Online Journal
Front Page 
 Special Reports
 News Media
 Elections & Voting
 Social Security
 Editors' Blog
 Reclaiming America
 The Splendid Failure of Occupation
 The Lighter Side
 The Mailbag
 Online Journal Stores
 Official Merchandise
 Join Mailing List

Commentary Last Updated: Jan 16th, 2008 - 00:33:08

Peacemaking and not arm-twisting
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 16, 2008, 00:16

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

With the US president�s whistle-stop tour of the Middle East and the Gulf almost at an end, it�s time to ask the question what, if anything, has been achieved?

Has his presence brought peace in the Middle East out of the shadows and into the realm of possibility? Unfortunately not, but what has reemerged is the awful specter of war with Iran, which many thought had disappeared after the publication of a US National Intelligence Estimate indicating Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons.

There�s no doubt Bush did some tough talking during the early stage of his trip, which began in Israel. He made no bones about calling Israel�s post-1967 occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands just that . . ."Occupation� and he certainly took Israel to task for neglecting to dismantle outposts.

Strangely enough he met with little opposition from either Israeli politicians or the media, either because in their heart of hearts they knew the president�s rhetoric was expressly designed to fall like milk and honey onto Arab ears. Or, more likely, because they were too busy filling his ears about the perceived threat from Tehran. Bush got that message all right.

It was exactly what he wanted to hear, so once he had made requisite peace noises and taken advantage of photo-ops with cute kids on the West Bank, he headed off to the Gulf to apply himself to the real task at hand -- cobbling together an anti-Iranian coalition.

�Luckily� for him, there was an incident in the Straits of Hormuz, which proved how dangerous the Iranians really are. It consisted of a couple of miniscule Iranian patrol boats, whose suicidal crews apparently believed they could take on US warships; blow them up, in fact.

�Luckily� again the US Navy had these evil shenanigans on tape, which they superimposed with a menacing voice, whose owner could pursue a career as Frankenstein�s monster should Hollywood decide to remake those movies.

The incident served as an opportune entr�e for the president�s anti-Iranian drive.

First he sent out a stern warning to Tehran and then he told his Gulf hosts in no uncertain terms that Iran is the world�s greatest sponsor of terrorism and must be �confronted before it is too late."

�It sends hundreds of millions of dollars to extremists around the world while its own people face repression and economic hardship,� President Bush said during his brief stay in Abu Dhabi, disappointing those waiting eagerly to hear of concrete steps towards a Palestinian state.

But Bush�s luck ran out when the Iranians put out their own video of the supposed face-off.

This version showed a rather polite exchange whereby an Iranian crewmember asks for the coordinates of an American vessel and receives a courteous response to the effect the US ships were in international waters. This prompted the Pentagon to admit it had superimposed the creepy voice on their tape and that the voice�s owner may not have even been Iranian.

Hmm! Apparently the US Navy is plagued by such crank callers, who permeate the radio waves with insult and threats.

But never mind. Bush was still left with Iran �s support for Hezbollah, Palestinian militants and Iraqi insurgents to fall back on. Iran must be stopped �before it�s too late."

Such US belligerence puts his regional hosts in rather a pickle as they have already decided to bring Iran back into the fold, and were even more set on doing so following the publication of the National Security Estimate that stamped Iran as benign on the nuclear front.

While it�s true that regional countries are nervous about their neighbor�s geopolitical aspirations, none of them are willing to allow their nations to be used as battle grounds, which besides the obvious potential loss of life and treasure would also devastate their economies and whip up extremists. Indeed, Saudi Arabia has clearly stated it will not allow its soil to be a springboard for any attack on Iran.

It�s also true that GCC members value their relationship with Washington and Bush attempted to cement those ties with offers of increased military cooperation, arms supplies, trade deals and, of course, the juiciest carrot of all -- a Palestinian state.

What we can�t know is how much overt or subtle arm-twisting has been going on behind closed doors of the type the White House does best.

Bush says he wants nothing more than a viable Palestinian state and Mideast peace before he leaves office, but could it be that what he wants a whole lot more is a weakened Tehran, a friendless Iran, a destitute Iran ready to prostrate itself before the wishes of the so-called international community?

The people of this region and their leaders are by nature unfailingly hospitable and polite.

Often times, rather than cause their guests offence, they will seemingly acquiesce to his every request but when push comes to shove they will drag their feet, especially true when their own interests are at stake.

The president may fly away with a wide self-satisfied grin but in the same way he has given little of substance to further Middle East peace, methinks he has received little of substance to further his own plans vis-�-vis Iran.

There is one thing crystal clear though. The neoconservative agenda is alive and well.

This US administration is unflinching in its determination to achieve its goals. And if it truly wants a war with Iran that�s exactly what it will create no matter what obstacles are strewn in its path.

If that happens, all countries in the region will be asked to take sides when what they really want is to be left alone.

Worryingly, all that is required to fuel the flames is a tiny spark, whether real or manufactured.

One bullet could lead to a mighty conflagration; one misplaced threat to a massive retaliation.

If this is to be avoided, everyone in this part of the world (the Middle East) and beyond must work together to cool the embers.

What use is the promise of a Palestinian state if the rest of this region goes up in flames?

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Top of Page

Latest Headlines
Ahmed Dirie: imprisoned or murdered?
The Federal Reserve needs more than a new communications strategy
Peacemaking and not arm-twisting
Levite be gone: Releasing the Samaritan within
Sandwiched between competing interests
Italy, Italians and Silvio Berlusconi: A case of anything for power
Double standard on divestment
Four types of government operatives: bullies, muggers, sneak thieves, and con men
Bush's visit to the Middle East: triumph of form over substance?
From the safety of his bubble, Bush begins Middle East visit
Europe and the USA -- different perspectives
Eternal vigilance
Will we end up bland and boring?
The Bourne paradox: the hunted as hunter
Now congressional Democrats are attacking free speech
A riposte to �Criminals with badges: How the police create crimes�
2007: Annus Mirabilis and the "Smiling Garden of Eden"
The war on Mithraism!
As Planet Earth struggles with ecological damage, America's appetite remains insatiable
2008: So what�s new?