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Will Annapolis be the Launching Pad?

Everyone Knows in the End
The Annapolis Summit is just an empty vehicle for President Bush to clear the way for his real aim –
attacking Iran
Ran Porat (10/21/2007)

At the July celebrations on the White House Lawn, President Bush announced that an international summit would be held to promote the Palestinian issue. The speech marked five years since a far more important speech given on June 24, 2002, when he publicly committed himself to the vision of two states for two nations. At the time the speech was one of the most important signals that the US had finally rejected Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat, “the sick man of the Bosphorous” (as the Ottoman Empire was called in its last days), as everyone waited for him to die and be replaced by another leader.

This time too, the background to the American government’s hopes of doing something about the Palestinians concerns the Palestinian leadership. It was an attempt – one of many – to bolster the Palestinian Authority chairman in Ramallah, Abu Mazen, who several weeks earlier lost control of Gaza as a result of the Hamas revolution, which displayed his flimsiness in all its glory. The coup left the US State Department scratching its head, wondering how to put wings on an egg that hadn’t hatched – Abu Mazen. They came up with the idea of a gala international summit with major Arab presence, which they could portray as an important American initiative able to advance the peace process – that would do the trick.

The Palestinian issue represents just one more scuffle in the halls of the American administration between longstanding adversaries – the pragmatists and the hawks. The main argument is over American foreign policy and the claim by the “pragmatic” bloc that America would emerge the loser of the administration’s occupation of Iraq and its attempts to implant democracy into the heart of the Middle East.

This is the position of Secretary of State Rice, Defense Secretary Gates, CIA director Hayden, the head of the intelligence agencies, McConnell, and other figures identified with Bush’s administration. From the point of view of the State Department and Rice – at least due to her desire to improve the United States’ negative image in general, especially among the Arab countries – something must be done that would be seen as more “pro-Arab” (even if it never takes place), without undermining Israel’s security. Rice and her senior advisors believe that pressuring Israel to accept compromises towards the Palestinians would strengthen Abu Mazen in the absence of a decent Palestinian alternative.

However, according to the administration’s hawks led by Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Hadley and National Security Council Member Elliott Abrams (who is seen as a hawk at least on Iran ) – this is nothing less than “appeasement,” an allusion to the groveling European policy towards the Nazis before the outbreak of World War II. Moreover, it seems that even Abu Mazen’s biggest fans in Washington are raising their hands in despair at his inability to deliver even second-grade goods at the very least.

But the Palestinians are just a side issue, a tiny dot compared to the major issue of American Middle East policy goals, which are topped by the war on terror and forcing democracy on the Arab world as a vital requirement for American national security. After toppling Iraq, Iran (and its comrades, Syria and Hizbollah) this war is increasingly being regarded by President Bush and his Vice President as the source of all evil, a magnet for practical support, an inspiration for terror and a genuine threat to American welfare and world peace. Of course Rice and her colleagues want to silence the war drums coming from Cheney’s office calling for an all out attack on Iran, before it's too late.

But, to return to Annapolis. It's no accident that the administration has chosen to hold the summit at a closed American military base, far from the media eye. This is not Camp David II – the Barak, Arafat and Clinton pressure-cooker at the end of Clinton’s presidency. This time there is no pretense or desire to solve the conflict. For the President, only one thing about the Annapolis Summit is important – that it's taking place. A mere photo-op with the Israeli and Arab leaders.

If President Bush wanted to deliver real results from this meeting he would come out with a consolidated plan and a real effort, including marathon talks and phone calls, to promote the initiative and at least try to define the basis for a permanent Palestinian-Israeli solution. He would at least have dispatched some energetic envoy, someone like Dennis Ross or even General Anthony Zinni (whose mission was an abysmal failure). Instead, he decides to send Rice on a unctuous mission to Arab countries, which refuse to be appeased, accompanied by Defense Secretary Gates, who is mainly involved there in what matters most to Bush – the next, apparently inevitable war…against Iran.

Israel has extended a polite welcome to Rice; Olmert and Abu Mazen in Ramallah have given her the royal treatment. She is pressuring Israel and the Palestinians for Olmert and Abu Mazen to finalize an agreement between them, whereas the latter, realizing there isn’t much substance here, are keeping the boss back in America happy. They talk and meet and very soon realize there is not going to be a "permanent settlement" at the summit, or even "a settlement outline." At most there will be a "declaration of intent." And the already low expectations fit the bill.

In fact, Bush wants to kill two birds with one stone. He wants to enable Rice to let off some steam and play at making peace in the Middle East, without giving her the tools to advance it and without believing it can be achieved at the present time. If it concludes with an earth-shattering surprise – fine, everyone will be happy. If it ends, as predicted, with nothing, better still.

When it's over President Bush can tell Rice and the world, which grumbles that the administration would rather use force than diplomacy – look, we tried and we didn’t succeed, and now it’s time to deal with the real threat and the country that really caused the Annapolis Summit to fail – Iran. For this reason the call by Iran’s religious leader, Khamenei, not to attend the summit merely plays into Bush’s hands.

He’ll tell Cheney, "Come on. Let’s attack (Tehran)." (Or "Let’s roll!" to quote the intrepid passenger on Flight 93, which was brought down by a passenger revolt on September 11.)

SOURCE:Omedia Omedia was established to become a trustworthy and dependable source for daily review, commentary and analysis of Israel's most burning current-events.

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