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon as bargaining chips with the US and Israel. The other faulty inherent suggestion insinuated in the ISG’s Report is that Syria will be willing to seperate from Iran if wooed through charm and a bargaining Bazaar – courtesy of the USA.

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4. The Wider Regional Context, paragraph 7
January 8, 2007, 5:44 pm

The elements in this recommendation are fine and fair but the context is very dangerous as the ISG suggests that those are elements of ” that negotiated peace.” There is no reason why those elements should be tied to a negotiated peace with Israel. These elements should be demands, not a menu to chose from and be rewarded for. Both the Lebanese and the Palestinians , as well as the Iraqis, are owed an explanation and a correction of the context of those elements. It should be clarified that they are meant to be demands.

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4. The Wider Regional Context, entire page
January 8, 2007, 5:33 pm

The last line is offensive to Lebanon because it re-links the “Syrian/Lebanese” track of negotiations with Israel dismissing the fact that UN resolutions have demanded of Syria to respect the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon and to stop interfering with its internal affairs. In effect, this “slash” between Syria and Lebanon returns Lebanon to the dictate of Syria and robs the struggling Democracy from its rightful right to a separate track of negotiations with Israel should it choose to excercise that right .

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4. The Wider Regional Context, paragraph 4
January 8, 2007, 5:22 pm

A very important point which seems, unfortunately, a bit hurried but glad dit is there all the same. The toppling of the democratically elected government of Lebanon and of the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas will have devastating consequences for moderate Arabs throughout the Middle East. All Arabs are watching Lebanon and Palestine where the battle for the future of the whole region is being fought.

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4. The Wider Regional Context, entire page
January 8, 2007, 5:16 pm

This is an essential and courageous recommendation that should be central in the American Public’s understanding of what is required for US policy towards the Middle East in a way that would help safeguard American interests.

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4. The Wider Regional Context, paragraph 2
January 8, 2007, 5:11 pm

The first sentence makes sense and is necessary. But the second part of the sentence which follows is peculiar indeed. Calling for direct talk between Israel and “particularly Syria” is fine but when it is coupled with describing Syria- in the context of talks- as “the principle transit point for shipments of weapons to Hizollah, and which supports radical Palestinian groups,” the ISG leaves behind a smell of a barter deal while bowing to blackmail. Throughout the Report, there is a persistent advancement of Syria as THE most important player in a conscious intent on rehabilitating a regime that is under scrutiny by the International Community ; which opposes vehemently the establishment of an International Tribunal of those involved in several political assassinations in Lebanon; and which is the principle transit point for shipments of weapons to Hizbollah from Iran as well as a supplier of weapons to radical Palestinian groups in Lebanon. Something is desperately wrong with this picture.

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4. The Wider Regional Context, paragraph 1
January 8, 2007, 4:51 pm

This is an essential point and a very important one. The US must get the Palestinian- Israeli conflict off the table and push Israel to a serious commitment to the establishment of a viable Palestinian State and actions which tangibley support such a commitment. Timetables are essential at this point. The longer this conflict lingers the more threatened are the American National interests in the Middle East and beyond.

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3. Dealing with Iran and Syria, paragraph 6
January 8, 2007, 4:39 pm

This is a remarkable observation which should have been entertained as part of a scenario for a quick withdrawal. The ISG admits that “Worst-case scenarios in Iraq could inflame sectarian tensions within Iran, with serious consequences for Iranian national security interests.” But the Report does not recommend to drive this point seriously with Iran to make it clear that the US does have the option for a quick withdrawal which would leave Tehran to inherit its own ill-intentioned investments in Iraq. This should be part of the necessary “conversation” with Iran rather than the exclusive focus on “incentives,” rewards and engagement without any preconditions.

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3. Dealing with Iran and Syria, paragraph 1
January 8, 2007, 4:26 pm

If a diplomatic dialogue with Iran and Syria is to be useful, it must be comprehensive and it must be in fact WITH conditions such as those spelled out in recommendation 15 related to Syria. Engagement with Iran must be preconditioned to halting its blatant interference in Lebanon and Palestinian affairs. The Report is eager to offer incentives to Iran and Syria almost at any price . It should have spent more time understanding the Iranian regional agenda and aspirations in order to make productive policy recommendations. Paragraph 6 of this section proves that Iran continues to benefit from the US invasion, occupation,and continued American military presence in Iraq. If there are no preconditions for the diplomatic dialogue, Iran would have been rewarded twice: Once when the US invaded Iraq and the second time for the price of American withdrawal from Iraq.