Recently in U.S. Middle East Policy Category

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 14, 2013, that a framework for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons had been agreed on. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to give up all chemical weapons in an effort prevent a U.S. attack on Syria for what Mr. Kerry on August 30, 2013, called "the chemical weapons attack the Assad regime inflicted on the opposition and on opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods in the Damascus suburbs on the early morning of August 21st."    See "

Bashar al-Assad: Syria will give up control of chemical weapons ...

According to Mr. Kerry, "The United States Government now knows that at least 1,429 Syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426 children." The Syrian government denies using chemical weapons against forces trying to overthrow Mr.al-Assad.

For more background on the Obama Administration's position on Syria, see President Barack Obama's September 10, 2013, address to the Nation on Syria.

FRAMEWORK FOR ELIMINATION OF SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS

Taking into account the decision of the Syrian Arab Republic to accede to the Chemical
Weapons Convention and the commitment of the Syrian authorities to provisionally apply the Convention prior to its entry into force, the United States and the Russian Federation express their joint determination to ensure the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program (CW) in the soonest and safest manner.

For this purpose, the United States and the Russian Federation have committed to prepare and submit in the next few days to the Executive Council of the OPCW a draft decision setting down special procedures for expeditious destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program and stringent verification thereof. The principles on which this decision should be based, in the view of both sides, are set forth in Annex A. The United States and the Russian Federation believe that these extraordinary procedures are necessitated by the prior use of these weapons in Syria and the volatility of the Syrian civil war.

The United States and the Russian Federation commit to work together towards prompt adoption of a UN Security Council resolution that reinforces the decision of the OPCW Executive Council. This resolution will also contain steps to ensure its verification and effective implementation and will request that the UN Secretary-General, in consultation with the OPCW, submit recommendations to the UN Security Council on an expedited basis regarding the UN's role in eliminating the Syrian chemical weapons program.

The United States and the Russian Federation concur that this UN Security Council resolution should provide for review on a regular basis the implementation in Syria of the decision of the Executive Council of the OPCW, and in the event of non-compliance, including unauthorized transfer, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria, the UN Security Council should impose measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

The proposed joint US-Russian OPCW draft decision supports the application of Article VIII of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which provides for the referral of any cases of noncompliance to the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council.

In furtherance of the objective to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapons program, the United States and the Russian Federation have reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons involved, and are committed to the immediate international control over chemical weapons and their components in Syria. The United States and the Russian Federation expect Syria to submit, within a week, a comprehensive listing, including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.

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Is U.S Commentary on Egypt Banal?

Hussein Ibish, a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, writes in a July 9, 2013, post at Now that, “The upheaval in Egypt inevitably produced a torrent of American commentary, a great deal of which was clichéd, glib, or simply banal. But four articles stand out as particularly instructive examples of how not to write or think about change in Egypt and the broader Arab world.”

He comments on those articles in “How Not to Write About Egypt.” The article was reprinted in Egypt Daily News.

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AIPAC’s Israel Agenda For President Obama

Nathan Guttman contends in a March 3, 2013, article in The Jewish Daily Forward  that, “As President Obama prepares for his upcoming Mideast trip, [he] can get a good sense of Israeli expectations by listening in to speeches and conversations at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference.” See “AIPAC Offers Clues to Barack Obama as He Heads to Israel.” Mr. Guttman added:

The message is crystal clear: topping the agenda are the nuclear threat posed by Iran and turmoil in Syria and in other neighboring countries. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not even part of the lobby’s legislative agenda this year and in speeches the emphasis was placed on the relatively narrow issue of demanding the Palestinian return to negotiations without preconditions.
Regardless, it should be on Mr. Obama’s agenda. Every political upheaval occurring in Arab countries in North Africa and the Middle East is a daily reminder of what can happen in situations that appear hopeless. For one Palestinian perspective, see “Hamas chief evokes Arab Spring in push to lead all Palestinians”.
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Kerry’s ‘Listening Tour’ Gets Underway February 24

On his first trip abroad, which gets underway February 24 and ends on March 6, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry “will travel to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar,” according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. See “Secretary of State John Kerry's Travel to Europe and the Middle East” for what will be discussed during the visit to each country.

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Changing Middle East Status Quo Worries Israelis

Jordan Fabian, writing in a February 15, 2011, article in The Hill datelined Tel Aviv, asserts that, “Israelis are worried about two more years of [U.S.] President [Barack] Obama, and the crisis in Egypt is adding to their concerns.”

The Israelis must have known that the status quo would change one day. In fact, Israel has been under the U.S. security and economic umbrella since 1948. If you want to read Mr. Fabian’s article, please see “Israelis Fretting Over U.S. Policy.” 

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‘We Must Redefine What it Means to be Pro-Israel’

Former U.S. Federal Trade Commission Attorney Ralph E. Stone, who writes regularly on international affairs, asserts in a November 15, 2009, post in the Californian Chronicle, which was also published at  Fog City Journal.com, says, “Now is the time for a long overdue debate on our current Israeli foreign policy.” He adds:

The fallout from Israel´s 2006 war with Lebanon and its 2009 invasion of the Gaza strip has made many Americans view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a new light. It was David (Israel) versus Goliath (the Arab ring states). For many, Israel is now seen as the neighborhood bully.
According to Mr. Stone, “It is unrealistic for the U.S. to suddenly become neutral in all things Middle East, but we must end our lockstep support of Israel with little or no public debate. Instead, we must redefine what it means to be pro-Israel.”

If you want to read more, please see “Redefining U.S. – Israel Foreign Policy.”

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