My quick one-word answer to that headline’s question: no. Now, please allow me to elaborate on that answer: hell no.
It’s not often — if ever — that I post an article that has so many points with which I disagree unless I’m dissecting it. Still, this interview with Martin Indyk raised enough interesting thoughts that I’d still recommend reading it. Please note that a political slant is made obvious early, as displayed in the following (emphasis added):
Indyk currently heads the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. He is waiting, though he will not admit this publicly, for another opportunity to try to make peace – an option that could be realized if a Democrat wins the U.S. presidential elections in 2008.
Despite this wonderfully biased intro that a Democrat U.S. president is the course to possible peace, there are still some tasty tidbits in the interview, and I would like to highlight a couple of them.
First, when asked who won the recent Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in southern Lebanon, Indyk gave the following response:
“I think the verdict is still out. Militarily Hezbollah put on an impressive performance and was able to stand up to Israeli forces. Even if in the end it turns out that they lost every encounter, in the Middle East perception is reality, and the perception is that they gave as good as they got, and the perception is that they achieved more than Israel achieved. When the Israeli Chief of Staff says that ‘Israel won on points,’ that’s not a very reassuring verdict.
“On the other hand, to paraphrase von Clausewitz, the question is who manages to turn the results on the battlefield into political gains, and there I’m a bit more optimistic. The campaign in Lebanon highlighted the dangers facing the Sunni Arab world from the Iranian-led Shia axis, from Iran to Iraq – which has a Shi’ite-dominated government – to the minority Alawite regime in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. That actually provides a common interest to the Sunni Arab world and Israel.
“And you can see that in interesting ways, including the fact that Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have now had a spat with Syria over their intent to relaunch Saudi King Abdullah’s peace initiative, which provided conditions for ending the conflict, recognition of Israel and normalization of relations.
“And there is the fact that the Sunni Lebanese prime minister, while taking the world press on a tour of the rubble of southern Beirut and accusing Israel of war crimes – is nonetheless holding out an olive branch to Israel.["]
Secondly, when discussing his earlier contentions that Israel should focus on making peace with Syria, Indyk reversed his long-held stance as follows:
“Look, I was personally involved in trying to achieve a peace treaty between Israel and Syria during eight years of the Clinton Administration. I personally argued throughout that period that the U.S. needed to give priority to a Syrian-Israeli deal, because it had obvious strategic benefits: breaking off Syria from Iran as well as the ability to disarm Hezbollah with the 15,000 troops that Syria had in Lebanon at the time, and to increase the pressure on the Palestinians to move forward and to break the logjam. There were lots of advantages then to doing a deal with ‘Syria first.’
“But I don’t feel the same way now. There’s nothing wrong with talking about talking with Syria. Israel should always be interested in negotiating peace – but as a matter of strategy I think it’s a mistake.
“Syria is allied with Iran, for good reasons of strategy, from their point of view. And the notion that you can somehow split them is, I think, fanciful. And to talk to Assad now would have the effect of inviting him back into Lebanon, because surely the purpose of talking to him is to get him to control Hezbollah, and I think that’s a mistake.
“Israel should at least try to work with the Lebanese government, which is an anti-Syrian government. Because that government is signaling that it wants to deal with Israel, that it wants to return to the provisions of the 1949 Armistice Agreement between the two countries, and the Lebanese prime minister had made it even more explicit in recent days.["]
While I find much to disagree with in the interview, including especially the fundamental point that this war sets up a grand opportunity with the Sunnis for Israel, there is also much that is intriguing and still a good bit more to chew on and digest.