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Analysis Last Updated: Sep 7th, 2006 - 00:46:43

9/11/2006: Bush's project for a Greater Middle East is in shambles
By Luciana Bohne
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 7, 2006, 00:39

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In Lebanon, Fouad Siniora scorns as propaganda Olmert's claims that Siniora refuses to meet with him.

Olmert reportedly bemoaned Siniora's alleged refusal with the hypocritical sagacity of a crocodile's tears: "How simple and natural it would be if the Lebanese prime minister would accept my calls to sit together, shake hands, and end this hatred which part of his people turned toward us."

A Lebanese official, however, cut through the ruse that Israel has tried to open channels for negotiations which Lebanon has ignored: "We know nothing of this. These comments really don't concern us; it's just propaganda."

Last week, in fact, Siniora reiterated the diplomatic standoff between Israel and Lebanon, in place since 1948, a standoff exacerbated by the recent Israeli aerial onslaught: "[Lebanon would be] the last Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel. There will be no agreement with Israel before there is a comprehensive peace deal that is just and lasting."

So much for the Israeli-American axis' brittle hopes of dividing Lebanon's national agenda. Lebanon was expected, by the hubris-driven Israeli military, to keep trembling terminally in "shock and awe" at the technological magnificence of Israel's push-button, blitzkrieg war on the nation! It didn't happen.

Resolution 1701, aimed at increasing UNIFIL forces in Lebanon, is bogged down by squabbling among UN member states, reluctant to send troops with an unclear mandate in a potentially risky military mission that is perceived as being itself part of the larger general cock-up of the US-spearheaded mission for redrawing the map of the region.

Italy, in a hapless and largely politically incomprehensible effort to appease who knows which internal or external political forces, has decided to rush in like fools where madmen fear to tread. Its contingent of troops, arriving last week in Lebanon, brings UNIFIL forces up to 3,500 troops, including the 2,000 already there from the previous UNIFIL strength.

Turkey, mindful of robust domestic popular opposition, speaks in soothing terms of troop deployment. Recep Tayyp Erdogan assured Turks that UNIFIL forces would not be disarming Hezbollah militants. "When such a thing is requested from our soldiers, then we will withdraw our soldiers," Erdogan told reporters on Saturday.

Muslim Indonesia announced it will send 1,000 troops after Israel dropped its objections against Indonesian presence in UNIFIL.

This coalition of the titubant and unwanted is not exactly a testimonial to the commitment and focus that the US and Israel should command from its UN-sponsored allies were their wanton warmongering less self-evident. Indeed, it is a testimonial to the lack of trust in the hidden purpose of the Franco-American-brokered UN resolution.

This lack of trust is being further aggravated by Israel's ongoing frantic search-and-destroy operations against Hezbollah's arms caches and military bunkers. UNIFIL's French commander, General Alain Pellegrini, said such actions violate the truce, as do reconnaissance missions by Israeli jets over Lebanese air space. "The cease-fire is holding for a moment," Pellegrini said, "but it's fragile, any incident can escalate it." As 15,000 Lebanese troops move into the south, Pellegrini has underscored that "disarming Hezbollah is a national issue, and this has to be solved by the Lebanese authorities."

In other words, the Olmert-Bush grand strategy in Lebanon is in stalemate, with reluctant allies nervously ready to jump ship at the slightest sign of casualties, in expectation of domestic wrath for pledging even the paltry troop commitment to Resolution 1701. With friends like these, Israel and the US might be induced to reflect who needs Hezbollah!

Turning to Afghanistan, or, as some critics calls it, "the forgotten war," the Afghan government (that's the US-installed government, mind you!) blames the US for the Taliban resurgence. It claims that the US sent too few troops and relied on corrupt warlords to maintain order -- and they're right. In the past four months in Helmand province, increased Taliban fighting has brought the death toll to 1,700 -- the highest incidence since the US toppling of the Taliban regime.

The Taliban has added two new tactics to the guerrilla lessons learned by the anti-Soviet-occupation mujahiddeen in the '80s: suicide bombers and a lucrative alliance, funding the Taliban's guerrilla war, with the drug lords whose traffic thrives from the local chaos brought on by the American occupation. These are the same Taliban, who, before the occupation, had halted opium production in the country, which now produces 92 percent of global opium output. Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, announced Saturday a nearly 60 percent increase in opium cultivation and a spike in the opium harvest of nearly 50 percent to the record peak of 6,100 tons.

From a criminal point of view, one resounding success of Bush's illegal attack on Afghanistan to allegedly catch bin Laden "dead or alive," therefore, is the clear defeat of that other "forgotten war," the one declared long ago on an a concrete noun -- the "war on drugs." One of Bush's staunchest remaining allies must undoubtedly be the international drug mafia, grateful for this unexpected windfall of opium bonanza, which the nasty Taliban had curtailed.

The precarious military hold on Afghanistan by NATO forces greatly troubles the new British Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannat. Britain has 4,000 troops among NATO forces in Afghanistan. In his first interview with The Guardian, this past weekend, General Donnat expressed himself with controlled frustration over questions about Britain's dangerously overstretched military, deployed in pursuit of the Bush-Blair pulp-fiction, 19th-century boys-adventure-story fantasy of conquest in the lands where the British empire got trounced over 50 years ago. "Can we cope," he answered, pausing on the interviewer's question. "I say 'just.'"

This past weekend the British public learned that an RAF Nimrod plane, stuffed with intelligence-gathering equipment, crashed in Kandahar province, killing 14 British troops. This was the biggest single loss since the start of British operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Taliban claims to have shot it down. Britain angrily denies it, citing unspecified technical causes.

Asked if half of the 7,200 British troops now stationed in Iraq, could be dispatched to Afghanistan by the middle of 2007, following a withdrawal of British troops from the Iraqi military theater, General Donnat gave a wry reply. That possibility, in his view, could only be called a "hope."

[As I write Britain's New Labour MPs, including two of Blair's staunchest supporters, are calling for his resignation in two separate letters. If 80 MPs sign the two letters, a new election can be called.]

The situation in Iraq is hurtling on its bloody descent toward national disintegration. This past weekend, Massaud Barzani, president of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan issued Order 60, banning the hoisting of the Iraqi national flag, to be replaced by the flag of Iraqi Kurdistan on all offices and government institutions.

This ominous gesture seems to bear out the Pentagon's gloomy assessment on Friday that Iraq could dissolve into civil war.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki seems to be helpless before the anarchy of the country. The daily death toll now averages 40.

In addition to suicide bombings and bomb blasts on roads, mosques, and public places, militants are now targeting homes. On Thursday, rocket attacks on Shia districts in Baghdad killed 42 people, injured 112, and destroyed homes. A day earlier, an attack on Hilla killed 77. In five days, ending with August 31, 200 people were killed. President Bush argues that a US military pullout would constitute "a major defeat." Does he have an alternative?

Talks between the US and Iraq over the transfer of military operational command to the Iraqi army stalled on Sunday. Prime Minister al-Maliki is asking for more independence.

But all these disasters pale before the effect of Bush's policies on Pakistan and Iran. These are long-term effects that threaten not just the peace and stability of the region but of the world.

Bush's policies have practically turned Musharraf's rule into one of dysfunctional schizophrenia.

Under relentless US, British, and Afghan pressure "to do more" for the "war on terror," Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is caught between a rock and a hard place. A secular non-"fundamentalist," Musharraf has legitimated two militant Islamic parties in order to grab election votes in 2007. South Waziristan is now Pakistani Taliban country. His recent killing in Balochistan of Nawab Bugti, an octogenarian former provincial and national minister and independence leader, has caused observers to remark in Dawn, the Pakistani daily, that Pakistan, in the service of Bush's wars, "is the only Muslim country with an ongoing military operation against its own people."

A Pakistani former foreign secretary, Shanshad Ahmad Khan, sums up the country's dilemma:

"In the post 9/11 scenario, terrorism-related problems afflicting our country have placed it on the global radar screen, giving Pakistan the unenviable distinction of being one of the epochal "frontlines of the war on terror." . . . Our crucial role in this campaign complicates our task, both at home and at regional and local levels. Our problems are further complicated by the complex regional configurations with Americans sitting in Afghanistan, the new Indo-US nexus, India's strategic ascendancy in the region and its unprecedented influence in Afghanistan with serious nuisance potential for Pakistan. Our borders on all sides are no longer peaceful. Domestically, sectarian violence has made Pakistan the worst killing ground of Muslims at the hands of their Muslim "brethren." Pakistan is going through one of its most serious crises."

The domestic instability of Pakistan should be cause for serious alarm. Pakistan is a nuclear power. It has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has, therefore, not had to submit to inspections by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). No one knows how it stores its bombs, nor the precautions taken or not taken for their operational assembly. It says that its heavy-water nuclear reactor will be "in safe hands" and does not need intrusive inspections. Iran, on the other hand, 10 years away from building a nuclear bomb, is threatened with sanctions if it does not suspend its modest nuclear-energy program of building light-water nuclear reactors -- thus far conducted under the vigilant gaze of the IAEA!.

Nothing underscores the lack of transparency of the Bush administration more than its nuclear double-standards vis-�-vis Iran as compared to Pakistan. Pakistanis are so alienated from the government's support of Bush's policies that Musharraf is not long for the political dustbin. What happens when or after Musharraf goes is anyone's guess -- urban insurrections, coalition of Islamic parties, another military dictatorship -- this time supported by anti-imperialist forces, a coup d'etat induced by the pro-Taliban Inter Services Intelligence's (ISI) circles, a popular revolution.

However, whatever happens, Pakistan will be a country in the grips of turmoil, armed with unregulated nuclear weapons, which, should the national tide turn against the Bush agenda, will become the proverbially menacing "weapons of mass destruction," arming a regime, in the DC crazies' view, crying out for the tender mercies of the American killing machine. The "war" will expand, but it will not yield an American victory -- only resistance.

Why is it the "we" and our cronies have "nuclear weapons," and "they," the enemies du jour, have "weapons of mass destruction"?

Unlike Pakistan, Iran is a stable country. Its internal conflict is split between the conservatives and the reformers. Since 1996, until Bush's bombastic "axis of evil" speech, Iran was moving toward reforms. After the inclusion of Iran among the "rogue states" slated to receive the kiss of death of US liberation and "regime change," the country rallied around the conservatives and criticized President Khatami's reformist calls for "a dialogue of civilizations."

Bush's belligerence, in effect, blocked the progress of Iran toward a more open, democratic society, which a majority of Iranians desires. Electoral support for the conservatives traditionally hovered between 10 and 20 percent of Iranians. Nevertheless, the most recent elections selected President Ahmadinijad, a conservative, to lead the country in the coming confrontation with the US, which the Iranians see as the repeat of the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup that overthrew the democratically elected Mossadeq and re-installed the hated Pahlevi regime in the person of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi and his eventual torture machine, the SAAVAK.

The 1979 revolution, which was a popular uprising -- not a fundamentalist creature -- resulted in the nationalist, anti-imperialist Islamic Republic, which, to this day, in spite of its record of repression, continues to be supported by Iranians, especially under siege, as the middle stage to the country's long fought for (from 1905 to today) secular, constitutional democracy.

The Islamic Republic is not a "house of cards, ready to be pushed over the precipice" as Michael Ledeen, President Bush's leading "expert" on Iran and one of the president's most aggressive foreign policy makers, claimed in 2003. Ledeen, now operating out of the American Enterprise Institute, former employee of the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council, and Italy's military intelligence during the decade of false-flag terrorism in Italy, is widely believed to be the "brain" behind the shabby "yellowcake" Niger forgery that led the US into the quagmire of Iraq. Decades ago, he was behind the "Bulgarian plot" to kill the pope. In the '80s, he arranged for the Iran-contra scandal.

Now, he's ready to serve up another quagmire. In 2003, he set up the Coalition for Democracy in Iran, rounding up the usual suspects, oligarchs in exile, Pahlevi royal descendants -- even the Ayatollah Khomeni's grandson, whom Khomeini kept out of politics for being a mujahiddeen.

A self-professed "international fascist" (he wrote a book by that title), Ledeen may be too extreme even for the much compromised, right-wing US media to parade up front, but he remains in the shadows plotting "regime change" in Iran for his addled-brained master in the White House -- a task the Iranians were busily and more effectively accomplishing on their own, until they were rudely interrupted.

Pseudo-intellectual, political hacks like Ledeen seem to stick to Bush like flies to flypaper. I used to not believe they were stupid as well as crazy, but now I do. Nothing explains the colossal self-delusions that drive the Bush policy failures better than plain, ordinary stupidity coupled with incompetence and immature hubris. Ledeen grew up enamored of the world of Walt Disney, for whom his father worked. A family legend has it that his mother was the prototype for Snow White.

I haven't counted, but could the countries of the Middle East figure as the seven dwarfs in Ledeen's strange political mythology?

On the other hand, the intellectual bankruptcy of the ideologues of American imperialism corresponds to the moral bankruptcy at the heart of imperialism itself. No intellectual with any integrity could possibly concoct the propaganda tripe of the crazies in the Plan for the New American Century.

In the meantime, the destiny of a country as mature, as tempered by constitutional struggles and revolution, as tried by adversity, and as ready to forge its own destiny as Iran, threatens to become the plaything of destructive, know-nothing, reactionary Cold War fanatics.

On 9/11, the Iranian government permitted popular vigils in support of the grieving US population. In the "war on terror," Iran funded and supported the Northern Alliance, US allies, against the Taliban, holding in check the Kabul-disaffected Northern Alliance leader, Hekmatyar, still brooding over Karzai's appointment in his lair somewhere in Afghanistan. In Iraq, Iran undoubtedly advised Sistani to keep the insurgency in check, persuading Sadr not to join the Baathist rebels during the uprising in Fallujah of April 2004. As a silent partner, Iran's contribution to the control of violence unleashed by the Bush marauders has arguably been more reliable and effective than Musharraf's dubious support in Pakistan. You can be sure that, should the US attack Iran, the restraining hand on these two fronts will be withdrawn.

In addition, Iran, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has sustained scrupulous scrutiny by the IAEA. It does not possess nuclear weapons and won't for 10 more years. By then if left alone, it could be a fully democratic country -- whatever that means today. The current nuclear standoff with the US over uranium enrichment is entirely US-engineered, in bad faith. Iran has systematically complied with IAEA regulations and needs only to sign new protocols that could easily be facilitated by negotiations.

But the Bush clan is rattling its sabres over Iran, while nuclear Pakistan, unregulated, unstable, and highly dysfunctional quietly simmers in its boiling pot of internal turmoil. I'm not advocating interference in Pakistan's internal affairs, but neither should Iran be thus meddled with.

Does all this selective meddling sound like Bush's foreign policy is in touch with reality?

Luciana Bohne teaches film and literature at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at

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