Mending America’s fences with Europe would have topped John Kerry‘s agenda had the Democratic senator from Massachusetts unseated George Bush in the Oval Office.
As Kerry’s secretary of state, Senator Joseph Biden of Maryland, along with Richard Holbrooke, the former US ambassador to the United Nations and architect of the Dayton accords that ended the Bosnian war, would have spearheaded that effort.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources have learned that Kerry offered Holbrooke any diplomatic or political post he chose in the new administration, save for secretary of state. The candidate was inclining toward creating the position of Special Secretary for US-European relations, so strongly did he believe that transatlantic reconciliation was the next president’s most important strategic step.
Holbrooke, who considers himself a Middle East expert, would have used his new position to press for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the restoration of relations of trust between Washington and the Arab and Muslim world.
Former president Bill Clinton‘s Middle East envoy, Dennis Ross, now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, would also have had pride of place in a Kerry administration. Hoping to be elevated above the ambassadorial rank he held under Clinton, Ross had prepared a working paper proposing that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon‘s disengagement plan for Gaza be transformed into a reengagement plan that would keep Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in play, albeit on the sidelines of a settlement.
Under this proposal, which Holbrooke approved, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was to be installed as kingpin of the Palestinian Authority – with Egypt’s consent – and used as a bridge of understanding between the United States and Europe – first over the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and then over Iraq.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in the Middle East report that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his chief adviser, Osama el-Baz, praised the Ross plan when it was put before them and began making quiet offerings to the Kerry campaign, such as briefings for his closest advisers on every important diplomatic or military action taken by Cairo.
El-Baz even gave Kerry’s advisers a heads-up before Mubarak telephoned the ailing Arafat at Percy military hospital near Paris and then relayed a rundown of their conversation, which he asked to convey to Kerry.
Most Arab rulers were looking forward to a Democratic president in the White House. The only exceptions were Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Jordan’s King Hussein and Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi, who made no overtures at all to Kerry.