—John Stroebel
So I played connect the dots.....let's see how close I am.
Mon Jul 17, 2006 03:15

 
So I played connect the dots.....let's see how close I am. —John Stroebel, Mon Jul 17 02:10
So I played connect the dots.....let's see how close I am.I've been thinking about what Bush is up to lately and what is happening in the Middle East...and it is no coincidence.The Decider has gone to Germany, met with European statesmen, gone to meet with Putin, and is now meeting with China.Recently he went to...
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http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/17/world/middleeast/17diplo.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Despite Joint Statement on Mideast, Strains Emerge as U.S. Supports Israel’s Campaign
By JIM RUTENBERG, NY Times, 07/16/06

STRELNA, Russia — The Bush administration on Sunday appeared to give Israel tacit approval to cripple Hezbollah, casting the widening conflict in the Middle East in terms of a wider war on terrorism.

That was a central theme of both public and private statements from senior United States officials, even as President Bush and his aides issued a statement that included a call for restraint in Israel’s attacks on Lebanon. They were trying their best to minimize differences with European nations and their Russian hosts at the opening of the annual summit meeting of the Group of 8 industrialized nations here.

But the strains were clear as different leaders offered their interpretations of the statement drafted at the summit meeting that said, in an apparent allusion to Hezbollah and its Iranian and Syrian supporters, “These extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos.”

President Jacques Chirac of France characterized the statement issued here as a call for a cease-fire — a word the Bush administration has sidestepped at every turn over the last few days. The host of the summit meeting, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, told reporters that “we do get the impression that the aims of Israel go beyond just recovering their kidnapped soldiers.’’

Talking to reporters here on Sunday evening, R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, acknowledged that the statement does not present any specific order for steps to solve the crisis; rather, he said, it presumes that Israel will stand down only after Hezbollah and Hamas stop shelling Israeli towns and release captured soldiers.

In an interview on the ABC News program “This Week,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: “Israel has the right to defend itself. We would expect nothing less.’’ She quickly added that the administration had been “in constant contact with the Israelis to urge restraint, to urge them to think about the consequences of what they’re doing.’’

Under renewed criticism by Democrats for engaging in the Middle East only episodically, Ms. Rice said she had made no decision about whether to go to the region. When pressed on a cease-fire, she said on “Fox News Sunday” that “a cessation of violence is crucial, but if that cessation of violence is hostage to Hezbollah’s next decision to launch missiles into Israel or Hamas’s next decision to abduct an Israeli citizen, then we will have gotten nowhere.”

Getting somewhere is clearly the American aim, said a senior official, who noted that administration officials also “want to come up with a solution where you don’t end up in the same place four weeks from now.”

The official, who spoke on condition that his name not be used because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, also said that Ms. Rice would travel to the region only if she thought she could influence matters. For now, the official said, the United States is relying on the Egyptians, Saudis and Jordanians to pressure Iran and Syria to pressure Hezbollah.

Ms. Rice and other officials repeatedly noted Iran’s support of Hezbollah — the Iranians appear to have supplied many of the rockets that have hit Haifa, other areas of Israel and perhaps an Israeli ship — and some administration officials said they saw this as the moment to damage the link between Iran and Syria and the Hezbollah fighters who appear to operate with impunity in southern Lebanon.

At the same time, American officials were careful in their accusations against Iran, stopping short of saying that nation inspired the current outbreak of violence. But several officials noted that the crisis had distracted the leaders from what, just days ago, appeared to be one of their main agenda items — pressing Iran to suspend its production of nuclear material in exchange for a broad economic incentives deal offered by Europe and the United States. Several officials suggested that the Iranian leadership might see the renewal of fighting as a chance to demonstrate how it could strike back at American interests in the region, both in Israel and in Iraq.

Yet Mr. Bush won a victory here on Sunday, when a statement issued by the leaders urged Israel to show the “utmost restraint’’ but also cast the new conflict in terms of a wider war on terrorism. The statement blamed militants for the start of the five-day conflict, saying they were intent on destabilizing the entire region, and more specifically were setting back progress toward democracy in Lebanon.

American officials pointed to the statement issued by the leaders of the Group of 8, which also includes Britain, Italy, Germany, Canada and Japan, as evidence of some success in getting other nations to address the root causes of terrorism in the Middle East.

While these summit meetings always have broad agendas — from economic initiatives to programs to deal with poverty, AIDS and proliferation — Mr. Bush has used every one since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to engage allies in what he has called a “global war on terrorism,’’ a phrase many European nations are hesitant to adopt.

But many European officials privately said that Mr. Bush was facing another of the unintended consequences of the war in Iraq. They cited the administration’s claims, in 2003, that toppling Saddam Hussein would empower Middle East peace efforts; three years later, they noted, fighting has resumed and that effort is moribund. Iran, they contended, felt emboldened by the fact that the United States was distracted in Iraq.

Mr. Bush, Ms. Rice and others countered that their critics had missed a remarkable turn in events, in which some Arab nations, including Jordan and Saudi Arabia, were joining in the criticism of the attacks committed by Hamas and Hezbollah.

In Mr. Bush’s view, aides said, the attacks were driven by the reaction of terrorist groups to efforts to spread democracy in the region, including in Lebanon, where a weak but democratically elected government has been in place since Syria was forced to withdraw from the country.

“We have a new day in the Middle East, and it is a day in which the people of the Middle East, the people of Lebanon without Syrian forces there, the people of the Palestinian territories with a democratic leader in Mahmoud Abbas, are seeking to find a democratic future,” Ms. Rice said. “We’re standing with all responsible parties in the region and with moderate parties in the region who want a Middle East that is different than the 30-plus years of — really, 60-plus years — of Middle East history.”

She did not dwell on the fact that elections also brought to power Hamas in the Palestinian territories and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

Striking the same theme as Ms. Rice, Dan Bartlett, the White House counselor, said failures to address the deeper issues in the Middle East had ultimately led to the creation of Al Qaeda. Speaking of old policies credited with creating stability in the region, Mr. Bartlett said, “All you had was resentment brewing underneath that, and that’s why you have 3,000 Americans who died’’ on Sept. 11.

Mr. Bartlett’s comments appeared to be part of a White House effort to link all Middle East militant groups together, and to suggest that strangling all of them — from Hezbollah to Al Qaeda — was critical to establishing a long-term peace.

During the talks about drafting the statement here, the United States at times seemed isolated in its support for Israel, with other countries complaining that it was not doing enough to lay blame for the escalation of the crisis on Israel’s reaction to the attacks and to the capture of Israeli soldiers — a reaction that many leaders have described as excessive.

Mr. Bush himself seemed to be struggling to calibrate his comments. He alternated between strongly worded statements supporting Israel’s campaign and, apparently in response to concerns from allies that he was not urging enough restraint, telling Israel to avoid civilian casualties and the destruction of the Lebanese infrastructure.

On Sunday Mr. Bush said of Israel: “Our message to Israel is, look, defend yourself, but as you do so, be mindful of the consequences. And so we’ve urged restraint.”

Mr. Putin, whose own relations with the United States are strained, contrasted Russia’s approach of engaging all the parties with Washington’s refusal to talk directly to Iran. “We are using all channels,” he said, later adding that those channels showed the value of having open relations with Iran and Hamas.

The difference of approach became clear when the United States pressed to cite Iran and Syria in the joint statement with the other leaders, and suggested that both countries were involved, if indirectly, in the attacks on Israel. But Mr. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, said during a late-night briefing here that the effort had failed. “Some governments felt comfortable doing that and some did not,” he said, insisting that it was clear to which nations his statement referred.

Mr. Putin said later that his was one of those countries.

Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington for this article, C.J. Chivers from Strelna, Russia, and David E. Sanger from Vermont.

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