Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sanctions, The Sun And The Saudis

Le Figaro has an interview with newly-elected Israeli President Shimon Peres. Asked whether he thinks sanctions will dissuade Iran from developing its nuclear program, his analysis was as insightful as any I've yet seen:

It all depends on the severity of the sanctions. The Iranians' force depends entirely on the world's division. If Iran is confronted with a united front, it will change...

This is something that Iran hawks would do well to consider. Iran has done absolutely nothing to actually earn its dramatically improved strategic position. If Iran's influence has risen, it's because the influence of all of its principal adversaries -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and the US -- has fallen. Consensus and unity are the keys to any attempts to re-contain Iran, and diplomacy is the key to building consensus and unity. Contrary to what the Cheney Gang claims, this is not a dovish pipedream. Peres identifies the four major cases where diplomacy was sufficient to turn back nuclear ambitions: Ukraine, S. Africa, Libya and N. Korea.

Another point Peres makes demonstrates the way in which the world has evolved in the past twenty years. It's no scoop, but with the triumph of neo-liberalism, the market has now replaced politics as the ultimate determinant. Here's how Peres proposes to engage with the Palestinians:

For me, economics constitutes the new credo. Politics deals with war, while economics effects relations... I propose to the Palestinians to first try to improve relations and, parallelly, to engage in negotiations... Colonialism belongs to another era.

I've long maintained that an Israeli Marshall Plan for the Palestinian territories, even in the face of terrorist attacks, would be the most effective way to isolate extremists on both sides of the "border". That seems even more the case in the aftermath of the Hamas-Fatah split, which to my mind magnifies the payoff for bold gestures.

Peres also demonstrated his well-known sense of humor. When asked whether he would use his presidency to promote a grand cause, he mentioned the fight against terrorism, but also the development of alternative energies:

We also want to develop solar energy, because we prefer to depend on the sun than on the Saudis. The sun is more permanent, more democratic... 

 (All quotes translated from the French.)

Posted by Judah in:  The Middle East   

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