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Ed Webb

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  • It will seem counterintuitive to many that someone would trade “senior official” status for a job in a “think tank” to exert more influence. But I had concluded in the late summer of 2012 that President Barack Obama’s words of a year earlier about Assad stepping aside were empty, and that my efforts in government to bring dead words to life were futile. 

    Instead of implementing what had sounded like the commander-in-chief’s directive, the State Department was saddled in August 2012 by the White House with a make-work, labor-intensive project cataloguing the countless things that would have to be in place for a post-Assad Syria to function. But how to get to post-Assad? The White House had shut down the sole interagency group examining options for achieving that end.
  • My job since April 2009, as a deputy to Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell, was to build a foundation for Syrian-Israeli and eventually Israeli-Lebanese peace. Progress on the former seemed to be happening. Yet by using deadly force on his own citizens, Assad ended, perhaps forever, a process that might have recovered for Syria the territory lost by his Minister of Defense father in 1967. 

    When the full story of Syria’s betrayal by a family and its entourage is written, the decision of Assad to sink a potentially promising peace mediation will merit a chapter.
  • President Obama would caricature external alternatives by creating and debating straw men: invented idiots calling for the invasion and occupation of Syria. 

    He would deal with internal dissent by taking officials through multi-step, worst-case, hypothetical scenarios of what might happen in the wake of any American attempt, no matter how modest, to complicate regime mass murder. The ‘logical’ result would inevitably involve something between World War III and an open-ended, treasury-draining American commitment. 

    The result of these exercises in self-disarmament would be Vladimir Putin and his ilk concluding that American power was, as a practical matter, equal to Palau’s; Ukraine could be dismembered, NATO allies threatened, and the United States itself harassed with impunity. He did not mean to do it, but Barack Obama’s performance in Syria produced global destabilization.
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  • It was not until the fall of 2014 when it became clear what was motivating him. The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon reported on a “secret” letter from the president to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, in which (among other things) Mr. Obama reportedly assured Khamenei that American military power aimed at ISIS (ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh) in Syria would not target the Assad regime. But why give Khamenei such a reckless assurance, one that would surely be relayed to Assad, enhancing his already massive sense of impunity, with deadly consequences for Syrian civilians?
  • if necessary, apply modest military measures to complicate civilian mass murder, and not only when the murder weapon is sarin nerve agent. 
  • The Trump administration is infinitely more open to considering policy alternatives than was its predecessor. Yet in Washington’s hyper-partisan state, some who fully understood and opposed the catastrophic shortcomings of the Obama approach to Syria reflexively criticize anything the new administration does or considers doing to end the Assad regime’s free ride for civilian slaughter. Letting Syrian civilians pay the price for self-serving political motives may never go out of style in some Western political circles.
  • I remain hopeful that American leaders will, at last, arrive at a Syria policy worthy of the United States. 

    Such a policy would stabilize a post-ISIS Syria east of the Euphrates River in a way that would encourage the emergence of a Syrian governmental alternative to a crime family and its murderous entourage. 
  • Tehran was indeed dependent on Bashar al-Assad to provide strategic depth for and support to its own jewel in the crown: Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Barack Obama feared that protecting Syrian civilians could anger Iran and cause it to walk away from nuclear talks. From his point of view, the prices paid by Syrians, Syria’s neighbors, and American allies in the region and beyond were worth the grand prize. It seems never to have occurred to him that Iran wanted the nuclear deal for its own reasons, and did not require being appeased in Syria. I was told by senior Iranian ex-officials in track II discussions that they were stunned and gratified by American passivity in Syria.
  • such a policy, while being open to any genuine offer of Russian cooperation in Syria, would recognize that (in the words of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats) “Frankly, the United States is under attack.” He was referring to Russia.
Ed Webb

Why more Israelis are shying away from interaction with Palestinians - Al-Monitor: the ... - 1 views

  • The Peace Index for March 2016, published by the Israel Democracy Institute, shows that a sizable majority of the Jewish public rejects the distinction between global terrorism, nurtured by radical Islam, and Palestinian terrorism, nurtured by the desire to shake off the Israeli occupation. Of those polled, 64% said they agree with the idea espoused by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that global terrorism and Palestinian terrorism are one and the same.
  • Israelis are in no rush to change the status quo
  • Some 78% think Israel should not take into consideration international demands to refrain from “targeted killings” (as the Israel Defense Forces calls the killing of wanted Palestinians), demolitions of family homes of Palestinians involved in attacks on Israelis and other questionable means used by the Israeli defense establishment in the fight against terrorism.
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  • the younger a person's age, the greater his or her resistance to a diplomatic process to end the conflict with the Palestinians. Those younger than 34 tend, more than older adults, to rule out compromise on core issues
  • “The problem is that they are busy chasing an electorate that is running to the right.”
  • The belief in Israeli society that there is no Palestinian partner for peace has taken hold and refuses to let go.
  • On the Israeli side, there is no entity like the one established by the Palestine Liberation Organization to maintain interaction with Israeli society. Abbas appointed his close associate Mohammed al-Madani to head this committee. In a conversation with Al-Monitor in fluent Hebrew, the deputy head of the committee, Elias Zananiri, said that he has no beef with the Israeli public running away from contact with the Palestinians.

    “Of course I’m frustrated with our lack of success in breaching the walls of Israeli fear and loathing, but I’m not completely surprised,” said Zananiri. “What do you expect of Jewish citizens whose leader questions the basic democratic rights of Israel’s Arab citizens?”

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    Ugh - don't read the comments
Ed Webb

Why ISIL won't be defeated - Al Jazeera English - 2 views

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    Don't read the comments...
Ed Webb

This Intifada Will Be Digital - The Black Iris - 3 views

  • In these 15 years, we went from an era where mainstream media dominated the narrative, to an era where social media dominates it. This isn’t a time when the mainstream sees the online as a playful mechanism of democratized media (or an opportunity to present their brands as participatory), but a time when the mainstream is chasing down leads from what circulates online. And the region’s people now have the power to shape the narrative (whether we’ve fully realized it or not).
  • Internet user growth in the region has gone up by 6,091.9% between 2000 and 2015
  • Arabic is now the fourth biggest language on the Web after English, Chinese and Spanish
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  • as a Jordanian, I was part of what I personally believe to be the final generation that actually gave a damn what the government did or did not do. Our relationship with the state was like our relationship with a television – a one-way communication channel, where we are on the receiving end no matter how much we yell at the screen. And that was that
  • Like everyone else, I have no idea how this conflict will end. But I know that the Web will undeniably play a leading role – and that’s not something anyone could’ve imagined back in 1948. As yet another cycle of violence is upon us, that role is worth studying, and it’s that role that I find myself paying attention to the most.
Ed Webb

Peace talks could benefit from implementing previous agreements - Al-Monitor: the Pulse... - 0 views

  • Ahmed Qurei does not make do with twiddling his thumbs while waiting for the American rabbit to appear, all the while praying that the hat holds up until the longed-for day arrives. He suggests using the time to rebuild trust between the parties. Such trust should inject optimism into the heart of the Palestinian public by letting people know that the end of the occupation is near.

    To do that, there is no need for any negotiations or even the formulation of new agreements. Kerry will be able to free himself to deal with the crisis in Ukraine, the negotiations with Iran and maybe even a concerted effort to end the bloodshed in Syria. All that is needed is to go to the archives and pull out two or three documents bearing the signatures of various Israeli prime ministers, including the present one, dust them off and implement them. Fulfilling the existing agreements could completely change the skeptical and even gloomy mood hanging over the diplomatic negotiations. The United States, which was an active partner in formulating these documents and which provided them with its imprimatur, cannot absolve itself from them.

  • Today, Areas A and B cover less than 40% of the West Bank.
  • Instead of pouring money into isolated settlements whose very existence under Israeli sovereignty contradicts the two-state solution, the government should pass an evacuation-compensation law, which will allow tens of thousands of those settlers to return to Israeli territory.
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  • A new survey conducted in late 2013 by the Macro Center for Political Economics in cooperation with the organization Blue and White Future discovered that 28.8% of the approximately 100,000 residents of isolated settlements east of the separation wall — or about 30,000 people — have expressed an interest in being evacuated in exchange for compensation, even before a diplomatic agreement is reached. The survey also found that the region whose residents show the greatest willingness (43.1%) to be evacuated before a diplomatic agreement is reached is the Jordan Valley and the northern shores of the Dead Sea, the very area that the Israeli right wants to annex.
Ed Webb

President Obama Is Busy - NYTimes.com - 2 views

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    One of those rare occasions when Tom Friedman uses his influential niche to say something worth saying.
Ed Webb

✚ The Triumph and Tragedy of Greater Israel - 0 views

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    Plumage don't enter into it...
Ed Webb

Egypt's 'Security State' and Israel » Hammonda. - 0 views

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    Convincing argument? Flaws? Plenty to chew on here.
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