Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice Tour in the
' A cheerleading trip without substance'
By Adel Darwish.
Dr Rice's efforts were to secure four pivotal objectives of American foreign policy in the region:
Whether Middle Eastern, European, or American, most commentators saw no fresh ideas in her trip ' to rekindle the now frozen road map for peace between
She was accused by rightwing Israeli commentators of ' focusing too much on reducing the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza instead of working to get Hamas government to honour Oslo and other agreements signed by its predecessors, renouncing violence and recognising the Jewish state. The lefties, meanwhile, accused her of not addressing the Israeli policies which ushered the Palestinians to vote for Hamas in the first place.
Traditionally visits like Rice's often allow American officials to extract a positive statement from
"The most obvious Israeli gesture would have been to do something about settlements, removing outposts, something
After failing to secure a Palestinian announcement of reaching a national unity government during her visit to Palestinian land, Dr Rice set her sights lower. At a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on October. 4, she said the emphasis should be on opening crossing points from
"Security, the movement and access, economic development, well-being are all interlinked," she said.
If those steps can help salvage the battered Palestinian economy, said David Makovsky, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and if that bolsters Abbas in his outreach to
Dr Rice found herself negotiating some of the same issues she was engaged in last November. And withdrawal from parts of the West Bank, which had been promised by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is even further away after the
Preoccupied with shoring up his government, which, at the time of Rice's visit, was still struggling to survive its failure to crush Hezbollah in the 33 days war, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had little political gifts to offer the visitor.
The war in
Hezbollah and its backers
Commentators or media outlets projecting this analysis failed to mention that the Neo-rejectionists axis lead by Syrian and
This polarisation, with
Cairo-Riyadh-Amman standing firmly against the neo-rejectionists
predated Dr Rice's tour by months. Containing
" It is the alignment of stable powers who support the legitimacy of the nation state to stop it being undermined by the anarchic concept of revolutionary radical parties like Hezbollah or Hamas,'' said Dr Mamoun Fandy, of the International Institute for Strategic Study.
Egyptian intelligence report in the summer named Hamas controlled
The Egyptians are alarmed by Iran creeping into their
historic sphere of influence by arming, financing and supporting Hezbollah,
intervening in the Israeli Palestinian dispute, and in Iraq, and regard Iranian
strategy as undermining Egypt's traditional role and threatening her legitimate
interests, according to Dr Fandy.
neo-rejectionists funded media outlets and their supporters, painting the 33 day war in Lebanon as "victory for Islamic resistance" against the Jewish state which defeated regular armies, have become more than an irritation in Egypt and Jordan as anti-Israel anti America's demonstrations were hijacked by calls to end peace moves and abrogate the peace treaties with Israel.
A combination of all factors above, analysts agree, have forced the Egyptians to lead the bloc lined up against
Washington and London - after patching up differences over the Suez Fiasco – engaged in a robust diplomacy to establish pro-western regional security systems like 'northern tier' alliance to isolate the Soviet Union, and 'Middle East Command' which was soon replaced by the Middle East Defence Organisation, later Baghdad Pact. The pact ended with a blood bath in the Iraqi capital triggered by the communist backed General Abdel-Karim Qasim's 1958 bloody military coup, triggering a chain of countless military coups leading to the mess in Iraq today (enhanced by lack of American coherent strategy in post Saddam Iraq).
There is a temptation, especially among Anti-American analysts, to compare the current Egyptian lead Axis to
Washington dual containment' strategy had succeeded for a decade in isolating the two bullies of the neighbourhood, Iran and Iraq, through economic boycott by US in the case of the earlier and UN sanctions in the case of the latter, both were pariahs in the eyes of the international community. The post 9/11 war on terror, was approved by the Middle Eastern allies – the current moderate axis- and even provided help, though more tacitly than openly to defeat the Taliban in
The pro-western feature of the current pragmatists Axis (
Dr Rice and foreign ministers of
But US officials leaked a different version saying Dr Rice told them separately they must first take difficult steps to create conditions more conducive to greater American involvement.
Dr Rice acknowledged that the Arabs and
"This is an absolutely crucial time in the
American officials confirmed that their pressing goal is to devise a strategy to quickly fill the political vacuum in the region, fearing that militant Islamists fill even more of it, as the populist propaganda tools in the region painted the outcome of the Lebanon war in the summer as " victory for radical Islam ", placing Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah at the helm of mass popularity in the region. This, coupled with media accusation of the west of double standard by isolating Hamas after its electoral victory, has emboldened the Muslim Brotherhood, now the largest opposition bloc in Egyptian parliament.
The urgent need to block the advance of radical Islam, persuaded President George Bush to quietly drop his earlier Wilsonian agenda of universal democratisation and liberalisation of the region.
Dr Rice's trip,
In every meeting Dr Rice was reminded that jump-starting the moribund Palestinian Israeli peace process, was the key to addressing other flashpoints.
Arab leaders themselves don't seem to take practical steps to break the deadlock. The so called collective Arab peace plan reached in Beirut Arab summit Three years ago, was '' never officially presented to
imistic that Prime Minister Blair will call an international conference in London before the end of the year for donors to start the project, to which Mr. Blair would be one of its key leaders after leaving office next year
© Adel Darwish 2006