Archive for the 'US-Middle East' Category

Jul 21 2015

Iran Deal Could Help Palestinian Cause

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Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict might get an unexpected shot in the arm as a result of the recently concluded Iran nuclear agreement.

While the P5+1 talks in Vienna focused only on the issue of Iran’s nuclear capability, many are looking for how this agreement will effect regional conflicts. Some of the harshest critics of the deal accuse the Obama administration of making an agreement with what is described as the world’s “leading supporter of terrorism” without dealing with many of the Middle East’s regional issues.

Although those making these accusations have no interest increasing the pressure on Israel, this might be exactly what will possibly happen.

Political posturing has consequences, and the possible success of Obama’s foreign policies over warmongering hawks will not be lost on anyone in Washington.

Last March, the U.S. capital witnessed a rare and unusual event. The prime minister of a foreign country went to the podium of the U.S. congress and bad-mouthed a sitting president in cooperation with his political domestic opponents. This act by Israel’s Benyamin Netanyahu will certainly have consequences if and when President Obama will sign the Iran Nuclear deal despite objections of his Republican opponents and right wing Israelis. Continue Reading »

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Apr 27 2015

Palestine should not be collateral damage of Iran deal

Al-Araby al-jadeed

By Daoud Kuttab

An important question has yet to be answered. Will Arabs and especially Palestinians be the biggest losers in the game being played between Iran, the White House, Capitol Hill and Israel?Arab thinker Azmi Bishara believes that if Arabs stay neutral over the P5+1 framework deal they will become collateral damage. In other words it is not possible to remain neutral in a process that is attractive to Iranian reformers and American liberals.

On the other hand Israel is heavily engaged in two international cases: the international efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear programme and the world’s desire to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

While the nuclear issue appears to be well on its way to being resolved, there is concern that a trade-off between the two cases might take place.

All sides deny any link, but there is concern that the fierce Israeli opposition to agreement with Iran could force Washington to make an unethical trade-off.
The US president, Barack Obama, is facing stubborn opposition from Republicans in Congress, and even from some of his fellow Democrats.

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Jan 25 2015

Did US backtrack on Palestinian statehood to please Israel?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The United States, which has progressively moved toward recognizing the State of Palestine, has suddenly backed away from even using the word Palestine. Were the previous positions merely lip service and are we now witnessing the true US position, or did the United States backtrack to please Israel?

A look at the history of US rhetorical interaction with the issue of Palestine shows progress over the past decades, from ignoring the existence of the Palestinian people to talking about Palestinian statehood.

George W. Bush received much attention as the first US president to use the word Palestine during a speech he made at the Saban Forum in December 2008. “At the heart of this effort is the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. I was the first American president to call for a Palestinian state, and support — and [to] build support for the two-state solution has been a top priority of my administration,” Bush said.

The term State of Palestine was used 38 times in official statements and speeches by the Republican president. Continue Reading »

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Nov 24 2014

Obama says no plans to remove Assad

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Obama clarifies Assad policy

Speaking to reporters at G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia on November 16, US President Barack Obama dismissed reports of pending changes in Syria policy, saying “We have not had a comprehensive review of Syria. We’ve had a comprehensive review of what are we doing each and every week” in the military campaign to defeat the Islamic State.

On the role of Assad in the battle with IS and in a political transition in Syria, Obama said “there’s no expectation that we are going to in some ways enter an alliance with Assad. He is not credible in that country. Now, we are looking for a political solution eventually within Syria that is inclusive of all the groups who live there — the Alawite, the Sunni, Christians. And at some point, the people of Syria and the various players involved, as well as the regional players — Turkey, Iran, Assad’s patrons like Russia — are going to have to engage in a political conversation. And it’s the nature of diplomacy in any time, certainly in this situation, where you end up having diplomatic conversations potentially with people that you don’t like and regimes that you don’t like. But we’re not even close to being at that stage yet.”

Asked pointedly if he was actively discussing ways to remove Assad in the context of plans for a political transition in Syria, Obama responded with a simple “No.”

Obama’s clarity on Syria stood in contrast to an unusual presentation by US Secretary of State John Kerry the next day on how the Islamic State and the government of Syria are actually “co-dependent” or “symbiotic,” that is, they need each other as enemies, and the US must build and back a “moderate center” in Syria.

Kerry’s remarks come as Syrian military forces this month retook the area around the Al-Shaer gas field from the IS terrorist group after fierce fighting, as reported by Khaled Atallah. Continue Reading »

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Feb 16 2014

Kerry Peace Plan Shakes up Jordanian-Palestinian Relations

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By Daoud Kuttab

The seriousness of the U.S.-initiated framework for a possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem appears to have shaken dormant relations in the region, including in Jordan.

The Palestinian-Jordanian relationship, which is experiencing its highest degree of cooperation and mutual trust, is being put to the test.

The challenges facing this important relationship stem from identity issues that have plagued Jordan for decades but which have been pushed under the rug.

Jordanian politicians, pundits, journalists and even government officials are expressing different degrees of concern and worry regarding the aftermath of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plan, even though information about the plan is very sketchy.

The potential of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has resurrected badly needed discussion about political reform, which was delayed until the resolution of the Palestinian cause.

The refugee issue is perhaps the most important part of this discussion. Two million registered refugees in Jordan are the biggest single group of Palestinian refugees in the world. Their case is even more complicated by the fact that they are also full Jordanian citizens, though not equitably represented in Parliament as a result of large-scale gerrymandering. Continue Reading »

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Jan 20 2014

Kerry responds forcefully to Israeli insults

Published by under Articles,US-Middle East

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

US senior officials, including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, have for years been the subject of Israeli criticism and overtly nasty insults. For the most part, they have tried to absorb such attacks and continue to pursue a healthy, positive relationship with their most important ally — until now. Secretary Kerry has shown Israelis and the world that he is human and that he and his State Department are not going to take it any longer.

The most recent Israeli attacks coincided with Washington’s plans to provide a bridging plan to break out the fruitless Palestinian-Israeli direct talks. While suggesting such ideas is bound to create opposition on both sides, the Israelis responded with a nastiness the Americans said is unfitting of a trusted ally.

The hard-line Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, has been telling anyone willing to listen how he loathes Kerry and his plans. He went so far as to say the secretary’s efforts stemmed from an “incomprehensible obsession” and that his drive for peace was “messianic.” At one point, Ya’alon stated that the US security plan designed by Gen. John Allen is “not worthy of the paper it is written on” and that Americans do not know anything about security. In perhaps the most insulting of all such statements, Ya’alon is quoted as saying that he hopes the US secretary of state wins the Nobel Peace Prize and then “leave us alone.” Continue Reading »

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Aug 22 2013

Punishing Killers of Protesters should be applied to all

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By Daoud Kuttab

I believe it is a good idea for the US and other world countries to immediately stop aid to any country that shoots civilian demonstrators.

This principle should be applied without exception.

Double standards should not be tolerated when dealing with soldiers causing fatalities when confronting civilian demonstrators.

While this principle is being discussed in regard to the use of force by the Egyptian security forces, there has never been any discussion about using the same punishment against Israel, which has killed many unarmed Palestinian demonstrators.

UN resolutions allow for resistance, including armed resistance, to a foreign military occupation. Continue Reading »

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Aug 09 2013

Tweets reveal US double standards on Egypt and 1st Amendment

Published by under Articles,US-Middle East

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

Following appeared in various publications.

One of the reasons for the success of social media’s Twitter platform is its ability to summarize a major issue in a few characters, while at the same time providing a link to give more details and credibility to the few words.

This week a political activist used some clever research to reveal the hypocrisy and double standards of a politician. Twitter user @bungdan juxtaposed two quotes of maverick US Senator John McCain regarding the situation in Egypt. In a tweet this week he quoted McCain as calling on the Egyptian army and the new powers-to-be to include members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the post-June 30 regime. At the same time, he dug up a quote given by McCain to the German magazine, Der Spiegel, in which the Republican senator states that he is “unalterably opposed” to the involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s transition.

It is not clear if McCain was speaking his mind then or now, and if his most recent statement is aimed at his party’s political opponent who is now in the White House.

This double standard is clearly not restricted to senators or to Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood. It can easily be seen in more basic American values enshrined so eloquently in the US constitution’s bill of rights. Continue Reading »

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Aug 04 2013

US Must Sell Peace Talks To Israeli, Palestinian Public

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

Peace talks generally require a parallel strategy aimed at communicating and convincing a reluctant public of its importance, value and ultimate benefits to the warring parties. One might think that nine months of publicly stated “secret” talks would require little communication. But the contrary is the case.

The United States, which is the single and only direct patron and sponsor of the current peace talks, is pulling all the stops to make sure that the Palestinian and Israeli public “are well-informed” — even if all sides agree that the talks are to be private.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has told the world that both Palestinian and Israeli leaders have agreed that he is the only official who can make an authoritative comment or revelation about the peace talks.

Having added the role of peace communicator-in-chief to that of negotiator-in-chief, Washington now has the task of delivering information to the two publics. US officials called back from retirement one of their experienced hands in this area. Veteran communications diplomat Bill Cavness, who served as the information officer both in east Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, was asked to fill in at a position vacated in Jerusalem in the summer, when a sudden breakthrough in talks caught everyone off guard. Continue Reading »

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Aug 04 2013

The Kerry Talks: Why the US Needs to Be in the Room

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

Students of political negotiations might remember the long and difficult discussions in Paris about the shape of the negotiating table for the talks to end the Vietnam War. In the Palestinian-Israeli context, the discussion is not so much on the shape of the table as it is about the participants at the table.

One of the most abused and repeated claims made in Washington is that the Americans cannot want peace more than the parties in the Middle East. The reason why this statement is so false is that the Americans have had a long history of involvement in the Middle East conflict, almost exclusively on behalf of the Israelis. Whether they want to admit it or not, the United States has for decades sided privately with the Israelis while publicly claiming to be neutral. Serious investigation into the motivation for this bias always points to domestic politics as the major, but not exclusive reason for it.

Yet despite the Palestinians’ knowledge of the Americans’ true position, they have generally wanted the United States to be involved. In fact, they have demanded it. When the Quartet — the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States — proved incapable of making headway against Israeli obstinacy, the Palestinians turned to Washington as the party that could, if it chose to, apply direct or indirect pressure on the Israelis. Continue Reading »

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