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Indyk analyses Annan's role on world stage -

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Indyk analyses Annan's role on world stage


TONY JONES: Well, as we've already seen, the official launch of Frank Lowy's Institute has been
something like a mini-Davos in Sydney. It tempted the Prime Minister into an hour-long speech on
world affairs and drew back to these shores some prominent expats, among them Dr Martin Indyk, the
former US ambassador to Israel and national security advisor to President Clinton. Dr Indyk now
runs a foreign policy think tank in Washington. He's also director of the Lowy Institute. He joined
us in our Sydney studio earlier this evening.

Martin Indyk, thanks for joining us.


TONY JONES: Just how badly damaged do you think the US Secretary-General is after this interim
report from Paul Volcker?

MARTIN INDYK: He is weakened, definitely weakened. He has been weakened by the series of scandals
and exposures that have come out over the last year. But certainly the involvement of his son and
the criticism of him by Volcker has created a situation where he is much weakened.

TONY JONES: Volcker hasn't given him a clean bill of health at all in this, although in some degree
that's how the Secretary-General has taken the report, but he is simply saying he hasn't found
actual evidence.

MARTIN INDYK: Well, I think that the charge really against Kofi is that he did not investigate
thoroughly enough when the problem first came to his attention. He has been exonerated of the more
serious charge that somehow he was involved with his son in the contracts for oil-for-food, but
again, judging it politically, you have to take into account all the other things that have
happened to the UN and he has been associated with over the last year, and that has had a really
damaging impact, I think. On the other hand, I don't think that the calls for his resignation are
going to succeed, and I think that the Bush Administration actually prefers him to be in this
situation of a weakened Secretary-General who is more likely to be compliant and to do their
bidding than to actually want to get rid of him at this point.

TONY JONES: That is the big question, the political question, because there are plenty of people in
Congress who would like to get rid of him. The question is whether the White House wants to move
that far and there is plenty to use against him. I mean, the disappearance or the shredding of
personal documents by his own chief of staff does point to something that if it were, for example,
to have happened in a big US corporation that was under investigation for corruption, would lead to
calls for the head of that corporation to be charged.

MARTIN INDYK: Yes, there is no doubt that the calls will be there for his resignation, but the
United States is not the only one to determine what happens in the United Nations, and I think that
at this point, if one looks at where the United States is looking for cooperation from the
Secretary-General, particularly in Iraq and in Lebanon, in the particular neck of the woods that I
focus on which is the Middle East, I think they prefer to have Kofi Annan there on side, helping
them, as he has been, than to kind of go to war for his head at this particular juncture.

TONY JONES: One of the interesting things about this, of course, is that the UN Secretary-General
position tends to rotate through regions and the next rotation take us either to the Americas -
North America possibly - or to Oceania, and there are a couple of outside contenders I would just
like to get your comment on. One is former President Bill Clinton. The other one, Prime Minister
John Howard.

MARTIN INDYK: Yes, the names are there, but I think one has to realise that the United Nations is a
body that tends to be dominated by Asian, African, Latin American countries that want one of their
own, have been waiting for their turn, and the Australian Prime Minister or the former president of
the United States is not seen as one of their own in either case. Now, Bill Clinton has a certain
advantage over John Howard in that he is a very popular figure across the world globally, and it's
possible that he could garner the support. The question there is whether George Bush would support
his nomination. It's not inconceivable, but I think it's a little bit of a stretch to have a former
president as Secretary-General of the United Nations kind of competing for attention on the world

TONY JONES: Alright. Let's move on. One of the other dilemmas the White House has faced recently is
what it should do over the West Bank settlements which Israel intends to keep a hold of, the large
blocs of them, at least, they intend to keep a hold of. Have they made the right judgement in
backing Sharon's decision to keep hold of those settlements as part of a new peace plan?

MARTIN INDYK: Look, I would make a couple of points here. First of all, it's important to
understand the context. Ariel Sharon is engaged in an intense political battle with the nationalist
bloc and the settler movement to evacuate all of the settlements in Gaza, and from Washington's
perspective, that is heroic work and if he achieves it, as I believe he will, the principle of
evacuation of settlements will have been established. The backbone of the settler movement will
have been broken. That's why they're fighting so hard here, against it, in Gaza. So from the
viewpoint of Washington, they're in Sharon's corner. They want to see him succeed in this battle
against the settlers. And, as a consequence, they're prepared to cut him some slack when it comes
to doing things in the West Bank settlements that will ease the process. Now, that's why the
President was prepared to give this letter of assurance about settlement blocs along the green line
becoming part of Israel in the context of a final settlement. That, by the way, was what was
proposed by Bill Clinton at the end of his administration and that particular idea was accepted by
the Palestinian Authority, including Yasser Arafat at the time. But that's one thing. Building in
what's called E1, the extension of this outlying city of Ma'ale Adumim, outside of Jerusalem, which
the government of Ariel Sharon has now proposed 3,500 settlements there, will have the effect of
completely cutting off Jerusalem physically from the West Bank. That, in my view, is a big mistake.

TONY JONES: Some people refer to that as creating greater Jerusalem. It's what you get when you
fail to create a greater Israel.

MARTIN INDYK: Well, I think that Sharon certainly has it in mind that, while in the end because he
is a pragmatist he may end up giving up 95 per cent of the West Bank - I think he envisages that he
may end up there - he will hold onto united Jerusalem. This is something which he regards as
critical to the survival of the Jewish state of Israel, and so I do think that he is taking
advantage of the opportunity created by his evacuation of settlers from Gaza to try to complete
this process. But it will have a negative impact because the effect will be, as I say, to close off
Jerusalem from the West Bank, which is not a good development in terms of ensuring that the final
status instruments remain open for negotiation between the parties. So there is one thing, in my
view, to say, yes, settlement blocs, 3 per cent of the West Bank running along the green line, will
be part of Israel - that's a kind of realistic approach - but at the same time I think the Bush
Administration needs to be very clear that this E1 settlement is a mistake and that as the United
States has always done, it should oppose that.

TONY JONES: The United States has not yet made its position clear on that, is that what you are

MARTIN INDYK: Well, Condoleezza Rice said, "It's against our policy". She was quite clear about it.

TONY JONES: But they need, you think, to move to the next step of putting pressure to make sure it
doesn't happen? I mean, how long do they have because the building has already started, hasn't it?

MARTIN INDYK: No, it hasn't, no. It is a very elaborate process of planning and contracts and so
on. No, they have time. There is also the question of how to do it. They do not want to jeopardise
the process of disengagement from Gaza, so there is a question of whether they're speaking quietly
to Sharon to tell him, "You've got to shelve this plan." I hope that's what they're doing.

TONY JONES: But is this, in the end, part of a political deal that Sharon is cutting behind the
scenes with the settlers - "We'll build these 3,500 houses around Jerusalem in return for you
leaving the settlements in Gaza"?

MARTIN INDYK: He would like to be able to do that. He would like to be able to diffuse the settler
ire by that kind of deal, but it's not working. They don't care about greater Jerusalem, as you put
it. What they care about is greater Israel. What they care about is Judea and Sumaria, the West
Bank. That's for them, critical, not Ma'ale Adumim and E1, and that's why they are putting up such
a fight.

TONY JONES: So what will happen if he succeeds, if the United States doesn't oppose him, or if he
ignores objections from the United States and they can't do anything because that would jeopardise
the situation in Gaza? What will happen then to the peace process? I mean, you would imagine
Palestinian militants would immediately begin actions.

MARTIN INDYK: Well, you know, it's a kind of strange phenomenon that the settlement issue has a
longer term corrosive impact on the process, but it doesn't generate an immediate response - never
has - from the Palestinians. I don't know whether you remember Har Homa being built in southern
Jerusalem, and the Palestinians came out and protested for about a week, and then it just all kind
of went away. So it has a corrosive impact in term of the Palestinian concern that the territory
that they want to build their state on is being reduced in size even before they get to the final
status of negotiations. It undermines Abu Mazen, the President of the Palestinian Authority, in his
argument that his way of non-violence and negotiations works. So it does have a negative impact
there. But I think that the far more important short-term thing that the administration needs to be
doing, and is not doing at the moment, is to help Abu Mazen rebuild the infrastructure of the
Palestinian Authority, in particular the security services. We've become diverted to Lebanon, and
it's amazing how much energy the administration is focusing now on Lebanon and the Syrian troop
withdrawal, which in itself is a good thing, but we've got to be able to walk and chew gum at the
same time. We've essentially dropped the ball in terms of what needs to be done there, and the
Palestinians are descending back into dysfunctionalism, Sharon is doing his settlement activity and
we?re not focused on that in any serious way. I think that's a problem.

TONY JONES: But the United States, Washington, has to be extremely careful about Lebanon, doesn't
it, because it's here that they could find themselves in a proxy war with Iran and/or Syria?

MARTIN INDYK: Yes, I think that's a very good point. It's very important to connect the dots
between Lebanon, Syria, Hezbollah, Iran and Israeli-Palestinian issues, because we've seen
historically the way in which Iran in particular, but using the root of Syria, has used Palestinian
rejectionist terrorist groups to disrupt the peace process. They did it very effectively in 1996,
for example, and helped to bring down Shimon Perez which was a body blow to the peace process at
the same time. They used Palestinian Jihad which is exactly the organisation which did the February
25th bombing in Tel Aviv after Abu Mazen managed to work out this cease-fire Hudna with the
terrorist groups. Now we are pressing the Iranians very hard on their nuclear program, we're
pressing the Syrians very hard in terms of getting out of Lebanon and we're talking about toppling
the regime as well.

TONY JONES: It raises the question as to whether the White House is biting off more than it can
chew, whether there are too many possibilities arising out of the danger from the pressure they're
putting on Tehran and the pressure they're putting on Damascus.

MARTIN INDYK: I think it does raise that question and we need to be very clear about the way in
which these things are connected. The Iranians would, I think, love to suck us into the Lebanon
quagmire where Hezbollah is the strongest party, heavily armed, and if we get into a contest there,
the Iranians there, by proxy, can operate quite effectively to divert us. They would see advancing
the peace process as a great threat to them because it would increase their isolation, and that's
why they support Hezbollah and why Hezbollah is the major outside supporting factor for the
Palestinian terrorist groups throughout the last four years of the Intifada. And so I'm not sure I
would agree with you that we are biting off too much. We have to focus on the Iranian nuclear
program, that's urgent. We have the opportunity to assist the Lebanese in getting the Syrian troops
out of there - that would be an important achievement for Lebanon - but we also have a very fragile
moment between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and we have got to focus on that as well, and
we've got to understand that there are some trade-offs here in terms of how we play this game and,
in that regard, I don't think that the Bush Administration is connecting the dots very effectively.

TONY JONES: Martin Indyk, we could talk all night about this, no doubt, but once again time has
beaten us. We thank you very much for coming in to join us tonight.

MARTIN INDYK: My pleasure, Tony, thank you.