Saturday, March 10, 2007

Proliferation of conferences seen as a sympton of half-baked US policy

All of a sudden the idea of holding an international conference on Iraq has become a very popular idea, Azzaman notes in its curtain-raiser to the Baghdad conference starting today. In Baghdad, European sources told the reporter they think there will be a follow-up meeting in Berlin, with the same participants, if there is any progress at all in Baghdad this weekend. In Ankara, the news is that Turkey, for its part, is also making plans to host a meeting of countries neighboring Iraq. And The Egyptian foreign minister said Cairo will host a meeting of Iraq-neighbors, right after the Riyadh summit of the Arab League (the end of this month).

The Azzaman reporters don't offer any explanation for the sudden outbreak of meeting-announcements, but Abdulbari Atwan does, in his regular column this morning in Al-Quds al-Arabi.

The Bush administration, he notes, has run out of friends elsewhere, what with Congress threatening to cut off funds for the Iraq fiasco, Latin Americans preparing demos against his visit there [and Mayan priests announcing plans to re-purify national lands after they are defiled by the Bush visit] and so on and so forth. So the axis of moderate Arab regimes, ironically, has become the designated front-line ally and rescue team.

Their task: Somehow extricate the US from the Iraq quagmire, where troop-casualties are escalating, political support for the regime is eroding (citing the Fadhila exit from the UIA), and victory is not in sight. If necessary, it will even be permissible to talk with Syria and Iran about this [but the US will do this only over orange juice, according to the latest pronouncement from David Satterfield of the State Dept]. The moderate regimes would like to help, Atwan recognizes, but what can they do?

The leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt are old, and suffering from the complaints attendant on senility, they surround themselves with experts in medical diagnosis, in place of economists or those familiar with international relations or politics. And their regimes are not that stable either.

For Atwan, the Bush adventure has resulted in a situation where the alternatives are stark. Iran's price for definitive settlement will be its recognition as a nuclear power. Syria's price will be return of the Golan Heights, restoration of its influence in Lebanon, and killing the international-court project re the Hariri murder. The other alternative would be interim pacification, in recognition of the one common-denominator of all participants, which is the undesirability of all-out civil war and eventual partition.

None of these alternatives is likely to be in the interests of the Arabs, Atwan says. Interim pacification, if it is part of, or facilitates, the US runup to an attack on Iran, will only mean untold catastrophe for the region once Iran is attacked. On the other hand, definitive settlement with Iran on the basis of its nuclear status would mean transferring the center of gravity in the Gulf region to Tehran and away from the Arab states.

The core problem, says Atwan, is that the Bush administration isn't prepared to face its primary adversaries, and is still attempting to deal with secondary factors as if they were the determining ones. Thus: Instead of dealing with the Iraqi resistance, which has been the root cause of its defeat in the country, the Bush administration wants to limit itself to conversations over orange juice with Syria and Iran. Similarly, while touting the importance of Palestine, the US continues its year-old starvation-blockade against the Palestinians, and continues to refuse to recognize the elected government. This penchant for not facing up to issues, Atwan says, is what has resulted in this spectacle of reliance on senile Arab regimes to try and reach solutions that would not, in any event, be in the interests of the Arabs themselves.

(The problem of Bush turning away from the main issues is sometimes recognized even in America, where it is seen as the result of an internal conflict between the Cheneyans and the Riceites. A couple of investigative pieces by Conflicts Forum, one a while ago on attempted negotiations with the resistance, and one more recently on the Mecca agreement, give you the picture. It is an insight that could be seeping into the mainstream. At the conclusion of the orange-juice citation above, someone from Brookings is quoted: “They want to be coy about it,” [the Brookings person said, referring there specifically to talking to Iran]. “But are they being coy because they’re really coy, or are they being coy because half of the administration doesn’t want any talks, which forces the ones who do to adopt this middle position?”)


Anonymous Rosemary said...

I think I am beginning to see more recognition of the Cheney v Rice split among some of the better American blogs. It has been slow coming.

Cheney's New Consigliere

Along with that I am also finally seeing more admission of the dangerous Israeli role in American foreign policy among some parts of the less aware general public.

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