Defining ‘Success’ for the Annapolis Conference

Like most analysts, Peter Brookes sees little chance that the Annapolis Conference will solve the longstanding Arab-Israeli crisis. He does think, however, that it is already a resounding success.

The bulk of his column is devoted to the obstacles that will almost surely prevent much substantive change. Several major players have an interest in keeping the conflict going and the Palestinian government doesn’t even have the ability to speak for the Palestinian people, given the Hamas issue.

Still, Brookes is optimistic:

But let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Look on the bright side: This week’s meeting is likely to restart a negotiation process that has been moribund for seven years.

In fact, all the major players will descend upon the Naval Academy this week – including Saudi Arabia (the de facto leader of the Arab world) and Syria, neither of which even has diplomatic relations with Israel. (Don’t hold your breath for an Israeli-Saudi handshake, though.)

Plus, the 22- nation Arab League gave its blessing to the conference at a Cairo meeting last week. (Hamas won’t attend, and is none too pleased with the Arab League’s “sellout” of the Palestinian cause.)

[…]

Condemning the talks as “useless,” Tehran sees the gathering as nothing more than its Mideast Muslim brethren collaborating with arch-foe Israel. Tehran also fears the formation of an US-Arab anti-Iranian alignment at Annapolis. It will certainly use its pull with Hamas and Hezbollah (which has also denounced the talks) to obstruct any progress on Middle East peace.

Iran is no doubt worried about Syria’s participation in the Annapolis meeting, too. The beginnings of a Syrian-Israeli rapprochement over the Golan Heights could weaken Tehran’s ties with Damascus – heck, even stabilize Lebanon.

Which points to how Annapolis is a success: Just getting more than 100 key players in the same room at the same time to talk peace is a real achievement.

Of course, the confab will only be the first play in a long, grueling game – but the “boos” from some in the stands are a pretty good sign of which side is losing in this matchup.

That’s rather thin gruel. Still, this is the Middle East. Progress is almost always made in baby steps, often followed by steps in the other direction. But, yes, getting all these people together for a common purpose is progress.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    The problem that I have with this sort of success is that it assumes the world will stand still while progress is made at a geological pace. As I take the temperature of the electorate here in the U. S. I see less patience with the process not more. That’s how I view the reactions I’m reading to judicial sentences in the KSA, the number of Saudis among the insurgents in Iraq, and the complaints about “Muslim youth” in France.

    It will take exactly one serious incident perpetrated by a handful of highly determined nutcases to bring whatever comes out of this conference down like a house of cards.




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  2. James Joyner says:

    It will take exactly one serious incident perpetrated by a handful of highly determined nutcases to bring whatever comes out of this conference down like a house of cards.

    Could well be. I just don’t see much in the way of alternatives save doing nothing. But there aren’t many examples of long-lasting peace accords in this dispute. Indeed, offhand, I can only think of one.




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  3. Dave Schuler says:

    I can only think of one

    Presumably that would be the Camp David Accords and the subsequent Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty. Our portion of that agreement is currently referred to as “support for oppressive regimes”, isn’t it?




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  4. James Joyner says:

    Presumably that would be the Camp David Accords and the subsequent Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty.

    Yup.

    Our portion of that agreement is currently referred to as “support for oppressive regimes”, isn’t it?

    By some, I suppose. Not much doubt that Egypt is less than the ideal Jeffersonian democracy, to be sure. I’m not sure what the alternatives are, though.




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  5. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m not sure what the alternatives are, though.

    Pretty much my point. We’re going to support some oppressive regimes and make some enemies by doing it. We need to confront that reality squarely.

    The Sauds are a case in point. We support them because the alternative is much worse. Why does that translate into ease of access to visas for all citizens of the KSA?

    There’s an old proverb that covers my opinion: he who sups with the devil should use a long spoon.




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  6. G.A.Phillips says:

    There is on old Muslim proverb we could use:kidnap them and hold them for ransom.

    just a thought but it might help pay for the war effort.




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  7. mannning says:

    It will take exactly one serious incident perpetrated by a handful of highly determined nutcases to bring whatever comes out of this conference down like a house of cards.

    I do hope the security around the Academy and the hotels is very tight!




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