Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Very interesting analysis from STRATFOR.com : Bush Throws Gauntlet at Saudis With Middle East Plan. Their take in a nutshell: Bush's speech laid down impossible conditions for the Palestinians. Opposition to Arafat is now U.S. policy; therefore, no Palestinian will support removing Arafat for fear of being labelled a U.S. stooge. But Bush doesn't care because what the speech was really intended to do was wash American hands of the whole Palestinian situation, and signal that the focus is going back on Iraq and al-Qaeda. Which means we're headed for a showdown with the Saudis.
I don't think the plot is that thick. Here's my take a couple of days later. Bush is not washing his hands of the Palestinian situation, but he is washing his hands of Arafat. Those who thought that the situation could be used to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Israel have been put on notice: ain't gonna happen. The targets for that message are Egypt and Syria at least as much as Saudi Arabia. But by the same token, Bush was signalling to Sharon that he cannot depose Arafat. After all, the onus is on the Palestinians to choose new leadership, not on Israel to do so.
Israel will have a free hand to fight terrorism directly. America is not going to restrain them. So terrorism will not serve the general Arab interest of drawing America into the conflict. That will hopefully restrain powers that do not want war - does that include you, Bashar? - but will not restrain the terrorist groups themselves. But America is also not going to allow Israel to change the facts on the ground and impose a solution. Arafat's P.A. is going to become something like a government-in-exile, even if it remains in the territories - Israel will be the real power. America won't deal with the P.A. so long as Arafat runs it, but America still recognizes it as the legitimate government.
I do agree with Stratfor that the point of the speech is to get us back on track for an attack on Iraq (eat your heart out, Jesse). Whether the Saudis are so foolish as to prefer American enmity to cleaning house, well, we'll see.
Very hopeful to see Stratfor taking this line, though, given their own biases.