Saturday, May 05, 2007

Badger's news roundup

So what happened Sharm al-Sheikh?

(1) The Saudis confirmed what was already apparent, namely that they will have nothing to do with the Maliki administration in Iraq, by refusing to agree even to a bilateral foreign-ministers meeting at Sharm al-Sheikh

(2) Syria appears to have already entered into some kind of a deal with the Americans, or is about to do so, reflected in the fact that, coinciding with the Rice-Moallem meeting, there was an announcement about a major effort by Syrian security forces against jihadis, not to mention the comments by Gen Caldwell to the effect there has been a diminution in infiltrations from Syria recently. (So far there aren't any indications what specifically they will be getting in return)

(3) The Palestinian government of national unity, which has made no progress at all in its recent efforts to break the economic blockade led by the Americans (and acquiesced in not only by Europe, but by Arab governments including Saudi Arabia as well), didn't see any progress at Sharm al-Sheikh either. In fact on Friday, Prime Minister Haniya of Hamas raised the tone of his criticism of the Arab governments on this score, and there continues to be pessimism about the survival of his government if, as expected, the blockade continues

These points are among those underlined by Al-Quds al-Arabi in the last couple of days (see in particular the lead editorials Friday and Saturday May 4 and 5).

In the English-language coverage, none of these points is made. Rather, the coverage has to do with things like the lady in red who played the violin at the dinner, and whether she was really the reason the Iranian foreign minister walked out; a new twist in the Condi-Nancy relationship now that both of them have met with the Syrians; and things like that. Normally we should also be seeing banner headlines about shifting tectonics the Arab world, but there isn't any of that either.

The problem for the Western headline-writers coming out of these meetings is that the Arab regimes are not following any identifiable party line. The Saudi king is willing to confront the Americans on the question of the Maliki administration, but not on the question of the Palestinian economic blockade. Syria appears willing to help America with respect to Iraqi security, for reasons of its own, but there aren't similar indications from Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries.

In other words, the events and non-events of Sharm al-Sheikh don't lend themselves to the kind of cartoon-like simplicity which alone entitles the Arab world to our attention.

Meanwhile in actual reality the ominous processes continue: Saudi alienated from its US-sponsored neighbor; Syria climbing into bed with America and exposing itself to the risks of becoming a new target for the jihadis; Palestinian government headed for collapse under US pressure.


Anonymous Yohan said...

Is there any speculation into how long the Palestinian unity government will last given the blockade? For example, has anyone tracked how long it will be until the government is again unable to pay salaries and provide other services?

9:42 AM  
Blogger badger said...

That's what's tough to estimate. The Al-Majd document says one of the main aims of the Action Plan should be to provide the Palestinians with their basic economic needs through Abbas' office and through Fatah, thus delivering a serious political blow to Hamas; and in particular it talks about making government-wage payments through the Presidency and Fatah. Presumably, with a unity government and Fatah-Hamas cooperation still officially in place, there must be some kind of an understanding respecting this, but who knows how is it actually working out. Unless you're there it would be tough to figure out, except that no doubt the Americans and their friends have the whip-hand.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Apollo said...

It would be surprising (well, maybe not) to see the Syrians give everything up for a song. If they bothered to watch the Republican debate they would see plainly what the future has in store for them. They've been trying to get into America's good graces since the first gulf war and the results have been mixed at best.

But according to haaretz (can't find the link)the Israeli security establishment is convinced Syria will only be polite to the Americans as they view their allaince with Iran and Hizbollah as their best bet.

Makes some sense as Hizb is the only thing guarding Syria's right flank should the Israelis decide to use Lebanon like Belgium in any future war.

2:58 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Recommended reading on the Syrian part of this: Josh Landis' post on his website: Rice and Moualem meet: Has Syria won?
and the comments. There aren't many yet, but there will be, representing all sides of the issue.

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Rosemary said...

Thanks for the link, badger. Interesting point of view, followed by comments with as many different opinions as there are comments.

9:51 PM  
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11:02 PM  

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