Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Americans bearing gifts

The Iraqi newspaper Azzaman prints a curtain-raiser on tomorrow's the Bush-Maliki meeting in Amman that makes it appear Bush will be "choosing" among a number of points on the Sunni-Iraq wish-list, and will be pressing Maliki to implement some of these on his own, or face serious consequences. The newspaper, which is nationalist in its editorial line, does not describe these points as particularly Sunni in nature, rather as reforms. But in the current circumstances, it is clear that Azzaman thinks this meeting will support a major pushback by Sunni opponents of the Maliki regime. Here is the opening sentence:
American president Bush will be selecting tomorrow in Amman the solution that observers are calling the final one from a basket of options that has been presented to him by [the Baker group] and by a policy that has been evolved by national security adviser Stephen Hadley since his [Hadley's] visit to Baghdad last month as a solution to the question of Iraq, and there are six options: [First], issuance of a general amnesty to all of the resistance groups, and an expansion of the National Reconciliation program; [second], shutting down the de-Baathification agency; [third], including former Baathists in government and paying them conpensation for the last four years; [fourth], disbanding the militias and turning over the leaders that have been involved in crimes to the courts for trial; [fifth], freezing the law relating to establishment of federal regions; and [sixth], set a policy for the fair distribution of oil [revenues] to the people of Iraq.
In the same vein, the writers says King Abdullah, who met with Harith al-Dhari (head of the Sunni-opposition Association of Muslim Scholars) on Monday, wants to bring al-Dhari "within the environment of the talks with Bush", and although he doesn't suggest exactly what al-Dhari might do, the suggesting does give a further unmistakable Sunni/resistance-oriented tone to this.

Their take on the US political dynamics points in the same direction. They cite a number of statements by Democrats who will be in key positions in the new Congress to the effect Bush should press Maliki harder to end the violence, with serious consequences to him if he fails to do so. The discussion suggests the consequences would involve withdrawal of support, sometimes suggesting ready-or-not troop-withdrawal, but sometimes left ambiguous.

And they say the US State Department has been pressing the Sunni regimes in the region to press al-Dhari to join in the process (adding however that he continues to adhere to his prior conditions).

There are many ways of reading the newspapers, but I think is the right reading today is the following: If the above-noted Azzaman piece represents a question-mark (because it suggests such an abrupt toughening of American policy), then the lead opinion-piece in Al-Quds al-Arabi suggests a logical reply.

Abdulbari Atwan writes this morning about a speech by Israeli prime minister Olmert which appeared to represent another abrupt turn in policy, this time a softening toward the Palestinians. (Here is the Haaretz take and here is the NYT take on that speech). In a nutshell, Atwan says the 1991 war was accompanied by a promise to the Palestinians of an international conference to solve their problems (the Madrid Conference), which however produced nothing for them; and the 2003 attack was preceded by the famous Bush promise of a sovereign contiguous state for the Palestinians by 2005. In other words, these promises are attempts to rally Arab support ahead of major wars. While the two prior cases (1991 and 2003) involved support from both the Sunni-Arab regimes and the Shiite-Iranian regime, this time the situation is a little different. The pattern is going to be Sunni support for an attack on Shiite Iran. It's hard to believe that a century after having acquiesced and even cooperated in the Ottoman-British dismemberment of Palestine and division of the rest of the region into British and French areas, the leaders of the Sunni Arab regimes still don't seem to understand how the game works. What they are now doing is acquiescing in an attack on Iran, which will result, via Iranian counter-attacks, in untold destruction in the region. What this means ultimately is that the dissolution of Iraq into Sunni-versus-Shiite civil war will be generalized to the whole region.

Amman, says Atwan, has become the holy Kaaba to which Arab leaders hoping to be part of this "Sunni crescent" are making their pilgrimages, and he mentions in particular Mahmoud Abbas and Harith al-Dhari. And naturally he mentions the Cheney visit with the Saudi king earlier this week.

The "logic" that is suggested in these two articles is a consistent one. It is the season of gifts to the Sunni Arabs, and this is not out of a sudden welling-up in the heart of the Americans of good-will and remorse for their past tribulations. For the Iraqis, it is a harbinger of a decisive move to Part II (back-the-Sunnis) of the American divide-and-conquer strategy, and for the region generally it is a harbinger of war and the spread of the Sunni-versus-Shiite wave of destruction to the whole region.


Blogger badger said...

scary times is right

11:47 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

The Gulf War in 1991 was " accompanied by a promise to the Palestinians of an international conference to solve their problems (the Madrid Conference), which however produced nothing for them; and the 2003 attack was preceded by the famous Bush promise of a sovereign contiguous state for the Palestinians by 2005. In other words, these promises are attempts to rally Arab support ahead of major wars."

Aint that the truth? Promises, promises.

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of days ago, I posted a comment to the effect that the motivation for Euro/American aggression in the Middle East may, as discussed in detail in Asia Time On Line, be Oil and Dollar. Specifically, Russia & China are moving into a position where they will have major affect on the world oil market and in turn the Dollar as the primary monetary unit to of world exchange. The economic implications for Europe and American would be profound. If this is so, then war with Iran does not seem so irrational in terms of the motivation. Europe and American are not going to let their control of the world economy go lightly.

However, what does seem irrational, is the probability of winning such a war given the performance of the Americans and Israelis in Iraq and Lebanon; the military capabilities of Iran; Iran’s relations with Russia and China, etc.

These certainly are interesting times. In retrospect, how boring was the Cold War?

4:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is NOT on offer is the only thing that really matters, namely the commitment to a comprehensive US withdrawal from Iraq. The evil Yanks just want to recruit a new set of collaborators to replace the old ones. Hence the overtures to Baathist exiles. Saddam refused to accept US bases in Iraq in spite of being subject to constant pressure and threats. That's why the Yanks want to eliminate him asap with a view to dividing the Resistance and cutting dirty deals in order to stay in Iraq. It won't work.

5:15 AM  
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