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Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Spotlight Europe of January 2009 highlights the interrelationship between a number of conflicts which ravage the Greater Middle East and the fact that the only solution is a long term, comprehensive one.

The paper contains two revealing charts, one setting out the interests of the key regional actors, and the other listing the conflicts over territory and dominance. These are reproduced below.

The author, Christian-Peter Hanelt, proposes that future diplomatic efforts should be dirrected primarily at providing a common platform for all of the actors. The methodology is based on inviting all parties to share a common platform on which they can search for ways for a common and sustainable resolution of their various interlinked conflicts. All the actors will be invited on the basis of equality.

I question the feasibility of this idea but it is worthy of serious consideration. I believe that we need to focus on a number of issues in parallel, not forgetting the interrelationships. We must start with Palestine-Israel (see post of 16 February proposing a new ‘Mitchell Commission’.

We need out-of-the-box thinking. The context of the dispute is changing. What would be the context in which the dispute might be settled? How do we arrive at that context? (Monnet thinking: change the context and you change the problem).

As to Iran, it’s time we accepted that the Iranians will decide themselves whether to develop nuclear weapons. The clock can’t be turned back to 2003 when a proposal was made by Tehran to the US State Department, via the Swiss Ambassador to Iran. The proposal offered a set of specific policy concessions Tehran was prepared to make in the framework of an overall bargain on its nuclear programme, its policy toward Israel, and al-Qaeda. It also proposed the establishment of three parallel working groups to negotiate “road maps” on the three main areas of contention: weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and regional security, and economic cooperation. After a discussion between the Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell, State was instructed to ignore the proposal and to reprimand the Swiss ambassador for having passed it on.

The West (US and UK in particular) have ignored what we did to Iran between 1953 and 1979. We must start talks immediately without conditions.

To make real progress with either issue requires a fundamental change in US policy. Obama’s action in Afghanistan suggests that the US is not yet ready. His approach is disappointing as throwing more troops at the Afghans is no solution. In any event, you can’t have an effective Afghanistan strategy without a Pakistan one: the two are inseparable.

Clinton has started off well, but it’s early days.

Europeans understand the background better than Americans but we’re incapable of leadership.

(Click to enlarge)

www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/spotlight
The interests of regional key actors. Source: www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/spotlight
www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/spotlight
The main cleavages in the region. Source: www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/spotlight
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