Chris Nelson’s Nelson Report is just too good not post in its near entirety. (I will not italicize for easier reading)
He gives Condi credit on her quick action on the Israeli-Palestinian standoff, but then slams her on Iran and the administration’s absence of strategy regarding nuclear non-proliferation.
Chris Nelson hits all the buttons:
***2. For today, let’s see where we stand on Iran, and Israel/Palestine: the “big news” today is that Rice has thrown her personal support to a hastily scheduled Israeli/Palestinian “truce summit” tomorrow, but will stand back herself. Instead, Ms. Rice made an interesting move, appointing a Special Envoy…but not “the” long awaited US Special Envoy…rather, a general tasked with helping the Palestinians with their internal security and border situations.
— in that, Ms. Rice sends an important message of reassurance to Israel and Prime Minister Sharon, that the US understands that without dramatic progress in ending attacks by pro-Palestinian terrorist elements, talk of reactivating the “road map”, much less a “final settlement” is simply not possible.
3. The new “security coordinator”, Gen. William Ward, was part of what certainly looks like a carefully orchestrated set of signals from the White House to help set the psychological atmosphere for Tuesday’s Sharon/Abbas meeting in Egypt, hosted by President Mubarak and attended by Washington’s favorite king, Abdullah of Jordan
— first, President Bush invited both Sharon and “President Abbas” to visit this Spring…and commentators immediately noted that Abbas was granted an honorific never accorded Yassir Arafat…a point Bush reinforced by also calling Abbas “trustworthy”;
— second, she and Bush made a point of talking about “Palestine”, rather than the less committed formulation of a “Palestinian entity” or a future “Palestinian state”. So today it became “Palestine”, as in “now”.
— third, with anticipated screams from the Israeli right and its supporters in the US in mind, both Bush and Rice spoke of mutual “obligations” which the US expects Israel and Palestine to meet: real effort and demonstrable progress by Abbas to stop militant attacks on Israel; and for Sharon not to fool around with new settlements on the West Bank, or pinching land in East Jerusalem.
— fourth, financial backing also will be provided, Rice announced, an additional $40-million to the $350-million pledged last week by Bush, which she said would go to a “quick action program” to meet two critical internal Palestinian needs…jobs and infrastructure. The idea is to help give Abbas some tools to meet the immediate “test” which the Israeli’s demand on stopping the attacks.
4. Of course, no one seriously thinks Abbas can turn a switch, especially since his political opponents, and their supporters in Syria, Iran, and elsewhere, will have every incentive to try and undermine the current progress…hence Gen. Ward’s mandate on “security coordination”, with his task being to focus on “greater security” as an essential precondition for any future chance at re-starting the road map.
— one on-going task for Sharon (and the US) will be to try and reach an acceptable accommodation or definition of “good enough”. Sharon has spoken of requiring a “100% effort” by Abbas…clearly not the same thing as 100% success. Sharon knows that requiring perfection is the same thing as guaranteeing failure.
5. Sharon’s opponents, in Israel and in the US, also fully realize the same thing, and so will fight to impose just such an impossible “test.” All know that if bombs and killings continue, Sharon’s domestic political task gets even more complicated…and it’s already quite bad enough, with some elements in the armed forces clearly unhappy about the prospect of being used to haul settlers off Gaza, a spectacle which will provide no end of temptation to emotional TV coverage, and hysterical Knesset debate.
— the one positive element here in Washington is that the normally obstructionist allies of Israeli rejectionists, the Christian fundamentalists happen mainly to populate the House Republican caucus, led by the fearsome evangelical scourge, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, will instead find themselves forced to try and behave, while their own party’s president rests in the White House. Not for the first time since 9/11 is is worth pondering “what if Gore/Kerry” had won?
6. Anyhow, that’s an attempt to outline the potential “good news”. What about Iran? Rice really stunned everyone with her press conference remarks last week, not just the resumption of emotional, personal rhetoric about the nature of Iran’s mullahs, but her apparently flat rejection of a serious US-Euro working partnership in the nuclear negotiations with Iran.
— the net, pending further developments, is to assume one of two things still governs US policy: first, continuation of the policy impasse within the Administration which has kept it from doing what former Secretary of State Powell and the “Scowcroft wing” wanted…direct negotiations with the Iranian government;
— or, second, that there is no impasse, and the “real” Bush policy is to refuse to join in negotiating with the mullah government, and to take literally the President’s State of the Union language that the US stands ready to “stand with the people” of Iran…a remark which certainly sounded like a call for revolution, if relatively mildly stated.
7. Rice’s language and posture on Iran were doubly surprising, as it had been assumed by Administration critics that at the very least, the Bush team wants to avoid falling into the trap on Iran that it created for itself with N. Korea…being blamed by US allies and trading partners for an eventual crisis.
— the Europeans have been as blunt as the Chinese and South Koreans in warning the White House of their displeasure at the current impasses, and their increasing discomfort at what they fear is a deliberate US stance, one founded on a determination by Bush that if the US refuses to seriously play, that, somehow, there will be a soft collapse of the Iranian and N. Korean regimes.
8. We don’t need to get into the obviously dangerous aspects of all this for tonight, except to note that some serious observers of Bush policy now argue that the “reality” is that Bush does not oppose nuclear armaments being developed by the likes of Pakistan and India, despite the risk to peace on the Subcontinent, because both regimes are basically US friends, even allies.
— it now looks like the only Bush non-proliferation policy seriously in play is to deny nuclear weapons to Iran, and N. Korea (obvious contradiction notwithstanding). In other words, it isn’t about non-proliferation, it’s about the nature of the regimes proliferating. Tyrannies are not to be allowed the Bomb…others, including Brazil (?), we are prepared to accommodate.***
Steve Clemons back on line now.
My only comment is that one needs to remind Secretary Rice that the best outcome is getting things right with Abbas and Sharon as well as Iran. If either gambit fails, then there will be no real success in the other.
— Steve Clemons