Wednesday, December 08, 2004

James Baker makes a sugestion :Focus on Mid Eastern Peace

It has been argued that it really wasn't the Weapons of Mass destruction that was the promting point for the US invasion of Iraq. Senior Bush Administration officials insist that Saddam's opposition had doomed American efforts to make peace between the Arabs and the Israelis in the 1980s. This was the basis of the neo-conservative refrain that "the road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad." Likewise, this mistaken conviction was part of the reason that Washington quickly shifted its attention from Afghanistan to Iraq, in the belief that Saddam somehow stood behind both the Taliban and al-Qa'ida. It is certainly the case that Administration figures regularly played fast and loose with the paltry evidence suggesting any kind of relationship between Saddam and bin Ladin, but it is also the case that they did so because they were certain that it existed, even if there was no evidence to support it and most of the evidence available suggested the opposite.

So perhaps the real reason for the invasion was peace in the Middle East. But because the US has become bogged down in Iraq -progress with the Middle East has been put on the back burner. Baker suggest that now, after Yasser Arafat death - the time to act is now. Below is a good analysis's from Slate Magazine - and both New York Time OP pieces it references.

war stories
The Fastest Way To Send a Message
Why is James Baker talking to the president via the New York Times op-ed page?
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Thursday, Dec. 2, 2004, at 6:12 PM ET

Is there about to be a breakthrough in U.S. policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict? If the signs aren't quite hopeful, they're at least extremely intriguing.

Most intriguing is an op-ed piece in today's New York Times by James A. Baker III, urging President George W. Bush to promote the resumption of negotiations, adding, "The time to start is now." The article is fascinating not so much for what it says but for the fact that Baker wrote it at all.

Baker is not merely the man who was secretary of state during the presidency of Bush's father. He also ran the father's re-election campaign. He led W.'s fight against the Florida recount in the 2000 election—which is to say, he's largely responsible for the son's victory. He is widely known as one of the most closely trusted advisers to the entire Bush family. Last year, when Bush tried to persuade European leaders to forgive Iraqi debt, he sent as emissary not his own secretary of state, Colin Powell, but rather, James Baker—as a signal to one and all that the trip was truly serious.

Baker could have called the president on the phone to talk about the Middle East, or any other subject, anytime he wanted. Why did he send the message through the New York Times?

It's worth recalling the last time Baker wrote a Times op-ed piece. It was in August 2002, as the Bush administration was getting set to invade Iraq. In his piece, Baker supported invasion, but he urged Bush not to "go it alone" and to "reject the advice of those who counsel doing so."

The article raised eyebrows all over Washington—and among foreign policy cognoscenti worldwide—for two reasons. First, it amounted to a critique of Bush's foremost security advisers, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, from inside his own family's circle. Second, it was widely assumed that Baker would not have published such an article without at least the tacit approval of the president's father himself, who, along with Baker, had put together a genuinely broad and successful coalition for the 1991 Gulf War.

The following month, President Bush did go to the U.N. General Assembly—against the advice of Cheney and Rumsfeld—and delivered a stern, eloquent, and well-received speech, calling on the Security Council to threaten Iraq with "serious consequences" if Saddam continued to thumb his nose at U.N. resolutions. (Bush's unilateralists won out in the end, six months later, but Baker's arguments seemed to hold sway for at least a while.)

Today's op-ed appears to have been designed with a similar purpose—to send a message to the president, with the pressure of publication behind it. In 2002, Baker meant to thwart action that Bush was about to take as a result of his advisers (invading Iraq without a coalition). Now he means to incite Bush to take action (jump-starting Arab-Israeli peace talks) against some of his advisers' inclinations.

The premise of Baker's piece is that Yasser Arafat's death has "created a unique opportunity for negotiating peace between Arabs and Israelis." Yes, he writes, the president should "continue with his goal of spreading democracy in the Middle East," and the January elections in Iraq are a "critical step in the right direction." But promoting Arab-Israeli peace is "imperative"—both in itself and for these larger goals.

"The road to peace," Baker writes, "does not run through just Jerusalem or just Baghdad. … Today it runs through both." This is a clear reference to the slogan that Bush's neoconservative advisers liked to recite before the invasion of Iraq: "The road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad." In other words, to topple Saddam would be to remove a leading supporter of Palestinian terrorism; moreover, a stable, democratic Iraq would light a blazing trail of freedom across the Middle East. Once this theory proved fanciful, Bush's critics liked to twist the slogan—the road to Baghdad, they said, runs through Jerusalem. In other words, the insurgency can't be defeated—and America's image in the region can't be repaired—until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is addressed. Baker is telling Bush that the critics are right—the road runs both ways.

Baker allows that Palestinian candidates in the upcoming presidential elections must renounce terrorism. Yet he also writes that Israel should announce that, upon the election of such a Palestinian, "it is prepared to resume substantive negotiations for peace without requiring that all terrorist activities cease in advance." The reason is purely pragmatic: Insisting on such a requirement would "simply empower the terrorists themselves to prevent the resumption of peace negotiations."

Following this advice would require Bush to switch his policies and to apply at least a little pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon—in other words, to "reject the advice" (as Baker put it, in the context of Iraq, two years ago) of those in his inner circle who are fine with letting Sharon do whatever he wants, an attitude that may seem "pro-Israel" but that in fact goes against Israel's long-term interests.

Finally, Baker writes that, while the outcome of talks can't be prejudged, "the plan presented by President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000—and rejected by Yasir Arafat—surely offers one plausible place to start." This must have been the hardest passage for Bush to read—as Baker must surely have realized when he wrote it. The primary watchword of George W. Bush's first term was to do the opposite of whatever Bill Clinton did. Baker is telling Bush to get over this neurosis and do the right thing, whatever Clinton may or may not have done.

Baker is probably stepping in at this time, pressuring Bush to get involved in this issue right away, because this is a crucial moment, a rare convergence of opportunities, and Baker—like anyone who's been involved in the delicacies of Middle East peace talks—must be fearful that we might let it pass by.

Violence in the territories has markedly declined since Arafat's death. An apparent moderate, Mahmoud Abbas, is the top candidate to replace Arafat. The announcement by Marwan Barghouti, who is in an Israeli prison for terrorism, that he too might run for the office has been denounced by leading Palestinians and by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Yet in the face of all these trends, a vacuum looms at the top of America's foreign policy apparatus. Powell is a lame-duck secretary of state whose words and actions carry no weight whatever. His replacement, Condoleezza Rice, won't be confirmed for a couple of months at least. Iraq and now Iran are occupying the little space for attention that foreign issues can occupy. Baker is telling his friend that he has to open that space a bit wider to allow for the Arab-Israeli conflict too; that this conflict may hold the key to settling the other conflicts; and that he shouldn't let his advisers—the same advisers who led him astray on Iraq—toss up obstacles on this one.
Fred Kaplan writes the "War Stories" column for Slate. He can be reached at


mber 2, 2004
Talking Our Way to Peace


Two developments - the re-election of President Bush and the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership in the wake of Yasir Arafat's death - have created a unique opportunity for negotiating peace between Arabs and Israelis.

The president should, of course, continue with his goal of spreading democracy in the Middle East. And the planned elections in Iraq this January are a critical step in the right direction. But it is imperative that the president also actively promote peace between Israelis and Arabs.

Stability in Iraq and peace between Palestinians and Israelis can be pursued at the same time. In fact, working toward the latter improves the chances of attaining the former. The road to peace does not run through just Jerusalem or just Baghdad. That is a false choice. Today it runs through both.

The so-called quartet (the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations), which has been working on a "road map" for peace between the Palestinians and Israelis for several years, supports a two-state solution, as do the vast majority of both Palestinians and Israelis. President Bush certainly favors this goal, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel has publicly supported it as well, although in April he said that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza could delay a Palestinian state "for many years."

Only the real hard-liners on both sides - Arabs who refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist and Israelis who want to keep the occupied territories rather than exchange them for a secure peace - prefer a one-state solution. A one-state solution would ultimately mean the end of Israel as a democratic Jewish state and would, of course, also foreclose Palestinian aspirations for their own independent state existing peacefully alongside Israel.

So the real question is how to take advantage of this window of opportunity to achieve that two-state solution. Specifically, what steps should be taken? Who needs to do what?

First, it is critical that negotiations resume. For this to happen, of course, Israel must have a negotiating partner on the Palestinian side. That partner will best emerge from free elections. Elections have been scheduled for Jan. 9, and all who support peace between Israel and the Palestinians have an obligation to do all within their power to see that those elections are successfully held.

Palestinian candidates should clearly and unequivocally renounce terrorism as a means of achieving a political result - and call upon their supporters to do likewise. And those Palestinians should commit themselves to an unequivocal, good-faith effort to crack down on terrorist groups that make a target of Israel.

In exchange, Israel should announce that upon the election of a Palestinian negotiating partner, it is prepared to resume substantive negotiations for peace without requiring that all terrorist activities cease in advance. To require the absence of any terrorist act in advance simply empowers the terrorists themselves to prevent the resumption of peace negotiations.

Also, Israel should do whatever it can to encourage freedom of movement and access to polling places under secure conditions to help such elections succeed. It is encouraging that Israel has indicated that all Palestinians will be permitted to vote in such elections whether they live in Jerusalem or in some other location.

The United States should itself clearly embrace and articulate the unequivocal, good-faith standard for the resumption of dialogue. The United States should further prevail upon Israel to cease settlement activity in the occupied territories pending Palestinian elections and during the resumption of peace negotiations. Washington should also do everything else that it can to encourage both sides to resume meaningful talks. And it should serve, where necessary, as a direct participant in the talks, offering suggestions, brokering compromises and extending assurances.

Finally, the administration must make it unambiguously clear to Israel that while Prime Minister Sharon's planned withdrawal from Gaza is a positive initiative, it cannot be simply the first step in a unilateral process leading to the creation of Palestinian "Bantustans" in the West Bank.

We cannot, of course, prejudge the final outcome of any talks. But the plan presented by President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000 - and rejected by Yasir Arafat - surely offers one plausible place to start.

It is encouraging to witness the quick response from the White House, particularly when President Bush stood with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain shortly after his re-election and said that he wanted to establish an independent Palestinian state living in peace and security next to Israel. "I intend to use the next four years to spend the capital of the United States on such a state," he said.

While the United States cannot dictate the terms of peace to either party, it can and should actively promote the resumption of negotiations. The time to start is now.

James A. Baker III was secretary of state from 1989 to 1992.


James Baker: Don't go it alone with Iraq
From Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) --Former Secretary of State James Baker Sunday warned President Bush not to "go it alone" against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Writing on the op-ed page of Sunday's New York Times, Baker became the latest member of the first Bush administration to issue cautionary words about a military attack against Iraq.

"Although the United States could certainly succeed, we should try our best not to have to go it alone, and the president should reject the advice of those who counsel doing so," Baker wrote.

"The costs in all areas will be much greater, as will the political risks, both domestic and international, if we end up going it alone or with only one or two countries."

Baker said, however, that he believes the only "realistic way" to bring about regime change is through military force, including "sufficient" ground troops to occupy the country.

"Anyone who thinks we can effect regime change in Iraq with anything less than this is simply not realistic," Baker said.

The former chief diplomat urged Bush to build an international coalition like the one he and the president's father brought together during the Persian Gulf War.

He suggested Bush consider pursuing a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring Iraq to submit to an "intrusive inspections regime" and authorizing "all necessary means" to enforce those inspections.

"Some will argue, as was done in 1990, that going for United Nations authority and not getting it will weaken our case," Baker said.

"I disagree. By proposing to proceed in such a way, we will be doing the right thing, both politically and substantively. We will occupy the moral high ground."

Bush, who is winding up his August vacation at his ranch near here, "welcomes" Baker's advice, said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

"It is part of the constructive debate from thoughtful people and it underscores many of the things the president has said about ... the threat [Saddam] presents to the world," Fleischer said.

Fleischer said Bush still has not made a decision about how to bring about a change of Iraqi regimes.

Other former Bush administration officials who have spoken out recently include Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to Bush's father.

Scowcroft, in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, voiced his opposition to a military attack on Iraq.

Other Republicans strongly back military action and believe the president should pursue such a course, even if he can't bring together an international coalition.

"I'd much prefer to have a lot of allies out there, both in the Middle East and in Western Europe," Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, told CNN's "Late Edition."

"I'd like to have the American people solidly behind the president. But again, if the president has to do it, he has to do it. And that's what leadership is all about."

Before any pre-emptive strike on Iraq, some Democrats argue, the president must make the case to the American people.

"What we have is an administration that is beating its breast with all this rhetoric about how they're going to do this or that," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, on the same program.

"The president needs the country behind him."

As Bush thinks through options to deal with Saddam, "he will talk to the country about it and he will make the case," a senior administration official said.

To build support in the Arab world for regime change, the State Department is encouraging Iraqi exiles to speak out about the "brutality" of Saddam Hussein, a State Department spokesman said.

Seventeen Iraqi exiles from North America and Europe plan to visit the State Department this week for four days of media training on writing opinion pieces, giving speeches and doing television and radio interviews.

The goal is to make the case that the battle is not between the United States and Iraq, and to convey that the Iraqi people and Iraq's neighbors will be better off without Saddam, U.S. officials said.

Bush will deliver that message personally to Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, in a visit to Bush's Texas ranch.

The president will plead the case to a Saudi government that so far is against a military attack.

The Saudis have also said they will not allow the United States to launch an invasion of Iraq from Saudi soil.

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