At their summit in Helsinki, Finland, in July, President Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia reportedly agreed to end the Syrian war and to move Iranian forces away from the Syria-Israel border. President Trump has also indicated that he is willing to accept President Bashar al-Assad’s remaining in office and is prepared to withdraw American forces from Syria. This is a start. But more is needed to end the violence in Syria.
Beginning in 2011, Western and Middle Eastern powers rallied around the slogan “Assad must go.” This singular focus on the fate of Syria’s president hardened positions on all sides and made it much more difficult to explore other options.… Seguir leyendo »
Technology threatens to fundamentally change the nature of elections and democratic governance.
New media forms, including social media, are fueling political polarization as people communicate with general audiences and narrowly focused groups, without the deliberation typical of traditional forms of communication. Hacking, misinformation, “fake news” and cybersecurity threats are expanding the power of a few while undermining public confidence in the accuracy of mass media and information. Politicians are using detailed voter information to play to their bases, allowing them to ignore the rest of their constituents.
Democratization, which had advanced steadily for decades, is now threatened by the rise of authoritarian governments and the closing of the political space to civil society, journalists and others.… Seguir leyendo »
We do not yet know the policy of the next administration toward Israel and Palestine, but we do know the policy of this administration. It has been President Obama’s aim to support a negotiated end to the conflict based on two states, living side by side in peace.
That prospect is now in grave doubt. I am convinced that the United States can still shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before a change in presidents, but time is very short. The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on Jan. 20 is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, and help it achieve full United Nations membership.… Seguir leyendo »
The announcement this month of a new cease-fire agreement in Syria is good news. But a lack of trust among the Syrian belligerents and their foreign supporters means this agreement, like the one that came before it, is vulnerable to collapse.
It is already showing severe signs of strain. Over the weekend, the United States accidentally bombed Syrian government troops. On Monday, the Syrian military declared it would no longer respect the deal, resumed airstrikes on Aleppo, and even a humanitarian aid convoy was bombed.
Still, there is reason for hope. If Russia and the United States were willing to come far enough in their negotiations to reach this deal, these setbacks can be overcome.… Seguir leyendo »
I have known Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, since he was a college student in London, and have spent many hours negotiating with him since he has been in office. This has often been at the request of the United States government during those many times when our ambassadors have been withdrawn from Damascus because of diplomatic disputes.
Bashar and his father, Hafez, had a policy of not speaking to anyone at the American Embassy during those periods of estrangement, but they would talk to me. I noticed that Bashar never referred to a subordinate for advice or information. His most persistent characteristic was stubbornness; it was almost psychologically impossible for him to change his mind — and certainly not when under pressure.… Seguir leyendo »
Nearly seven months after the end of the latest war in Gaza, none of the underlying causes of the conflict have been addressed. In the meantime, the people of Gaza are experiencing unprecedented levels of deprivation, and the prospect for renewed armed conflict is very real.
In June 2014, the Hamas-backed government in Gaza was dissolved, and a reunified Palestinian Authority cabinet was created under the leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The international community reached a consensus, with tacit support from Israel, to empower this government to lead reconstruction in Gaza and, together with the United Nations, to track the delivery and use of building materials to address fears that cement and other supplies could be diverted to build tunnels into Israel.… Seguir leyendo »
As we contemplate how to strike back at North Korea because it is believed to be behind the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer network, the foremost proposal is tightening sanctions. In my visits to targeted countries, I have seen how this strategy can be cruel to innocent people who know nothing about international disputes and are already suffering under dictatorial leaders.
The imposition of economic embargoes on unsavory regimes is most often ineffective and can be counterproductive. In Cuba, where the news media are controlled by the government, many people are convinced that their economic plight is caused by the United States and that they are being defended by the actions of their Communist leaders, who are therefore strengthened in power.… Seguir leyendo »
Although intensive Middle East peace efforts by Secretary of State John F. Kerry have not produced an agreement, they have clarified the issues and still can produce significant dividends. His team of negotiators now is much more familiar with the complex disputes and obstacles to be overcome, as are the Israelis and Palestinians who have participated in the discussions.
It is obvious that both Israel and the Palestinians have a vital interest in a two-state solution, based on international law and U.N. resolutions approved by participating nations. President Obama has discussed some of these key factors, calling for no more settlements in the occupied territories and an adherence to the pre-1967 borders (with some mutually agreed changes).… Seguir leyendo »
On Nov. 26, the U.N. secretary general made another call for a Geneva peace conference on Syria, to be held Jan. 22. These calls have been issued since June 2011, but no belligerents have shown up because each has been allowed to define the preconditions for negotiations. The only way to break this stalemate is for the United Nations and major powers to set the conditions for participation and enforce them.
During the past 2½ years, 100,000 more Syrians have died, more than 2 million Syrians have fled the country as refugees and 6 million Syrians have been internally displaced. The war among Syria’s many sectarian groups has become more brutal, and some neighboring countries are even more deeply involved in trying to help one side or the other prevail.… Seguir leyendo »
The only way to be assured that Syrian chemical weapons will not be used in the future is not through a military strike but through a successful international effort.
Regardless of the postponed congressional vote regarding the use of military force, other actions should be taken to address the situation in Syria, including an urgent effort to convene without conditions the long-delayed peace conference the United States and Russia announced in May. A resolution in the U.N. General Assembly to condemn any further use of chemical weapons, regardless of perpetrator, would be approved overwhelmingly, and the United States should support Russia’s proposal that Syria’s chemical weapons be placed under U.N.… Seguir leyendo »
If the recent rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli air strikes on Gaza tell us anything, it is that the status quo in the Middle East is not a safe choice for Israelis or Palestinians.
In the current political climate, it is highly unlikely that bilateral talks between Israel and the Palestinians can restart. Action is needed that will alter the current dynamic. As Elders, we believe that the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations is such a moment.
On Nov. 29, U.N. member states will be asked to vote on a resolution to grant “non-member observer state status” to Palestine, a significant upgrade from its current “observer entity” status.… Seguir leyendo »
The current focus of leaders in Washington and Jerusalem on Iran has obscured the near-death of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and the inevitable catastrophe toward which Israel is now moving.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have been establishing more and more settlements in Palestine on confiscated land. While they profess their support for a “two-state solution,” their actions all aim to create a “Greater Israel,” from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. Washington has voiced opposition to these steps, but has not made any strong efforts to prevent them.
Since 1967, the consensus in the international community and among the majority of Israelis has been that there would be two political entities, with Israelis returning to their pre-1967 borders except for some small land swaps along the border.… Seguir leyendo »
In September 1978, Anwar Sadat and Menachim Begin signed the Camp David Accords, following four Arab-Israeli wars in which Egypt had provided the overwhelming military force that threatened the existence of Israel.
The Egyptian Parliament and the Israeli Knesset overwhelmingly approved the agreement, which called for honoring all aspects of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. One of its key provisions was the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security.” The accords called for the withdrawal of Israeli military and political forces from the occupied territories and the granting of “full autonomy” to the Palestinians.… Seguir leyendo »
It was not a new U.S. policy concerning the borders of Israel, nor should it have been surprising to Israeli leaders, when President Obama stated: “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of Nov. 22, 1967, concluded the war of that year and has been widely acknowledged by all parties to be the basis for a peace agreement. Its key phrases are, “Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” and “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” These included the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, plus lands belonging to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria.… Seguir leyendo »
This is a decisive moment. Under the auspices of the Egyptian government, Palestine’s two major political movements — Fatah and Hamas — are signing a reconciliation agreement on Wednesday that will permit both to contest elections for the presidency and legislature within a year. If the United States and the international community support this effort, they can help Palestinian democracy and establish the basis for a unified Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza that can make a secure peace with Israel. If they remain aloof or undermine the agreement, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory may deteriorate with a new round of violence against Israel.… Seguir leyendo »
Even at this point, after the dramatic announcement by the armed forces, no one can predict the ultimate outcome of the Egyptian drama. But there is a clear picture of the existing situation and a few obvious options for the future.
Most Egyptians would like to see an end to public disturbances, restoration of basic human rights and a peaceful transition of authority to a more representative government.
It seems that both sides at least publicly accept the concepts of a few constitutional revisions, some easing of government oppression, and a more genuinely competitive electoral system to prepare for choosing Egypt’s future political leaders.… Seguir leyendo »
No one can completely understand the motivations of the North Koreans, but it is entirely possible that their recent revelation of their uranium enrichment centrifuges and Pyongyang’s shelling of a South Korean island Tuesday are designed to remind the world that they deserve respect in negotiations that will shape their future. Ultimately, the choice for the United States may be between diplomatic niceties and avoiding a catastrophic confrontation.
Dealing effectively with North Korea has long challenged the United States. We know that the state religion of this secretive society is «juche,» which means self-reliance and avoidance of domination by others. The North’s technological capabilities under conditions of severe sanctions and national poverty are surprising.… Seguir leyendo »
During my recent travels to North Korea and China, I received clear, strong signals that Pyongyang wants to restart negotiations on a comprehensive peace treaty with the United States and South Korea and on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The components of such an agreement have been fairly constant over the past 16 years, first confirmed in 1994 by the United States and Kim Il-sung, then the North Korean leader, and repeated by a multilateral agreement negotiated in September 2005.
The basic provisions hold that North Korea’s old graphite-moderated nuclear energy reactor, which can easily produce weapons-grade plutonium, and all related facilities and products should be disabled under inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency; that while the reactor is shut down, the United States should provide fuel oil or electric power to North Korea until new power plants are built; that the United States should provide assurances against the threat of nuclear attack or other military actions against North Korea; that the United States and North Korea should move toward the normalization of political and economic relations and a peace treaty covering the peninsula; that better relations should be pursued by North Korea, South Korea and Japan; and that all parties should strengthen their economic cooperation on energy, trade and investment.… Seguir leyendo »
One of the most urgent responsibilities the international community faces is in Sudan, which is facing a renewal of nationwide violence.
Many accomplishments hang in the balance. The Bush administration helped to orchestrate a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) there in 2005. One of its key provisions is that a referendum will be held in January 2011 in the southern region, so that citizens can decide whether to secede or remain part of a unified nation.
Since 2005, combat has largely been restrained, northern troops have pulled out of the south, a national unity government in Khartoum and a regional southern government in Juba have been formed, and oil wealth has been shared.… Seguir leyendo »
It is generally recognised that the Middle East peace process is in the doldrums, almost moribund. Israeli settlement expansion within Palestine continues, and PLO leaders refuse to join in renewed peace talks without a settlement freeze, knowing that no Arab or Islamic nation will accept any comprehensive agreement while Israel retains control of East Jerusalem.
US objections have impeded Egyptian efforts to resolve differences between Hamas and Fatah that could lead to 2010 elections. With this stalemate, PLO leaders have decided that President Mahmoud Abbas will continue in power until elections can be held – a decision condemned by many Palestinians.… Seguir leyendo »