Thursday, February 22, 2007

US planning a new regional expansion of the Sunni-Shiia confrontation with Iran

According to Glen Kessler of WaPo, Cheney got the bigger of the two government planes currently available, so journalists with the Rice junket were bumped and have had to fly commercial, hence in many cases have to fend for themselves, for instance in Germany they had to figure out how to get in from the airport. In an exciting reportage, Kessler says the group made a collective decision to get on a train that, it turned out, had already ended its run.

The coverage in the NYT reflects the new light touch too. Running with an AP story, they head it: "Rice to Confer with diplomats about Iran. This is in contrast to the fact that in Amman she met, not with diplomats, but with the intelligence-agency chiefs of four Arab states including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, so the underlying story is "Rice meets with the Mukhabarat in the Arab world and reports to diplomats in Europe". And of course the joke yesterday was that the discussions with Suleiman, Bandar and the others were aimed at creation of a government of national unity in Palestine!

I'm kidding. The Kessler story wasn't an allegory about the robots of pack journalism operating on low power. And the unprecedented meeting of Rice with the heads of the Mukhabarat, then reporting to diplomats in Europe, wasn't funny at all. First of all, there are levels of incompetence , such as here, where people become incapable of embarassment, and that explains the fact that Rice's meeting with the Mukhabarat was reported as a routine affair, even though what is supposed to happen is that a foreign minister meets with her counterparts, or with heads of state, who then formulate policy, and in each country that policy is transmitted to domestic agencies including the Mukhabarat and others, for implementation. Rice's direct meeting with the assembled Mukhabarat is a sign that the security apparatus of the Arab regimes have become an integrated part of the US administration. The point is made by Abdulbari Atwan in Al-Quds al-Arabi this morning.

Moreover, the meeting had nothing to do with Palestine, he says. Rather, it was about turning up the heat on Iran, and he devotes the rest of his column to a consideration of likely coming events with respect to this.

First of all, says Atwan, the selection of these four countries (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE) indicates that these will be the central supporting regimes in the event of a military strike against the Iran to wipe out its nuclear facilities, to rein in the defiance of its allies in Iraq, and maybe even to put an end to them. Washington has been the instigator and proponent of Sunni-Shia fitna in the region, but it is also true that the Iranian regime has lacked the wisdom to counteract that, by holding its Iraqi allies back from falling into the sectarian trap. But his main point is that the level of fitna is now entering an even more dangerous period:
The state of sectarian polarization has entered a more dangerous phase in recent days, because instead of being limited just to the Arab neighbors of Iraq, it is now spreading to the Islamic neighbors of Iran, because according to the latest American plan, Iran is to be surrounded by a "Sunni square or octagon", on the pretext of the danger that its nuclear ambitions pose to the region. In other words work is already well under way aimed at expanding the "Arab moderage" alliance into a "Sunni Islamic". The recent trip of Pakistani president Musharraf to a number of Islamic capitals is part of the attempt to lay the groundwork for this new alliance, and it has been decided that Islamabad will host this coming Sunday a meeting of foreign ministers of seven Islamic countries: Egypt, Saudi, Jordan, Turkey, Malasia and Indonesia [in addition to Pakistan] to study issues of interest starting with Palestine, and to prepare for a summit of the respective heads of state in Mecca thereafter.
Clearly there has not been a sudden pan-Islamic awakening to the need to help the Palestinians, Atwan says. Otherwise there would have been an invitation to Syria to attend these meetings: Syria which has sacrificed a lot for Palestine, and part of whose land is still occupied by Israel. And what about Iran: is it not an Islamic country? Why isn't it being invited? And what about the timing? If there was this urgent need to help the Palestinians, why wasn't it manifested before the US started its campaign against the Iranian nuclear program? If the idea is to help the Palestinians, what about working to break the economic blockade? In other words, this clerly has nothing to do with Palestine. It is an escalation in the American strategy for isolating and pressuring Iran, using the Sunni versus Shia theme: a theme whose catastrophic effects are already to be seen in Iraq, and which the Americans are now bent on augmenting.

When you read the papers you will see that "Rice to confer with diplomats about Iran," but if you read more widely you will see that our journalists got on the train that had already ended its run, so clearly the train they should have been on left the station a long time ago.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cole drops ‘fig leaf’

This blog has been unique in analysis of Cole’s subjectivity that he puts forth in the guise of scholarship. This task is becoming easier of late. Cole is dropping the fig leaf of scholarship, writing more in the form of a Foxnews commentator.

For example, today he writes: “a car bomb killed 16 and wounded 40 at the Shiite holy city of Najaf. Sunni Arab guerrillas are attempting to provoke Shiite militiamen to come out for revenge, knowing that they would likely then be curbed or shot by the US military.” He not only claims to know who did the bombing; but, the motivation of the bombers. How could he possibly know these things? He doesn’t even pretend to support his contentions with the illusion of scholarship.

Note: his argument supports the the administrations attempt to provoke a Sunni Shia war.

“Beware the warmonger in peace clothing!”

4:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Outstanding analysis! Truly!

4:48 AM  
Blogger dancewater said...

you have to be careful reading Juan Cole, and I noticed that in 2002. He was quite in favor of the war then - got cold feet in early 2003 - and did not come out against US military action until into 2005..... he really thought the US military would improve things for the Shias in Iraq. I consider it "progress" that he came that far, but it sure took a while.

I have posted comments in his blog (that were never seen) asking him how he knows that it is "Sunnis" doing this or that - no answer.

He is making it up, because the original sources do not make those claims.

well, I am going to email him and send him an article by Chris Floyd about the death squads in Iraq and how they started.....

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today’s 'missing link' is, to my mind, extremely significant. It points to a resolution in an apparent contradict in American foreign policy. On the one hand, there are ever present reports of an American military buildup in the Persian Gulf which can only have meaning if there is going to be a war with Iran. On the other hand, many extremely important and powerful members of congress (e.g. Biden) have vociferously stated that the President does not have the authority to attack Iran.

However, if there were a terrorist attack against a Sunni Arab state, which the U.S. has a Senate approved treaty to defend, does this give the President all the authority he needs? For example, if terrorist destroy significant oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and the Saudis claim that they have proof that the attack was sponsored by Iran, does the defends treaty that the U.S. has with the Saudis give the President authority to attack Iran in defense of the Saudis and our national oil interest?

1:14 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Good stuff Badger. You do us all a service by keeping an eye on this.

FWIW, I was trying to probe this angle a few weeks ago.

here and here

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Rosemary said...

Thanks, Badger, for a very helpful article. And thanks also for the useful questions raised by responders.

It's been clear for quite a while that the Shi'a vs Sunni conflict has been exaggerated and probably even instigated in some cases, by the United States. That flame has been heavily fanned by the American press -- virtually framing every piece of news.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous McCamy Taylor said...

Sunni vs. Shia? Why does this whole conflict look so much like a bunch of totalitarian regimes getting antsy over a socialist-democracy, Iran-Persia, in their neighborhood? Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Pakistan---all are monarchies, repressive dicatorships or experiements in apartheid. All are bothered to death by Iran---why? Maybe because they are afraid that their own citizens might look across the border and say "Gimme some of that."

Sunni was the flavor of Islam that the Ottomans used to justify their empire. It makes a virtue of a monarch. Could be the times they are a changing in the Middle East.

12:22 PM  

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