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Ed Webb

Former Obama officials propose talking with Iran on Syria aid | The Back Channel - 0 views

  • Amid deepening US-Russia strains over Ukraine, two former Obama administration officials say it may be time for the US to explore trying to develop a channel with Iran to discuss Syria, beginning with humanitarian relief.
  • “My bottom line sense with the Iranians is there’s hope for a US-Iran conversation [on Syria humanitarian aid] that is a serious and potentially productive one,” Frederic Hof, a former senior US diplomat advising the Obama administration on Syria and the Levant, told Al-Monitor.in an interview last week.

    In track 2 conversations with Iranians that Hof has been involved in, “the people I talk to are blunt:  they are not interested in talking about a [Syria] political transition,” Hof, now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said. “They need Assad and regime support to Hezbollah in Lebanon as Iran’s first line of defense against Israel and the possibility of an Israeli air assault on their nuclear facilities.”

  • Those “in charge of the US role in the P5+1 will absolutely oppose any kind of cross -pollination or discussion about Syria. So it takes a decision almost at the highest level,” to try to pursue a Syria channel with Iran.
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  • Hof said he raised with Iranian interlocutors in track 2 talks the prospect of a scenario in which a “Srebrenica-style moment” occurred in Syria, as the Iran and the P5+1 were advancing a nuclear deal. A scenario in which “your client does something so outrageous, that it inspires POTUS to do what he declined to do in August or September,” Hof said. “To the extent you guys are serious on the nuclear front, what does that do to that progress?” Hof asked his Iranian interlocutors. “And they looked at one another and shrugged, because their attitude is, Assad is not the most reliable guy in the world.”
Ed Webb

Veteran US diplomat tackles Middle East 'mess' - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • Al-Monitor:  In the old days, the Iranians and the Saudis used to talk to each other and resolve issues. Now, this is a missing piece.

    Patterson:  It goes back 20 years [to Lebanon]. This is a missing piece. And so the proxy war has gotten a lot worse and you see it all over now in frankly scary dimensions. But it wasn’t that long ago when they had some kind of relationship. … They never liked each other, but they weren’t at this level of animosity.

  • Al-Monitor:  There have been some incredibly anti-American statements lately in Egypt. [Former parliament member and current Al-Osboa editor] Mustafa Bakri openly called last week for attacks against Americans. What are we doing to counter this?

    Patterson:  We complain to the government. Mr. Bakri did sort of back off that statement. But now there has been a rash of hugely anti-American stuff in the press. This ebbs and flows, … [but] it’s really a quite dangerous game, because you fan up public opinion and then you’re hostage to public opinion.

  • Al-Monitor:  Let’s turn to Egypt. General, now Field Marshal [Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi seems on his way to becoming Egypt’s next president. How would you characterize our relationship with him and the Egyptian government at this point?

    Patterson:  Personal relationships with him have been good — certainly with ambassadors, including me and with [Defense] Secretary [Chuck] Hagel and with Secretary Kerry and a lot of people on the Hill. But it’s certainly no secret that we’re concerned about freedom of the press, freedom of association, all the fundamentals that are being thrown into question right now in Egypt, not to mention the huge economic issues.

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  • It’s like 1979. The Arab Spring has changed the situation entirely in the region all at once. … It looks like a mess … but if some of this can be successful, … it will change the chessboard. … So let’s hold out hope that some of this will work.
Ed Webb

Messing up in Syria. A tale of two foreign policies - 0 views

  • the main impetus behind Russia's Syria policy is a desire to frustrate western efforts, largely as a result of Nato's earlier intervention against the Gadafy regime in Libya
  • Although Russia continues to advocate a political solution, on the ground the main effect of its obduracy has been to prolong the conflict, thus increasing the cost of Russian support for the Assad regime and intensifying rather than reducing the jihadist problem. In terms of achieving Russia's goals, this has been counterproductive.
Ed Webb

To Ousted Boss, Arms Watchdog Was Seen as an Obstacle in Iraq - NYTimes.com - 0 views

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    Seems to support the realist view of international institutions: largely instruments of the will of the powerful states. But not straightforwardly so.
Ed Webb

The Gulf's Charities - By William McCants | The Middle East Channel - 0 views

  • Pundits in the West are quick to blame the Gulf countries for fueling the sectarian conflict but the governments of Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have shied away from backing the Salafi militias in Syria -- the most sectarian factions in the conflict. Instead, they have either focused on humanitarian relief or backed their own non-Salafi proxies like the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood or more secular factions like those linked to Saad Hariri in Lebanon.

    Nevertheless, the Gulf monarchies have not been able or willing to stem the tide of private money their citizens are sending to the Salafi charities and popular committees. Kuwait in particular has done little to stop it because it lacks an effective terror financing law and because it cannot afford politically to infuriate its already angry Salafi members of parliament. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have tried to crackdown on fundraising for the Salafi militias but their citizens just send their money to Kuwait.

  • Salafi militias like Ahrar use the money to buy weapons and the humanitarian aid to build popular support.
  • The State Department and responsible religiously-oriented aid organizations have an uphill battle in Syria but it is worth the fight. Failing to do so leaves governance to the militants, especially those who have the best financing like the Salafi groups. Indeed, Salafi militias have set up Islamic courts in captured territory where they dispense their conservative brand of justice as well as public goods. Entrenching themselves in this manner will ensure the country's sectarian divide endures long after the end of hostilities.
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  • organizations also advance a sectarian agenda at home. For Sunni-led countries like Bahrain and Kuwait that have large Shiite populations seeking greater political rights, domestic anti-Shiite activism threatens to spark a conflict that would quickly rage out of control
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    Non-state actors are crucial players in shaping the Syrian conflict.
Ed Webb

Syria isn't Kosovo and this isn't 1999. Not even close | openDemocracy - 0 views

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    Useful contrast of the two cases, reflecting how careful one must be with historical analogies.
Ed Webb

Samantha Power's case for striking Syria - 0 views

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    Well worth 20 minutes. Whether or not one agrees, this is an admirably clear account of how we got here and the logic of compellent force in this instance, where deterrence has failed.
Ed Webb

Senators Authorizing Syria Strike Got More Defense Cash Than Lawmakers Voting No | Thre... - 0 views

  • Senators voting Wednesday to authorize a Syria strike received, on average, 83 percent more campaign financing from defense contractors than lawmakers voting against war.
Ed Webb

Twitter / JZarif: tragedy in syria is a trap ... - 0 views

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    A very interesting tweet from Iran's foreign minister, newly active on Twitter.
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