Cheating START

The peace process is now set to head to Jerusalem next week, after a scheduled sitdown in Egypt. On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet in an attempt to hammer out a framework for a peace agreement. Some commentators have noted that adding a second day in Jerusalem is a concession to Netanyahu prior to the end of a moratorium on settlement construction. Netanyahu has said he will not renew the settlement freeze, something the Palestinians have said would be a deal breaker. Should the two sides be able to work through the settlement-freeze issue, according to the agreement struck in the kick-off Washington meeting last week the leaders are supposed to meet every two weeks to try produce a peace accord.

One potential sticking point down the road is a proposal that National Security Adviser James Jones, among others, has promoted. Washington has suggested establishing an international force in the West Bank to help provide security in the area and speed up Israeli withdrawal. Israel however is concerned about the effectiveness of an multinational force and wants to maintain control of security as long as the Palestinians can’t do it on their own.

All those who were concerned about verifying Russian compliance with the new strategic arms-limitation treaty can maybe rest a bit easier. According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, should Russia try to violate the agreement, it wouldn’t be able to achieve “militarily significant cheating." The Senate still hasn’t ratified the treaty but will meet next week to decide how to move forward. The hold-up has in part been due to questions from various senators, like John McCain, about the Pentagon’s apparent lack of concern about potential Russian cheating. Gates tried to clarify the matter in a letter he sent to Senator John Kerry, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, back on July 30: “Any Russian cheating could affect the sustainability of the New START treaty, the viability of future arms control agreements, and the ability of the U.S. and Russia to work together on other issues.” And, Gates wrote, our arsenal would “help deter any future Russian leaders from cheating or breakout from the treaty, should they ever have such an inclination.” Administration officials have been pushing to have the agreement ratified, including Clinton, who in a speech last night said she wished that the treaty hadn’t become a “political issue.”

And it looks like Obama could soon be without a close adviser. Rumor has it that Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, will head back to Chicago to run for mayor now that longtime office holder Richard Daley will be out of the race. Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said Rahm has yet to make an official decision, but whispering about a potential successor has already begun. Tom Donilon, a deputy national security adviser, is at the top of the list to succeed Emanuel according to Politico.