Ripe for the Picking?

At least one commentator is optimistic about the Middle East peace negotiations. Former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk says in the New York Times that the time is ripe for an agreement. "Violence is down considerably," he notes, building settlements has slowed, and both the Palestinian and Israeli publics support a two-state solution. Furthermore, Indyk writes, "there's isn't a lot to negotiate"; the terms of a deal were pretty well hammered out at Oslo and Camp David.

In the Washington Post, Michael Rubin, who teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School, is concerned about the U.S. diplomatic presence is Najaf. Or rather, the lack of one. With the Pentagon packing things up, Rubin thinks it's important to put a consulate in the Shiite stronghold to preserve peace along sectarian lines and, more importantly, to combat the widely held perception that America abandoned the Shiites there after the Persian Gulf War, when they rose up against Saddam Hussein only to be brutally smacked down.