Thursday, August 24, 2006

Op-Ed: Hezbollah of Iraq, By Neal ABuNab

Hizbullah of Iraq
By Neal AbuNab

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In 1799 Napoleon Ponaparte wrote to the Jews offering them the land of Palestine. His army was encamped outside Acre near Haifa. He assured the Jews that their new homeland would be protected by the French Empire. The interests of France in creating an Israel outweighed the interests of the Jews at that time. Napoleon figured to hit two birds with one stone; get rid of the Jews of Europe and plant them in a land that had a long history of resisting the domination of western Christians. He knew that the Jewish state will always be at war with Arabs and so he offered the backing of his powerful army. Napoleon’s primary aim was to inject a source of constant threat and instability in a region that never complied with western interests.

In that vein of thinking he was a visionary man well ahead of his time. His “Israel” project never got off the ground but the historic offer provided future European leaders with a new tool to combat Islam and make good use of the Jews. The idea was picked up by the British Empire in its Balfour Promise of 1917 and then later championed by the USA in 1948.

Today more than ever the interests of the Bush administration lie in destabilizing the Middle East and keeping it under the threat of war for the foreseeable future. This guarantees the flow of oil from divided Arab fiefdoms and ensures that the revenues from this oil never go to strengthen the overall political power of Muslims.

Peace in the Middle East is not good for America; that’s been the long-standing policy of President George Bush. In the nineties and in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, President Bill Clinton adopted the policy of negotiations to maintain America’s sole supremacy. Clinton was the embodiment of that policy as he met with Syria’s late Hafez Al-Assad, gave a speech to the Jordanian parliament and toured the refugee camps of Gaza. His ability to converse with almost everyone and the popularity of his personality promoted the values of America to the Muslim world. His relentless pursuit of peace in the Middle East gave birth to the idea of an “honest broker.”

The Republicans led by Bush changed the policy of negotiations to one of isolation. They argued that America can maintain its status of the “only superpower” by destroying opposition and dissention. They embarked on a project of demonizing enemies in preparation for waging war. The axis of evil was defined as North Korea, Iran and Iraq. China and Japan have experienced enough wars and destruction in the past century that they have lost the stomach for a confrontation with North Korea. So, the chances of having another war in the Korean peninsula were slim to none. This eliminated North Korea from being the first target.

The attacks of 9/11 provided Bush with a golden opportunity to begin his “isolate and destroy” approach to foreign policy. Osama Bin Laden may hate America but as a dumb strategist every action he has ever undertaken has helped Israel and the Republicans. Bush enjoyed the support of almost everyone in the world when he went to war in Afghanistan. But everyone was under the impression that this moron, Bin Laden, and his brigade of illiterate followers will all be wiped out and the world would move on. Instead, the Bush administration let him go in the mountains of Pakistan and allowed his network to live. It was a “convenient” blunder of incompetence which gave birth to the “war on terrorism”.

Iraq was attacked next because it was the weakest link in the axis of evil. Meanwhile, Sharon in Israel isolated the Palestinian Authority and then destroyed it. Iran was surrounded by US troops from both sides and it was next on the list. 2005 was the most suitable year to strike Iran but the US military feared the violent reaction of the Shi’a population in Iraq. Things in Iraq and domestically did not go Bush’s way in 2005 and his doctrine began wobbling as he talked about negotiations and diplomacy; an approach that is foreign to his isolationist personality.

In June 2005, Iran had an election and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became President. He had figured out the “isolate and destroy” approach which doesn’t need much brainpower to figure. He adopted the exact opposite approach of “connect and build”. He struck strategic alliances with most Muslim nations and re-started the nuclear energy program to confront Bush’s doctrine head on. This week Iran asked for serious negotiations regarding its nuclear program and the US refused opting to run to the United Nations to ask for a resolution to isolate Iran economically. The Palestinians asked for negotiations and Israel refused. And the Syrians asked for negotiations and the US and Israel refused.

Iraq today stands like Lebanon in 1983. Back then, Lebanon was occupied by Israeli forces and a civil war that took advantage of sectarian differences had been raging for about 7 years. Every major power in the world was fighting its own war on Lebanese soil. Hizbullah was born with a single aim to eject the Israeli occupier.

Iraq today is the focus of world powers and on its land shall be fought the battle for American supremacy. The “isolate and destroy” policy inside Iraq has been defeated. De-baathification has failed and turned into a Shi’a-based campaign to strip Sunnis of any remaining political power. The entire population of Iraq sees the American occupation as the main cause of Iraq’s insecurity. Most Iraqis blame America for fanning the flames of sectarian hatred and keeping the country unstable so that the forces of occupation remain in Iraq.

The conditions are ripe for the birth of a Hizbullah of Iraq. It is only a matter of time for the US to clash with the Shi’a of Iraq in a big way. We saw a preview of that clash a couple of years ago when Muqtada Al-Sadr and his Mahdi militia were almost wiped out by US forces. Today, the Mahdi militia has become a force of about 15,000 fighters and Al-Sadr is the most vocal Shi’a critic of the occupation. He is the most likely candidate to lead a Hizbullah of Iraq. A couple of weeks ago he mobilized almost 300,000 Iraqis who demonstrated in Baghdad waving the flag of Hizbullah and chanting against America and Israel. They will probably fight the US forces who will attempt to disarm all the militias in the upcoming months.

“My critics want to leave Iraq before the job is completed”, declared a defiant Bush in a press conference on August 21. He wants to kill the terrorists in Iraq so that “we don’t have to face them here.” This argument has become a domestic partisan issue and Bush is determined to “stay the course” and lead Republicans to another victory in this November’s elections. Rumsfeld’s beefing up of US forces in Iraq may indicate an imminent large-scale military operation in the works.

The confrontation between Iran and the Bush administration will remain military in nature till the end of Bush’s term. Israel let him down in Lebanon but it is asking for another round, and it is approaching the current cease-fire with an attitude of “run away today to fight another day.”

If Democrats win in November, the occupation of Iraq is over. Bush has one last chance to make his case and it will be in the form of an all-out military campaign in September. If he can create a perception that the US had won the battle for Baghdad the Republicans will win the elections. Otherwise, his war is over and everyone will negotiate with each other starting December of this year.

Neal AbuNab is a Michigan-based author of “The War on Terror and Democracy”- available on An Arab American who advocates a balanced US policy in the Middle East. He is a commentator on Arab and Muslim affairs and his weekly column appears in the Arab American News. He can be reached at: