S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

On the one hand, "Good," on the other hand, "Bad."

With all the bad news coming our of Iraq, it is easy to forget that there is also some very good news from the region. And it is all because of good dialogue. The freed Royal Navy sailors are now back in the United Kingdom, and a British envoy is talking with the Palestinian PM to try to free a captive BBC journalist. And U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was able to carry a positive message from Israel to Syria. These news stories also have down sides. Today's post explores the contrasting views of these three mid-east news events.
General Makepeace and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh talk about Alan Johnston - There are talks and there are talks. The British have decided that a policy of absolutely no dealings with Hamas is not always 100% appropriate for all issues.
"Britain held on Thursday its first talks with a leader of the Islamist Hamas group, sending an envoy to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to discuss efforts to free a BBC journalist abducted in Gaza.
A British diplomat said before the 30-minute meeting that Consul-General Richard Makepeace would "just discuss the kidnapping" and the talks were not a departure from the European Union's shunning of Hamas, which it terms a terrorist group."
  • "Timeline: Alan Johnston missing" is a chronicle of the story of the missing UK journalist. BBC News reveals that even Palestinian journalists are speaking out to their government asking to do something about the kidnapping. To quote from this background story:
"Frustration on the ground increases in the third week of Alan Johnston's disappearance. Palestinian journalists voice anger at their government and presidency for their perceived lack of effort on behalf of the missing correspondent."

    President Ahmadinejad vs. the British Navy - Speaking of spin, this story is marked by an Oscar-winning piece of theater. The voluble little Iranian President made what he surely feels was a magnanimous gesture to a Christian nation, "giving them back their sailors for Easter." He did not explain what was probably really happening. His bosses, the ruling Iranian clerics, supervise the folks who originally snatched the possibly off-course members of Royal Navy. The clerics clearly had given the president the word to get the matter concluded without any more embarrassment to Iran. The key to the good dialogue was that everybody saved face.
    "The 15 Royal Navy sailors and marines held captive in Iran for almost two weeks have landed in London.
    The crew, freed by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a 'gift' to the British people on Wednesday, touched down at Heathrow Airport at 1200 BST.
    . . . In a statement given outside Downing Street as the plane touched down, Mr Blair said 'no deal' had been done with the Iranians to secure the crew's release.
    The prime minister said the government had pursued a 'dual-track strategy' of remaining open to dialogue with Iran, while 'mobilising international support and pressure' ".
    • "Tehran Likely to Pay Long-Term Price" is the headline. The Washington Post's renowned writer, Robin Wright, provides an excellent analysis of the longer term implications of the Iranian-British crisis. Quoting Wright,

      "Yet Iran is also likely to pay a long-term price for the detention drama, again appearing to undertake rogue actions in violation of international law, experts and officials said. In the end, Iran recognized that the crisis was beginning to exact a cost, as it came under pressure even from allies and other Islamic countries, officials and experts said. Even Syria urged Iran to release the Britons, Syrian and U.S. sources said.
      . . . 'They are so consumed with short-term issues -- how to undermine the West and how to gain leverage -- at the expense of long-term strategy. They have undermined themselves,' said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 'They're playing the immediate moves of checkers and not the long-term strategy of a chess game. In the long term, it undermines their ability to attract foreign investment and have good relations' with the outside world.
      Tehran was also unable to rally significant public support for another long-term showdown like the 1979-1981 hostage ordeal involving 52 American diplomats, experts added. 'There was no nationalist bounce out of this,' said Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 'All the usual people you'd expect to be frothing at the mouth simply weren't.' "

    Speaker Pelosi speaks to Middle East leaders - Our current president (OCP) has forbidden all of us from talking to any of our enemies. Well, not exactly. U.S. official spokespersons have talked with all those countries on the list, in one way or another, for years. It is just that the administration only reluctantly acknowledges it. But OCP still forbids Speaker Pelosi from doing it, though not the Republican congressional delegation visiting Syria the previous week. But our cheeky Speaker did it anyway, and has left OCP just sputtering.
    • "Pelosi: Israel and Syria want talks" is the Al Jazeera headline. To quote from their recent news story,
    "The speaker of the US House of Representatives has said that Israel and Syria want peace talks.
    . . . Pelosi spoke to journalists at the end of a two-day visit to Syria, which the White House criticised as undermining US efforts to isolate Syria.
    . . . Democrats have argued that the US should engage with its rivals in the region - Iran and Syria - to make headway in easing the problems in Iraq, Lebanon and the Israeli-Arab peace process."
    • "Speaker's Role In Foreign Policy Is a Recent, and Sensitive, Issue" by Elizabeth Williamson is an in-depth analysis of the entire episode in the Washington Post. Quoting from the article,
    "Foreign policy experts generally agree that Pelosi's dealings with Middle East leaders have not strayed far, if at all, from those typical for a congressional trip. But in a nation deeply divided over America's role and standing in the world, the Democratic-led Congress's push into foreign policy has prompted a ferocious reaction from a White House doubly protective of its turf.
    . . . Pelosi (D-Calif.) and aides have described the trip as little different than the visit paid to Syria the same week led by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.): an effort to improve relations through contact. Engaging Syria and Iran, after all, were recommended by the Iraq Study Group as a key to stabilizing Iraq. Yesterday, Pelosi called her talks with Syrian President Bashir al-Assad 'very productive,' in terms of the 'path to peace, and delivered word that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is ready to engage in peace talks with Syria."
    The good news is . . . OCP is no longer in control of the entire conversation in the Middle East. The bad news is . . . OCP is still trying to control the entire conversation in the Middle East. Next week we will see what Congress has to say about that.
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    Anonymous said...

    Interesting editorial in the Washington Post regarding Pelosi's trip. It paints a different picture than what they reported. In my opinion the Washington Post = Mouthpiece for the Bush Mis-Administration. Posted this morning by "Nico" at Think Progress...

    "Washington Post Misleads, Contradicts Own Reporting, To Attack Pelosi"

    "The Washtington Post editorial page today published a vicious editorial attacking Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), calling her “ludicrous” and describing her bipartisan trip to Syria as an “attempt to establish a shadow presidency”.
    The editorial rests on two claims, both of which are baseless.
    1) Pelosi passed an incorrect message from Israel to Syria. Pelosi said yesterday that she gave Syrian officials the message that Israel is “ready to engage in peace talks.” The Post falsely claims, “The Israeli prime minister entrusted Ms. Pelosi with no such message,” misinterpreting a statement from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office that simply reiterated its position that talks with Syria will not take place until Syria has taken steps to end its support for extremist elements. There is no evidence that Pelosi failed to communicate this message. In fact, Pelosi’s delegation specifically pressed the Syrian president “over Syria’s support for militant groups and insist[ed] that his government block militants seeking to cross into Iraq and join insurgents there.”
    2) Pelosi is attempting to “establish a shadow presidency.” This claim is directly contradicted by the Post’s own reporting this morning, which states, “Foreign policy experts generally agree that Pelosi’s dealings with Middle East leaders have not strayed far, if at all, from those typical for a congressional trip.” Pelosi herself has “described the trip as little different than the visit paid to Syria the same week led by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA),” and she went to great lengths to express her unity of purpose with President Bush on terrorism issues. The Post’s own reporting today also cites several instances of members of Congress meeting with foreign leaders during the past 30 years. As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, in contrast with Pelosi’s trip, previous congressional actions abroad attempted to directly undermine President Clinton. .
    Fred Hiatt and the Post editorial page get it wrong on Pelosi just like they got it wrong on the recent Iraq legislation, the U.S. Attorney scandal, the CIA leak investigation, the decision to invade Iraq, and on and on and on".

    Carol Gee said...

    Thanks for this very interesting comment. It's another good news/bad news thing, in a way: good news that the editorial and news departments at the WaPo have independence; bad news with the editorial stance being so off base about Pelosi.