The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Agenda items: Holbrooke Pakistan powwow, August Obama Mideast announcement?

Af-Pak Special Representative Richard Holbrooke is convening a Pakistan policy discussion at Ft. McNair Monday, two sources familiar with the planned meeting said. Monday’s powwow is similar to one Holbrooke convened on Afghanistan back in May, an official said. The Monday Ft. McNair discussion appears to involve government insiders. Several Holbrooke aides didn’t respond to ...

Af-Pak Special Representative Richard Holbrooke is convening a Pakistan policy discussion at Ft. McNair Monday, two sources familiar with the planned meeting said. Monday's powwow is similar to one Holbrooke convened on Afghanistan back in May, an official said.

Af-Pak Special Representative Richard Holbrooke is convening a Pakistan policy discussion at Ft. McNair Monday, two sources familiar with the planned meeting said. Monday’s powwow is similar to one Holbrooke convened on Afghanistan back in May, an official said.

The Monday Ft. McNair discussion appears to involve government insiders. Several Holbrooke aides didn’t respond to queries on the planned meeting, and outside government South Asia experts contacted said they had not been invited.

Middle East announcement planned?

Does the Obama administration plan to make an announcement on its Middle East peace plan later this month? So National Security Advisor James Jones recently told a European defense official in a "heads up," a European diplomat told The Cable.

"I think they want to announce something in August; but whether they will be able to is unclear unless they change their game plan," a former senior U.S. official involved in the Middle East told The Cable.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is scheduled to come for a meeting at the White House August 18, the White House said. One former U.S. government consultant recently back from discussions with leaders in Middle Eastern capitals thought the Obama administration was considering making an announcement articulating its Middle East peace plan after the consultations with Mubarak and before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins around August 20.

U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell, asked about his envisaged timeline for announcing the administration’s vision for advancing Middle East peace at a June 16 press briefing, said, "We’re going to move as promptly as possible. … To me, it’s a matter of weeks, not many months."

But he has had his work cut out for him.

On Sunday, Israel evicted two Palestinian families, comprising 56 people in all, from their homes in an East Jerusalem neighborhood, the New York Times reported. "Nasser Ghawi, one of the evicted Palestinians, said his family had been living in the house for 53 years before the Israeli forces came and broke down the doors," the paper reported. "Maher Hanoun, the head of the other evicted family, was out on the street like Mr. Ghawi."

The State Department issued a statement after the evictions Sunday calling on Israeli authorities to refrain from provocative actions. "As Secretary Clinton has stated previously, the eviction of families and demolition of homes in East Jerusalem is not in keeping with Israeli obligations under the Roadmap," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said. "We urge that the Government of Israel and municipal officials refrain from provocative actions in East Jerusalem, including home demolitions and evictions."

The evictions were "all over" Al Jazeera today, a U.S. official said.

At a press appearance after a meeting with Clinton Friday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal reasserted Riyadh’s position that "incrementalism and a step-by-step approach" will not achieve a resolution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. "The whole world knows what a settlement should look like," Al-Faisal said. "Withdrawal from all the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, a just settlement for the refugees, and an equitable settlement of issues such as water and security."

"I see this as less about actual red lines and more about sending signals," one Washington Middle East specialist said on condition of anonymity of Al-Faisal’s statement. "The U.S. is asking Israel for a settlement freeze and Saudi Arabia et al for normalization steps. Israel is publicly saying no to a freeze … and its allies in D.C. are building the case that the equation should be changed from ‘settlement freeze = normalization steps’ to ‘steps already taken by Israel (recognizing two-state solution, removing some checkpoints, expressing readiness to return to negotiations) = normalization.’ … The post-meeting Saudi statement is just the latest public signaling by one of these parties."

Laura Rozen writes The Cable daily at ForeignPolicy.com.

More from Foreign Policy

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping give a toast during a reception following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping give a toast during a reception following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21.

Can Russia Get Used to Being China’s Little Brother?

The power dynamic between Beijing and Moscow has switched dramatically.

Xi and Putin shake hands while carrying red folders.
Xi and Putin shake hands while carrying red folders.

Xi and Putin Have the Most Consequential Undeclared Alliance in the World

It’s become more important than Washington’s official alliances today.

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

It’s a New Great Game. Again.

Across Central Asia, Russia’s brand is tainted by Ukraine, China’s got challenges, and Washington senses another opening.

Kurdish military officers take part in a graduation ceremony in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, on Jan. 15.
Kurdish military officers take part in a graduation ceremony in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, on Jan. 15.

Iraqi Kurdistan’s House of Cards Is Collapsing

The region once seemed a bright spot in the disorder unleashed by U.S. regime change. Today, things look bleak.