Thursday, May 17, 2007

No exit

Al Masry al-Youm reporters canvassed the Washington policy elite to see what the plans are for the Mideast, but what they found was ignorance and passivity.
We were part of a delegation of Arab "media and political" people invited by the US State Dept to get to know how US foreign policy is made, but when we posed difficult questions expecting clear answers, what we instead heard was one single question back: How are we going to exit from our entanglement in Iraq?

At first we thought they just wanted to become better acquainted with the views of the Arab street, but the look of confusion in their eyes, and the tone of regret in their voices indicated another level of "not knowing": They don't know why--precisely--they went into Iraq in the first place; they don't know a thing about the intertwined structure of that country; they don't know where the violence and the bloodshed is coming from; they don't know how to get out with their honor and their self-esteem in tact--as Condoleeza Rice once put it; and they don't even know how to get out without their honor or their self-esteem.

They start with the remarks early on in their visit by a high government official who told them he realizes any discussion of Iraq is going to start with the question why they went there in the first place, but he added, in effect, the priority now is to fix the situation, leaving discussions of causes for later.
The official says nothing about [the allegations] of nuclear weapons; he says nothing about going there to spread democracy...; and for that matter he says nothing about the role of the Israel lobby in pushing the administration to launch a war on Iraq. This [latter] reality is something we will hear from experts, observers and researchers everywhere. In the words of a Mideast researcher at one of the top American think-tanks: "Our society is controlled by pressure groups, the president merely carries out [what they decide]. The Israel lobby made the Iraq file the top priority in terms of pressure on everyone, president and congress. What the Americans didn't realize was that Iraq would end up being a gift to Bin Laden and Zawahiri and AlQaeda, because the ongoing war there is between the American forces and AlQaeda.
The reporters go on to describe discussions with government officials who explained that Iraq has forced the US to adopt more of a negotiating stance with Iran and Syria (since it cannot afford to open two fronts on the borders of Iraq), and more particularly the difficulty of managing the latent Iran-Saudi conflict.
A senior diplomatic source with direct contacts with the US administration said the American administration received a message from the Saudis to the effect they would not stand idly by in the face of a Shiite wave, and the message included a clear warning that if US forces withdraw from Iraq without first making complete arrangements guaranteeing the security of Sunnis in Iraq--if that were to happen then Saudi Arabia will be obliged to intervene directly in Iraq to protect its Sunni citizens from the slaughter and violence that can be expected from the Shiites. [The message explained] that the Saudis consider this a fundamental right of theirs in the protection of Sunnis from liquidation campaigns directed by Iran.
The context, for these Egyptian journalists, is that in a Washington where the predominant tone is ignorance and uncertainty about Iraq and the Mideast, here is the latest example of something they don't the slightest idea how to deal with. This Saudi "message", the writers imply, was the immediate cause for the latest Cheney tour of the Arab capitals. What the Americans heard at these meetings, they say, was that the Arab regimes have a "complex attitude" to the Iraq situation, and the Americans were "displeased with the lack of appropriate support from some of [the Arab regimes]." The reporters don't say support for what, exactly.

Their conclusion: A lot of parties would like to help Washington exit from Iraq, but what they have concluded from their Washington discussions is that there isn't anyone who can find the "scenario" that would permit this: "Even with a diminution in their 'honor'".


Anonymous Alison said...

The opinion of these reporters that "the ongoing war [in Iraq] is between the American forces and Al Qaeda" is, of course, nonsense.

It goes without saying that the fundamental issue is the same as it was 20 years ago: America's refusal to countenance a strong, independent Iraq - even if it is relatively friendly towards the US. That is at the root of US policies aimed at the systematic destruction of that country over a long period of time. The process of destruction accelerated under US occupation, but it began much earlier.

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