Leave Our Region Alone And The Winners Are……By EHSANI2

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush referred to the existing political order in the Middle East as “false stability”.

This writer agreed with this characterization. After all, the seeming stability was perfectly correlated with dictatorships. Unless one accepts that the region's dictators are a normal state of affairs, the calm that most Middle East countries enjoyed could not have been sustainable or "real".

Growing up in the Middle East, I know the conventional wisdom has been that the region’s dictators were more or less hand picked by the U.S. to serve the superpower’s own interests.

Surely, the Shah of Iran, the King of Saudi Arabia, Mubarak of Egypt, Saddam of Iraq as well as Assad of Syria could not have maintained their hold on power for this long had it not been for the U.S.'s implicit, if not explicit, help. Only when the U.S. yanked the rug from underneath these regimes would the region have a chance to prosper and advance, the thinking had always been.

On March 20th, 2003, the U.S. did indeed decide to pull the rug from under one of the key regimes that it had supported in the past.

The official, stated objectives of this invasion were to “disarm Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people".

Three and a half years later, of course, things could not have turned out any differently.

Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were never found. Saddam’s support for terrorism (Al-Qaeda) was never proved. The Iraqi people were freed from Saddam but only to be thrown into the ensuing hell and mayhem that soon followed.

This writer wrote an article on this forum criticizing the U.S.’s stated reasoning behind the Iraq invasion. It was entitled "Spreading Democracy – Why the U.S. must tell the truth".

Lessons learnt:

The U.S. bet big.  They lost bigger.

Rather than being intimidated by the superpower next door, both Syria and Iran have worked tirelessly to fill the vacuum left by Saddam’s exit.

Soon following the arrival of America’s troops in the region, both Iran and Syria marshaled their resources and embarked on a well-orchestrated plan to thwart the U.S. mission. Were the U.S. to succeed in their first Middle East experiment, all signs pointed to Damascus and Tehran as being next.  As it turns out, instigating chaos and instability in a Saddamless Iraq was not difficult.  To the contrary, the ground was very fertile indeed.

The Middle East, and Iraq in particular, had its own experiment with occupying foreign forces in the past. At the height of the British Empire’s dominance, Iraq was thought to be critical in influencing the territory. As the Americans have recently discovered, traditional Arab hospitality does not extend to occupying Christian armies. Most people blame the U.S. support of Israel as one of the reasons for their failure in Iraq. The British, of course, faced a similar unwelcome before the State of Israel ever came into being.  This point is worth remembering when we hear today’s pleas for a Palestinian-Israeli peace as a prerequisite for a solution in Iraq.

One wonders what would have happened were a Moslem army to have invaded and occupied a country like Iraq. Perhaps other readers and commentators can expand on this topic.

The winners:

Regardless of how events unfold in the immediate future, the clear winners of this failed American experiment are the region’s dictators.

Given their mastery of ruling their populace by fear and intimidation, these leaders know full well that the only way they can be removed from power is through the help of implicit, if not explicit, foreign intervention. Without that, their own citizens are powerless to hold their own leaders accountable.

Had it not been for the U.S., Saddam would have stayed in power till his death. His two handsome sons would have surely been next in line. Not that Iraqis feel any better with him gone of course. 

Syria is no different. Assad senior handed the reign to his 34-old year son after a 30-minute amendment of the constitution. The odds are heavily in favor of Hafez Assad junior to be the country’s next President after the many years that the current healthy President is expected to enjoy as head of state.

Most readers of this forum seem to believe that the recent facts on the ground favor the Syria/Iran axis to win this confrontation with the U.S. It is all just a matter of time before the world’s sole superpower will decide to retreat and look for a graceful exit from the region’s treacherous waters, the majority opinion believes.

If readers of this forum represent a microcosm of Arab opinion, the people of the region are glad to see America humiliated in Iraq. Their own leaders are simply ecstatic. They have just received a new lease on life. America will never dare come to their region again. Calls for democracy have seen the Islamists fill the void in one country after another. The Palestinians chose Hamas. The Egyptian local elections brought the Moslem Brothers. Even tiny and traditionally liberal Bahrain has recently seen its own Islamists control Parliament. I think that it is now obvious to all that this pattern will be repeated over and over in every Arab country that experiments with its own style of democracy.

We, the people of this region, therefore have made our wishes clear to the international community:

“Leave us alone. We do not need your help. We are content to let our dictators rule us with an iron fist and rob us of our civil rights and dignity. We prefer the stability that comes with the use of force than the inevitable anarchy that will follow when our dictators are gone. Given the chance to vote and choose our own leaders, Islamists and Sharia rule will be the inevitable winnners . Our own dictators have long known and masterfully exploited this inherent tendency of ours. We know that we will never be able to get rid of our tyrants by ourselves. But this does not stop us from dreaming that we can do so without the help of others. The only winners of this saga have been our very own leaders. The failed American endeavour in Iraq has been a Godsend to them. Sadly, and as usual, the region's people have lost. Middle East style stability our people  may indeed keep. In return for this so-called stability however, they will have to give up their civil liberties, economic development, increased standards of living and the chance to elect their leaders and hold them accountable.

Comments (59)


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51. ivanka said:

Karim,

You are right that Israel wants the Syrian regime to be week. In the sense that the Syrian regime would never think of military confrontation with Israel. (Even when they Buzz the presidential palace)

However the Syrian regime made the choice and built part of it’s legitimacy on the idea that it competes with Israel in the region (Right now : arming and supporting Hezbolla and Hamas and helping Iran become more influential, tolerating and helping some insurgent activity in Iraq, etc..).

You are right to ask the question “why”. Indeed they could have made another choice. But that choice was ma de a long time ago.

I agree with you that if 30 years ago Hafez Assad would have flown to occupied Jerusalem, we would not need to ally ourselves with a “particular” country like Iran. But he didn’t and right now his son can’t make that initiative (flying to occupied Jerusalem) so he has to have someone who watches his back.

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December 6th, 2006, 10:23 pm

 

52. ivanka said:

I wrote in an earlier comment “The Iraq war was a war of conquest and this is why it failed”. Here is an article I read this morning and that goes int he same direction. It is by David Suter, entitled “When Iraq Went Wrong”, and was in the Washington Post. The most important part is this:

*********************************
This showed another truth, obscured during the march to Baghdad, but that has become strikingly apparent since: there is a limit to what armor and technology can do against a people with faith and who fight because they feel their country has been violated.
**********************************

Here are some excerpts:

When Iraq Went Wrong
David Suter

……………

How did scenes of joyful Iraqis pulling down Saddam Hussein’s statue so quickly turn into images of car bombings, grieving mothers and burning helicopters?

…………..

The problem with such analyses is their tendency to treat the invasion and the post-invasion period as separate entities.

That is, the invasion is generally portrayed as well planned and executed, while the post-invasion strategy is characterized as poorly thought out and undermanned.

………………….

Those lessons were best synthesized in a little-known but bloody battle, fought in an obscure part of Iraq on Day 4 of the war. It was a battle that America nearly lost.

…………………..

Of course, there were fanatical Sunni Saddam Fedayeen troops, as well as some desperate foreign jihadis, who fought that day. But untold hundreds of those who picked up weapons were simply civilians intent on defending homes against foreign invaders.

………………………

This showed another truth, obscured during the march to Baghdad, but that has become strikingly apparent since: there is a limit to what armor and technology can do against a people with faith and who fight because they feel their country has been violated.

……………………..

BUT what was most striking at Nasiriya in those very early days of the war was the refusal of freedom-deprived Iraqis to come forward and support coalition forces. At best, the civilians stood by and watched the American war machine thunder into town.

At worst, they ran to arms stashes, grabbed AK-47s and took to the streets. Four days into the invasion, and already, instead of coming together, Iraqis were falling back into their faiths and tribes and killing coalition forces and each other.

……………………..

President Bush stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and made his hubristic speech announcing the end of combat operations under a banner announcing “Mission Accomplished.”
The battle of Nasiriya taught that there was, contrary to first appearances, no simple route to Baghdad. It should also serve to remind those in Washington that there will be no simple route out of it.

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December 6th, 2006, 10:43 pm

 

53. Akbar Palace said:

Baker’s report is out.

As with the Oslo agreement and a few hundred other documents and resolutions, this one can fit nicely in the same place: “the circular file”.

What a waste of trees and cyber-space.

“it is a matter of time the patient will die.”

majedkhaldoun,

The patient is Iraq, and Iraq will not die.

OTOH, Iraqis have been dying for years, all at the hands of Islamic and Arab terrorism. So what else is new?

“Israel SHOULD return the Golan hights.”

Invanka –

Read the full text. Tell us what Israel gets in return for returning the Golan. It’s not pretty;)

“But he didn’t and right now his son can’t make that initiative (flying to occupied Jerusalem) so he has to have someone who watches his back.”

Tell us why our beloved Bashar can’t fly to “occupied Jerusalem”?

BTW – Tell us what part of Jerusalem is “occupied”?

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December 6th, 2006, 10:59 pm

 

54. Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

For Syriacomment.com readers: as per my own thinking and that of Professor Landis (in a private e-mail), there appears to have been less substance and more smoke to the recent article by Nawaf Obaid in last week’s Washington Post. To wit, according to Reuters, he has been dismissed. Or as the Saudi Ambassador put it: “we felt that we could add more credibility to his claims as an independent contractor by terminating our consultancy agreement with him”. It would appear that the threat of overt Saudi intervention in the Iraq conflict, if the USA were to withdraw, was one that Riyahd, did not want to make at all, or make so overt. Which of course is what the article did in fact do. In either case, it would appear that we should all tone down the likelihood of a regional war, if the USA does decide to withdraw from Iraq. Attached is the article from Reuters:

Wed Dec 6, 2006 3:09pm ET

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia on Wednesday said it had fired a security adviser who wrote in The Washington Post that the world’s top oil exporter would intervene in Iraq once the United States withdraws troops.

Saudi Arabia’s government said last weekend there was no truth in Nawaf Obaid’s November 29 article, which suggested the kingdom would back Iraq’s Muslim Sunnis in the event of a wider sectarian conflict.

Obaid stressed in the article that the views were his own and not those of the Saudi government.

“We felt that we could add more credibility to his claims as an independent contractor by terminating our consultancy agreement with him,” Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, told the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.

The article said the kingdom would intervene with funding and weaponry to prevent Shi’ite militias from attacking Iraq’s Sunnis and suggested Saudi Arabia could bring down world oil prices to squeeze Shi’ite power Iran.

“There is no basis in truth to the article by the writer Nawaf Obaid in the Washington Post of November 29, 2006,” the state Saudi Press Agency last week quoted an “official source” as saying.

Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab countries have accused Iran of meddling in Iraq.

On Wednesday the high-level U.S. bipartisan Iraq Study Group urged the United States to begin to withdraw forces from combat and launch a diplomatic push, including Iran and Syria, to prevent “a slide toward chaos” in Iraq.

Diplomats have said Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, is worried that Washington has lost control of Iraq and developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Arab governments say is driving Islamic extremism and anti-U.S. sentiment in the region.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

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December 7th, 2006, 12:07 am

 

55. Akbar Palace said:

“Diplomats have said Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, is worried that Washington has lost control of Iraq and developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Arab governments say is driving Islamic extremism and anti-U.S. sentiment in the region.”

Sounds like the Saudis are worried.

I would be too.

Of course the Saudis have to blame Iraq on the Jewish State (I suppose this is a given, the Arabs are never at fault for anything), but I sense Iraq may turn into another Iran-Iraq War.

You remember the Iran-Iraq war don’t you? The most peaceful (terrorist-free) 8 years in the US, Israel, and Western Europe.

Go figure.

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December 7th, 2006, 2:07 am

 

56. Atassi said:

Ivanka,
I meant Syria should have looked east toward Iraq as a prospective union partner.. South did not qualify as an equal partner… Nasser was a young and inexperienced stat man then
Dr Bashar looked young childish too

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December 7th, 2006, 2:46 am

 

57. Alex said:

Atassi .. my picture is better than your picture!

Nice family site by the way. I visited it already few months ago. You must be proud with this family name. Do you tell your American friends how many presidents and ministers in Syria were Atassis?

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December 7th, 2006, 5:35 am

 

58. Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

For the Syriacomment.com readership, the following is a subscription only analysis of the Gemayel murder by the American, online journal, Stratfor (www.stratfor.com). I attach it for your
collective perusal. The most interesting aspects of the article are that it shows by virtue of a extensive examination of the evidence, that the Gemayel murder was quite different in scope and scale to prior assassinations of Lebanese political figures. And, that in particular the murder bore all the hallmarks of a Persian intelligence operation. However, please read it and make up your own minds:

The Death of Gemayel: A Tactical Analysis
By Fred Burton

The recent murder of Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel — who was shot to death while driving through Beirut’s Jdeideh neighborhood Nov. 21 — has sparked a political crisis in Lebanon. Gemayel, a staunch opponent of Hezbollah, was a leader of the March 14 alliance, the anti-Syrian coalition that holds a majority in the Lebanese parliament. The alliance has been outspoken about alleged Syrian involvement in the high-profile murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005.

Gemayel is the latest in a string of high-profile Lebanese figures — most of them anti-Syrian — who have been targeted for assassination since October 2004. However, the methods used in his murder differ markedly from any others used in the recent past. First, assassins rammed his car and pinned it down; then gunmen stepped forward, firing multiple well-aimed shots from close range through the driver’s side window. Gemayel was driving, with his two bodyguards, in an unarmored and unescorted vehicle. In most other cases, the assassins used bombs, often targeting the motorcades of political officials as they passed by and, at times, inflicting collateral damage.

Thus, the tactics used in the Gemayel killing represent an anomaly, which also happens to come at a key time for the region as a whole. That said, there is a signature to the attack that points toward specific suspects and, quite possibly, their strategic and geopolitical motives.

The Targets

Though the assassination of al-Hariri garnered international headlines and was a catalyst for the “Cedar Revolution” that drove Syrian troops out of Lebanon, the recent campaign of violence against anti-Syrian officials actually began in October 2004, when Druze parliament member Marwan Hamadeh narrowly escaped a car bomb attack on his motorcade.

This failed attack likely was something the actors in the al-Hariri murder bore in mind: They used a massive vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) — estimated by U.N. investigators to have contained at least 1,000 kilograms of military explosives — in the Feb. 14, 2005, killing. The assassins apparently wanted to make sure al-Hariri did not escape as Hamadeh had. But in killing him, they also took the lives of 22 others and damaged hotels and businesses in a fashionable district of downtown Beirut — carnage and destruction that caused a massive uproar within Lebanon (and far beyond) and led to a U.N. investigation, which eventually concluded that Syria was responsible for the hit.

Five more anti-Syrian figures were targeted for assassination in 2005; all of the incidents involved explosives. The last of those killed, a year before the Gemayel murder, was Gebran Tueni (who, interestingly enough, was murdered only a day after returning to Lebanon from Paris, where he had fled for safety). However, the international pressure following the release of German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis’ October 2005 report for the United Nations on the al-Hariri killing (and a second report issued Dec. 10, 2005) apparently led to a temporary halt in the violence.

Clearly, assassination by explosives is a common and recurring theme in Lebanon. In fact, Pierre Gemayel’s uncle, Bashir Gemayel (then the president-elect of Lebanon) was killed in 1982 by a large bomb, placed in the Kataeb (or Phalangist) political party’s headquarters.

The Gemayel Operation

The death of the nephew was very different — and between the lines of the news reports, there is quite a story.

Gemayel was driving a late-model Kia sedan with tinted windows. He reportedly owned an armored BMW but was not using it the day he was killed. He was not, however, moving about as a private citizen might; there were two bodyguards in tow. All of this leads us to believe Gemayel was aware of some threat to his life, and that he was taking measures to obscure his movements. As the al-Hariri killing showed, even a first-rate armored vehicle and a full motorcade with a well-armed security team is not sufficient to protect a target from a 1,000-kilogram VBIED. So it appears Gemayel either was driving a nondescript car by itself in an attempt to mask his movements, or he had sent the BMW as part of a dummy motorcade elsewhere to draw any would-be assassins to the decoy.

It also is significant that Gemayel was driving the car himself, with a Lebanese state security officer in the right rear seat — where a VIP normally would be sitting in a chauffeured car. This would seem a further attempt to deceive potential assassins, and one that would be aided by the fact that the Kia had heavily tinted windows. Gemayel’s personal bodyguard was sitting in the right front seat of the car.

There is every indication that the attack itself was well-planned and purposely timed.

First, the strike came near an intersection on a busy East Beirut street, lined on both sides with parked cars — something that limited the target’s mobility. Stratfor sources have said traffic normally is heavy along this street at the time of day the attack occurred, but some eyewitnesses have said it became unusually sparse just beforehand. Rumors are circulating in Beirut that supporters of Gen. Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian in the pro-Syrian camp, might have lent a hand. Aoun’s supporters are numerous in this neighborhood, and there is speculation by sources in Lebanon that one of them dressed in a police uniform and held back traffic to enable the assassins to flee the scene.

When the Kia reached the attack site, it reportedly was rammed in the front by a Honda CRV. The impact crumpled the hood and sent the Kia backward. It was then struck in the right rear quarter panel by a blue Fiat hatchback and in the rear by a van. The now-inoperable vehicle was pinned in. At that point, three gunmen reportedly jumped out of the CRV and opened fire on the driver’s side window of the Kia. Gemayel and his bodyguard were killed; the Lebanese security officer in the backseat ran away from the vehicle and survived. The gunmen returned to the Honda and fled.

Within seconds of the shooting, a BMW arrived on the scene. This appears to have been a security team whose job was to ensure Gemayel was dead and to cover the escape of the shooters — or, alternatively, to provide them a means of escape had the Honda been disabled in the attack. The team members in this vehicle also might have been functioning as spotters, whose job was to alert the assassins that Gemayel was approaching the attack site.

Reading the Clues

All in all, there are abundant signs that Gemayel was killed by a highly trained, disciplined attack team.

The conditions of the attack site and the sophisticated way in which the Kia was disabled and hemmed in are the first clues, but even beyond that, it is clear the assassination was swiftly and precisely executed. Gemayel’s bodyguard never had time to pull his weapon: Either he panicked and froze or, perhaps between the collisions and the airbag deploying in his face, he never realized an attack was being executed.

Media reports stated that Gemayel’s vehicle was “sprayed” with gunfire, but photos from the scene clearly show that all of the rounds fired into the vehicle entered through the driver’s side window, in a tight grouping. There was no “spray and pray” or “Beirut offhand” shooting here. The assassins were obviously trained shooters who were able to control their fire — even under the extremely stressful conditions of conducting an assassination in broad daylight. Even when shooting from close range, keeping one’s cool and hitting a target rapidly and accurately under such pressure is not as easy as it looks on TV. It requires extensive training.

Perhaps the most significant clue stems from the fact that the assassins clearly were operating with intelligence support. They were able to determine in advance when Gemayel was going to be at the attack site, and that he would be in the driver’s seat of a Kia rather than the rear seat of an armored BMW. The use of small arms fire is an indication in itself: This would not have been effective against the armored vehicle in which Gemayel normally traveled. Furthermore, the gunmen did not direct any of their fire into the backseat, where a political official normally would be sitting. They clearly knew their primary target would be driving. Therefore, they had advance intelligence of the route, time, vehicle and location in the vehicle where they would find their target.

Such detailed intelligence could have come in two ways. One possibility is that the assassins launched their operation on short notice after having learned from an exceptionally skilled surveillance team that Gemayel was driving a “soft” vehicle. However, for this theory to carry any water, one must assume Gemayel’s routes and times of movement were predictably ordered — which, given the deception he clearly was trying to employ by driving the Kia, would seem not only stupid but out-of-character. That means the second possibility is more logically tenable: An inside source gave the killers the details they required.

The fact that the Lebanese state security officer in the backseat of the Kia was the only person to survive the attack has raised suspicions that he was somehow involved in the plot. These suspicions are strengthened by the fact that the officer did not return fire — even though he reportedly had two shoulder weapons with him at the time of the attack — and by the fact that he personally did not come under fire. Knowing that trained shooters are taught to first take out the target who poses the greatest threat (aka has the biggest weapon), the fact that no shots were fired at the officer with two shoulder weapons is indeed interesting. If the assassins could obtain the precise intelligence that Gemayel was driving the Kia, they surely could have determined that the officer in the backseat was the one with the long guns.

The size and structure of the assassination team is also noteworthy. Stratfor sources have said there were three elements involved: the attack team, the security team and a separate surveillance team. This level of specialization and coordination does not come easily — it requires practice. Therefore, we can conclude that the Gemayel strike was not the team’s “first chili cookoff.” The leader who planned the operation was also very good: The strike was logical, well-planned and well-executed.

Furthermore, there was excellent operational security. Even in settings of extreme sectarian strife and violence, it is difficult to orchestrate a plot to kill a government minister — especially a plot involving such a large team of operatives — without any leaks. Though Gemayel was employing extraordinary security measures, this does not necessarily indicate that he knew an attack was imminent. It is routine for political figures in Beirut, especially anti-Syrian ones, to take such measures.

The Lineup

The fact that the tactics used in the Gemayel assassination departed so drastically from those used in other assassinations in Lebanon would seem to indicate that it was not carried out by the “usual suspects” — in this case, Syrian intelligence and its Lebanese assets. However, it also was far too sophisticated to have been the act of random criminals or even the average Lebanese militia member or terrorist. The complexity of the plot and the high degrees of discipline and training exhibited by the attack team point toward state sponsorship — which, again, implies Syria. However, this operation does not have the ham-fisted feel of the al-Hariri hit. There is a level of sophistication and brutal elegance that seems almost — dare we say Persian?

This is not an unfounded suspicion. Apart from the geopolitical alliance and shared interests of Syria and Iran, there is a tactical precedent to be considered. The Gemayel attack brings to mind the March 8, 1995, strike against a U.S. Consulate shuttle van in Karachi, Pakistan, in which two American diplomats were killed. In that attack, which U.S. authorities determined was carried out by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, a taxi cab was used in a ramming/blocking operation, and two gunmen fired methodically into the van, using small arms. A command/control vehicle was reported on the scene as well.

Though it is clear the Syrians had a motive for killing Gemayel, they obviously would not want to attract the kind of international attention and pressure that ensued from the al-Hariri assassination, or to be the subject of another “Mehlis report.” Therefore, assuming for the moment that the Syrians were responsible, they might have used different tactics to mask their involvement — and to provide themselves with plausible deniability.

But there is also is the matter of collateral damage, which was massive in the al-Hariri strike and nonexistent in the Gemayel operation. All in all, this assassination simply seems too sophisticated for the Syrians to have carried it out alone. It was too professional and surgical. Therefore, it is plausible that the Syrians might have contracted the operation out to another party. The tactics used would indicate the Iranians, or perhaps a Syrian or Lebanese operational planner who has spent significant time training in Iran.

There is another state actor in the region capable of such a sophisticated operation: Israel, which is famed for assassinations involving small commando units and surgical small arms fire. However, the murder of an anti-Syrian, anti-Hezbollah politician would not seem to be in Israel’s national interest, unless it was carried out as a frame-up operation against Syria. This is certainly something Damascus has alleged, but such a move for Israel would be most useful only as a means of bringing more U.S. and U.N. pressure to bear against Syria. And, in the wake of the Mehlis report, the United Nations and Washington have ample means of doing this without a political assassination.

By the same token, however, Syria has been known in the past to blame Israel for political killings in order to sow confusion and distract from signs that point to Syria as the culprit. The coordination and professionalism displayed in the Gemayel operation could have been intended to cast suspicion on Israel.

Intelligence being gathered from sources in the Lebanese government also points (though not definitively) toward Syria. The preliminary investigation has found that a former Syrian state security officer, who goes by the pseudonym “Abu Michel,” toured Antelias (a neighborhood close to Jdeideh, the assassination site) several days before Gemayel was killed.

Thus, while it is not known definitively who pulled the trigger on Gemayel, there can be little doubt at the strategic level that Syria was the author of the plot. And given the Iranian signature on the strike, it appears that the actors — plausible deniability notwithstanding — are using the assassination to send a clear geopolitical signal to the West and, most important, to the United States. Washington is now facing pressure to engage both Damascus and Tehran in efforts to resolve the crisis in Iraq — a symbolic victory for states Washington long has deemed “rogue” actors. Neither the Syrians nor the Iranians are keeping a particularly low profile at the moment, and Tehran at least has seemed quite eager to turn the knife, judging from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s public statements. The Gemayel assassination — coming at such a sensitive time for developments in the region — could be a similar show of bravado by Syria, intended in part to humble the United States.
© Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

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December 7th, 2006, 6:39 am

 

59. qunfuz said:

Ehsani’s article articulates a despair at the current Arab situation which I share to a large extent. Spreading Wahhabi influence (previously US-supported as a counterweight first to the Soviet union and then to revolutionary Iran) and its attendant salafi nihilism has sparked a savage sectarianism throughout the region. And it seems unlikely that Middle Eastern states will be able to develop democratic systems on a Western model any time soon given that most people in the region think in terms of sectarian or ethnic collectivities. The Israelis are at least as guilty of this as the Arabs. (there is another issue too, which is that the West, especially the US, is not particularly democratic. There is a demotic populism which pretends to be democracy, and there is corporate control.) I think that ‘rights’ should be the focus of freedom-loving people’s work in this region and elsewhere. Rights of collectivities and rights of individuals. Anyway.

The weakness in Ehsani’s piece is his assumption that the US really wants more popular participation in governance in the Middle East. Democracy would not have been attempted in Iraq if Sistani hadn’t flexed his muscles. Democracy in palestine has been crushed by a US-led campaign.

Also, Ehsani blames Syria and Iran only for ‘instigating chaos’ in Iraq. The US occupation must bear the lion’s share of the blame. The very presence of the occupation exacerbated political differences between the communities. Allowing (and perhaps actively participating in) the looting of the ministries in the first days of the occupation, and dissolving the army and other security agencies rather than purging them of criminals, setting up the economy for hyper-capitalist shock treatment, all contributed to the breakdown. Then the Negroponte-sponsored death squads staffed by Shia and Kurdish militiamen being turned loose on Sunni areas to ‘quell the insurgency’ (these tactics had been tried in Central America) was the final straw. This is without going further back in history to examine the stresses put on Iraqi society by the US-backed Saddam dictatorship, war against Iran, and the destruction of the middle class in the sanctions years.

None of this detracts from the failures of Iraqi, Arab and Muslim society. But the US invasion and occupation has been criminal and wrongheaded from the beginning.

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December 7th, 2006, 7:35 am

 

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