Wednesday, November 11, 2009



Thomas Riggins

Maybe a better question is , is peace even possible in the Middle East? We should always ask 'cui bono?' when it comes to these kinds of questions. What I want to try and figure out is what is going on in the region and what are the prospects of a FAIR and JUST peace. It seems to me people and nations can argue over all sorts of land issues, religious issues, who has started what and done what to whom and this can go on forever unless one side annihilates the other or everyone decides that they really WANT to live together and CAN live together and then honestly work towards a just solution-- not one that unfairly benefits one side and crams injustice down the other's throat.

Well, this blog is not going to solve the problems of the Middle East, but I'm going to try and figure out what is going on and I intend to do so by commenting on a half page article in the New York Times of 11/11/2009 called "Memo From Riyadh" by Michael Slackman and entitled "America's Closest Arab Allies Fret as Their Influence Slips Away." Some of my comments are speculative and I don't claim that my interpretation of this article is one hundred percent correct but I hope it's the bases for figuring out not only what is going on but also what is to be done. Please use the comments at the end to correct anything I may have gotten wrong as this is only the first draft.

Here is what the Times' writer says but filtered through my commentary-- only actual quotes should be attributed to him or the Times. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both repressive dictatorships that go against every democratic value the US preaches to the people of the region, are the US's closest allies and get tremendous political and financial support from the US to basically hold down their own people in the interests of US monopoly capitalism in the area. Both allies are upset by bungling in the region by the Obama administration-- "they have come to despair."

Both allies are losing their influence with the other countries in the area because of their association with the US and as a result of Israel's basically telling Obama to go jump in the lake (or the Mediterranean) with respect to halting the confiscation of more Palestinian land and the building of more Israeli settlements on the West Bank. This is an indication that Israel has, at present, no desire for peace and wants to continue in a permanent state of war. Israel can't exist without US money so this position is seen as being also that of the US no matter what diplomatic BS comes out of Washington via Ms. Clinton. None of the countries in the region think this is FAIR or JUST behavior by Israel or the US, so by being allies of the US Saudi Arabia and Egypt are losing their influence. People all over the region want to fight back against INJUSTICE-- this means IRAN and SYRIA are becoming more influential. This displeases the two allies-- but the US appears to be too stupid to figure out its own UNJUST policies vis a vis Israel and the Palestinians are one of the root causes of all its problems in the region.

Now I don't think the US is stupid. So it must want these problems. Why? To justify its military adventures and to shore up its takeover of Iraq's oil fields. To keep these fields a military presence will be necessary for decades, therefore there must be tension, terrorism and instability to justify this presence. It appears that neither Israel nor the US want to have peace in the region-- so there will be no peace.

Anonymous Egyptian official: "If there is no peace, then all those who bet against peace are winning. And all those who act and bet there will be peace are losing, like us. We are losing because we are putting this bet." Well, this is a cause for despair. But, wait. The official thinks that SYRIA and IRAN (and Hamas and Hezbollah) are betting AGAINST PEACE and that the US, Saudi Arabia and Egypt (and the Palestinian Authority) are betting FOR PEACE. And here's the rub! The real ally of the US is Israel. It is ISRAEL and the US who are AGAINST THE PEACE. Yes the two Arab allies should despair as they are just pawns in the game being played out in the region.

President Obama made a great speech in Cairo last June that gave hope to people throughout the Middle East that at long last peace between the Israelis and Palestinians was possible. Then Netanyahu announced that Israel would continue to expand the settlements in contravention to international law and the hopes of a peace. The US said that it was against this policy. It appears to be a deal breaker as Netanyahu well knows. Clinton was sent to talk some sense into him. But Netanyahu knows the strength of the Israel lobby in the US and especially in the US Congress so he blew her off. To toss Obama a bone he said he would "slow the building of settlements." Clinton acted as if the US had won something instead of having been told to buzz off.

She praised Netanyahu for having made an "unprecedented" concession. Meanwhile the rest of the world saw her as having made "missteps" having, by her remarks, "severely damaged " the hope raised by Obama's Cairo speech. As a result of this new collusion of Zionism and US Imperialism Mahmoud Abbas will step down as head of the Palestinian Authority [PA] when his term is up, some of his ministers have said the peace process is dead and the two state solution died along with it, and the PA has been left in "chaos." Well, the PA would like peace because then the Palestinians would get a state, the killing of their people, the genocide and apartheid, would end so who are the ones betting against peace? The ones holding all the cards are-- Israel and the US. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been left high and dry by their "ally."

Emad Gad of Egypt's Ahram Center (government supported) said: "Egypt's role is receding regionally and its cards are limited. Their main card, which is reconciliation and peace, is receding." The Saudis split with them on this, thinking that gains can still be made without "progress in the peace process." What gains do they have in mind. Well, progress to weaken the influence of Iran by breaking up Syria's closeness with it. Everyone has their own agenda. Saudi Arabia wants Iranian influence out of the Gulf (not likely), Egypt wants peace on its borders with Israel and Gaza, Israel wants the West Bank, the Palestinians want to be treated as humans, and the US doesn't know what it wants -- aside from control of Iraq's oil-- and lets Israel call the shots, just as the fascist elements in the Miami Cuban mafia dictate its Cuba policy, to curry favor and votes back in der Heimatland.

The Saudis want to reassert themselves. Abdulkarim H. al-Dekhayel of King Saud University in Riyadh said, "Saudi's role in the last ten years has declined. The leadership now feels it has to try to reset the agenda." To do this the Saudi's want to CONSOLIDATE Arab unity-- i.e., wean SYRIA away from IRAN. Since SYRIA and IRAN are seen as NOT being for peace getting Syria back in the fold would be a step forward since it would isolate Iran and Hamas and Hezbollah. But why is Syria not for peace. Because Israel is illegally occupying the GOLAN HEIGHTS , which is Syrian territory, and wants the keep it. So again it is ISRAEL'S taking of other people's land and not giving it back that is the SOURCE of the problems. It got peace with Egypt when it gave back the SINAI and it could have peace tomorrow with both Syria and the Palestinians it just gave them back what is theirs in the first place.

The Times asks how does Saudi Arabia intend "to persuade Syria to switch from the antipeace camp to the pro-peace camp." The Times has it backwards. Its not Syria but Israel that is in the antipeace camp. What the Saudis and Egyptians have to do is persuade Obama to switch from the antipeace camp to the pro-peace camp. This may be difficult since he waging war in three countries-- but he does have the Nobel in peace so maybe....

The Saudis have a two pronged solution to win over Syria. First, give them a lot of money. Second, let them basically run Lebanon. Both of these are crazy. First, it's the Golan Heights that Syria wants, and second, you just can't cynically turn Lebanon over to de facto Syrian control. Saudi Arabia is only really interested in the Gulf and weakening Iran. The interests of a small Arabic country such as Lebanon don't figure in their conception of "Arab Unity."

Meanwhile, Egypt blames Syria for the fact that Hamas and Fatah have not accepted Egyptian plans for them to unify and thus advance the peace process with Israel. This is also crazy as Israel doesn't want a peace process and Fatah and the PA are swollen with money and aid from the US and that US influence is completely anti-Hamas. The biggest problem the PA, and especially Abbas, has is the fact that it is being more and more seen as a US client and the US backs Israel. This is a fatal contradiction for the peace process unless Obama put his foot down and forces Netanyahu to stop expanding the settlements-- the strong action that Abbas has said might lead him to start up renewed peace negotiations with Israel-- which have been in the toilet after Clinton's cave in to Netanyahu.

Egypt would love for Saudi Arabia to convince Syria "to sever ties with Iran, stop supporting Hamas and actually support the Arab initiative, which offers Israel peace in return for withdrawal to 1967 border lines, establishment of an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and a 'just solution' to the refugee problem." That is a good initiative, but does anyone think there is a chance in Hell that Netanyahu or ANY Israeli government would ever accept it?

The Saudi's don't believe it possible themselves. A government official had this to say to the Times: "Does the West [i.e., the US] give any support to those moderates on the Palestinian front, on the Arab side, that advocate peace, that say, 'It is not about resistance any more, but what we want can be achieved through negotiations?' The answer is, 'No.' Do we have an empty hand [due to US perfidy]? The answer is , 'Yes.'" Does anybody believe that resistance is no longer needed?

Well, Obama has the ball in his hands. I hope he doesn't fumble.


Anonymous said...

It was very interesting for me to read that article. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more on that blog soon.

curmudgeon said...

Bright people run around in circles like this because they do not consider that the existence of hierarchical, complex societies like all of those discussed here is relatively new in human history. Douglas Fry has done an admirable job of showing that war is not a natural human state, no matter how inevitable it is in the post-neolithic societies humans live in now. Please read his book, The Human Potential for Peace. It offers perspective. It even offers a glimmer of hope.