MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
Putting it together: US Middle East Policy is coming apart
In the larger perspective, the current crises in the Middle East are due to the fact that the United States Middle East policy is coming apart at the seams. The US wanted to promote democracy in the Middle East. Result number one is the Iraqi non-government. In addition to corruption, disunity and incompetence, the Iraq situation is generating headlines that are so absurd that one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.
The speaker of Iraq's parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadan, delivered the following opinion on the origins of violence in Iraq:
US citizens can be proud of how their tax dollars are at work to create a democratic Iraq, and their sons and daughters are dying in order to prop up the regime represented by Mahmoud al-Mashhadan.
A priceless Reuters headline indicates the state of US intelligence in Iraq: Rumsfeld told death squads fuelling Iraq conflict. This bit of news no doubt will force a profound change in US strategy. Until now, it seems to have been based on the idea that death squads were bringing peace and harmony to Iraq. That is one explanation for why the US has allowed these private sectarian militias to terrorize Iraqis. The more likely explanation is incompetence and indifference. The US set up a regime that is totally dependent on the US, and yet the US has no control whatever over this regime. Its parliamentary leaders can use the platform the US has given them for racist incitement. Its sectarian parties can use its militias to terrorize everyone and blame it all on the Jews. Its officials can siphon off US tax dollars into private accounts in Swiss banks. The US seems powerless to stop any of this. Iraq was the first place where the US started something that it had neither the competence nor the will to finish. Iraq was the Bachelor's degree of the US specialization in Middle East Muddle.
From the disaster of Iraq, the US graduated to the disaster of Hamas. The US and EU forced elections on Mahmud Abbas and the Israelis, and forced acceptance of Hamas candidates against the express provisos of the Oslo Interim agreement. They are not happy with the Hamas, but instead of doing something decisive, they embarked on a policy of half measures that will make heroes of the Hamas and entrench their leadership, while bringing suffering to both Palestinians and Israelis. The result is the current deadly deadlock in Gaza. That was the Master's degree of the US in Middle East Muddle.
However, the devolution of Lebanon and Syria is certainly, to date, the masterpiece of US Middle East policy muddle. In this they have had able help from France. After mounting a brave attack on the regime of Bashar Assad, the US and France lost their nerve. They remembered that if Bashar falls, the Muslim Brotherhood would probably take over Syria. As they would be helpless to cope with the Muslim Brotherhood, the US and France have gone back to the same old cynical policy. Bashar will remain in power, remain immune from prosecution for the murder of Rafik Hariri, continue to protect and nurture Khaled Meshal and the Hizbulla with impunity. The man seems to be made of teflon. The US won't touch him, and the Israelis won't touch him.
At the same time, the US and France are anxious to prop up the government of Fuad Seniora in Lebanon. Seniora is their man, and Bashar is anxious to get him out of office. Seniora has allowed the Hebullah into his government, and Lebanon defiantly refuses to comply with UN Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1680, which call for disarming the Hizbullah and other militia. The rest of the international community simply followed suit, leading to what is perhaps the biggest failure of international law since the League of Nations failed to act against Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia. Perhaps it is worse. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, it was hoped that the virtue of complying with UN resolutions and international will, would be rewarded by vigilant and impartial enforcement of international law along Israel's northern border, and a return to normalcy for Israeli and Lebanese citizens. Instead, the Hizbulla has remained an armed force, and has continued to perpetrate provocations along the border with impunity. Right-wing politicians in Israel are not slow to explain that the current rain of Katyusha rockets, accompanied by a rain of condemnations of Israel by just about everyone, led by Jacques Chirac and the Vatican, would never have taken place if Israel had not complied with "international law" and UN resolutions. Of course, they neglect to consider what might have happened if Israel had remained in Lebanon, but politicians are politicians.
In Lebanon as in Iraq, the US now has a "client regime" that it created, but which does what it pleases. Seniora, whose government supports the Hizbullah terrorists and includes a Hizbullah representative, even had the temerity to ask the USA to force Israel to moderate its attempts to stop Lebanese aggression against Israel. Even more amazingly, US Secretary of State Rice meekly complied, calling on Israel to exercise "restraint" while 800 Katyousha rockets fell over northern Israel, killing 2 and wounding 25. Lebanese claimed that President Bush also danced obediently to Seniora's tune, according to the Lebanese:
The contradiction inherent in U.S. policy toward Lebanon was evident in the July 13 press briefing held in Germany. Secretary Rice said:
The truth is that the Bush administration defined the limits of Israeli options in such a way, that all Israeli actions in Lebanon will be futile. The only correct resolution of the crisis is the disarmament of the Hizbulla and the return of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. A peace agreement with Lebanon would be nice, but it is too much to expect. However there can be no security for Israel as long as Hizbulla exists. There can't be democracy in Lebanon or security for Lebanese as long as there is an armed force besides the government, that can effectively set national policy and decide what is the law. In the Lebanese "democracy," Hassan Nasrallah has all the votes.
Any resolution other than disarmament of the Hizbulla will lead to more Hizbulla attacks in the future and more Israeli reprisals and more suffering for both peoples. Any other resolution will lead to further empowerment of the Hizbulla, who will claim a "victory" over Israel if only they are left breathing, and will be back in business in a few months. Israel can bomb Hizbulla targets day and and day out for a hundred years. It will have no effect. They will be quickly resupplied by their Iranian and Syrian patrons, no matter how many missiles Israel destroys. US experience in Vietnam proved that air power cannot beat a guerilla force, and this is being reaffirmed, if anything, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even an invasion of Lebanon advocated by some will do nothing whatever to stop the Hizbulla. They will simply melt into the mountains.
Only the Lebanese government can force disarmament of the Hizbulla, or ask the UN to do it. The Lebanese government will do nothing as long as they are more or less exempt from Israeli pressure, and as long as both France and the USA have given them a free pass. Seniora is quite happy to enjoy the support of the Hizbulla, and at the same time put on a show of "democracy" for the US.
Once again, in Lebanon, the US has created a Frankenstein's monster that it could not control. .
We should not forget the Egyptian side-show: Even as the US preaches democracy, its number one Arab client regime in the Middle East becomes increasingly oppressive and repressive. Hosni Mubarak arrests dissidents and makes new and better repressive laws, all the while getting pats on the head and massive aid from the United States.
In each case, the US meddles, creates a mess, and then becomes frightened of the forces it has unleashed, or bored and confused with the whole thing. The enemy of the good is the better. The friend of the bad is fear of worse. Hamas could be replaced by Al-Qaeda. Seniora could be replaced by civil war or Syrian domination. The Iraq government could be replaced by a Khomeini-oid or Saddam-oid government or by chaos. Bashar Assad and Hosni Mubarak could be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood. This fear, plus incompetence and inability to control the situation, makes it possible for all these regimes to become, in effect, protegees and beneficiaries of US policy, while they act against US interests and the interests of peace with impunity.
The piece de resistance that will no doubt give the US tenure in the university of foreign policy folly is yet to come. One way or another, Iran will develop nuclear weapons in the next five or ten years. Then what?
Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000488.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.
Replies: 24 comments
Thanks for your comment on my blog. I read your post on the same subject and find myself in accord with what you've said. Your words were much more eloquent than mine, but I can see that we are aligned philosphically. Out here in the Kansas Flint Hills speech tends to be plain. This is Will Rogers country.
I hope that my country will find its way through all the diplomatic niceties and support what is right and just in this situation. It's time for Hezbollah and Hamas to be permanently de-fanged.
Posted by Phil Dillon @ 07/14/2006 11:28 PM CST
You make some valid points but your argument is pretty one sided. Pro-Isreal. The United States and the rest of the Middle East are playing an oil game. These religous fanatic groups are totally blinded by their hatred and so busy fueling that hate they cannot focus there anger at the true culprits the political organizations that have profited from this unrest.Supression of the masses and profit for the few. Wake Up people , only god has the answers......
Posted by JO @ 07/15/2006 02:20 AM CST
Greetings. I have had my article "Israel and the Land" published in Russia's newspaper Pravda (link is below). Although I am a conservative (evangelical) Christian, I do not believe the Bible supports present day Jewish claim to all Arab land in Palestine and beyond. Israel does have every right to exist like any other nation. I offer a Biblical and historical analysis and refutation of the popularly accepted theory of Zionism. It is Zionism (building and expanding Jewish settlements on Arab land which is fueling most of the problem).
Please feel free to reproduce my article in Pravda. I do not ask for any compensation, monetary or otherwise.
*As a religion and science writer, I have had the privilege of being recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis Who's Who in The East.
Posted by Babu G. Ranganathan @ 07/15/2006 02:56 PM CST
american democracy faild in the middle east because america is not honest in its calling for democracy; it is just a cover or a lie to hide its aims. i think the best way for american is to let people live as they wish; america should support people not the the bad regimes
Posted by freeman @ 07/16/2006 02:47 AM CST
Coming apart, hardly. The terrorists have little to celebrate, what territory have they won, what hearts have they won. The Big Bang in the Middle East has done what it is suppose to do, speed up the inevitable. It placed the war in the vary place it needs to be, that is where Islamic terrorism was born. This war has been handed off to the next administration since the 1970's. 9-11 took away the curtain and we all got to see the enemy. Many want to close that curtain, pretend it is not there. If we do that we will see many more 9-11's. Iran is nervous. We have him boxed in. Iran is not only nervous about us but also it's own people. They have had a record number (500) of protests (large protests)against the clerics, many have given their lives. The overwhelmingly young population loves the west and they know their days are numbered. We let it grow and fester, it will take years to cure it. The terrorists are desperate and because of that they are killing their own people. That will be their downfall.
Posted by Diane Clark @ 07/16/2006 06:30 AM CST
Does anyone remember Irgun Zwei Leumi, the Stern gang and Hagana? They were the violent organizations who forced through the creation of Israel. This was opposed by all the neighbouring Arab counties in the voting on Resolution 181 (November 1947) and at all times thereafter. Since then Israel has expanded by military conquest, never by the consent of any arab government. Agreements, on the Israel question have always been made when the position of Israel was strong and its opponents weak. There is no evidence that the Arab countries actually accept Israel: only that they temporarily make the best of a bad situation by appearing to when put under pressure. The idea that there is a peace process leading to peace between israel and the Palestinians and the Middle East generally has no strong evidence to support it. It seems much more likely that in reality there will never be peace in the Middle East while Israel remains a Jewish state. This seems so obvious that the statesmen, politicians, journalists and commentators who talk about "road maps to peace" and "the peace process" seem to be like sleepwalkers or entranced.
Posted by Clear Eyes @ 07/17/2006 01:12 AM CST
Ami, I must disagree with some of your comments:
1) I don't think that the Hamas's participation in the elections was bad, or that an attempt to prevent them from participating, or not holding elections would have been better. The Hamas was a significant party already in the Palestinian AK-47 political system. It is better that there is a congruence between the actual political reality and the formation of the Palestiian government. This should enable Israel to fight, pressure or negotiate a ceasefire with the Hamas as it would and actually did with any Arab or Muslim government that is or was unwilling to recognize it. It is much better than the situation we see in Lebanon where a semi-official organization acts, and then the government denies responsibility.
2) I don't think the US, France or Israel has an interest in toppling Assad.
3) Give credit to the Cedar revolution. It is a significant acheivement.
4) I doubt if he US could acheive the disarmament of Hizballa, or that he Lebanese government could, even if they wanted.
5) Disarmament of the Hizballa is an unrealistic goal. Insisting on it would prolong the war too much. If the Lebanese army takes over the south, and Hizballa's credibility in Lebanese politics is harmed, and there is enough deterrant to cause it to refrain from trying to return to the same kind of methods it employed since 2000, and there is a ceasefire which is supported by Lebanese and Arab public opinion (i.e. which HIzballa will find difficult to break), than that has to be enough. It may be possible afterwards that the moderate Lebanese will have enough strength in the atmosphere of a discredited Hizballa and a ceasefire to disarm it completely, but even if not, if a ceasefire was good enough to end a war between Israel and Nasser's Egypt, it should suffice now. The greatest risk is that of the Hizballa rearming, but here a successful ceasefire agreement and American-European interference may be useful.
6) I think pressure by Bush on Israel may be useful. Arabs find it convenient to think of peace and ceasefire with Israel as the result of American pressure. If that makes it easier for them to sign them it is fine with me. If Bush steps up now as the guy who stopped the attacks on Lebanon and helped it rebuild, this may strengthen his position in Lebanon. It will also help the Lebanese government save some face in this war without appearing to capitulate to Isrel, while still harming Hizballa, and stopping Israel from acting stupid without making its government seem weak to Israelis.
7) It is unfair to criticize the US for toppling Saddam and not toppling Assad, supporting Palestinian democracy and not supporting Egyptian. Nor is it in Israel's interest that the US not be involved in the region, although hopefully in a better way. But the US is not omnipotent. It cannot form an ideal relationship with each Arab state. It is necessary to find a balance of the many forces instead of hoping to vaniquish them.
Posted by Micha @ 07/17/2006 03:02 AM CST
Dear Babu G. Ranganathan, Biblical theological arguments are completely irrelevant to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only of little interest to the history of zionism, and the minority part of Zionism that could care (i.e. the religious zionists) won't care for the opinions of an evangelical christian. Your view of what is the popularly accepted theory of Zionism, seems to be the one popularly accepted by Arabs. It is not popularly accepted by Zionists. I doubt that here is a popularly accepted theory of Zionism other than the desire that a Jewish nation state exist. The only group to rely on theological arguments are the religious zionists, who are, as I said, a minority.
building and expanding Jewish settlements in the territories occupied in 67 was one of many factors fueling the problem. However, in the last years support for such settlements, and the power of the minority group endorsing it, has diminished. This has been acheived and will continue to be acheived without reference to biblical scholarship.
Posted by Micha @ 07/17/2006 03:13 AM CST
Ami, on a personal note, I find your understandable pessimism rather alarming. After all, we have to continue living here, and cannot afford to be fatalistic. There must be a sequence of realistic moves that can make our situation better if not perfect.
Posted by Micha @ 07/17/2006 04:32 AM CST
Posted by Rod Davies @ 07/17/2006 12:24 PM CST
Micha why "must there be a sequence of realistic moves that can make our situation better"? Because we wish it were so? Of course we wish it were so, but if that is used as a reason for believing it to be true we are into wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is cause of much confusion, bad policies and consequent misery.
Posted by Clear Eyes @ 07/17/2006 12:58 PM CST
I had a hard time trying to read through the tea leaves of your comment. Are you saying that Israel is, and always has been, the aggressor in the Middle-East? Are you saying that the solution to the problem is the dimsnatling of the Jewish state?
If that's the case, I must say that I believe your mathematics and geopolitics in this case are flawed.
Posted by phildillon @ 07/17/2006 03:00 PM CST
Those statements that you ask are they mine may or may not follow from my observations.
I do say that the creation of Israel was achieved by violence and that the arab nations oppposed it from the start.
Posted by Clear Eyes @ 07/17/2006 03:33 PM CST
You said " It seems much more likely that in reality there will never be peace in the Middle East while Israel remains a Jewish state."
If that isn't a solution offered, what is it? Is it just an expression of a regrettable geoplitical reality the world just needs to accept?
There's no need to be coy. Just answer the question.
Posted by Phil Dillon @ 07/17/2006 07:00 PM CST
I do not think that dismantling the State of Israel would be a solution. It might or might not bring peace. Where would all the Jews born in Israel over the last 50 years go? It is not a solution. I huess what I am saying is that Israelis think they are right to be where they are and do what they do and their Arab neighbours, especially those who would otherwise have owned the land taken by Israel, think their resistance is right. Theref is no solution. Peace if it comes would be at a terrible price.
The idea that there is a solution which "we" can find, identify and implement is arrogant. It used to be part of the basis of old-style colonial thinking.
Posted by Clear Eyes @ 07/17/2006 07:42 PM CST
I've think I've read through the tea leaves. I think I've got it. You apparently don't have much taste for solutions. Myself, I don't have much taste the notion that peace in the Middle-East would be more likely without Israel as a Jewish state.
By the way, I wasn't offering any solution. I was trying to get my arms around how you saw Israel. I think that's clear to me now.
Posted by Phil Dillon @ 07/17/2006 09:59 PM CST
Posted by Clear Eyes @ 07/17/2006 10:12 PM CST
I see you are into this Zionism thing along with every other man with a canine. Here are my thoughts on what is in fact a very familiar human situation. (Your pride in being a who's who and letting us all know it is also an example of human behaviour, oft studied by psychiatrists.)
By the time of Arab Nationalism colliding with the form of Jewish zionism prevalent in about 1910 - Unpleasantly similar to 1930's German national socialism, it changed but is still the form always clutched at by those that still refer to Zionism today - there had already been since 1860 or so the increasing movement of Jews from Europe to Palestine, then a sleepy backwater of the Ottoman empire gradually dying and consisting mostly of tenant farmers living on the land of mostly absentee landlords. The new migrants were empowered by their migrant zeal and assisted by the usual great organistion that was their second nature ( hence constant claims of 'conspiracy') and already in place in a substantial number of organisations and other assistance available to help with further migration and to further establish those already there. A powerful, self sustaining rationale was up and running, whilst on the other side the dawning realistion that Palestine was in danger of ceding it's majority Arab nature to a Jewish zionist one was slow to get under way except amongst local Arab idealists and a class, small in number, known as the notables. A zone of low pressure exploited by one of high pressure, human nature in action, deal with it.
The jews did nothing illegal, they bought land both cheaply and later at great expense, and occupied it, and in doing so removed many Arab tenants so that the Jews could farm in their own more productive way - not a new nor specifically jewish problem, see modern day businiess practice in England or anywhere for that matter, hey, try Darfur for a less pleasant way of getting the same result. As for the zionistic nature of the proto-Isrealis at that time - one must remember that there were several types of Zionism, religious, reform, labour, and many types of Zionist, not all bad - I ask you,what do you suppose caused it? Well, the West has created Isreal twice, once in providing the basis for a jewish desire to return to their 'biblical homeland', once via progroms, random slaughter, racism, etc = Zionism, and twice in officiating over Israel's legal induction into the familly of nations, the one UN resolution which through being ignored by Palestinian Arabs and others has effectively been the basis for all the ordure that has gone down since: still with me babu? The Palestinian Arabs have been trumped by superior desire and organistion at every turn, but have exacerbated their position by feeling that some day, some how, that situation would be reversed, and therefore they have never felt able to accept and compromise. The situation they find themselves in today in will not change untill they do accept and compromise. In a sense Palestine has been abused by Israel, other Arabs, and themselves in only slightly differing degrees, you'd think that by about now they'd have taken the plunge and become more focussed on what that could get rather than what they will only ever dream of, certainly as things stand, and believe me there is a lot more invested in the way things stand than Palestine will ever be offered as weapon that finally works; now that's a fact, ok, and it has sod all to do with religion except as the first point by which Jews are judged by Muslims according to the league table of acceptable peoples and religions set by Mohammed, and let's face it, he never did forgive the Jews for thinking his great new idea was really just some good old Arab poetry with a lot of clearly plageurised religious coding in between. Ta ra.
Posted by Zed Misrahi @ 07/25/2006 01:22 AM CST
Hmmm...Ok read this and read what has been printed by Zionists since 1948.not much difference don't you all agrree?A lot of serious hate and bloodshed ,just so a motely crew of my bretherin could claim a peice of desert as there own( don't forget we nearly got Uganda....)Unfortunately there was one problem ...Palestinians.
"...Coming apart, hardly. The terrorists have little to celebrate, what territory have they won, what hearts have they won. The Big Bang in the Middle East has done what it is suppose to do, speed up the inevitable. It placed the war in the vary place it needs to be, that is where Islamic terrorism was born. This war has been handed off to the next administration since the 1970's. 9-11 took away the curtain and we all got to see the enemy. Many want to close that curtain, pretend it is not there. If we do that we will see many more 9-11's. Iran is nervous. We have him boxed in. Iran is not only nervous about us but also it's own people. They have had a record number (500) of protests (large protests)against the clerics, many have given their lives. The overwhelmingly young population loves the west and they know their days are numbered. We let it grow and fester, it will take years to cure it. The terrorists are desperate and because of that they are killing their own people. That will be their downfall...."
Posted by Emmanual Goldstein @ 07/30/2006 02:41 PM CST
Against this background what reason is there to suppose that peace between Israel and its Palesinian neighbours and othe Moslem neighbours is possible? It seems to be obviously impossibe' If it is impossible it is not rtional to follow policies that presuppose this peace an be achieved. More rational would be policies aimed at containing and limiting the endemic state of conflict and prolonging as much as possible the temporary periods of calm. An obvious starting point would be a prohibition on exporting arms to the regions (to either party). Those who make profits from this trade would of course ioppose this policy. Another policy that might be considered is to suppress colonial type thinking about controlling the area and let the protagonists get on with dealing ith their local situation without outside interference.
As to the connection between this conflict and the "war on terror", itwould seem to be obvious that the westen countries need Moslem allies. Present policies give moslem countries the impression that the USA and UJK are indeed waging a faith-based war on Islam as a whole (a "crusade") and Moslem friends of the USA and UK are getting to be ever thinner on the ground. This does not look like progress in the "war on terror"
Posted by Clear Eyes @ 08/06/2006 06:00 PM CST
Hiz B'Allah is not a sovereign entity. It has no sovereign territory. Its continuing launch of over 3,000 missiles against Israel is a terrorist act conducted from Lebanese soil with the assent of the Lebanese government, in whose legislature it holds many seats.
The Lebanese government, regardless of its fiscal or miltary capacities, has made essentially no effort to hunt down and disable Hiz B'Allah. It has, therefore, assented to the attacks and should fully anticipate retaliation. The Lebanese people should understand that their government has jeopardized their lives, regardless of whether Siniora is more pro- or anti-Baathist. When you allow terrorists to stage from your territory, you invite war. If the Arab peoples choose to ally themselves with such as Hiz B'Allah, then perhaps we simply don't share common values. Ordinarily, when two large civilizations don't share basic values, they either segregate or they do battle. Because we have a very strong economic dependence on the oil resources of the area, I doubt we'll agree to 'stay out of one anothers' back yards'. Maybe the fight's on.
On the other hand, I'd invite the Arab community to consider how differently it might respond if those missiles had landed in Amman, instead of Haifa. If they are prepared to treat Israel just like any other neighbor, clearly the outrage of the Arab world cannot be diverted from Hiz B'Allah and its host, Lebanon. If Arabs or Muslims prefer to be idiosyncratic in their foreign policies, then we probably don't share values systems.
Posted by dave @ 08/07/2006 08:46 AM CST
The West and Islam do differ in their value systems. That is precisely the root of the problem that must be solved
Posted by Clear Eyes @ 08/07/2006 09:48 AM CST
No, I disagree. Western values and the Qur'An are quite compatible in most respects. It's not about Islam. The dissonance would be with backward-looking, Salafist distortions by angry, impotent, principally Arab masses of poorly-educated people ill-suited to compete in the international workforce. All of these characteristics go together and run against the grain of western thought.
Posted by dave @ 08/07/2006 11:59 AM CST
Posted by Clear Eyes @ 08/07/2006 08:37 PM CST
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