Wednesday, September 19, 2007

America's Sampson option

First the Bush administration had the US forces invade Iraq on the absolute certainty that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Then after the American people discovered that wasn't true, instead of punishing Bush and his people for the lies, instead they re-elected him! It is one of those stories whose telling still evokes a sense of wonder and amazement among people in the Arab and Islamic worlds, not just for the history of it, but also for the awful sense that the story is going to be repeated. So it is that the recent discussions about the well-foundedness or otherwise of American allegations about an Iranian proxy-war in Iraq, or the Syrian nuclear connection with North Korea, seem so ludicrous and so frightening at the same time.

As lawyer and op-ed columnist Issam Naaman puts it, the question before us is not the truth or otherwise of the recent allegations and insinuations by America and its cohorts about the Iranian threat and the Syrian threat. The implication: We've had six years of Bush and the American corporate media to teach us how to deal with that question.

I call attention to this not just as an illustration of how irrelevant and contemptible American discussions can be in the Arab and Islamic worlds. There is also an analytical interest. Naaman discusses in an op-ed this morning in Al-Quds al-Arabi a novel interpretation of the recent saber-rattling, namely that in addition to the obvious targets of attempted intimidation, namely Iran and Syria and their allies, it is quite likely the creation of an atmosphere of menace is also designed to keep the supposedly pro-American cohorts from deviating from the American line, as they clearly show signs of doing, by intimating that their failure to help America rack up political gains could result in nothing less than war.

Maliki, for instance:
In Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki is on the verge of escaping from the American clutches. Possibly he is already in the Iranian clutches, at least he is starting to take more positions independent of Washington [for instance yanking the Blackwater licence]...By escalating its talk of war with Iran, Washington is hoping to rein in Maliki, before his behavior causes America to suffer a political defeat in Iraq following on the heels of its military defeat.
Similarly, Washington is exasperated by the backsliding not only of Abbas, but of the Saudi King and also Mubarak, who are insisting on some tangible concession from Israel in exchange for going along with the charade of a November "peace conference" with Bush and Olmert in Washington. Here too, says Naaman
we can say that the American campaign of intimidation and fear is designed to convince Abbas and Abdulaziz and Mubarak that there are more serious challenges that require being faced up to, and this requires putting first things first [meaning the Iran-Syria threat is more important than this question of concessions from Olmert on Palestine].
And similarly in Lebanon, the current US concern is to get their puppet Siniora to go along with the compromise agreement on election of a new President, something the March 14 people still haven't agreed to. The argument is the same, namely that there are bigger fish to fry in the longer term leading to confrontation of Syria and Hezbollah. He says the implicit warning is the same in all three cases: Without this short-term political progress the US needs, the alternative for the US would be to detonate the situation instead by military means.

It is an interesting argument, suggesting that the Bush administration is adopting a modification of what the Al-Quds editorialist sometimes refers to as the "Sampson option", namely pulling down the pillars of the temple over the heads of everyone, as a last resort. One problem for the Americans being that this isn't really a modification of the Sampson option, it is the real thing. Because it isn't only the Arab region that will be devastated if this strategy goes forward.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Alison said...

“Naaman discusses in an op-ed this morning in Al-Quds al-Arabi a novel interpretation of the recent saber-rattling, namely that in addition to the obvious targets of attempted intimidation, namely Iran and Syria and their allies, it is quite likely the creation of an atmosphere of menace [that] is also designed to keep the supposedly pro-American cohorts from deviating from the American line…”

As I have often pointed out myself, this sort of cynical Machiavellian manoeuvering is in fact the very stock-in-trade of US policy in the Middle East (and US foreign policy in general).

The US doesn’t have allies – only clients, pawns and useful idiots. It regularly conjures up bogeymen and waves big sticks in order to keep its own clients in line. However, by tearing down the Iraqi state and exposing the Eastern flank of the Arab world to Iranian infiltration, the US has arguably overreached itself like the proverbial sorcerer’s apprentice. As long as it remains dependent on Iranian agents in Iraq, it cannot attack Iran without shooting itself in both feet. So is all the sabre rattling Machiavellian bluff – as I suspect – or is the Sampson option for real?

7:25 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Just a note - It's "Samson."

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Tom Scudder said...

Maybe he's talking about the Ralph Sampson option.

10:19 AM  
Blogger badger said...

what is that, some kind of a financial instrument ?

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thus the bombing in Lebanon this morning. I'm sure Syria will be wrongly blamed.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous parvati_roma said...

US also uses samson-option intimidation and blackmail against Europeans - note that cute lil' "now we'll have to bomb Iran an' it's all Germany's fault" ploy launched last week against Germany via Fox.

3:15 PM  
Blogger badger said...

good point. same technique exactly.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous NightDog said...

The Ralph Sampson option actually is a kind of financial instrument. He is(was) a basketball player who had to agree to go to jail for two months as a punishment for non-payment of child support.

12:34 PM  

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