Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Op-Ed: The New Middle East, By Neal AbuNab

The New Middle East
By Neal AbuNab

(Editor's note: Syndicated Opinion Columns by Aramedia. Suggested contribution: $40 There is no obligation to pay if you print article. If you decide to make a contribution please request a bill and tell us the amount you would like to contribute. Please state name of publication to be billed. Request bill by email: To nealabunab@todaylink.com. Contact Neal AbuNab (313) 506-4409, for all other inquiries. Length of article can be edited according to requirements of editors. Aramedia, P.O.Box 7596, Dearborn, MI 48126, USA All Rights reserved 2006)

This past week, Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, did a lot of “photo op” stops in Beirut, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Rome which demonstrated that the Bush administration is fully engaged in the latest conflict. She marketed an old project with a new label called the “new Middle East”. The new American vision is serious and it is about creating a linkage between Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. President Bush referred to this emerging vision in a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki. He lumped the war against all of these “terrorist” forces in the Middle East as one war between good and evil. Of course, Israel and America stand on the side of “good” and people who oppose this will stand on the side of evil. The US and Israel are absolutely determined to crush “totalitarian” organizations in the new Middle East (how about the Saudi regime?). There will be no resistance to the idea of Israel in their new Middle East.

President Bush threw Al-Qaida, the Iraqi Baathists, Hizbollah and Hamas all in one basket. He called them “the enemies of democracy”-without mentioning that Hamas and Hizbollah were democratically elected- and claimed that they were only interested in creating totalitarian theocratic regimes in the Middle East. This large umbrella can provide Israel with international legitimacy to continue its ethnic-cleansing of Lebanon from the forces of “evil.” But the US administration is doing more than that. It is actually pushing Israel to score a clear military victory in Lebanon which it could not get in Iraq. It rushed to Israel 500 laser-guided bunker busting missiles that went straight into the neighborhoods of southern Beirut seeking the political leadership of Hizbollah.

In the battlefield, Hizbollah has sustained more beating than anyone ever expected. Israel has never faced an Arab enemy like Hizbollah. In the 1967 war, Israel crushed Egypt, Jordan and Syria in less than 6 days. Spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Mark Regev, admitted this week that a military solution for the current conflict is virtually impossible. He is countering American claims that Hizbollah can be eliminated. America is pushing Israel beyond its capacity to win this war. Even Shimon Perez, Israel’s deputy Prime Minister, acknowledged how critical this war is when he said: “this war is a matter of life and death for Israel.” Crushing Hizbollah will guarantee Israel another 20 years of uncontested life.

Rice went to the Middle East to sell the American-Israeli plan of disarming Hizbollah and occupying most of southern Lebanon by an international force. She armed herself with UN Resolution 1559, which called for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon- which it did last year- and for the disbanding of all militias. The rest of the world that met in Rome asked for an immediate cease-fire and for discussions to follow at the UN. But Rice insisted on a “sustainable” cease-fire that disarmed Hizbollah before ending the Israeli offensive. She wants the international community to hold Hizbollah down while Israel punches it to death. This diplomatic escalation is a direct reaction to Hizbollah’s strength on the ground. Shimon Perez estimated that Hizbollah’s force was no more than 7,000 fighters. The Bush administration can not comprehend how such a tiny force is standing up to Israel’s mythical military might.

America will agree to a cease-fire only when Hizbollah is ready to surrender. The conditions of this cease-fire will form the basis of a unilateral disengagement plan with Lebanon and Syria. Israel wants to eliminate the need for negotiated solutions with the Palestinians, Lebanese and Syrians. The new game plan is to have its security guaranteed by United Nations resolutions.

In Beirut, Rice proposed the terms of this agreement to members of the Cedar Revolution, like Walid Jumblat and Amin Gemayel. They agreed that Hizbollah must be disarmed and that the southern half of Lebanon will become a buffer zone guaranteeing Israel’s security. Lebanese Speaker of the House, Nabih Berry, called it “a recipe for internal conflict and civil war.” Fouad Siniora, Lebanese Prime Minister, went to Rome to undo some of the damage inflicted by Rice in Beirut. He proposed a 7-point plan that reflected the common view of his coalition government. He is trying to hold on to a very fragile consensus that the US is working so hard to break. Victory for Israel is not possible unless the unity of the Lebanese people is broken. It is the same story at the Palestinian front.

Rice accepted in essence the exchange of prisoners and the return of Shebaa farms to Lebanon. But she rejected point number one: an immediate cease-fire. Turkey and others accepted Rice’s argument as long as Hizbollah agreed to disarm voluntarily. This implied direct negotiations with Hizbollah, Syria and Iran, which Rice rejected. The new Middle East that she carries in her womb does not care about the interests of Syria or Iran, and does not negotiate with “terrorists”. She wants to give birth to a new Middle East that readily accepts and applauds unilateral disengagement plans conceived by Ehud Olmert.

Such plans do not tolerate opposition, resistance or negotiations. These plans will be dictatorially imposed on the Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians and Iranians; in the name of all peace-loving democratic nations. Olmert’s plan is simple with all of Israel’s neighbors; security buffer zones in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. These plans are perfectly suited for the Bush administration’s policy in the war on terror. The idea is to prevent real peace from ever taking root in the Middle East while at the same time giving a false sense of security to Israel.

Israel was created in the Middle East to keep tensions alive and to keep Arabs divided. The US does not want Israel to have real peace with its neighbors or to have thriving democracies in the Middle East. The role of Israel is to keep war alive. Rice even alluded to that in Ramallah when she said: “the real problem is that there has not been a sustainable peace in the region.” She was trying to lay the blame on everyone else but the United States. No one holds the key to peace in the Middle East except the United States. History did not start two or three weeks ago when a couple of Israeli soldiers were captured.

The purpose of Rice’s trip was to tighten the grip on Hizbollah, within Lebanon and outside. She paved the way for an upcoming UN resolution that blames Hizbollah for the current war, calls for disarming it, and provides a mandate for the Israeli army to invade and occupy southern Lebanon. The current thrust is to define to the world that Hizbollah is the problem and not Israel. Discussions at the UN will focus on these questions: was Hizbollah justified in capturing the two Israeli soldiers? Was Hizbollah trying to save Hamas or did it have the interests of Lebanon at heart? Is Hizbollah to blame for the utter destruction of Lebanon? Hizbollah’s rockets to north Israel; is that a terrorist action?

All of a sudden Israel has become so keen on implementing the will of the international community as stated in resolution 1559. What happened to all the other resolutions like 242, 338 and so many others that called on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories and to allow all refugees to return to their homes? How about deploying an international force in Gaza and the West Bank?

Arab League Secretary, Amer Mousa, has the right idea. He called for declaring all peace initiatives in the Middle East as dead. He wants all the Arab countries to go back to the United Nations and simply ask for the implementation of UN resolutions passed.

We are thankful for America’s humanitarian assistance to Lebanon. The US has already floated the idea of one billion dollars in re-construction aid once this war ends. How about saving American taxpayers some money by sending fewer bombs to Israel! It makes you wonder if these career politicians ever use the logic of common people. We spent billions of dollars on missiles that destroyed Baghdad and now we’re wasting tens of billions more pretending to repair that damage. We spent billions in building the Palestinian infrastructure and its authority and now we give billions to Israel in the form of bombs to destroy all of it. The Lebanese borrowed billions of dollars to rebuild their nation and now we rush laser-guided missiles to Israel to bring all these buildings down.

At this rate, when Rice is ready to give birth to the new Middle East; other Arab capitals like Damascus, Amman and Cairo will have followed in the glorious footsteps of Baghdad, Gaza and Beirut.

Neal AbuNab is a Michigan-based author of “The War on Terror and Democracy”. A Palestinian-American. He’s been campaigning for a balanced US policy in the Middle East for the past 20 years. He advocates for peace and social justice. He is a commentator on Arab and Muslim affairs and his weekly column appears in the Arab American News. He can be reached at: http://www.islampalestineblogger.com/