What I actually said about solving Iraq problem

Tue, 02/27/2007 - 5:02pm
By: Letters to the ...

In his recent letter, “Failure to pursue victory in Iraq will result in American vulnerability,” (The Citizen, Feb. 20), I am afraid that Mr. Hoffman has distorted and twisted my positions.

Mr. Hoffman writes: “Mr. Carter ... advocates negotiation with the surrounding powers and laments us not being buddy-buddy with Hamas and Hezbollah.”

In the letter to which he was responding I actually addressed ways that Iran could be thwarted from supporting Hezbollah by breaking Iran’s domination of Syria. I also proposed a way that Syria could be enticed from continuing its support for Hamas and Hezbollah. I also specifically referred to the goal of undercutting Hezbollah and Hamas.

I cannot imagine how these proposals were construed as a “lament” for not being “buddy-buddy” with these two terrorist organizations except that it may have been easier to argue against positions that I did not take.

Mr. Hoffman obviously did not like my suggestions regarding a possible Israeli/Syrian peace agreement and has distorted my position into the simplistic: “He also wants us to force Israel to give up the Golan Heights.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Although Mr. Hoffman says he cannot believe Syria would be a partner in good faith and trots out his standard Neville Chamberlain comment, the fact is that Israel and Syria have been secretly negotiating return of the Golan Heights since 2004.

These negotiations were begun under Ariel Sharon and consisted of meetings between Alon Liel, the former director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and Syrian Vice President Farouk Shara and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem among others.

The negotiations, recently made public, call for Syria to limit Hezbollah to being strictly a political party and requires the expulsion of Hamas from Damascus.

Preliminary negotiations have reached an agreement highly favorable to Israel. The full draft agreement can be read in Haaretz, Israel’s largest newspaper, at: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/813769.html.

I support allowing Israel to reach a peace treaty with Syria which involves return of a demilitarized Golan Heights to Syria. This is far different than the U.S. forcing Israel to give up the Golan Heights which is what Mr. Hoffman distorted my position into being.

Since these negotiations have been secret until recently, many people may be surprised to hear of them and may think that since preliminary negotiations have been completed and an agreement has been reached, that a peace treaty between Israel and Syria may be imminent. Would that it were so.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration, in agreement with Mr. Hoffman (“I have to side with the Bush administration on this one.”) has threatened to withhold part of the funds the U.S. gives Israel each year if Prime Minister Olmert pursues the peace treaty. The administration’s astonishing and incredible position is that peace between Israel and Syria would undermine the U.S. policy of regime change in Syria.

Mr. Hoffman also writes: “I would assume Bush is working with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait on resolving this issue.” Even if the assumption is true (notwithstanding that there is no evidence that it is) I believe that Kuwait and Jordan must be seen as ineffective actors in the region.

While I would welcome their inclusion in any regional negotiations, it must be recognized that these small countries, although deeply affected by the conflict, have very little influence in the region.

Saudi Arabia must participate as must Syria and Iran. Although Mr. Hoffman has made it clear that he does not believe these countries can be trusted, I would point out that peace negotiations are rarely held with friendly countries for obvious reasons.

Frankly, the administrations policies, which Hr. Hoffman has supported for years, have astonished me. These policies have alienated our allies, isolated the United States, emboldened the radical terrorists and greatly enhanced the stature of Iran as a regional power.

Mr. Hoffman has consistently supported every failed war strategy pursued by the administration. Now the administration is determined to enact a policy that all 16 intelligence agencies of the United States have unequivocally stated will not work and, not surprisingly, they have Mr. Hoffman’s continued support.

It is time for a new strategy in Iraq; one which engages our allies, reduces the inflammatory presence of U.S. troops in the region, does not require the U.S. to take sides in a civil war and does not equate diplomacy with appeasement.

I believe that most people who read my letters will agree that my proposal for a regional solution involving all of the major actors in the area, with strong influence from the United States and with support from the European Union and the United Nations, offers a better chance to resolve the conflict than continuing to follow the disastrous policies of the neoconservatives who have not been right about any aspect of the war yet.

Jeff Carter
Peachtree City, Ga.

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Submitted by AMDG on Wed, 02/28/2007 - 9:04am.


Interesting points about Syria. I still think you're a little too rosy about them as a viable partner, but your comment about the secret deal to return the Golan Heights is interesting.

I'm not so blinded by my ideology as to think we can't talk to the likes of Syria or that peace can only be negotiated with people we like. I thought our truce with N. Vietnam was great, but our little arrangment with N. Korea foolish (no disrespect to your father intended).

You belittled me for mischaracterizing your stance on Hamas, but you did write the following:

"Of the six big regional actors in the Middle East: Israel, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Saudi Arabia, the administration has made it illegal to talk or negotiate with Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. Neoconservative ideology has maintained its purity even as over 3,000 American soldiers have died with no end in sight."

Forgive me for supposing that this implied some sort of desire to talk with Hezbollah and Hamas, but I don' think it's too much of a stretch to infer such an interpretation.

Granted, you said later that making nice with Syria would cause them to withdraw their support of Hamas and Hezbollah. Then again, are you serious?! You think if Israel gave the Heights back to Syria they'd stop their support of Hamas and Hezbollah? Here again is your problem: you refuse to admit the level of radical commitment to the destruction of Israel in the Middle East. Syria's motivation isn't limited to prosaic territorial issues: it's fueled by a continuing, perhaps eternal rejection of the mere concept of the state of Israel. That is what unites them with Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, not some calculated alliance to get them back some goat herding hills in their southwest corner.

Anyway, it was a good response. I know you like to say how I support Bush 100% all the time, but I do admit (and have admitted in these pages) that he could have been wrong on Iraq and I would add that his approach to Syria may also be flawed, though I seriously don't know enough about the intricacies and the behind-the-scenes discussions to say for sure. My unwillingness to capitulate to your position, therefore, is not simply based on ideology, but on a humble admission of a lack of information.

I only wish I could get more of such intellectual honesty from your side of the aisle! But I'm not keeping my fingers crossed.


JeffC's picture
Submitted by JeffC on Wed, 02/28/2007 - 5:02pm.

Forgive me for being brief and skipping over the Korea thing. I’ll revisit later if you wish.

Yes, I believe that Syria can be negotiated with. Diplomacy can rarely achieve what cannot be achieved by war and Syria cannot defeat Israel. I believe that Syria would dump support for Hamas very quickly since Hamas’s “region” is Palestine. If that is the cost to Syria for return of the Golan Heights, I believe they would kick Hamas out. Hezbollah is an entirely different story, being Syria’s proxy in Lebanon; a true place of interest for Syria. I believe the Golan Heights are more important to Assad because their return would immeasurably consolidate his position of power inside Syria far in proportion to the value of the land. I suspect that this is the underlying reason that the administration is so vehement that Israel and Syria not achieve a peace treaty.

You are not wrong to infer I would open talks with Hamas and Hezbollah. I would not negotiate with them but would certainly open channels of communication. As you probably know, I was one of the international observers during the Palestinian elections and was there for 11 days. By the fourth day it was obvious to all of us that Hamas was going to win yet after the election Secretary Rice said that the State Dept. was stunned. I believe this surprise was a direct result of the ban on contacts with Hamas. I don’t see the harm in allowing contacts but I do see harm in restricting them. Frankly, I would favor talks with Iran and North Korea also. Opening lines of communication (to me) does not imply agreement nor does it require promotion to some form of negotiation.

Events of the last few days have astounded me. Bush has closed a (shaky) deal with North Korea and opened talks with Iran and Syria about Iraq. Perhaps the administration has been following our discussion here! Believe it or not, I truly wish them well and pray for their success. People quite naturally assume that I am very partisan when in fact I view most national politicians of both parties very negatively. Admittedly, I do like the left better.


PS: Check this out: http://letters.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2007/02/27/hillary_speech/view/

A speech Hillary SHOULD give admitting how craven she's been. I thought it was hysterical.

Basmati's picture
Submitted by Basmati on Wed, 02/28/2007 - 9:19am.

I think I can safely say that I speak on behalf of "the other side of the aisle" when I say that we wish we could get more intellectual honesty from you, Trey! Smiling

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross" - Upson Sinclair, 1906

AF A-10's picture
Submitted by AF A-10 on Wed, 02/28/2007 - 9:13pm.

when you say anything approaching a negative comment about the decider or the decider's decisions.

"I only wish I could get more of such intellectual honesty from your side of the aisle! But I'm not keeping my fingers crossed."

Trey, it's time for the straight talk express. Condi Rice compared this to war with Hitler. The president calls it the global war on terror. Please, if you never answer another question I ask, answer this one from an ignored posting from your LTE. Why do you oppose a draft when we are at war on a global scale? Here's a bit of my post for context.

"....if this is truly a global war on those who hate us, why do you and almost all conservatives gasp at the suggestion of a draft? Are we all going to live and fight like this is a war, or are we going to eat popcorn and watch it on TV like it's a John Wayne flick that ends when we turn our tubes off? Condi Rice tried to compare this war to fighting Hitler. Okay! Where are the War bonds? Bring on the Marshal Plan. Let's roll, and get this draft functioning. Let's fight this war! Or we can send 20,000 more soldiers into a civil war, grab a soda, and hope for the best. Just food for thought......"

Kevin "Hack" King

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