Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hubert Védrine: Part 2

Finally found the time to finish this intersting exchange with Hubert Védrine

Q - What about other issues?

I do not think that on the Israeli-Palestinian question, the Israeli-Lebanese question and the Syrian-Lebanese question there can be any resolution without realism. The startup of a process to find a solution between Israel and the Palestinians would remove pretexts from Syria and the others.

Q - Don’t you think that the process could aggravate demands and ambitions, if only because the peace process calls for a Palestinian state and that several regional regimes would want to control it?

The longer Israel waits, the more problems will arise. If the Israelis had negotiated seriously with the Palestinian nationalists, they would have had a ready-made barrier against against Islamism. The longer they wait, the greater the chances are that the Palestinian movement will weaken and fall under the control of hostile forces. In my opinion it was a tremendous error to push the Palestinians into elections then to boycott the results. It’s one of the worst errors the West ever made and one that both Europe and France accepted. Either you don’t want the Islamists in government, for good reason, so you don’t ask the Arabs to hold free elections or you believe that the democratic process is more important and you accept the results. The West destroyed its own message. As to Iraq, I agree with the Baker-Hamilton Report. In any case there are no perfect solutions, only flawed solutions. A regional approach is required so that Iraq’s neighbors gradually have less interest in maintaining or increasing the chaos in Iraq.

Holding talks with Iran doesn’t mean supporting the Islamist government or that you’ll agree to whatever they’ll ask you. It means betting on something else. You have to think dynamically, not statically. If you impose preconditions, that’s arrogance or pretentiousness. Things don’t work that way. You have to bet on a changing circumstances. The United States would have done well to reopen dialog with Khatami. Khatami was weak, but his hand would have been strengthened had there been dialog. By reopening the dialog, there was a chance that other forces in Iran would have come to the fore; the idea is to talk to nationalist Iran, not Islamist Iran. If dialog restarts, these forces will appear. But you cannot manage the dialog naively. While negotiating, you have to distinguish the normal regional desires of Iran –to become a regionally important power- from outrageous demands. Little by little, and it won’t happen in 24 hours, Iran must receive recognition of its regional status so that it will reduce its investment in Hezbollah and Hamas.

As to other questions, between Syria and Israel, Lebanon and Israel and Lebanon and Syria, I believe that progress can be made, including progress in Lebanese reconstruction and sovereignty, by relying on different mechanisms. If not, it’s all a waste of time.

Interview conducted by Jana TAMER

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