Back from Damascus and Amman


clemons and khaled meshal - small.jpg
I am back in Washington after a long journey back from Damascus and Amman.
In the next two days, we hope to have the entire video interview I did with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal ready for viewing.
More soon.
— Steve Clemons


18 comments on “Back from Damascus and Amman

  1. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    Pail….Hmmmm, food for thought…thank you for the link…can we even imagine what the outcry would be if Palestinians killed Israeli leaders?


  2. ... says:

    paul, some countries think israels state sponsored terrorism is okay…. i’m not sure if it is monetary pressure that makes these countries feel this way or what.. i don’t get it..


  3. Paul Norheim says:

    There is an interesting and nuanced article about Hamas in the New York Review of Books.
    “Israel’s response of targeted assassinations hugely bolstered Palestinian sympathy for Hamas, even as it served to radicalize
    its followers. As Paul McGeough’s book makes abundantly clear, for instance, Khaled Meshaal, a relative hard-liner, rode to
    dominance within Hamas on the wave of outrage that followed Israel’s botched attempt to poison him in Amman in 1997. By
    contrast, when in 2003 Israel succeeded in murdering Ismail Abu Shanab, a respected Gazan intellectual with an engineering
    degree from Colorado State University, it eliminated a Hamas official who had argued passionately against suicide bombings
    and in favor of a long-term truce.
    srael’s dramatic acceleration of Jewish settlement in the occupied territories during the 1990s, and its systematic undermining
    of the Palestinian economy by means of roadblocks and closures, convinced many Palestinians that Hamas was perhaps correct
    in judging the peace process a sham.”
    more here:


  4. JohnH says:

    Actually, Dan, the real fault line is between those who believe that Obama is a Muslim and those who used to believe what he said.
    Or maybe between those who drink Miller Lite for its great taste and those who think it’s less filling…


  5. BJ says:

    Wig-Wag…..Clemons is right. The long standing Israeli-Palistinian conflict is our primary problem because it is the mother of simmering US-Iran hostilities.
    Had US President Harry Soloman Truman not prematurely recognized an Israeli state newly created on Muslim soil, without the simulaneous creation of a Palistinian state as called for at the time by the relevant UN resolution, there would be no injustice. Iran would have no need to oppose our never ending acquiescence of Israel’s occupation, which continues to thwart the creation of a Palistinian state. There would then be no so-called US-Iran fault line which is actually an Israeli/US-Iran fault line.
    If you say forget the past, then we are doomed to suffer the future.


  6. DonS says:

    Say, Israel repudiated it’s deal on a settlement freeze. This is not the first time Israel has pulled a stunt like this. For this Obama refrained from saying a single word to support displaced Palestinians.
    Give me a break. Give Steve a break.


  7. BJ says:

    Nadine….Keep your shirt on. The talks are not over yet.


  8. nadine says:

    Wonder if Steve more comments on Obama’s good tone in negotiating with Iran now that Iran has repudiated the enrichment deal that the Obama administration worked out with them this summer. This is hardly the first time that Iran has pulled a stunt like this (they did it to Condi Rice in 2006), and they have learned there is no penalty. I don’t think Obama is the man to teach them differently.
    For this Obama refrained from saying a single word to support the protesters in Iran.
    Iran’s negotiators have toughened their stance on the nuclear programme, signalling that Tehran will refuse to go ahead with an agreement to hand over 75 per cent of its enriched uranium.
    The move came as Iranian officials held talks with representatives of America, France and Russia in Vienna. An earlier meeting in Geneva on Oct 1 had yielded an agreement which some saw as a possible breakthrough.
    Iran has amassed at least 1.4 tons of low-enriched uranium inside its underground plant in Natanz. If this was further enriched to weapons-grade level – a lengthy process – it would be enough for one nuclear weapon.
    But Iran agreed to export 75 per cent of this stockpile to Russia and then France, where it would have been converted into fuel rods for use in a civilian research reactor in Tehran. This would have been a significant step towards containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
    Before talks, however, Iranian officials signalled they would renege. “Iran wants to directly buy highly-enriched uranium without sending its own low-level uranium out of the country,” reported a state television channel.
    Western officials were not surprised by this development. They view Iran as a uniquely difficult negotiating partner, willing to break or rewrite any agreement.


  9. MNPundit says:

    For the record, I’m not opposed to the death and murder route under certain circumstances.
    Iranian nukes are not one of them, however.


  10. ... says:

    OT – this looks like a great book, given the review…
    by Yakov M. Rabkin


  11. Dan Kervick says:

    I thought the really big fault line was the one between the US and the Taliban Global Emirate. Or is it the one between the US and the Euro-Muslim Fecundity Conspiracy? Or is it the one between the pizza-loving American people and the evil Shawarma and Shish Kebab Takeover?


  12. JohnH says:

    My third paragraph was intended to be at the end.


  13. ... says:

    perhaps a more interesting word to kick around is ‘power’… who has it and wants to maintain it, who wants it, and what do they have to do to get it? what is a country willing to do in order to maintain, or get more power?
    the way i see it the dynamics revolve around power… some advocate a continuation of death and murder in order to maintain a certain status quo, while others argue for a change from this…


  14. JohnH says:

    Is Iran a fault line? While it’s true that Iran is contested territory between East and West, a potential ally of Russia vs. an ally of the United States, a major energy supplier of China vs. a supplier of the West.
    But Iran is a fault line only because the United States has made it so. Absent the US’ zero sum games, Iran would assume its historical role of keystone, this time bridging the energy consuming West and East and the energy producing parts of the world. Iran’s natural gas reserves and pipeline routes could easily serve both Europe and China, if the United States ended its belligerency.
    So I guess I agree with Steve that the Israel-Palestine conflict is the key fault line, as it would contribute a major diffusion of tensions between Muslims and Christians.
    As for Israel, it definitely represents a cultural fault line between Muslims, one-third of the world’s population and a second third, the Christians, who have strangely been support of Israel.
    IMFO Iran’s role in that cultural divide is much exaggerated. Clearly Iran has exploited it to undermine Arab tyrants allied with the West and to help Shi’a in Lebanon defend themselves. And the West has exploited the fault line to justify its war on terror.
    Would a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis force Iran to bow to the West? Probably not, though it would undermine Iran’s ability to appeal to the Arab street. Fact is, Iran preeminent national interest is preserving its sovereignty over its energy reserves, which would not be changed by any settlement between Israel and Palestinians. And, to protect its sovereignty, it would continue to try and deal with India and China as a way to prevent domination by the West.
    Would a settlement with Iran end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Probably not. Though Hezbollah might receive less material support and Hamas less moral support, such an agreement would not change the facts on the ground. Hezbollah would still seek deterrence against Israeli attack. And the Palestinians really have no option but to continue their resistance until the occupation ends.
    However, a settlement between Israel and Palestinians would remove a festering sore that potentially threatens the relationship between the West and its energy supplying Arab clients, a sore that could erupt at any time, destroying the tyrants along with the West’s energy security.


  15. Dan Kervick says:

    I’m completely lost with these “fault lines” and “fault block” metaphors.


  16. JamesL says:

    Wig, I find myself surprisingly thanking you for drawing attention to a seeming two way choice that remains vague and misleading, and so demands distinction. As far as you go, Clemons clearly is a “winner”, but it is not far enough; the choice is false. Iran is indeed a fault block, in that it is Not Going Away, any more than the Iraqis “went away”, or the Lebanese, or Palestinians, or Vietnamese “went away”. Iran’s fault block COULD go away if US policy accepted the sacrifice of Iranian culture as well as the stability of the entire mid-East. But a new, totally unpredictable, totally unstable fault block would replace a failed Iran, filled with uncertainty, and a year hence all would be wishing for the good old days where Iran was relatively reliable and predictable. It is easy to destroy a country if one cares not a whit for the future disposition of world power. But there is an absolute limit to that view that cannot be exceeded. Bush the Least consumed–extravagantly wasted–a lot of the wiggle room the US used to enjoy. The “more productive U.S.-Iranian relationship” quote is misleading. The “more productive relationship” correction the US must pursue is that of the US with Israel, because Israel’s policies now oppose the interests of the US, despite the gigantic funnel of aid the US annually directs at Israel. The circumstances would be much more equal if the US would currently be giving Iran several times the foreign and military aid that it gifts Israel each year. The continued explication of this new direction relies upon venues such as TWN because major media is no longer news, but news entertainent with an authoritarian agenda. Given the danger Israel reprsents, the absence of warning in main stream media is not a sustainable policy.


  17. ... says:

    the idea of 2 fault lines isn’t that hard to grasp, mind you with some folks wanting to make a fault line out of iran no matter what, it pays to be wary of some peoples opinions on this..


  18. WigWag says:

    Welcome home; glad you’re safely back Steve!
    “The conflict between Israel and Palestine is no longer about either of these strategically immature entities. The conflict is about much more – and the Israel/Palestine fault line is one of the San Andreas fault lines of the global order.” (Steve Clemons, “Mitchell the Man for the Job?” Palestine Note, 16 Oct 2009 6:27 AM)
    “Today, the ongoing competition for regional influence between the United States and Iran is the Middle East’s most strategically significant fault line. Even the Arab-Israeli conflict is now subordinated to the U.S.-Iranian struggle—not, as some would suggest, because regional players care less about Arab-Israeli issues, but because it is now impossible to achieve negotiated settlements on the unresolved tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict without a more productive U.S.-Iranian relationship.” (Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, “The Race for Iran,” The Race for Iran Blog, October 19th, 2009)
    Steve Clemons and the Leveretts can’t both be right. Steve, Flynt and Hillary are all obviously obsessed with fault lines especially with fault lines and metaphors. But the Israel-Palestine conflict can’t be the “San Andreas” of fault lines (Clemons) if the U.S.-Iranian struggle is now paramount over the Israel-Palestine struggle (Mr. and Mrs Leverett).
    Perhaps they are both wrong; maybe the Israel-Palestine conflict and the U.S.-Iranian conflict are both far less important to world stability than these blog-meisters actually think.
    We need someone to break the tie!
    I nominate Ben Katcher; he works at both the “Washington Note” with Steve and “The Race for Iran” with Flynt and Hillary.
    So how do you vote, Ben? Who’s right; Clemons or the Leveretts? Is the Israel-Palestine dispute more important or is the U.S.-Iran dispute more important?
    Inquiring minds want to know!


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