Monday, April 26, 2010

In the absence of a US foreign policy

Hussain Abdul-Hussain
NOW Lebanon
23 April '10

Those who know Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman know that this skilled diplomat has a personal bias toward Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence and freedom. Being supportive of Lebanon is one thing, but defending whatever the administration decides is another.

At a hearing before the Congressional Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia yesterday, the former US ambassador to Lebanon faced some tough questioning and was for once on the back foot. Naturally, Congress focused its attack on Washington’s decision to send Robert Ford as ambassador to Damascus.

Feltman argued that since February 26, the State Department has summoned Syrian diplomats – including Ambassador Imad Mustafa – on four occasions to voice its displeasure over Syria’s alleged policy of arming Hezbollah. Mustafa denies he was ever summoned, which made Feltman conclude that Mustafa was either not listening, or did not communicate the details of the meeting to Damascus. Feltman added that in the Arab world, officials tend to keep bad news from their bosses.

As such, he argued, sending a US ambassador back to Syria was imperative. The US needs to have the ear of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who until now has been making grave errors because he has been listening, Feltman argued, to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Those who have been following the Middle East long enough might remember that during one of his trials, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein asked the judge whether he thought of him as being a beast. “No, but those around you made you one,” the judge told Saddam.

The assumption is therefore that Assad is all sweet and full of good intentions, rendering the three-decade confrontation between Damascus and Washington a mere misunderstanding in communication.

But contrary to what Feltman implied, Mustafa is not dumb.

(Read full article)

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