The Region: Hello, America, are you there?

The US government’s strange, belated reactions to recent negative developments in the Middle East seem to indicate that the administration is just not paying enough attention.

By BARRY RUBIN
November 1, 2010 01:12
Iraqi PM Maliki with Ahmadinejad

311_maliki and ahmadinejad. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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If you’ve lost faith in the abilities of the current US administration and mass media to respond to Middle East developments, here’s more evidence. Consider how hidden, obscure stories are being dug out by policymakers and top media. The New York Times recently reported that the US government is “increasingly alarmed by unrest in Lebanon, whose own fragile peace is being threatened by militant opponents of a politically charged investigation into the killing in 2005 of a former Lebanese leader.”

Ya think? Lebanon has been taken over (or recaptured, if you wish) by the Iran-Syria anti-American, revolutionary Islamist, terrorist-sponsoring axis, operating largely – though by no means completely – through its client, Hizbullah. Might this be of some concern for US policy-makers?

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Four years ago, Lebanon was run by an independent-minded, pro-Western government that would have preferred peace with Israel (though it knew domestic pressures made any such action impossible), opposed Iran and saw radical Islamism as an antagonist.

Today, Lebanon has been “lost” in large part due to Western weakness and inaction.

Even on this latest point the administration is wrong. There isn’t going to be any big conflict over any report that the Syrians murdered former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Everybody in Lebanon knows that Syria did it, possibly (though this is far less certain) with Hizbullah’s help.

But there won’t be any problem if the UN-backed investigation publicly states this because everyone in Lebanon has also been intimidated into silence. Even Hariri’s son, the most important Sunni leader and head of the Sunni-Christian-Druse (well, no longer Druse since they have joined the pro-Syrian side for all practical purposes) has surrendered to Damascus.

And of course there remains the question of what, if anything, this administration will do about Lebanon. Answer: nothing, except continue to aid the army which, at best, is neutral and, at worst, is a Hizbullah ally .

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SPEAKING OF Syria and great discoveries, The Washington Post reported that Syria just doesn’t seem to be responding to administration efforts to engage, moderate and pull that country out of Iran’s orbit.

Over the past two years, there has been example after example of Syria opposing all aspects of US policy; sponsoring terrorism to kill Americans in Iraq and against Israel; sabotaging the Israel-Palestinian peace process; dominating Lebanon; helping Hamas and Hizbullah; and building an ever-tighter alliance with Iran.

And now people in Washington are starting to notice?

Should I mention the blindness toward the Turkish regime’s entrance into the Iran-Syria-Hamas- Hizbullah bloc, its recent listing of Israel as a “central threat” in its National Security Council threat assessment document and the need for US opposition to that government to help ensure its defeat in next year’s election? Hint: In an interview Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu states, “Washington is just beginning to wake up to the true nature” of the current regime. If that government ever does, it will understand that victory for Kilicdaroglu is a vital US interest.

Should I mention that nothing could be more obvious than that the Israel-Palestinian negotiating process is going nowhere because the Palestinian Authority doesn’t want to make a deal? And then add that this problem is being exacerbated by US policy making the PA believe this strategy can succeed by getting recognition for a unilateral declaration of independence? Should I mention the disastrous new US policy of engaging the Taliban which may result in the movement that partnered the September 11 attacks against America returning to power? The New York Times published an anthropologist's op-ed explaining how the US can co-opt the Taliban and turn it against al-Qaida.

But don’t take my word for it. Ask the would-be Times Square bomber who worked with that group, or a teenager who describes how the Taliban tried to recruit him as a suicide bomber (something it will be able to do to lots more youth if it can operate legally.)

And here’s what New York Times reporter David Rhode wrote after spending several months as a Taliban prisoner in 2009: “Before the kidnapping, I viewed the organization as a form of ‘al-Qaida lite’...

primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan. Living side by side with the[m], I learned that the goal [was]... to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with al-Qaida that spanned the Muslim world.”

WHAT ABOUT the total reversal of US policy on Hamas from trying to undermine its rule in the Gaza Strip to believing it will fall if Gaza becomes prosperous? From the time Hamas seized power until last summer, the US government supported a strategy of trying to bring it down by both political isolation and supporting embargoes to minimize Gaza’s imports and exports. The idea was that weakening Gaza’s economy would weaken Hamas’s rule.

At the same time, by lavishing aid on the PA-ruled West Bank, the US and its allies would show that West Bankers were much better off because they were ruled by peace-oriented moderates.

After the Gaza flotilla incident, however, President Barack Obama declared a new policy – though he never identified it explicitly. Now, the US would provide a lot of aid to Gaza in the belief that if it became more prosperous the citizens – apparently a strengthened middle class and businessmen –would bring down the regime.

The aid is to go to carefully designated and monitored projects. Whether or not that goal is achieved, however, the infusion of $400 million in US aid directly through the PA for supporting civil servants in Gaza will have the effect of strengthening the Hamas regime.

Aid will reduce popular discontent against Hamas while letting it divert some of this aid and a lot of funds that would otherwise have been needed to do some of these projects (and buy popular support) for terrorist/military purposes.

Thus, however well-intentioned the new policy may seem to Washington decision-makers, its practical effect is to strengthen Hamas, undermine any hope for peace and help establish a stable, long-term terrorist, Islamist, anti-Western and genocidally minded Iranian client state on the Mediterranean coast.

AND WHAT about the fact that most Arab governments are shocked at US expressions of weakness and want a strong American policy to protect them from Iran and revolutionary Islamists?

Should I mention that despite the praiseworthy (but overdue) increase in anti-Iran sanctions there’s no doubt that Teheran will get nuclear weapons, transforming the strategic balance in the region?

Should I mention that the administration doesn’t react to its own intelligence which shows Iran is helping kill Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan through training terrorists and supplying advisers and military equipment in both countries?

Anybody in the US government noticing these things and perhaps getting prepared to do something about them? Ya think?

The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. www.rubinreports.blogspot.com

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