Failure of Condoleeza Rice's Near East Mission
1) Sudan security toughs rough up her press entourage in Khartoum, including the wife of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Andrea Mitchell.
2) Sharon convokes Condi to his 600-acre Negev Desert ranch, The Sycamores, where Condi is placed in the proper psychological setting to be "sicced" by Sharon's mastiffs. She will negotiate a big fat nothing. Among several points of intransigence, Sharon will refuse to evacuate the promised four settlements on the West Bank and to return to the Road Map negotiations.
3) This is where Defense Minister Rice Shaul Mofaz says no deal to easing controls of Palestinians travelling from the West Bank to Gaza.
4) Condi's announcement with fanfare of an international summit to follow the Gaza Strip evacuation fades to silence.
5) The scorching Condi received while sequestered among Sharon's thugs prompts her to "do a Rummy". (When Donald Rumsfeld is pee-ohed, he grabs the nearest military transport heading for Iraq for a "surprise" visit.) Condi makes totally unplanned and unannounced 7-hour visit to Beirut. Now, we can't really think the visit was meant to support Emile Lahoud and the new Lebanese cabinet of Fuad Siniora, can we? Because it wasn't. Condi needed to convince herself that she can indeed talk tough. So she flew to Beirut to strongarm that new government at the Sérail to dump the Hezbollah Minister of Electric and Water Resources--or see the US will scrub that $5 billion loan. In all likelihood, Lebanese politicians said "No" to to dumping Hezbollah. Condi also got in some Syria bashing. Feel the power! S-s-s-s-s-s-yria is a badass-s-s-s-s-s-s.
As Condoleezza was about to raise her cudgel on Hezbollah and Syria during a public press conference, Mrs. Rice was cut short by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora:
- Hezbollah: I would like to remind everyone that Lebanon, thoughout its history, has respected international law and will continue to do so. Everyone knows very well that UN Resolution 1559 contains some clauses which have been already implemented and others which require resolution from inside Lebanon within the framework of national unity and dialog. There will be serious debate among Lebanon's different political parties...This requires patience and understanding.
- Syria: We are determined to cultivate healty relations between [our country and Syria] and to promote financial and trade relations which are mutually beneficial.
But then like clockwork, a carbomb strikes the upscale Monnot quarter and wounds 12.
6) Returning to Palestine, Rice shows up empty-handed in Ramallah. She was to have conveyed the Israeli reply on the Gaza airport, seaport and border and security arrangements. [Sharon made a separate, illegal security deal with Egypt, BTW, in violation of the fundamental Camp David accords]. She had absolutely nothing. Just the ususal rhetoric about rounding up Hamas agitators, which by this time must be half the country.
7) But there was one proposal! Rice's suggestion to Palestinians to purchase Israeli-owned greenhouses in the Gaza Strip with US money. But this proposal was shot down. How do you make a legal purchase of illegal structures?, the Palestinians wanted to know.
8) Farewell salvo: The Sharm el-Sheikh bombings.
In the background, it appears to me that Condi's boss, George W. Bush, is balking at the Israeli suggestion that he should pay the $1.7 billion pricetag for the Gaza Strip evacuation, including demolitions (dynamiting the roads, utilities, synagogues, mikvahs and settler housing), disposing of rubble and debris, contruction of new military bases within Israel proper, and alternative luxury housing for the settlers. An astronomical figure like that makes the $200 million granted to the Palestinians by Congress and personally lobbied by Bush very look paltry.
And the President himself? Mrs. Rice's trip is a crucial and ill-timed failure that will have nefarious upshots. Condi had been publically announced to be Bush's personal representative for the Israel-Palestine crisis, beyond her Cabinet status. She achieved nothing and left the region in humiliation.
We should all take heed. A weakened US government has been destabilized.