Fascinating but lopsided

Few think tanks can assemble the President of the United States, the Secretary of State and a Prime Minister (via video link) for a serious discussion of issues like the Iranian nuclear program, the Israel/Palestine peace process and the war in Syria.  That’s what Brookings’ Saban Forum did this weekend.  Even more impressive is that they said interesting things.  As the Israeli daily Haaretz noted:

…if you piece together the details and principles that were set forth matter-of-factly by Obama and much more forcefully by Kerry, and if you mix in a bit of reading between the lines, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Israel and the Palestinians are engaged in negotiating a “framework agreement” that will include elements of a final status agreement but will be carried out in stages.

And that there will be an interim period in which Israel maintains security control of some of the West Bank. And that the United States will play a major role in providing security along the border with Jordan. And that there will be a declaration of principles that will be based on various peace formulas discussed in the recent past, from the Clinton Parameters of 2000 and onwards.

And, most significantly, that Israel is well aware that the reference points for such a declaration will include the 1967 borders, a Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and a mutual recognition of each other’s “homeland.”

This is pretty hefty stuff.  You wouldn’t want to try to cash the check written on this account yet, but you would be wise to hold on to it. Read more…

Time for one person, one vote?

Q:  Is the US stepping in Bosnia again with the aim to fix it? [Assistant Secretary of State] Victoria Nuland recently talked ab0ut it.

A:  I’ve heard a lot of rumbling, but I have not heard a clear plan. The only kind of plan that will work is one that mobilizes at least a few of the Europeans as well. See With Europeans, not without them | peacefare.net.

Q:  How do you see attempts to implement Sejdic – Finci verdict?

A:  I’m a simple guy. The first solution I think of is one president, no ethnic or territorial restrictions. As there will always be more than one Bosniak candidate, in order to win, there would be a strong incentive to assemble a cross-ethnic coalition. That would be good. What’s wrong with that? If you don’t like it, try one president and two vice presidents, elected as a package. No ethnic or territorial restrictions. Two rounds of voting. Or elect the president in parliament if you prefer.

Q:  The negotiations with the EU representatives are going for sometime. Is it going nowhere? Read more…

Peace picks, December 9-13

D.C. is back in full-swing before the start of the holidays. Here are this week’s peace and conflict events:

1. Inaugural PeaceGame 2013 – Chart the Best Possible Peace for Syria

U.S. Institute of Peace

December 9 8:00am – December 10 12:30pm

Governments around the world regularly devote enormous resources to conducting “war games.”  On December 9 and 10, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and The FP Group (FP) will conduct the inaugural PeaceGame, with a focus on “the best possible peace for Syria.” With one game in the U.S. and another in the Middle East, the semi-annual PeaceGames will bring together the leading minds in national security policy, international affairs, academia, business, and media to “game” out how we can achieve peace in Syria. USIP and FP intend for the game to redefine how leaders think about conflict resolution and the possibility of peace.

The full event will be webcast live beginning at 9:00am ET on December 9, 2013 atwww.usip.org/webcasts. Join the conversation on Twitter with #PeaceGame.

Read more…

Mandela, and de Klerk

It would be hard to say anything new about Nelson Mandela after the last day of praise and remembrance.  I met him–very briefly–at a UN cocktail party in 1994.  All I really remember is his assiduous effort to introduce himself to each of the wait staff.  They were thrilled.  So was I.

But there are a few things that might bear repetition, if only for emphasis.  As correct as it is to celebrate Mandela for his pursuit of justice, it was really his pursuit of peace that made him so unusual.  I wouldn’t want to minimize the courage required to stand up against racism in apartheid South Africa, but it took at least as much to stand up to those who thought violence was the only way to bring the system down and then to seek reconciliation with white South Africans in the aftermath.

That would not have been possible but for Mandela’s negotiating partner, F.W. de Klerk.  As the last president of apartheid South Africa, he not only released Mandela from jail but cooperated in converting his country to a one-person, one-vote electoral system that necessarily meant the end of white domination, at least at the ballot box.  He also ended South Africa’s nuclear weapons program, which was meant to help sustain apartheid.

South Africa managed its transition quickly and well, even if I find it hard to admire its post-apartheid politics (and politicians).  The countries I mostly follow in the Balkans and the Middle East are not so much managing their transitions as experiencing them, and things are going slowly by comparison.  It seems to me there are at least four reasons: Read more…

Live from Syria

She often travels alone, she doesn’t use fixers, and she reports from the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Rania Abouzeid is an award-winning freelance journalist who frequently travels inside Syria to write about the three-front war between the Assad regime, the moderate opposition, and the Islamist groups. On Tuesday, she spoke at the New America Foundation about the conflict and her experiences in Syria.  She is now reporting mostly for The New Yorker and Al Jazeera America.

When the protests first began in the beginning of 2011, Abouzeid was covering the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt. By February of that year, she was in Damascus covering the demonstrations and walking alongside the Syrian men and women who peacefully protested President Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime. Even as the protests took a violent turn after the government crackdown, Abouzeid said that very few people flinched when bullets were fired. And from the moment the Syrian people took to the streets, it was clear the conflict was going to be existential on both sides. The people of Syria finally had a platform to advocate for change and they weren’t going to back down without a fight. Unfortunately, that fight continues 35 months later, and with a whole new dynamic. Read more…

Where am I?

There are 2500 year old ruins near here

There are 2500 year old ruins near here

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