Stop looking for ‘moderate’ Shiites and address interests

Even those in America who call for a more humble American foreign policy and recognize the need to listen to foreign populations and global public opinion persist in deploying at every possible moment the most patronizing of monikers in describing their preferred allies: “moderate.”

Over the past eight years, the condescending label of moderate has been applied to a variety of potential interlocutors in regional conflicts — with never a positive result. Negotiations with so-called “moderate Taliban” proved a failure; Taliban interests and unity certainly outweighed any incentives the U.S.-backed Karzai regime could muster. The much lauded effort in Iraq’s Anbar province to work with “moderate Sunni” may also backfire: Al-Qaida in Iraq has been weakened, but there has been no political progress on the national level and, thanks to U.S. weapons, the Anbar Sunnis are now armed to the teeth. Then there was the arming of the “moderate Palestinians” of Fatah over the “militants” of Hamas, which made the latter even more merciless in its takeover of Gaza, splintering the Palestinian state both geographically and politically.

A one-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis

In 2005, I was invited to do something most Palestinians can only dream of: visit the house from which my family had been driven in 1948. Of all people, a New York Times correspondent discovered that his apartment was built over my old home.

When I met him there, the Jewish occupants who showed me around were almost apologetic, perhaps aware how that incident encapsulated the central story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the expulsion of Palestinians and their replacement by Jews. Yet when I asked the reporter how he could still write articles that betray this reality, he was evasive.

His evasion is part of an industry of denial called the Middle East “peace process.” This industry feeds the current international consensus on the two-state solution as the only “comprehensive” settlement to the conflict. But there’s a better solution, one that’s slowly picking up steam among Palestinians and Israelis: a one-state model.

Iran’s nuclear threat will be first test for new president

The slow disintegration of Israel’s Government makes it even less likely that it would attack Iran’s nuclear installations, a question that has arisen again this week after a new report cautioning that Tehran may be developing nuclear weapons. The likelihood that the US would take that course has also fallen in the past six months. The result is that the response to Iran’s determination to put nuclear weapons within reach looks more like being the first difficult decision facing the next US president, rather than the last, dramatic one of President Bush.

The prospect of a wider peace

Just two weeks ago, Lebanon was on the verge of civil war. Suddenly, it seems to be on the brink of a lasting peace. And just as Lebanon’s own troubles reflected wider tensions in the Middle East, the fractious country’s sudden mood of conciliation is sending positive ripples through the region. At least, that is how things appear on the surface.

U.S. cites big gains against al-Qaeda

Less than a year after his agency warned of new threats from a resurgent al-Qaeda, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden now portrays the terrorist movement as essentially defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and on the defensive throughout much of the rest of the world, including in its presumed haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In a strikingly upbeat assessment, the CIA chief cited major gains against al-Qaeda’s allies in the Middle East and an increasingly successful campaign to destabilize the group’s core leadership.

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