Damascus

“Le Figaro” Reports That Assad Rebuilt Hezbollah’s Hi-Grade Missile Capacity To 40,000. So Whatever Happened To Obama’s “Reset Button” With Damascus? It Never Was Reset.
October 28, 2010

The Obama presidency has been obsessed with remaking the Damascus-Washington relationship. Some of his experts told him it was both imperative and just beneath the surface. All you had to do was try. For some comic relief, I suppose, the State Department also sent two oh-so-brilliant men from the “wired” life-style: Alec Ross and Jared Cohen—yes, of course, Jewish—to Damascus to entice the Arabs into the future.

Overstated
September 20, 2010

The most durable myth in the Middle East is: "It's Palestine, stupid." It lies at the heart of Barack Obama's Middle East diplomacy, which is why the president has been pummeling the Israelis and pushing the Palestinians to resume talks. According to this myth, the most urgent problem is not the Iranian bomb or Syrian ambitions. It is not Egypt, once an anchor of stability and now slipping into precarious irrelevance. It is not Iraq, which is tottering between occupation and anarchy. It is not Al Qaeda in Yemen, the return of the Taliban, or the ticking time bomb that is Pakistan.

An Answer For Marty
August 18, 2010

Marty, continuing TNR's rich tradition of internal debate, lobs a question my way about the Park51 project, originally named "Cordoba House": Have you wondered, as I have, why this project is called the Cordoba Initiative? Well, the city was conquered in 1148 by a Muslim dynasty, the Almohades, who offered the Jews a rich choice: conversion to Islam, death or exile. The family of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides was born in Cordoba and Moses ben Maimon spent his childhood there. Until, that is, the Muslims arrived. When given their options, they left. Which is what most of the Jews did then.

The Saudis Cede Lebanon to The Syrians
August 06, 2010

It hasn't been much noticed in the American press--nor, for that matter, in the British press--that Bashar Assad has re-established his condominium over Lebanon. But the Middle Eastern papers have duly noted the development virtually without commenting on its importance. Still, the meaning of the arrival in Beirut of the Syrian president and the monarch of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, on one plane, Abdullah's jet, cannot be lost. The Custodian of the Holy Places, as he is almost universally called in the region, has placed his hands on the tyrant of Damascus.

A Deal With The Devil
July 17, 2010

Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

A Deal With The Devil
July 17, 2010

Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

“… Syria Elicits Groans In Washington”
July 03, 2010

So says a headline in Wednesday’s New York Times. And the article by Mark Landler elaborates the cosmic kvetch brought on by the Obama administration’s courting of Damascus. I’ve written about this a few times myself. The courting of the Assad dictatorship was supposed to lure Syria away from its entanglement with the Ahmadinejad regime in Tehran. But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee refused to consider the confirmation of the president’s nominee, Robert S. Ford, as emissary to the Syrians. My friend, John Kerry, loyally subbed for the putative ambassador.

The Patriarch
July 01, 2010

Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero By Abigail Green (Harvard University Press, 540 pp., $35) In 1827, an upright, well-to-do English gentleman, traveling through the Levant with his lady wife, ran into some dirty weather en route from Alexandria to Malta. But this particular gentleman was called Moses and his notion of calming the sea was to throw the afikoman half of the middle matzoh of the Passover seder into the churning waters. Apparently, as Abigail Green tells it, in some Sephardi traditions the breaking of the afikoman symbolizes the parting of the Red Sea.

Move Assad
June 25, 2010

The Obama administration has signaled in word and deed that a policy change is in the offing, a change that would accommodate the Syrian regime and normalize relations with it. The notion of autocracy as a guarantor of stability is back in vogue after the Bush years, and so the policy is being bolstered by a chorus of analysts and academics. The Syrian regime, the thinking goes, is as good as it gets for helping to keep simmering regional tensions under a tight lid. But this change would be a bit of a gamble.

Turkey Is Now The Key To Arab Politics. Beware: Built Up By Obama, Erdogan Is Playing The Wild Card
June 22, 2010

From the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Executive Director Robert Satloff comes this analysis:  The Gaza Flotilla Incident: Impact on Three Key Arab Actors By Robert Satloff June 22, 2010   The Gaza flotilla episode pitted Israel versus Turkey, with Arabs as bystanders and observers. Yet reverberations of the incident have had a keen impact across Arab capitals. Egypt: Policy Adrift The country most negatively affected has been Egypt.

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