I was hoping to read the Iraq Study Group Report before commenting but that did not work out. It actually looks quite interesting and deserves to be read and considered in its entirety, though it remains to be seen whether Baker and Hamilton will succeed in having any of their recommendations implemented.
So far, it seems that Bush has not budged an inch from his current policy, rejecting the report's call for a troop withdrawal over the next 15 months, and refusing to negotiate without prior concessions by Syria on Lebanon and by Iran on the nuclear issue ("Bush Backs Away from 2 Key Ideas of Panel on Iraq," NYT).
Meanwhile, incoming Secretary of Defense Robert Gates dropped his own bomb at his nomination hearing, telling Congress that the Iranians were seeking nuclear weapons because
They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons - Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf.The Saudi chief of intelligence Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud followed up with his own statement that
The existing Israeli nuclear capability is the most dangerous strategic threat to Gulf security in the short and medium term (Ha'aretz).The Israelis were quick to downplay the significance of these remarks (good move) but it's clear that the writing is on the wall. The mood is changing in Washington. British Prime Minister Tony Blair's comments at a joint press conference with President Bush on Thursday that the problems in Iraq were connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is further evidence that something may be afoot. Yossi Sarid seems happy about this. Maybe he is right. I wonder what Mearsheimer and Walt think about all of this.
In other news, the Kurds are apparently furious about the commission's indifference to them. See the Iraqi Kurdistan blog for more. Warning: their latest post has apparently not been edited yet.
Finally, on a less-related note, the visit of Segolene Royal, the French Socialist Party's presidential candidate, drew an ecstatic response in Israel. Daniel Ben Simon, who reports frequently on France in Ha'aretz, has a typically fascinating feature on Israel's Segolene craze. Among other things, she announced that she would pursue a zero-tolerance policy on Iran's nuclear ambitions. Sarkozy stayed fairly quiet. Instead, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, also a presidential hopeful, stuck up for the old Gaullist, pro-Arab policy, lambasting Royal for her criticism of Hizbullah:
She must learn that irresponsible declarations could cost the lives of our people in Lebanon.I could go with either Sarko or Royal at this point, although I am a bit concerned about Royal's less-enlightened media consultant who dropped this gem on Gaza:
It was dreadful. Dehumanization that seemed to be taken out of one of Primo Levi's books.