Monday, January 15, 2007

Samaha: America "forgot" there is another approach

Joseph Samaha, writing in the Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar, looks at what the defenders of the new Bush plan have to say, finds it inconsistent, and concludes that if they are right about the problems and dangers, and to some degree they are, then their solution is self-contradictory and the way to start solving these problems is not with the new Bush plan, but rather with the general approach indicated in the Baker-Hamilton Report.

Those who "evangelize", as Samaha puts it, about the catastrophe that would follow US withdrawal, focus on the risk of Iraqi conflicts spilling over into neighboring countries and the region as a whole. Refugees, export of terror, spread of sectarianism, territorial claims of neighboring countries, and so on. There is definitely something to it, he says. The Kurds could pull the pin on Kirkuk "and maybe Basra too", Sunni-Shia sectarian fighting could spread, the whole region could get involved. Certainly, says Samaha (conceding this part of the Bush-defenders argument) the situation in Iraq is more complicated than a typical case of occupation versus national resistance. But when Bush challenges the Democrats to come up with any alternative approach, he and others pretend to forget the approach that has already been outlined in the Baker-Hamilton report.

Samaha stresses he is not talking about the issue of complete withdrawal versus non-withdrawal. He is talking about how the problem is addressed:
Those who are demanding a review [meaning the opponents of the Bush plan] focus on the regional environment that Iraq finds itself in. What they are proposing relates specifically to all of Syria, Iran, the "moderate Arabs" and Israel, the Palestinians and Lebanon. They deal with everything including the Iranian nuclear issue, the future of the occupied Arab lands, the organization of a regional security force, and the participation of an international force in comprehensive solutions inside and outside of Iraq. [Samaha says even though the Baker-Hamilton report doesn't call for complete US withdrawal from Iraq, still] it has regard for the circumstances of the region, and it proposes solutions based in Iraq and some based outside of Iraq. What it doesn't do is try and turn Iraq into a platform for the settling of other accounts that go beyond Iraq.
Samaha says the defenders of the Bush strategy are not only deliberately overlooking this problem-solving approach, they are actually doing the opposite:
Notice that the evangelists of the withdrawal-catastrophe story completely overlook this other approach. They ascribe no imporance at all to the positive role that a stable regional environment could play in preventing internal Iraqi fights from being exported. In fact these evangelists are doing exactly the opposite. They insist that their success in imposing stability in Iraq would have direct effects that would be negative for the stability of a number of other countries in the region: Iran, Syria, also Palestine by encouraging Fatah against Hamas, and Lebanon via support for the Siniora government against the opposition....They pile crises on crisis, and they treat Iraq as a battlefield, instead of using accomodation in Iraq in the interests of relaxing tensions across the whole range of trouble-spots in the region.
Sounds like something you might expect to hear from the Democrats.


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