07 December 2013

Additional Notes on the New American Plan

I received several contrarian reactions to my 200th post on the New American Plan in the Middle East.

Some people felt that I was giving too much credit to the American foreign service and national security apparatus. This group included a few senior insiders and they were adamant that the US foreign policy is usually a mess, full of contextual misconceptions, logistical errors and terrible overreach.

Other people felt that my model was too mechanical and I was overlooking a lot of nuances to reach my Occam's Razor conclusions.

I plead guilty on both counts. But as the saying goes, these are features not bugs.

American diplomats may appear like bumbling idiots occasionally and we all read about some of their ignorant remarks, showing a profound lack of understanding on their part. But that is not convincing to me. I will not even argue that for a caricature of oversized obnoxious Yankees they did a hell of a job maintaining US supremacy for a century.

The point is that I look at the US like an astronomer observing a black hole. It is not the mechanics of it that interests me. My understanding is based on the behavior of the objects near the black hole. When they change shape and color, move erratically and defy laws of physics, I know that the hole had something to do with it.

From that observation, I try to come up with an explanatory model that I can test with further observations. So, indeed I overlook a lot of nuances. But that is because I try to edit a lot of noise, misdirection and biased reporting to see if actions could actually corroborate my admittedly mechanical model.

To illustrate my contrarian method, I want to give you several examples showing how the US-Iran rapprochement changes the regional dynamic dramatically.

Before the 24 November agreement, you remember how the Gulf countries were adamantly opposed to any deal with Iran. Once the deal was signed they all understood what that meant. And that, within days.
UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed was the first of his Gulf counterparts to visit Tehran to show his country's support, calling for stronger ties between Iran and the UAE — "ties beyond the normal relations between neighbors and partners."
Then Bahrain (yes the same Bahrain that has been ruthlessly persecuting its Shia majority and blaming Iran for its troubles) extended an invitation to Zarif.
The little Gulf kingdom that for the past couple of years has continuously accused Tehran of interfering in Bahrain and backing the uprising against the ruling family invited Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to take part in the forthcoming Manama dialogue next month.
After months of hard lobbying against a deal with Iran, Saudi Arabia chimed in the day after the agreement.
Saudi Arabia views the agreement as a primary step toward a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear issue provided it leads to a Middle East and Gulf region free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.  The Kingdom hopes that such a step will be followed by more important steps that lead to a guarantee of the right of all countries in the region to peacefully use nuclear energy.
What about Israel and Netanyahu's campaign against the deal?
There’s no panic at all among Israel’s professional military echelons. Nobody talks about a catastrophe or an imminent second holocaust. People discuss the merits of the agreement with levelheadedness and discretion.
Despite Netanyahu's doomsday predictions, the past and current military and intelligence chiefs are perfectly fine with the agreement.
 Former Mossad Director Meir Dagan and former Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin believe that the agreement with Iran — while not perfect and with a few holes — has benefits that outweigh the damage. Stopping Iran’s stampede, it sparks hope for a positive final agreement. These two are fully at peace with their historic stance that blocked an Israeli offensive. This position is also shared by the IDF’s former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former Military Intelligence Director Amos Yadlin, who hinted at his position on several public occasions. Yadlin’s predecessor, Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash, is also of the same opinion.
What about the current leaders, like chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Military Intelligence Director Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Mossad Director Tamir Pardo and Shin Bet Director Yoram Cohen?
They cannot speak up and express their feelings, yet in internal forums they continued all along to oppose an independent Israeli military move. As for the agreement, the voices that come out of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate are slightly different from what Netanyahu and his senior ministers are saying. An analysis of the Geneva agreement by military intelligence points to its pros and cons. The agreement has advantages and achievements but also drawbacks, mistakes and problems. The main thing that Israel’s military intelligence does not demonstrate — in contrast to the government’s position — is panic.
Okay, I hear you say, I'll bite, how any of this shows that the US was doing this to get the Palestinian peace process back on track?

The Iran deal was to show everyone that the US can back a different horse and make life difficult for everyone (without seriously jeopardizing anyone's security as, like Mursi in Egypt, Rouhani and Zarif have their own reason not to rock the boat).

What other issue exist that Netanyahu can grab on, in order to claim that the peace negotiations are not acceptable? Why, it is Israel's security of course.

A recently retired four star Marine Corps General John R Allen and his team are currently in Israel drawing up plans to increase Israel's security in the event of a Palestinian peace deal. What that means is that the US is no longer willing to accept any blanket claims about Israel's security and will not allow that to be used to stall peace talks. They have their own expert to draw up plans and they will follow his advice over Netanyahu's.

If you know a little bit about the region, you know what a big deal this is.

There is also this:
US Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the third time in 24 hours on Friday for talks understood to be focused on security. 
Kerry, who is seeking ways to drive forward stagnant peace talks, met twice with Netanyahu on Thursday for more than six hours of talks about potential security issues in any peace agreement. 
He also held a three-hour meeting in Ramallah with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Three meetings in 24 hours.

Maybe I study objects near the black hole too much. And I see the world a tad too mechanically.

But sometimes I wish people paid more attention to actions.

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