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Zbigniew Brzezinski on the Middle East and Global Insecurity

Zbigniew Brzezinski, speaking today at a foreign policy conference sponsored jointly by the Center for American Progress and The Century Foundation, cautioned against the unilateral pursuit of national security at the expense of the "effected security" interests of  nations.  "Security is more than just physical power.  National security in this day," he said, "is not an absolute, but a relative condition."  According to this framework, the narrow pursuit of a nation's own security without consideration of, and compromise for that of others is not a sustainable policy, as it can ultimately generate a degree of global insecurity which would be insurmountable to any "physical power."

Brzezinski began the talk, entitled "National Insecurity and Global Security," by citing two recent studies, one poll from the BBC, the other, a peace index from Economic Intelligence Unit.  Both studies found Israel, Iran, and the United States to be widely perceived in the global community as among the most menacing figures in the international arena.

In an attempt to explain these findings, Brzezinski enumerated the reasons, justified or unjustified, for which each of these three nations perceives their own insecurity.  Iran, for instance, has a "genuine concern, and probably justified, about a military encirclement by the United States," a nation which is known for "established examples of unilateral use of force based on false information," and which appears to go on a "periodic search for an annual enemy of choice." 

Not surprisingly, Brzezinski finds each of these separate national security interests to converge in the Middle East where Iraq and the Palestinian occupied territories continue to befuddle all three nations. 

While advocating a broad regional dialogue in the Middle East, Brzezinski underlined the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for any strategy aiming to repair American standing in the region.  "The Israeli-Palestinian [conflict]... is poisoning the political atmosphere in the Middle East, and generating hostility to the United States."  According to Brzezinski, such hostility toward the US will, in turn, generate insecurity for Israel which depends on American power in the Middle East for its own security.  Brzezinski asked, "As the American position [in the Middle East] is being undermined, what are the long range consequences of that undermining?"

Brzezinski proposed four key elements for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians:

1) No right of return.

2) A shared Jerusalem.

3) Borders based on the pre-1967 lines with mutual land swaps to incorporate certain settlements into Israel and to compensate the Palestinian state with land.

4) A demilitarized Palestinian state with an international, perhaps US, presence. 

Regarding Iraq, Brzezinski stressed the need for a dialogue "that includes Sistani, Hashim, and above all else, Al Sadr."  He also rejected the idea of applying the so-called "South Korea model" to Iraq: "On Iraq we have to signal credibly that we're not going to be staying there."  We must be ready to discuss "what happens when we leave, how we leave, and most importantly, when we leave."  Brzezinski wants that date to be "in about 12 months or so."

The conference also included a panel on the Middle East which discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the broader context of waning American credibility in the region.  Daniel Levy, along with Ellen Laipson and Daniel Kurtzer, participated on the panel moderated by the New York Times' Helene Cooper.


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Re Brzezinski

The trouble is that the plan that Brzezinski proposes is essentially the Clinton/Ross plan proposed in 2000 at the end of the Clinton administration. This plan has been rejected by the Palestinian leadership because they refuse to accept a solution which does not allow Palestinians in refugee camps to resettle in Israel. Until this demand is abandoned by the Palestinians, there is no hope of a settlement as no Israeli government will accede to such a demand.

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Daniel Levy


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