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Signs of the New Next War PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 13:39
Signs of the New Next War

AG - Patrick Seale - Braving American and Israeli objections, the normally timid and divided European Union is calling for an urgent re-launch of the moribund Arab-Israeli peace process. European states are also showing great reluctance to follow America?s lead in boycotting Iranian banks, as demanded by Stuart Levey, U.S. treasury undersecretary for terrorism and intelligence financing. Positive signs are also emerging from the region itself, suggesting a will by local powers to solve problems without foreign interference.

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The signs of war deepen throughout the Middle East. But there are also a few signs of negotiation,
possible resolution and reconciliation.

Dangerous Weeks Ahead in the Middle East

Patrick Seale


Agence Global
January 31, 2007

Copyright ? 2007 Patrick Seale
[Republished at PEJ News with AG permission]

All the ingredients are coming together for a new war in the Middle East.


War-fever is being whipped up against Iran by an ignorant and bullying American President and by Israeli hawks shamelessly exploiting the paranoia which never lies far beneath the surface of Israeli opinion.

President George W. Bush appears to fear, or has been persuaded by his neo-conservative advisers, that Iran poses a serious challenge to American hegemony in the strategic Gulf region, while Israeli propagandists equate Iran?s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad with Hitler and portray his nuclear programme as an ?existential? threat to the Jewish state -- nothing less than a new holocaust in the making.

The message coming loud and clear from Washington and Tel Aviv is that Iranian ambitions must be stopped, whatever the cost. As American carrier strike forces converge on the Gulf, and as Israeli bombers practice long-range missions, several observers predict an attack on Iran in the early spring.

The outdated and dangerously mistaken security doctrine which underpins this war hysteria is that the United States and its Israeli ally must maintain their military supremacy in the region or risk imminent catastrophe. Those who preach reconciliation with local forces based on mutual recognition of legitimate interests, on good neighbourliness and an equitable balance of power are dismissed as appeasers and defeatists.

The United States and Israel seem determined to ignore the lessons of the wars they have waged, and lost, in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories -- that occupation breeds insurrection; that blatant aggression and injustice create terrorists; that an elusive guerrilla enemy is difficult to subdue; that states faced with the danger of war will seek deterrence; and, that the merger of nationalism and Islam can forge ferocious militancy. The locals, in sum, are not about to roll over and surrender.

Washington should perhaps reflect that China had no need for military bases in the Gulf to strike its recent historic $100bn deal with Iran to secure long-term supplies of oil and gas. Nor did Beijing rely on gunboat diplomacy to increase its bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia by 30 per cent between 2005 and 2006. (Financial Times of 30 January.)

There are, however, one or two positive signs in the surrounding gloom. Under Democratic leadership, the U.S. Congress appears to be awakening and may attempt to curb Bush?s belligerence by denying him funds for a deeper involvement in Iraq and may insist that he cannot wage war on Iran without explicit Congressional authority. In turn, the American public is at last rebelling against the disastrous Iraq war, as may be seen from last week?s massive anti-war demonstration in Washington.

More important still is the increasingly open discussion in the United States of the noxious influence of the Israel lobby on America?s foreign policy. In spite of scurrilous attacks by right-wing Jews, former President Jimmy Carter?s brave indictment of Israeli policies, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, is climbing up the best-seller lists.

Braving American and Israeli objections, the normally timid and divided European Union is calling for an urgent re-launch of the moribund Arab-Israeli peace process. European states are also showing great reluctance to follow America?s lead in boycotting Iranian banks, as demanded by Stuart Levey, U.S. treasury undersecretary for terrorism and intelligence financing.

Positive signs are also emerging from the region itself, suggesting a will by local powers to solve problems without foreign interference. King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia has indicated that he will not be dragooned by the United States into a confrontation with Iran. Instead, high-level Saudi and Iranian envoys -- Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Ali Larijani, the heads of their respective national security councils -- have held long talks in each other?s capitals.

Saudi diplomacy has been active on other fronts. The King has summoned rival Palestinian factions -- Fatah and Hamas -- to Mecca for talks, and there are rumours that the Kingdom is planning to invite Lebanon?s warring factions to a summit at Taif -- the venue in 1989, of the last attempt to reach an agreement on Lebanese power-sharing.

Defusing tensions between Sunnis and Shi?is, inflamed by America?s war in Iraq, is high on the agenda of every regional leader. Hizbullah?s chief, Hasan Nasrallah, and Lebanon?s Prime Minister, Fuad Saniora, have both spoken of the need to resolve difference through dialogue not violence.

In the absence, however, of a radical change of policy by both the United States and Israel, regional powers need to look to their own defences by agreeing on clear goals. The following are some of these:

? The Gulf States should reject both American and Iranian hegemony, but strive instead to become an area of tolerance and modernity where Western and Iranian influence and interests can coexist.

? The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman) should conclude a security pact with Iran to dispel mutual fears. The Gulf States should pledge that they will not allow Iran to be attacked from their territory, while Iran should pledge that it will not seek to use local Shi?i communities to destabilise the Gulf States or export its revolutionary Islamic ideology.

? A new balance needs to be found in Lebanon to reflect demographic and political realities. In particular, the state?s institutions and power-sharing arrangements need to be revised to give the Shi?i community a greater, although not a dominant, stake in government decision-making.

? Syrian-Lebanese relations need to be put on a healthy basis. This involves Syria recognising Lebanon?s independence in return for Lebanon recognising that, in the absence of an Arab-Israeli peace, Syria has legitimate security interests in Lebanon and cannot tolerate its neighbour falling into the orbit of a hostile power.

? A Palestinian national unity government must be formed on the basis of a common programme which offers Israel recognition within its 1967 borders and an end to violence in return for a reciprocal Israeli commitment to end the occupation, renounce violence and recognise the Palestinians? right to an independent state.

? The Arab states should mount a major diplomatic effort to win European and American support -- and the support of the Israeli public -- for the Saudi peace plan endorsed at the Beirut Summit of March 2002 which offered Israel normal relations with all 22 members of the Arab League once it withdraws to its 1967 borders. The U.S. can contribute to the plan?s success by offering Israel formal security guarantees.

? An international conference -- sponsored by the UN, the United States, the EU and Russia -- should be convened with the aim of bringing the Arab-Israeli conflict to an end once and for all, thereby removing the principal cause of hostility between the West and the world of Islam.

For peace to take root, a large fund of some $50bn would be needed, with contributions from all the major powers, to compensate and resettle Palestinian refugees in the future Palestinian state, and to finance the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

There remains the problem of Iran?s nuclear programme, which Israel and its supporters insist on seeing in apocalyptic terms, rather than as the natural reflex of a state, under international pressure, and under imminent danger of attack, to seek to acquire a deterrent capability.

It seems unlikely that bullying, sanctions and the threat of war will persuade Iran to suspend its nuclear activities. It is more likely to accelerate them.

Engagement, dialogue and recognition of Iran?s legitimate interests are the only sensible way forward, together with a commitment by the world?s nuclear powers to phase out their own weapons and work towards establishing a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

At a time of grave danger, it is time for local states to take their own destinies in hand, free from the malign ambitions and military assaults of external powers.


Patrick Seale
is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Copyright ? 2007 Patrick Seale

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Released: 01 February 2007
Word Count: 1,292

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Advisory Release: 01 February 2007
Word Count: 1,292
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 January 2007 13:39
 

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