Arabists Arrive

Posted by Cutler on November 27, 2006
Right Arabists

There are a bunch of signs that the Bush administration might be getting ready to roll out a set of new Right Arabist Middle East initiatives.

1. Cheney in Saudi Arabia, explaining the new deal and asking for help. In exchange, the US is returning to the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic track.

2. The key Right Arabist “asset” in Egypt–Mubarak’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman–is back in action, preparing the way for movement on the Palestinian front.

[Hamas political leader Khaled] Meshal arrived in Cairo late Thursday for talks with the head of Egyptian intelligence, Omar Suleiman, on the prisoner exchange and unity government

His visit was planned for the end of last October, but was postponed for unknown reasons. Arab media outlets speculated that Meshal’s arrival in Cairo signals that Hamas is ready to negotiate on the issue of [kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad] Shalit’s release, with Egypt brokering a potential deal.

Suleiman’s efforts have resulted in a surprise ceasefire in Gaza. No sign yet of a unity government as Fatah allegedly makes a bid to reclaim the Interior Ministry.

3. C. David Welch, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, is also back in the game. Welch has been pretty quiet since his last effort to coordinate Egyptian mediation of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. That effort went up in smoke with the July 2006 Israeli military campaign in Lebanon.

Welch is praying that the “rejectionists” in Israel and Syria will not undermine him this time. Slim chance. Elliott Abrams is presumably supposed to keep Israeli rejectionists in line. And Syria has already spoken on the issue with the assassination of Pierre Gemayel.

Here is Welch’s prayer:

“We’re not making any direct accusations, but let me say that the trends and the record seem to be very clear,” C. David Welch, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, said in an interview Wednesday with al-Arabiya Television. “The implication that Syria may be involved is, of course, a very heavy one, but the burden of responsibility that Syria bears not to interfere in the situation in Lebanon could not be more important than at this moment.”

4. Bush on his way to a meeting in Jordan with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. In advance of the meeting, Jordanian King Abdullah has this to say:

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” [Jordanian King] Abdullah said he remained hopeful a summit he will host this week in Amman with President George W. Bush and the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, will somehow lower the sectarian violence that threatens to push Iraq into all-out civil war.

We hope there will be something dramatic. The challenges, obviously, in front of both of them are immense,” the king said.

Can it be a coincidence that the meeting will take place in Jordan, where some of the obvious potential leaders of a would-be “dramatic” anti-Shiite coup are in waiting? As warnings go, this one to Maliki is hardly subtle.

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