Bloggers on the Middle East peace conference.

Bloggers on the Middle East peace conference.

Bloggers on the Middle East peace conference.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Nov. 28 2007 5:45 PM

Notes on Annapolis

Bloggers assess the Annapolis Middle East peace summit and Pervez Musharraf's resignation as the head of Pakistan's army.

Notes on Annapolis: President Bush has appointed James L. Jones, a former NATO commander, to act as the go-between in fostering a peace deal between Arabs and Israelis, the New York Times reports. This may be the only substantial accomplishment of the Annapolis summit that occurred Tuesday, in which both sides agreed only to negotiate a binding peace deal. Many bloggers were skeptical of the summit's efficacy, particularly given Syria's involvement and Saudi Arabia's apparent lack of interest in the proceedings.

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At Commentary's Contentions blog, Noah Pollak thinks the conference is a feint: "Annapolis is really about the Bush administration, not the peace process. It has been Condi's pet project; she has shuttled to Israel and the Palestinian territories on a monthly basis for almost a year; she has been permitted by President Bush to prioritize a quixotic diplomatic endeavor over and above other crises that by any sensible measure are of far greater concern for the United States—Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Syria and Hizballah, and Pakistan, to name a few."

Marty Peretz at the New Republic's Spine was moved by Olmert's concern for the plight of Palestinians, and analyzes the "Saudi delegation … without whose presence the Palestinian mustering of their cousins would have looked hollow.  And it was the long-serving foreign minister who came, a son of the king, no less.  His conditions for attending weren't at all forthcoming: that he not be put in a position where he would be obliged to shake Olmert's hand or exchange words with him."

Worse than that, notesRoger L. Simon: "The Saudi Foreign Minister didn't even bother to put on his ear phones for Olmert's speech. Well, how despicable is that! Not as despicable as the sick, misogynist Saudi culture itself - very little could be - but a plenty could indication of the values and character of the Saudi leadership"

But Paul Woodward at War in Context asks: "[I]f Olmert really feels the Palestinians' pain, how come he's just about to cut off the electricity to Gaza? An Israeli leader who acknowledges Palestinian suffering and its roots even while he persists in inflicting more suffering… This is honey-sweetened sadism."

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The Middle East-oriented MEMRI Blog offers a bit of scuttlebutt: "A knowledgeable Iranian source has said that Iran's regime heads are perturbed by Syria's participation in the Annapolis conference, even though it is not on a senior level. The source said that the Iranian leadership had tried to dissuade Syria from going to Annapolis, and added that Syria's deciding only at the last minute to do so indicates that it is wary of undermining its relations with Iran."

Daniel Levy, the Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative as well as a former adviser on the Oslo Accords, posts at TPM Cafe: "[I]f the post-Annapolis process is to gain real traction, then it must be recognized that a divided Palestinian polity cannot midwife a stable, implementable peace. The Hamas spoiler potential is not solely or even principally about its ability to deploy violence but, rather, about the credibility and legitimacy of a process that excludes a democratically elected party."

Terror Wonk Aaron Mannes paints a hypothetical: "If Syria switched teams, from its current alignment with Iran to the U.S. aligned Arab states led by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Gulf states, it would be a diplomatic masterstroke. It would isolate Iran and cut loose its key terrorist proxies: Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the lesser Damascus-based groups. If it could be done, it might even be worth paying Syria's price – return of the Golan Heights and wiping the slate clean on past Syrian support for terrorism, including the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri."

Dr. Marwan Asmar, managing editor of Amman's Star Weekly, is cynical about the whole affair at Online Journal: " Privately Washington knows the Arab world has long become the careless sick man of Europe, but argues a little pandering now and then would not do any harm. It sends public blessings to the Israelis to carry on their business-as-usual with the Palestinians, while embroiling them in a continuous hand-shaking formula that means much political-speak but no practical action on the ground."

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Read more about Annapolis.

Citizen Musharraf: Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani is Pakistan's new army chief of staff after President Pervez Musharraf formally stepped down from the position Wednesday, thought the move is seen mostly as a concession to international pressure after weeks of a state of emergency and crackdown on media.

Stanley Kurtz at the National Review's Corner thinks  the United States can't afford to jettison Musharraf, especially now that his key rival, Nawaz Sharif, is back in Pakistan: "If we abandon Musharraf, there is a serious risk that Sharif could be the beneficiary, resulting in a much less pro-Western and a much more Islamist-friendly Pakistan. A direct takeover of Pakistan by the Taliban may be unlikely, but control of the country by an increasingly Islamist-leaning mainstream politician like Sharif is all too possible." Moderate Michael van der Galien agrees: "As far as I'm concerned, this seems to be a step in the right direction. Musharraf is a too important ally. The West can't afford to lose him, mostly because we don't know what his potential successor would do."

Arif Rafiq at the Pakistan Policy Blog explains: "Essentially, the issue was presidential power. Musharraf wanted to ensure that once the uniform was removed, he'd be assured not just the presidency, but the presidency whose powers he vastly increased through the Legal Framework Ordinance. These powers are critical for him to continue military-led nation-building."

Meanwhile, E-Lho at Seminal argues: "As head of the army, leading the 'war on terror' in Pakistan was at the top of General Musharraf's to do list. As president, Musharraf will have to answer to the people; he will have to hear and respond to their complaints, their demands and their needs. Needs like education, health care and infrastructure will no longer take a backseat to the trumped up 'war on terror', and making tangible progress for the people in Pakistan will likely become the toughest challenge Musharraf has yet to face."

Read more about Citizen Musharraf.

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.