Middle East: Analyst Says 'U.S. Needs To Talk To Syria, Iran'
WASHINGTON, July 27, 2006 (RFE/RL) --
Radio Farda correspondent Fatemeh Aman interviewed Marina Ottaway, an expert on
the Middle East at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington,
about the lack of results at the July 26 Rome conference and how developments
may play out in the region.
Ottaway specializes in
democracy and postconflict-reconstruction issues, with special focus on problems
of political transformation in the Middle East and reconstruction in Iraq, and
RFE/RL: How do you evaluate the results of the Rome
Marina Ottaway: Well, the Rome conference, as such,
was a failure. It confirmed what we already knew, that the United States has
agreed to let Israel take more time to try to bomb Hizballah's facilities in
Lebanon, that it refuses to try to negotiate a cease-fire now.
what we can expect is that the bombing will continue -- that the conflict will
continue. For how long, I don't know. It's not quite clear to me how far the
U.S. is going to continue with this position and risk getting into yet another
conflict with the European countries, like the one that characterized the
intervention in Iraq. But I would expect -- I would be very surprised if
anything happens in the next week or 10 days.
RFE/RL: The Middle
East is no stranger to conflict. How dangerous, potentially, is this particular
Ottaway: It's an extremely serious crisis, not only
because of the consequences it's already had on the humanitarian situation, but
also because it has the potential for escalating beyond the countries involved
now, that is, beyond Lebanon and Israel and to become more of a regional
RFE/RL: Israel is fighting on two fronts, in Gaza and
Lebanon. Should an end to the conflict in Lebanon be linked to what is happening
in the Palestinian territories?
Ottaway: Well, probably in the
short [term] certainly, it would complicate the situation even more. For
example, in the case of the conflict between Lebanon and Israel, the first
priority is to negotiate a cease-fire. To try to involve also in the negotiation
of that cease-fire, cessation of hostilities in Gaza, would indeed complicate
If we are talking about a more lasting solution, then the two
issues are linked because there is never going to be peace in that area until
the entire problem of the relationship of Israel with the Palestinians and with
all of its neighbors have been solved.
considerations aside, do you believe Israel is likely to succeed in destroying
Hizballah's military capability?
Ottaway: Well, it is certainly
going to have an effect in terms of degrading its military capability.
Hizballah, to some extent will have been disarmed in the sense that it has fired
off a lot of the missiles it has without being able to replenish them. Because
there are certainly no new supplies that are coming into the country. So,
certainly Hizballah will have been degraded militarily.
Hizballah is not
going to disappear as an organization. Not only it will not disappear as a
political organization, but it's not going to disappear as a military
organization, no matter how degraded its capacity is. I think Israel should have
learned from its many, many years of dealing with the Palestinian problem that
you are never going to be able to disarm and neutralize a movement of this
RFE/RL: Israel says it would be willing to accept an
international stabilization force in southern Lebanon, to keep the peace. Is
Ottaway: If there is no engagement with Hizballah,
I think we can forget about deploying a peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
Unless there is an agreement from Hizballah, it's a pipe dream to think that
there can be an international force there.
Second, I don't think the
U.S. can talk to Hizballah. Obviously, those talks will have to take place
through intermediaries. But there has to be some negotiation with Hizballah,
whether it's some European countries, whether it is the UN, but certainly,
someone has to talk directly to Hizballah.
I think the U.S. needs to
talk to Syria and probably to Iran as well, if it wants to achieve anything in
terms of their involvement in the present situation. Neither Syria, nor Iran is
going to give away something for nothing. And I think what they would expect in
return is direct contacts and direct talks.
Copyright (c) 2006 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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