Monday, July 24, 2006

What is Rice's Mission?

Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, under President Clinton calls the current series of events occurring around the world the "perfect storm" of foreign policy: dark clouds closing in on Washington from every direction. Current world events is a testament to this statement.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on a mission to the Middle East to seek a "lasting solution" to the crisis between Israel and Lebanon. She is meeting regional leaders in Beirut and Jerusalem before heading to Rome later in the week. She stopped first in Lebanon's capital, where she met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Nabih Berri, Lebanon's parliament speaker, who has close ties with Hezbollah and Syria. In her press statement she said how, "President Bush wanted this to be my first stop -- here in Lebanon -- to express our desire to urgently find conditions in which we can end the violence and make life better for the Lebanese people." Nice sound bite, but her actual meeting was nothing short of a disaster. Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs Nayla Muawwad said the discussion wound up serving more to inform Rice than for her to inform the other participants according to a report by the BBC.

Amid the arrival of Rice, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said today that, "there is no conflict between Israel and the people of Lebanon. But Israel has no higher responsibility than to defend its citizens." This should be remembered as Israeli military strategy has displaced an estimated 800,000 Lebanese according to U.N.'s relief coordinator, Jan Egeland with civilians suffering in northern Israel and in Lebanon. Livni also called for the release of the abducted Israeli soldiers and for Lebanon to exercise sovereignty over its territory by carrying out U.N. Resolution 1559, which calls for the disarmament of militias. This might be the rationale, but the logic of military operations in the very area Israel demands Lebanon to control is impractical as it is impossible.

Rice is now in Israel, where she is to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem. She was also expected to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. It is hoped that Rice, now “on the ground” will be more engaged and bring the sides together, particularly later this week when she is to meet with Arab leaders and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. On that agenda is the possibility of a multinational force for southern Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the Hezbollah guerrillas traded more attacks with Israeli forces Monday and the general consensus is that a cease-fire not expected immediately. So, what is Rice’s mission? It should be two fold: one to reassert US presence in the dialogue for peace and second to call for a cease-fire. Hopefully it will not be only a lengthy briefing.

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