Notes from David Makowky Workshop — January 2009

I’ve misspelled his name on purpose because he doesn’t want his name in print, but for the benefit of our private network, here are my notes from a workshop with a leading analyst on the Middle East / Israel-Arab issues.

Gaza and Palestinians…..Big mistake people make is to confuse peace monitors with peace enforcers. Monitors only observe and work if the parties themselves are interested in keeping the peace. Enforcers hardly ever exist and nobody is willing to do it between Israelis and Arabs…..Arab moderates tell Israel that if they talk to Hamas, they undermine them for negotiating rather than fighting and will be viewed by people around them as quislings….The key to the next Israeli election is the extent Mubarak is willing to safeguard Egypt’s border with Gaza or otherwise force Israel to deal with it. If he won’t deal with it, the war will be protracted and Bibi will win the elections. Mubarak hates Bush and would be more inclined to give Obama the concession. Believes that Israel held back a week and continues to hold off going after the border areas hoping Egypt will save them from the task but that without controlling the tunnels on the Rafah border, the whole operation will ultimately be a waste of time…Fayyad, the PA prime minister, should be popular because he has done more than anyone else to raise Palestinian living standards and try to build a nation-state. He might not be popular to be elected without Abbas, who is expected to remain for at least another year in his office….Issue of land between Israel and PA on the West Bank is virtually nil, meaning the parties both agree as to what the borders should be after land is exchanged. The key now is that the Israelis should agree in writing to borders and stop building on the land; the army can stay put for awhile as the PA builds up its own army to later secure the peace….Shaul Mofaz, former army chief of staff, says that the difference between Gaza and West Bank is that on the West Bank, the Israelis could encircle a town and wait for the militants to surrender. In Gaza, they’d have to go into urban areas and get them out because there are too many places to go within the sprawl that is Gaza…. 

Syria….Less of an independent actor these days as it is more and more reliant on Iran for oil. The Syrians don’t like the Iranians and feel they have not been keeping their promises to them. Their economy is falling apart and they need to fix it… Israel military is biggest faction in Israel arguing for peace with the Syrians. The Israelis want to work with Assad and not have the country fall to fundamentalists. In many of these countries, the Islamists are more organized than the Democrats because the regimes do not shut down mosques and do not take on the Islamic ideology that is also political in nature…The nuclear installation wasn’t even known to the defense minister; made the Israelis more trustful of dealing with Bashar Assad since he could keep a secret and was obviously in enough control to be running this project….Syrians want to return to the Arab fold; were really hurt when they finally got to host the Arab summit last year and nobody showed up…Agrees with Stratfor’s analysis that Syria is acting against Hizbullah in Lebanon and that is one thing driving the talks in Turkey (ie: how to work with Israel on this)…The Lebanese are more apt to concede these days that a deal between Syria and Israel does not necessarily screw Lebanon. They realize that Lebanon is becoming more Iran and less Syria and this is a bad thing. Bringing Syria back into the game under the rubric of overall peace would be a good thing….Nobody expects to disarm Hizbullah; just control the inflow of what they are building there, which right now is a nuisance but not more than that….Cute story: Hafez Assad’s nephew said his father was only in charge of the first day of the Hama operation, but not the second day. Meaning I guess that he was only responsible for killing 10k of the 15,000 people?

Iran….Will reach critical mass of nuclear development by September and then could basically kick out the inspectors or use such threat to neutralize the world. The NPT (nuclear proliferation treaty) would then be ignored by the world as everyone would proceed to go nuclear. …Regime change in Iran would be long-term. There is a long road between dying and dead and this is where the Iranian regime is nowadays. So don’t bank on it and try to solve this problem now without waiting for elections and whatever comes afterward….Bahrain’s new ambassador to the USA is a Jewish woman; they obviously think American Jews run the show here…Pentagon nixed Israeli attempt to bomb Iran. They thought the Israeli army were not that professional in Lebanon in 2006 and are afraid they won’t really succeed and that the consequences will just make more trouble for the US and its soldiers in the region. Perhaps the current operation will regain some of that currency….Focus is now on Obama attempt to talk to the Iranians and hopefully get the Europeans, Russians and Chinese to give him leverage to get the Iranians to agree. The EEC negotiator for Iran “gets it.” Russian might trade the nuclear base in Czech for applying screws to Iran, especially since the US says the Czech base is to protect against Iranian missiles. The Israelis are not likely to want to screw up Obama’s chance to talk to the Iranians but will want to know that the talks have a deadline and that their failure will result in a real penalty before September 2009…Holbrooke is a good appointment to deal with Pakistan.

Elections…Likud had picked up 15 of its 20 seats from the center-left bloc of voters. Bibi would rather run a unity government with Barak and Labor than a simple right-wing government. To see how the elections go, forget about how the war is being fought, just see how it ends and if it ends well.

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