Wednesday, June 18, 2003

US troops not likely to head to Palestinian territories

The idea of sending US troops to Palestinian territories, raised by some US lawmakers and rejected by the White House, for now seems a hard one to put into action, Middle East experts say.

And in any event, the idea -- which has been brought up in the past -- is not supported unanimously in the region.

While the Palestinians always have sought the presence of an international force as a buffer between them and the Israelis, the Israelis think it would limit their room to maneuver on the ground. Sunday, Republican Senator Richard Lugar cautiously spoke in favor of sending US troops to help counter the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

Hamas, which the White House holds responsible for the latest flareup in violence in the region, for now refuses to call a ceasefire with Israel which in turn has stepped up its crackdown.

"If force is required ultimately to rout terrorism, it is possible that there will be an American participation," Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign relations Committee, told Fox television.

Such an intervention, Lugar said, could come as part of a dispatching of international troops with NATO or the United Nations as peacekeepers, to face off against Hamas and the Islamic Jihad on the ground.

Two other Republican Senators, Armed Forces Committee chair John Warner of Virginia and Pat Roberts of Kansas, the intelligence committee chair, also have envisaged an international troop presence but are cautious.

"That would be a rather dramatic step, to say the least," Roberts said on CBS Sunday.

Experts say the idea seems out of reach given the surge in attacks against Israeli civilians and reprisals by the Israeli army.

"It's a bad idea. They will become targets," said Robert Friedman, of the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington think tank.

What's more, "the Israelis under no circumstances will accept it now," nor will the Bush administration which rejected it on Friday, he said.

Experts say Washington might be more open to the idea if Israel were able to eliminate Hamas' military capability.

"Then the US might be more willing to do it," Friedman said.

But in the meantime, said Patrick Garrett, of, the Bush administration has not shown an interest in a peacekeeping role.

"It never has been it probably never will be" a role the United States embraces, he said, noting scant US interest in the task in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The US has a fairly poor record with regards to peace keeping or peace enforcement in a urban environment," he noted, referring to US experiences in Lebanon.

Yet in the Sinai desert, international forces including US troops still monitor the peace between Israel and Egypt following their 1979 peace deal.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]