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Middle East - Waiting for disasters to be handled by incompetents


At this moment, there are a number of disasters waiting to happen in the Middle East. That has probably been true at any time in the last 80 years, but it is especially acute right now. It is also true that the people in charge in every country and sphere, those who should be on the side of the "good guys," have all demonstrated frightening incompetence at every turn. When and if any of these disasters occur, they will be the ones in charge of damage control.

Iraq - Everyone is waiting for the apparently inevitable US collapse. If that happens, it will entrain a series of very unpleasant consequences for all Gulf countries, and for Israel, Egypt and Lebanon.

Iran - While the chances of an actual Israeli or US attack are fairly small, it is still the closest disaster in sight in Iran. Announcement by Iran that it has developed a nuclear weapon is still a few years down the road and will produce its own disaster.

Lebanon - The Hezbollah is confronting and paralyzing the government, while at the same time steadily building its military capabilities. Deals are rumored and the rumor bubbles continually burst. The UN emergency force has not been successful in removing the military threat posed by Hamas. If there is quiet, it is because quiet serves the goals of the Hezbollah at present.

Syria-Israel - The Israeli intelligence assessment that Syria is not planning to start a war next summer can be taken with a grain of salt. Israeli intelligence failed to predict five of the eight last wars!

Israel-Palestinians - The impasse cannot last forever. Hamas is arming itself and the Arab world has, in the Mecca accords, presented Israel and the Quartet with an unacceptable fait accompli that they insist must nonetheless be accepted. The continued misery of the Palestinians is equally unacceptable. Meanwhile, Gaza is being slowly turned into a chaotic version of an Islamist Republic, where any sort of entertainment not in line with the Hamas world view is liable to be terminated violently.

Egyptian politics - Everyone prays for the health of President Hosni Mubarak and worries about what might happen if, after 120 years, he is no longer running Egypt. We wish him long life and good health. However, people dying or becoming incapacitated is not an unknown eventuality, and President Mubarak is not a young man. In the Middle East, the bad is the enemy of the much worse, which is always waiting to replace it.

Israeli politics - Polls show that at least 64% of Israelis believe Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should resign and new elections should be held. At present, the leading candidate to replace him is hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party. As I wrote, in the Middle East, the bad is the enemy of the much worse, which is always waiting to replace it.

At one time, Israelis at least, could comfort themselves with the thought that no matter how impossible affairs seemed to be, those in charge are "bigger and smarter" than we are, and will find a solution. Everyone now understands however, that those in charge are completely clueless. A picture is worth a thousand words. The symbol of incompetence in Middle East leadership is Defense Minister Amir Peretz, reviewing IDF military excercises through capped binoculars.

Peretz's symbolic blunder is a symptom of much worse actual blunders. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert actually testified that Israel planned the fiasco of the Lebanese war. That is, contingency plans to respond to kidnapping of Israeli soldiers were made several months previously. Despite this "planning," it did not occur to Israel to drop a broad hint about this possible response that might serve as a deterrent. It did not occur to anyone to check the state of civil defense and home front readiness, to prepare shelters or an emergency plan for the functioning of local governments. Nobody checked that IDF logistics warehouses contained the equipment they were supposed to contain. Nobody thought about some training for reserve units. The plans were made before Amir Peretz became Defense Minister and the failures could not be attributed to his incompetence. Everyone was viewing the world through capped binoculars. Perhaps when you view the Middle East through capped binoculars, it is not as black as reality. Not surprisingly, this crew that is incompetent to make war, is also incompetent to make peace.

Israeli incompetence is matched by the incompetence of all other players in the Middle East. The US is engaged in a last ditch effort to save its position in Iraq, with no backup plan. The Arab League seems to be intent on the project of trying to force Israel and the Quartet to accept a Hamas government as a "peace partner," though that Hamas government tells the world repeatedly that it will never make peace. Everyone agrees that in Mecca, Mahmoud Abbas essentially negotiated away any influence the Fatah and secular forces might have had in the Palestinian authority.

The upcoming Arab Summit will probably be another occasion for ineffectual resolutions that do not help to solve any of the problems facing Arab countries. There is no plan to deal with Syrian influence in Lebanon, no plan to deal with Iran and no realistic plan for peace with Israel or for making the situation manageable for both Israelis and Palestinians. In Lebanon, UNIFIL has proven it is incompetent to deal with Hezbollah, and Lebanese of all persuasions are aghast at the stupidity and small mindedness of their politicians, who are leading their country to a dead end. Of course, everyone is frightened of the Iranian nuclear project, but nobody seems to have a clue regarding what to do about it.

Not everyone in the Middle East is incompetent. In Beirut, Hassan Nasrallah, who heads the Hezbollah, seems to know exactly what he is doing, and likewise in Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has proven himself adroit at maneuvering Iran to a position where it can call most of the shots in the Middle East, while everyone else stands around wringing their hands. Look at the relatively tiny resources that Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad command, against the oil wealth of Saudi Arabia and the military might of Israel and the United States, and consider how much they have accomplished with virtually nothing. Their only advantage is that they do not have lens caps on their binoculars, and they know what they want to do. What a pity it is that what they want to do is make everyone else's life miserable.

What we would love to see happen in the best of all possible worlds: the Arab summit will come up with a version of the Arab peace plan that is a real basis for negotiations. The Israeli government and the Palestinians, including the Hamas, will accept this plan. At the same time, a regional coalition will be formed to deal with the problem of Iraq and the nuclear ambitions of Iran. It can happen. It only requires a miracle. Apparently, the foreign policy of most Middle East players is predicated on the occurrence of this miracle.

Ami Isseroff

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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/00000574.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 4 comments

"the Arab summit will come up with a version of the Arab peace plan that is a real basis for negotiations. "

It is true that the Arab peace plan is insufficient for any Israeli right of the Arab parties. But the current Israeli government doesn't want to negotiate for other reasons: (1) it is unwilling to make the Palestinians a sufficient offer -- the best they can offer is a Palestinian state in insufficient temporary borders; (2) it is unwilling to stop strikes into the West Bank, or release prisoners, or stop pressure on the Palestinian government for fear that it will be blamed for any increase in terrorism; (3) it is afraid that if it negotiates with te Palestinians without a clear end to terrorism it will be blamed for tolerating terrorism and negotiating under fire; (4) it is afraid of the consequences of a collapse in the peace process wil have similar results to the collapse of Camp David; (5) it lacks any public support for any form of daring policy because of its failure in Lebanon; (6) it is certainly incapable of making any clear spoken concessions on major issues. Under the circumstances it is pointless to expect the Arab states to somehow create a bridge over all the reasons that prevent both the Israelis and Palestinians to reach peace. Cerainly not o the issue of the right of return. I the were really daring they might have tried to make some bridging proposal on Jerusalem, but they're not.

"Arab League seems to be intent on the project of trying to force Israel and the Quartet to accept a Hamas government as a "peace partner," though that Hamas government tells the world repeatedly that it will never make peace."

IOsrael could offer to negotiate with the Palestinian Hamas government and let them do the rejecting. It could also use the terms which even the Hamas has accepted, and start negotiating with Abu-Mazen over a deal that will then be presented to the Palesinians in a referendum. A start of negotiations in and of itself can create a change in the situation, and actually reaching a deal with Abu-Mazen is also a possibility, even if an unlikely one. But, like I said, the Israeli government has reasons not to try these options.

"That is, contingency plans to respond to kidnapping of Israeli soldiers were made several months previously."

Clearly, the plans of the army even back then were not very good. He who wants peace must prepare for war, and the Israeli army has to learn how to deal with wars that involved trained guerillas and missiles, and it must do it fast.

Posted by Micha @ 03/09/2007 03:06 AM CST

Let me quote from Jeff Halper (THE PROBLEM WITH ISRAEL. November 16, 2006)

"Let’s be honest (for once): The problem in the Middle East is not the Palestinian people, not Hamas, not the Arabs, not Hezbollah or the Iranians or the entire Muslim world. It’s us, the Israelis. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the single greatest cause of instability, extremism and violence in our region, is perhaps the simplest conflict in the world to resolve. For almost 20 years, since the PLO’s recognition of Israel within the 1949 Armistice Lines (the “Green Line” separating Israel from the West Bank and Gaza),every Palestinian leader, backed by large majorities of the Palestinian population, has presented Israel with a most generous offer: A Jewish state on 78% of Israel/Palestine in return for a Palestinian state on just 22% – the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In fact, this is a proposition supported by a large majority of both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples."

"If Israelis truly crave peace and security – “the right to be normal,” as Olmert put it recently – then why haven’t they grabbed, or at least explored, each and every opportunity for resolving the conflict? Why do they continually elect governments that aggressively pursue settlement expansion and military confrontation with the Palestinians and Israel’s neighbors even though they want to get the albatross of occupation off their necks? Why, if most Israelis truly yearn to “separate” from the Palestinians, do they offer the Palestinians so little that separation is simply not an option, even if the Palestinians are willing to make major concessions? “The files of the Israeli Foreign Ministry,” writes the Israeli-British historian Avi Shlaim in The Iron Wall(2001:49), “burst at the seams with evidence of Arab peace feelers and Arab readiness to negotiate with Israel from September 1948 on.”

Posted by Peter Reilly @ 03/11/2007 06:42 PM CST

The claim that the almost exclusive reason for the problems of the Middle East are rooted in the existance and intransigence of Israel is fallacious and a convenience for the various Arab governments. Surprisingly the existance of Israel does not mandate nor direct the sectarian violence, misogenist violence, homophobic violence and general denial of human rights across the region. Nor does it compel the gross inequalities of opportunities and distribution of commonwealth across the region.
While we can berate Israel with justification for the settlements or its harsh treatment (at times) of the Palestinians, and perhaps its failure to recognise and grasp every proffered olive branch. We cannot hold Israel in any form responsible for the social and political chaos that is the Middle East. If Israel did not exist then the Arab dictatorship would have invent some other object of hatred as a means of avoiding internal and external criticism.
We too are a tool in this. Rather than addressing the impulses within us (Christians and Muslims) that created Zionism, we repeatedly seek to divert all attention and blame upon Israel and the Jews. We demand of them standards of behaviour which in the last two millenia we have rarely even aspired to, never mind attained. We do not aks of ourselves why it is that we show scant interest in the suffering in other areas of the Middle East when compared with the acreage of newsprint consumed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
By behaving as we do, we pander to the inadequate leadership amongst the Palestinians and positively encourage their corruption and stupidity.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 03/12/2007 10:46 AM CST

A needed requirement a Covenant for Middle East Peace

( The call for a Pan-Arab Force )

The reality in the Middle East is – horrendous.
Lawlessness abounds. Consider the American frontier
in the 1800s. Setting: the city of Dodge, KS, which
was ruled by the gun. Human life was cheap,
self-interest and personal gain the motive.

International organizations have failed.
Nation-states have failed. Prior artificial checks
and balances have failed. The strong prevail. Might
makes right. The interests of the small and the weak
are overlooked. The Middle East gave birth to many of
the world’s earliest civilizations and cultures, and
was the setting for the religious origins of
monotheism; however, no matter how old or noble a
society, in division, there is weakness.

It is time for a new regional responsibility which can
be the only answer to the present dilemma on the Arab
peninsula. Look at Iraq: sides can argue till the
cows come home about fault, blame and motive, the fact
remains that everything has failed, including the
media and self-centered governments that are directly
and indirectly involved, and vacillating international
organizations. Iraq should have been and still should
be solely an Arab matter, not the business of an
American or coalition of nations from outside the
Middle East.

The only legitimate or practical geopolitical
organization, which so happens to be headquartered in
the region, ( Cairo, Egypt )is the League of Arab
States. It should empower itself to become a greater
regional authority, unlike, for example, the U.N.
Stupidity Council, fashioned in the image of a
toothless, clawless old lion, which has only the roar.
An empowered Arab League could counter a
growing Iranian or Persian threat of intrusion into
the Arab sphere or a wandering Israeli excursion and
it would be a greater counter weight to European and
American military projection for the purposes of
economic, manipulation and exploitation. I believe a
good practical example would be the American Monroe
Doctrine, which in its conception was established or
enacted to repel foreign colonial intrusion into the
American hemisphere.

The mindset of Arab brotherhood and unity should move
beyond a mere myth or slogan into a modern
geopolitical reality beyond the concept or point of
the charter mentioning collective security. It is my
suggestion that since we are returning to a grimmer
reality of an era of force, the only practical
solution is to bring forth a lion with not only a
roar, but both teeth and claws.

I would like to suggest a new regional security
organization: in a sense, a new Arab Legion, a
military entity with a new concern for air defense,
coastal protection. This force could lessen an Israeli
threat and and growing
Persian/Iranian potential. I would recommend no less
than 500,000 troops in number, which could be expanded
to a more practical number as soon as it can be
accomplished. These suggestions are not given in the
vein of being anti-Israeli, anti-Iranian, or even
anti-Western, but more importantly are offered to
implement a balance of power and to fill the strategic
void in the region to establish a greater regional
stability. I believe that if a single modern Arab
military organization were to be established, it would
fill this vacuum of insecurity.

These lesser military organizations, whether militias
or militant organizations such as Hamaas, Hezbollah,
Islamic Jihad, just to name a few of the primary
groups, would no longer have a practical material
purpose, but rather experience a course of evolution
into political and cultural entities, etc. In
conclusion, I believe that if a nuclear force were to
be announced as a future goal. Just the mere thought
and effort of
establishing a nuclear arm to this new force would
secure a new path toward regional compromise on a more
reasonable course of either parity or disarmament.
Hopefully we would see the latter, in the form of a
nuclear-free zone from North Africa to the western
Pakistani frontier. Palestine's, status along with
Israel under or within NATO would need to be worked
out the natural course of growth would be Israel
within NATO.
Palestine within the League of Arab States? One
suggestion could be neutrality or neutral zones void
of forces. With the exception of air defense, or
coastal,and border security units etc. Which could be
strictly observed and limited in numbers.

The past can not be changed however the future need
not be replicated. Recent events, such as Lebanon,
Iraq, and Palestestine's on going struggle of
occupation. If The Arab League of States were to form
an Arab Corps
to protect vital points in the Arab sphere the region
would be made less inviting to outside opportunists,
which in actuality would, lessen the likelehood for
future conflict.

( Coalition transfer of Iraqi security and training )

Given the political stale mate in the gulf region over
Iraq and its occupation by American and coalition
forces and the counter by various factions internal
and external insurgents/fighters both religious and
political there is a possible mechanism for altering
this quagmire.

Shortly after the coming installment of the new
coalition government this mechanism should be
implemented. The process would be carried out by
Coalition forces having a phased withdrawal by various
numbers being equaled by an introduction of local Arab
forces into Iraq. For example, 20,000-50,000 troops
being withdrawn by American forces, that being matched
by the introduction of local regional Arab forces into
the American role over an agreed time frame to the
point where there would be no longer any American or
allied forces in Iraq. This process would be best
negotiated through the Arab league and regional
powers; Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other gulf
states. This would bring greater coorperation amongst
the Arab peoples and it would accelerate political
normalization within Iraq and the region. Deployment
of troops would be determined by tactical officers.
The process when completed would be a true test of the
newly erected Iraqi infrastructure and political frame
work. In concluding the process it would give the
Iraqi people the opportunity to demonstrate a new
collective national resolve and fulfillment of their
aspiration. This would allow the American people to
begin to have closure over this very contentious time.

( Counter Pressure Measures for Middle East Peace)
Pressures are truly rising in the Middle East. The
stakes are very high, yet the international community
lacks the political maturity to meet these issues with
real solutions, even though the risks in not doing so,
more than likely will result in a war, economic or
ecological crisis or all three. The stakes are too
high to ignore the situation. If it is not addressed,
there will be catastrophic reverberations.

The answer should be the establishment of a
nuclear-free zone from north Africa to the western
Pakistani frontier with the inclusion of Israel under
a NATO umbrella of protection and eventual
incorporation as a full partner. There should be an
inventory taken of the nuclear assets of the Israeli
program. Command and control should be dually managed
by both Israeli and NATO personnel until the arsenal
is scaled down to point 0. A verifiable regional
cooperation treaty on such matters should be created.

( The Israeli-Palestinian Covenant for Peace )

After giving this much thought, and after examining
this complex issue from all conceivable angles, these
are my conclusions and suggestions. Given the recent
warming in relations and voting in the Israeli
Parliament or Knesset toward the eventual withdrawal
of forces from the occupied territories, there are
issues that would further the peace process. The
primary concern of the Israelis is security, given the
recent negative vote in the world court at The Hague
on the Israeli security fence.

There is a counter to that position. In areas where
the wall has been erected, the acts of violence and
bombing have shown a dramatic reduction in
occurrences. The Israelis should be allowed to
complete the security wall, and in exchange, the
Palestinians should be allowed to have a secure
overland egress similar to a walled expressway
connecting the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. I would
like to recommend that the Gaza Strips access point
should begin at Bayt, continuing through Israel, and
ending at Idriah on the West Bank. The access could be
segmented into sections of underground tunnels and
walled, above-ground overpasses, much like our modern
day freeways. The walls denying visibility will offer
greater security and ease on both sides of the issue.
The segments of underground tunnels and above ground
over passes will give variation so this project will
not physically or topographically sever Israel into
portions, North and South, but rather become only
slight interruptions. This would also heighten mutual
security for both states. The length of segments from
tunnel to raised, walled highway could be determined
by the concerned parties, technical, military and
political, etc.

This plan would not entirely disrupt the overall land
expanse from border to border of the Gaza Strip to the
West Bank. The distance from Bayt Gaza to Idriah on
the West Bank is approximately twenty-five miles or
forty kilometers. Professional advisors must give
qualified opinions and decisions, which should be
based on sound judgment for all the parties' benefit.
This would be the beginning of meeting physical
realities in a practical way.

NATO should be brought in as a security umbrella over
Israel and Palestine? Depressurizing the Golan
Heights, which Israel presently occupies. If NATO
forces were to be placed along the Lebanese and Syrian
frontiers after an Israeli pullout, then the Golan
Heights could be overseen by a regional super-national
water and irrigation authority, preferably chaired by
a neutral nation such as Finland, or Sweden, etc. The
majority of land area could be considered a land
reserve or trust, as this is a primary water source as
well a strategic military vantage. Water resourses
should be a matter of equal access for all peoples of
the region. When new regional water projects are
constructed the costs and benefits should be shared.

Given the
turbulent past and the contention between the three
major area religions, the future of Jerusalem should
be decided by referendum, sponsored by the UN General
Assembly, and to ensure fairness, international
observers should be on the ground to oversee the vote.
The heart of the issue is sovereignty, who shall
govern, and how Jerusalem shall be ruled. All sides
want to control and possess Jerusalem; the matter
should be decided by the ballot. One option for the
residents would be dual citizenship based on native
culture, either Palestinian or Israeli. Both peoples
want Jerusalem as their capital; Jerusalem itself
could become a confederated municipality of both
Israel and Palestine with a unique status. Its
governmental structure could also be dually managed.
Perhaps Jerusalem's populace could choose independence
and opt for full membership in the UN General Assembly
as an international municipality as a city-state,
similar to other small nations and entities.

NATO could be a stabilizing force politically as well
as militarily. Given the apprehensions of the
numerically superior Arabs and the advanced and highly
capable Israeli IDF, NATO's inclusion of Israel and
Palestine? This would stabilize both the internal and
external insecurities. Palestine may elect to meld
into combined Arab military organization,if this
emerges as a priority for the League of Arab States in
the near future. Due to the geographical proximity of
these two states, their economies and security are
interdependent. Great care will have to be given on
these points. A prime example of two former
adversaries becoming equal partners in NATO has been
demonstrated by two other Mediterranean powers Turkey,
and Greece, as they both have proven to be strong
contributors to the NATO mission. If NATO were to come
in, and conduct an inventory of the nuclear facility
in the Negev Desert at Dimona and at other military
facilities in Israel as an enitial task. Secondly by
becoming a full partner in the day-to-day management,
command, and control there, it would greatly lessen
Pan-Arab anxieties in the area. Thirdly this would
lead to disarmament on all (WMDs) weapons of mass
destruction. It would demonstrate Israel's regional
goodwill and would eliminate the argument for the
nuclear option regionally. These tools can be phased
in over a merged time table of 15 months as the first
goal to employ these measures. The second or mid point
at three and one half years. The final stage with a
target date of seven years until the objectives of the
plan would be reached and concluded.
This expanse of time would be gradual enough to allow
for adjustments and acclimation to the coming changes.
This could have a far-reaching effect in countering
increasing militarism in Southwest Asia. It could also
lead to a greater international peace and a new
direction for NATO. I believe lives can be saved and
enriched. Our origins are from a common root and our
destinies will be shared, as we are members of the
same extended family of man, and are children of the
one true God!

Thank you for your consideration.


Craig Scott Aberle Tel-(763)428-3988
P.O. Box #49 Dayton, MN 55327, USA.
PS. Please respond to these concepts.
Although my occupation is primarily in labor, I am an
amateur enthusiast and student of various kindred
antiquarian subjects such as Heraldry, Vexillology,
World History, Genealogy, Ethnography, Ethno History,
Biblical Historical Geography, Cultural Geography, and
Political Science, These subjects have captured my
interest for over twenty-five years.


Posted by Craig Scott Aberle @ 03/15/2007 12:31 AM CST

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