To Read: John Bolton lists the early blunders made by President Obama in Syria-
Obama and Secretary of State Clinton erred from the outset. They posted a US ambassador to Damascus for the first time since the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, despite overwhelming evidence Assad’s regime had orchestrated that murder to enhance Syrian control of Lebanon. In June 2009, Obama Middle East envoy George Mitchell met Assad in a misguided effort to advance the Arab-Israeli peace process. (This, after then-Sen. John Kerry had already made the “pilgrimage” to Damacus, probably with Obama’s blessing.)
These moves, along with efforts to ease US economic sanctions, exemplified Obama’s “engagement” policy to end the Bush-era isolation of Syria, all to jump-start both Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. At least, that was the theory — yet today the Middle East peace process lies in ruins, Iran is perilously close to becoming a nuclear-weapons state and the military momentum in Syria runs in Assad’s favor.
Quote: "I know this region well enough to know there is scepticism; in some quarters there is cynicism and there are reasons for it. There have been bitter years of disappointment. It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient - but detailed and tenacious - that we can lay on a path ahead that can conceivably surprise people and certainly exhaust the possibilities of peace", John Kerry talking about his must disparaged peace efforts.
Number: 86, the number of Guantanamo Bay detainees who are cleared for release.
To Read: An in depth interview with Ehud Olmert about the details of his relationship with PA President Mahmoud Abbas (a follow up to yesterday's piece)-
“I know all of their arguments,” said Olmert. “They say that Abu Mazen agreed with Bush that Erekat would meet with Turjeman in early January in Washington, but that was a few days before Bush left the White House and we received no such invitation. They claim that it was because I was finished politically, so he hesitated. But that is an excuse after the fact. They [the Palestinians] were very worried. Abu Mazen is not a big hero. They were afraid. Erekat was worried. In the end they thought that maybe after the American elections they would get more from President Obama.”
Quote: “Israel has lost some of its support in Britain and in other European countries over time — this is something I’ve often pointed out to Israeli leaders — because of settlement activity, which we condemn”, British FM William Hague discussing Britain's attitude toward Israel the settlements.
Number: 14, Israel came in 14th (out of 17; right above Pakistan, North Korea and Iran) in a huge poll conducted by the BBC in 25 countries.
The Middle East
To Read: According to Marc Lynch, the Sunni vs. Sunni rivalry in the Middle East is every bit as intense as the Sunni vs. Shiite one-
The sectarian master narrative obscures rather than reveals the most important lines of conflict in the emerging Middle East. The coming era will be defined by competition between (mostly Sunni) domestic contenders for power in radically uncertain transitional countries, and (mostly Sunni) pretenders to the mantle of regional Arab leadership. Anti-Shiism no more guarantees Sunni unity than pan-Arabism delivered Arab unity in the 1950s. Indeed, if the vicious infighting among Arab regimes during Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's years is any guide, the competition between "Sunni" regimes and political movements is likely to grow even more intense as the sectarian narrative takes hold.
Quote: “We would like to hear that statement from the Assad government. This has been related to us through the Russians, I have no idea why the Syrians are silent”, Louay Safi, spokesman for the National Coalition, waiting to see if the Syrian government will attend the peace conference dubbed 'Geneva 2'.
Number: 11, the number of people killed in the Syria linked Lebanon clashes on Thursday alone.
The Jewish World
To Read: Gill Troy takes a look at the career of the 90-year-old Henry Kissinger (as a Jew)-
Kissinger’s role in the Soviet Jewry and Zionism-racism struggles is equally morally problematic, while also historically more complex. Having written his Harvard doctoral dissertation on the 19th-century Austrian Prince Metternich and the balance of power, Kissinger sought to teach realist doctrines to the American foreign-policy elite. This practitioner of realpolitik believed that countries have no friends, only interests, and that America should resist sentimental crusades. He viewed emigration as an internal Soviet issue and less pressing than the threat of nuclear destruction—even as he was proud that “quiet diplomacy” had boosted Soviet Jewish emigration levels from 700 in 1969 to almost 40,000 emigrants in 1972.
Quote: “"When I saw what happened for the people here, I tried to prevent my tears from my eyes because its very difficult to see how many people were killed without any reason. I am from Palestine and my people are suffering now since 65 years until now, so of course I feel for others who have suffering", Palestinian Imam Barakat Hasan, visiting Auschwitz.
Number: 5,880, the number of art works, books and other objects which have been returned to their owners since 1999 after being looted by the Nazis.