David Wurmser was Vice President Cheney’s Middle East adviser until this year, and is, at least in my opinion, one of the sharpest observers of the region out there. Last week he spoke to the House Foreign Affairs Committee about Annapolis and the peace process. I just got around to reading the transcript, and I think his presentation was one of the most incisive, compact critiques of the past 20 years of American peace-processing, including of the current moment, you can find.
A couple of highlights:
…the real danger of Gaza is not just Hamas’ military build-up. Hamas now is Iran’s phalanx. Its success and its challenge to Israel — like Hizballah’s was last summer — are regionally understood to be a test of our, not just Israel’s, resolve to confront Iran and the coalition of forces that seek to destroy the West. Our Sergeant Schultz response — we see and hear nothing — to Gaza is perceived regionally as a failure of our, not just Israel’s, resolve to take on Iran.
The bottom line is that Hamas is strong. It drives events. Abu Mazen is weak and is driven by them. Hamas, along with its other allies headquartered in Damascus and aligned with Iran, drives events in directions dangerous not only to Israel but to us. As long as we place the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict at the center of our strategy to take on Iran, and as long as Hamas has the power to drive events, then Iran — via Hamas and other Palestinian factions and Hizballah — exercises a veto over any progress in forging a coalition to confront it.
On what is often called “linkage,” or what Wurmser calls “regionalization”:
The history of the Middle East tells us nothing if not that the regionalization of local conflicts is the problem, not the solution. Indeed, it is the persistent recurrence of internationalization of internal politics that afflicts, distorts and ultimately destroys so many Arab nations. …
But no issue has been as distorted, dominated and ultimately made as dangerous by exposing it to international trends as the Palestinian issue. Almost every war fought in the Palestinians’ name has been fought to their detriment because those wars really had more to do with the agenda of other nations — mostly Arab, but also other great powers — and served their interests. Indeed, there is no solution possible to the Palestinian problem until the Palestinians are finally isolated and insulated from broader regional trends which seek to use the Palestinian cause as part of their regional strategy.
Read the whole thing.