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Germany wants to woo Syria away from Iran and Hezbollah

Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Olmert told the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung that he would like to see German troops in South Lebanon, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said in an interview last week that at the present time she does not support the idea of German troops being part of a peacekeeping contingent in Lebanon. In addition to the obvious historical reasons, the Bundeswehr's capacity is largely exhausted: "We are in Congo, we provide the most troops in the Balkans, and we have our largest contingent in Afghanistan."

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier considers it crucial to involve Syria in any negotiations, while Washington so far refuses to talk to Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. (Shortly after the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers, Olmert asked Germany to negotiate with Hezbollah, since the German Intelligence Service suceeded in negotiating prisoner exchanges in the past.)
Germany is prepared to offer Syria economic incentives to woo the country away from Iran and seek a broader diplomatic solution to the Middle East crisis. Steinmeier said: "Syria must decide for itself if the country wants to follow Iran down its path to self-destruction."
U.S. Fulbright Scholar Joshua Landis argues in his SyriaComment blog: "Syria has a big role to play. Trying to shut it out of any agreement will only guarantee that future cease-fires are temporary and fragile."
Fulbright Scholar Raphael Cohen-Almagor is the Director of the Center for Democratic Studies in Haifa (North Israel) and provides background on the Hezbollah War and the Israeli government in his blog Israeli Politics.

Ralf Fücks, member of the executive board of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, which is affiliated with the German Green Party, wants to see Israel in NATO, because he believes "Membership in the transatlantic defensive alliance would give Israel the political and psychological assurance to agree to an historic compromise with the Palestinians by which both sides reciprocally recognize each other as sovereign states." He also hopes that this leads to a nuclear-free zone in the Near- and Middle East. Sounds all more like whishful thinking. Iran vows to produce nuclear fuel despite the recent UN vote, while NATO got even more involved in Afghanistan by taking over command of the dangerous south from the United States. NATO will have some 8,000 troops on the ground in the south - almost double the American force, but less helicopters.


Atlantic Review on : German Intelligence Analyst Mediates Between Israel and Hezbollah

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Spiegel writes about the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) analyst: Since he's taken part in previous German-negotiated prisoner exchanges, he knows the bizarre rules of hostage-trading as well as the main people involved. The German government has twice been


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Don on :

What Steinmeier said was very interesting. Is it just me or does anyone else smell a little Genscher in this? It sounds like him in a way. This could work where I think the French-led cease-fire had no hope. Unfortunately Chirac has little credibility left in the US or (probably) Israel. There is a perception that Chirac will readily sell one out. Merkel and Steinmeier don't give that impression. Good luck to them. Syria is in a difficult position, one of it's own making. If Steinmeier can show them a way out (particularly out of Lebanon) many things may become possible. From the little I've seen of him Steinmeier seems to a marked change from Fischer as a Foreign Minister. Much less of the rock star than Fischer was. Possibly more effective on the very limited evidence to date...

Fuchur on :

In the same interview, Olmert also said: "Right now, there is no nation that is more friendly towards Israel than Germany. " I was quite surprised and moved by this statement! I would have expected something polite and non-committal like "great friends" or "very good relationships".

JW-Atlantic Review on :

I was surprised, when I read that statement. The US must be envious...

Don on :

One thing which is not being talked about is who bells the cat? Which fortunate country will suppy the peacekeepers to keep Hitzbolah from the Israeli throat, and (inevitably) Israel from the Hitzbolah throat in response to too many missles. The US is right out - for several reasons. Not only are US forces overly committed in Iraq and probably unpopular in south Lebanon - those are the obvious reasons. There is something else going on as well. There has been a backlash in the US against the international system as it now exists; you can forget about US peacekeepers for a generation. US Columnist Gerald Baker of the London Times wrote a column this spring titled 'Be careful what you ask for - You may get it!' which showed the problem. After the rage anti-US passion and overripe rhetoric which we have seen since 2001 from European and other circles, any US president would have to be an utter fool to get involved. Why take a risk with your soldiers lives (and inevitably be compared with Hitler and other forms of abuse) when you can just sit back and do nothing? You think Bush is disengaged with Europe and the UN? Just watch. The EU controls the EU in the sense that little happens in the EU which the major EU powers don't approve of. You think the lesson has been lost on any potential US president? Think again. None of the major US contenders (McCain, Clinton, Mark Warner, Rudy Guliani, or the others) is a fool. Bush isn't a fool either, but the European elites have repeated their stale Bush jokes so often they can't think any other way. Anyway - the lesson for these non-fools is that only a fool can assume that European support for any action will last for more than a week or two. Figaro and Der Speigel will gin up the propoanda mill, covers will appear showing the Prez in cowboy boots and that will be that. Been there, done that, won't do it again. Don't need the Hitler comparisons, you know? As Joerg wrote earlier in response to some US commenters - it's a serious thing calling someone a fascist in Germany. No shit?!!! It's a serious thing in the US also! But you did it anyway! By you I mean the 'clever ones' in the UK/France/Germany/Spain etc. Want a patsy for Lebanon? Or Rwanda? Send Germans or Belgians. You think the Dems will give you another Gore or Kerry as a nominee? Fat chance. They may do (they learn slowly sometimes) but the Republican will surely win in that case. Al and Big Jawn were the two most 'European' nominees you will see in your lifetime. Hilary Clinton is more likely - and she is one hard-headed woman. If you want the US truly engaged in the UN - give up some of your monopoly on power at the UN. We've seen what a 'democracy of nations' means. It means the US gets a vote & Fidel (Ok, Raul) gets a vote. It means the US gets a vote - and the EU gets 15 (and now 25) votes. The lesson has been driven home; the UN (or is that EN?) is where US Presidents go to get screwed. So they won't be going there for much of substance, just to follow empty forms. The real work will get done elsewhere....

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Good points, Don. I agree. If Europeans criticize the US too much, then isolationist sentiment increases in the US, which is not in Europe's interest. In the mid 90s Europeans were angry that the US did not want to get involved on the Balkans. However, I thought the main lesson of 9/11 was that the US can't hide behind the Atlantic and the Pacific. You got to deal with international problems, whether the EU gives you a hard time or not. There is not time for whining. Also you have to accept that "friendship" does not work in politics. Its a tough world with lots of anarchy. Friendship is nice and romantic, but also naive. The US did not defend Europe in the Cold War due to friendship, but for its own interests. Sure, we should have gratitude, and I do have it. You write [i]"There has been a backlash in the US against the international system as it now exists; you can forget about US peacekeepers for a generation."[/i] There have not been many US peacekeepers anyway. So what backlash can there be? The US military is often active after a UN resolution gave them the okay. But I am not sure if there are many US peacekeepers. How many US generals have led a UN peacekeeping mission? Has there ever been a US soldier under UN command? I don't think so. This differentiates the US from all European countries. The US has not been much of a teamplayer at the UN in the past, so there won't be backlash. You might want to read Dr. Demarches post in the American Future: [i]"Is there such a thing as "the" international community? If so who are its members? In what arenas does this community act? What is America's role in this community, and that of the U.N.? Finally, what is the future of such a community when Iraq is terrorized by those who oppose democracy and no "community" reacts, genocide in Rwanda goes unchecked and N. Korea is still run by a madman?"[/i] I have participated in the debate in the comments section: [url][/url] This is also interesting: [url][/url]

Don on :

"However, I thought the main lesson of 9/11 was that the US can't hide behind the Atlantic and the Pacific. You got to deal with international problems, whether the EU gives you a hard time or not. There is not time for whining." Is that the lesson? There is plenty of time for whining - you see it every damn day. Endless whining about Guantamano Bay from the usual suspects in the EU and the UN - but I repeat myself! There are plenty of lessons from 9/11. Lesson #1 is that when a Frenchman writes 'Today we are all Americans': that is precisely what he means. Today. Not tomorrow. Lesson #2 is that the Germans behave similarly - just not as eloquently. Lesson #3: Goethe, Zola, and Victor Huga are dead. Looonnnnggg dead, and dead not only in body but in spirit. Lesson 4: The Europeans will obstruct in every way they possibly can while confessing their amazing nobility of soul all the while. Lesson 5: Yankees are war criminals. There is no way out. Your choices are war criminal by commission (Afghanistan & Iraq), war criminal by omission (Rwanda), or both (Kosovo).

Marion Christian on :


BernieGoldberg on :

RE the "buffer zone" troops Since we need some tough folks in there that can defend themselves, act decisively, and are not susceptible to casualty avoidance restrictions why not use private military companies or the French foreign legion?

Anonymous on :

Why is America so much more pro-Israeli than Europe?

Anonymous on :

It's simple: As Bush said "You see, the … thing is what they need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over" Germany is implementing this policy...

Joe M on :

I am a bit curious as to where the US strength numbers of 8,000 came from? The current troop strength is around 22,000 with elements of the 82nd Airborne Division due to deploy over the next few weeks to months. This deployment is to number about 11,000 So I am a bit confused by all of this. This link seems to add to my confusion. I am sure someone will clear this up.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

You asked: "I am a bit curious as to where the US strength numbers of 8,000 came from?" You have misunderstood my last sentence. Based on the IHT article I wrote this: "NATO will have some 8,000 troops on the ground in the south - almost double the American force, but less helicopters." The US used to have about 4000 troops in the South. Now NATO will deploy almost 8000 troops.

Don on :

Photo(Shop) Journatists. There is a little story running around the blogosphere about some doctored photos and other inconsistencies which were run by the Reuters news service. Actually there are two seperate issues. The first issue is that at least one photograph which Reuters ran as 'news' had been heavily augmented with additional smoke and buildings to make the image more dramatic. Possibly more than one; there is a disagreement between Reuters who claim there was only one and the bloggers who spotted the fraud, who say there were several. The second Reuters issue is about an image which ran twice supposedly depicting two bombings widely seperated in time (July 24th and August 5th) but which are obviously of the same ruined building shot at the same time. Makes one wonder how much of the news we read is created from stock footage, doesn't it?

Pinkerton on :

Don, you said: //There are plenty of lessons from 9/11. Lesson #1 is that when a Frenchman writes 'Today we are all Americans': that is precisely what he means. Today. Not tomorrow.// How can you say that, when the French did support the US in the invasion of Afghanistan? They have, and still are fighting bravely next to our soldiers as we speak! Just because they were able to see through Bush's false story on WMD, it doesn't mean they aren't our friends and ally's. As a child, my parents used to tell me that when a friend does something stupid, you don't have to do it with them. Being a good friend is warning them of the dangers. France was a better friend to us than you think.

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