Wednesday, August 02, 2006

America losing diplomatic leverage: Shape of things to come?

Read my new The US Can't Run the Show in the Middle East It's time for the Europeans to get more active in diplomatic efforts

and the read this latest piece of news from The Times(London) August 03, 2006

France moves in to fill the US vacuum
Foreign Editor's Briefing by Bronwen Maddox

THE US took a long step towards the position of France yesterday in
drawing up a United Nations resolution on the Lebanon crisis.

The text, which could be presented to the UN Security Council as early
as today, represents concessions by France, the US and Britain, but
its centre of gravity is closest to French views.

In a week when Tony Blair delivered his sharpest ever criticism of the
US's conduct of the War on Terror, this reflects a realignment of
loyalties and some weakening of US influence, which may extend beyond
this crisis.

Talks between the US, Britain and France, all Security Council
members, yesterday morning thrashed out agreement on the sequence of
next moves, but left big gaps in their content.

In the first step of the plan, a Security Council resolution would
call for a "cessation of hostilities" from Israel and Hezbollah — a
piece of jargon that means both sides must stop the violence, but not
that they have agreed a formal, permanent ceasefire.

They hope that a second resolution could secure a permanent ceasefire
and authorise a new international force to enter southern Lebanon.

"Both America and France have moved," a British official said.
"America has recognised you can't just put in an international force
to carry on what Israel is doing (trying to annihilate Hezbollah). But
France now recognises Israel's security concerns about allowing
Hezbollah to come back in." For instance, by rearming. The plan
represents a big shift by the US towards the French position of
accepting that the violence must stop and a formal agreement must be
in place before an international force goes in. Britain, which had
been close to the US on this point, also shifted. But it does also
take in key US (and Israeli) concerns: that the Syrian border must be
monitored to stop Hezbollah rearming.

However, the gaps are obvious. Israel said yesterday that it would
keep up its assault until an international force went in; that does
not fit with the "consensus" on the sequence.

Nor is the mandate of the new force clear, except that it will be more
"robust" than Unifil, the much-derided UN presence now in southern

Exactly how combative the force will be depends on France, which will
likely lead it. The new weight France carries in shaping policy has
been evident this week — even if that stems partly from the dubious
merit of past responsibility for a country that has been in crisis
ever since. France administered Lebanon as a protectorate from 1920 to

But some of France's new influence represents the loss of US
authority, as Iraqi violence makes a mockery of US hopes in the

Mr Blair, speaking in the US on Tuesday, argued that the West should
focus on values as much as force in fighting terrorism, and should
pour energy into the peace process between Israel and the
Palestinians. This is a criticism of US policy in all but name.