Deep Background

Article excerpt

The tentative nuclear agreement with North Korea, approved by President Bush, generated significant debate in the administration. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lobbied hard for the pact, looking for a tangible diplomatic victory to counter a string of perceived failures in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Rice proposed a number of U.S. concessions to the North Koreans, including easing up on financial sanctions and beginning the process of removing North Korea from a list of terrorism sponsors. The deal, which was opposed by Vice President Dick Cheney and sharply criticized by neoconservatives, such as Elliott Abrams at the NSC and former UN Ambassador John Bolton, is essentially the same as the 1994 Clinton agreement that Bush repudiated when he took office. Also, it leaves unresolved the issue of North Korea's existing nuclear arsenal. The neocons are particularly concerned that it provides an unwelcome model for rapprochement with Iran.

Reports from Israel on recently aborted peace talks with Syria reveal that the two sides were very close to a complete agreement before the White House intervened and ordered Tel Aviv to cease its efforts. In January 2004, the secret talks began in Turkey under the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then moved to Switzerland. By September 2005, tentative agreement had been reached in most areas, including borders, water supplies, and political issues, with Syria also agreeing to expel Hamas officials from Damascus and limit support for Hezbollah. Two CIA senior officers attended most meetings, reporting on developments directly to Vice President Dick Cheney's White House office. …