Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Notes: Howard LaFranchi, "In Mideast, US diplomacy by proxy," Christian Science Monitor, July 25, 2006.

The Bush administration's principle of avoiding the international players it finds most objectionable is facing in the Middle East what may be its biggest test.

It is a diplomatic practice that the Bush administration has used elsewhere, but without clear results thus far, analysts say.

Charles Freeman, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, is a skeptic. "To imagine you could somehow subcontract to someone else the contacts and pressuring with a party you consider crucial but at the same time disagreeable or objectionable is not a good" approach, he says .

He says the Bush administration has used the same diplomatic model in other cases: toward North Korea, "burying any contact in the six-party talks while counting on China to use its influence, even though our interests are not the same" as Beijing's; and toward Iran, "where we've subcontracted diplomacy to the Europeans because we won't talk to Tehran."

...other experts in the region say the US will also have to accept that Hizbullah is not just a stooge for Syria and Iran. "There's a lot of inaccurate conjecture in our official statements about the relationships between Hizbullah and Syria and Iran," says Freeman, now president of the Middle East Policy Council in Washington. "They may play important roles as financier and quartermaster, but the fact is that Hizbullah is very much an independent actor, a state within a state."

Related: Bhadrakumar, "The rise and rise of Russia."
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