Notes for a Friday in August

1. It might be a beginning

1. It might be a beginning

After years of fits and starts, during which tens of thousands of people have died in Darfur while China protected the Sudanese government in the Security Council, the UN appears to have negotiated an agreement to augment the African Union peacekeeping force with 26,000 UN troops under a mandate to “protect the people.” The Sudanese government thus far agrees that the new force can enter the country and move to Darfur. And, if by “protect,” the mandate includes using military force to rout the Janjaweed militia, the UN may be on to something that can finally bring hope to the ravaged region.

2. Another beginning, but on the wrong foot

Saudi Arabia claims to want to attend the “peace conference” being arranged by Secretary Rice for the Middle East. As a down payment on good behavior, the Saudi government agreed to recognize the government of Iraq – something that should have been done long ago, considering that Iraq is an Arab country being subverted by Iran. The conference may consider threats posed by Iran to the region – the details of the meeting are not finalized – but it will certainly address the determination of the parties to establish a Palestinian State.

Saudi Prince Faisal said the conference had to address “substantive issues,” which he says, are “justice for the Palestinians” and “dismantling Jewish settlements.” The Prince is in synch with Dr. Rice, who said there is a “deepening of the dialogue…that will lead ultimately to the founding of a Palestinian state.” Likewise in synch is the Israeli government. Ha’aretz reports that the Israeli Cabinet is looking for principles to take to the conference; The Washington Times says it will be, “borders, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees who left…during the 1948 war.”

Are we the only ones who think this conference should address the failure of the Arab states to recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel? President Bush has in fact said the Arab states have to drop the “fiction” that Israel does not exist. This is, in our view, the perfect time for the Government of Israel to insist that the Arab states demonstrate acceptance of UN Resolution 242, drop their states of war against Israel and accept the “legitimacy and territorial integrity of all the states in the region.” If it doesn’t, who will?

3. Score one for the Iraqi Ambassador

Hamid al-Bayati, Iraq’s Ambassador to the UN, put his finger on problems the Bush administration is creating with its multi-country, multi-billion dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia, et al. “This reminds me of when they armed Saddam to the teeth until 1980 and he started the war (with Iran) and it was devastating for the region, for everybody.” Al-Bayati noted that Saddam later used the weapons to invade Kuwait and fight the U.S.-led coalition. And, pointing out that the sales are primarily to Sunni-led countries, he raised the concern that Arab publics will see it as an attempt to divide Muslims against each other and the result will be a turning of sympathies toward Iran. We would only add that Al-Bayati said nothing about the Israel side of the deal.