The road map to Tehran

Eli Lake warns that the Bush administration is about to revive “the long dormant Arab-Israeli peace process.” Why? In order to enlist European support for “a hard line” against Iran:

A senior adviser to Ms. Rice, Philip Zelikow, explained the new emphasis on the peace process at the opening session of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s annual conference on Friday.

“For the Arab moderates and the Europeans, some sense of progress and momentum on the Arab-Israeli dispute is the sine qua non for them to cooperate actively with the United States on the things that we care about,” Mr. Zelikow said.

“We can rail against that belief; we can find it completely justifiable. It is a fact,” he added. “That means an active policy on the Arab-Israeli dispute is an essential ingredient to forging a coalition that deals with the most dangerous problems.”

Mr. Zelikow, who was the executive director of the 9/11 commission before joining the State Department in Mr. Bush’s second term, did not specify how far the new emphasis on the peace process will go. But other administration officials and allied diplomats said yesterday and Saturday that the State Department envisions a broad process that may include pushing for a new peace conference similar to the one President George H.W. Bush helped organize in Madrid following the 1991 Gulf War.

Indeed, the issue of an international peace summit came up last Wednesday, when Ms. Livni met with President George W. Bush. According to an official familiar with the notes of the exchange, Ms. Livni told the president that a new peace conference was not necessary in light of the existing peace plan forged in 2002, known as the road map.

At the outset of the Bush administration’s diplomatic approach to constraining Iran’s nuclear efforts, however, we were assured that European commitments would result in agreement on the desired sanctions if Iran failed to suspend its enrichment efforts. Lake reminds us:

The link between a peace process for Israel and preventing Iran’s mullahs from obtaining a nuclear weapon is novel for both America and the Jewish state. Ms. Rice herself has boasted over the last two years of Europe’s commitment, in particular, to eventually endorsing the sanctions she and Mr. Bush will seek this week at the United Nations on Iran for its insistence on uranium enrichment.

“From a policy sense, it is unclear whether we should tie contributions from our allies on Iran and other goals to progress on the Israel-Palestinian front,” the executive director of the Washington Institute, Robert Satloff, said.

In its most consistent form, such a policy could give “radical Palestinian elements a chance to undermine our efforts against Iran,” he added.

I think it would make more sense for the State Department to call Ghost Busters than to dust off “the road map” calling for “land for peace” negotiations between Israel and Hamas. To hear it deemed necessary for further diplomacy vis a vis Iran is not exactly compelling at this point. It is an approach that seems to promise two failures for the price of one.

UPDATE: State Department spokesman Sean McCormack responds to this post here.