|CONDI IN THE MIDDLE EAST: MISSION
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Vladimir Simonov)
Has U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noticed that she is becoming
The task set in the Middle East to that fragile lady who loves to play
Mozart in the evenings would baffle even the Supergirl. She has only seven
days to convince the regional leaders, from Israel to Egypt and the Gulf
countries, that the new Iraq strategy of President George W. Bush is
viable, that it has not isolated Bush in the U.S. or from his closest
European allies, and that Iraq is not another Vietnam.
To believe these three things, one has to be as innocent as a baby with an
old man’s amnesia.
Last Wednesday, Bush presented his new strategy for Iraq, which consists
of old tactics that have been shattered in a head-on collision with Iraqi
reality. He offered a desperate cure for a desperate disease, that is,
allowing reinforced American forces to use violence to quench Iraqi
But can a force of 21,500 Americans, including 17,500 to be dispatched to
Baghdad, stop the sway of terror? Will this effort “succeed when
previous operations to secure Baghdad did not,” as Bush himself said in
his address to the nation? A force of 140,000 Americans has been trying to
ensure security in Iraq for four years. According to Bush, this time the
U.S. will “have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have
been cleared” of terrorists and insurgents. The cavalry will come to the
rescue, as usual.
“In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented
Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to
those fueling the sectarian violence,” Bush said. This will not happen
this time. A tight fist of three forces – American infantry, the Iraqi
army and Iraqi police – will be brought against all armed resistance
groups regardless of their sectarian or political affiliation.
Had Rice included Baghdad in her Mideast tour and exchanged views with
people in the street, she would have seen that Bush’s hopes were doomed.
Iraqis would have told her that the latest Iraqi government, although
seemingly dependent on Washington, is dominated by Shias, and that
factions in the government still control respective paramilitary groups.
These forces ruled that two of Saddam Hussein’s accomplices – Barzan
Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Iraq's former intelligence head and Hussein's
half-brother, and former chief judge Awad Hamed al-Bander – be hanged
early Monday. The execution, which was carried out contrary to the appeal
of President Jalal Talabani to postpone it until a calmer period,
reaffirmed the great influence of the ruling group.
Would the ruling Shiite groups permit the routing of their co-religionists
for defending the interests of their community in explosives-filled
vehicles rather than in parliament? Rice is unlikely to have an answer to
In this sense, the new American strategy in Iraq promises not better
chances of victory, but more blood and violence.
The Middle East mission of the national security adviser is impossible
also because she sees the region only in black and white, just as her
boss. They believe that there are friends in the region, with whom they
can talk, and enemies, with whom they need not talk, and that the latter
should be intimidated or even delivered a blow.
It appears that the White House has launched an information offensive to
precede a military campaign against Iran, and possibly Syria. When putting
forth his new Iraqi strategy, Bush not only ignored the recommendations of
the Iraq Study Group (ISG) also known as the Baker-Hamilton Commission on
including Iran and Syria in the diplomatic settlement, but also complained
about and issued threats to those crucial regional players. Vice President
Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Stephen Hedley, and Condoleezza
Rice later took up their boss’s intimidating tone.
Bush even accused Iran of “providing material support for attacks on
American troops.” He was probably referring to the transfer of weapons
from Iran to Iraq. The trouble is that Washington sometimes uses the same
methods to advance its interests in the red-hot Middle East. According to
RIA Novosti information, it has recently permitted arms deliveries to the
Palestinian militants who are loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate leader
of the Palestinian National Authority, in order to strengthen his standing
But what is permitted to a global power spreading democracy is not
permitted to a country from “the axis of evil.”
Abbas refused to exchange his principles for arms. At his meeting with
Rice last Sunday, he questioned her attempts to revive the roadmap plan of
a peace settlement in the Middle East based on the idea of a gradual
establishment of a Palestinian state.
“We have reaffirmed to Ms Rice our rejection of any temporary and
transitional solutions, including the ‘State with Temporary Borders’
principle,” the Palestinian leader said. “This variant doesn’t look
realistic to us.”
Meanwhile, Washington started translating its verbal threats to Iran into
action. On January 11, U.S. Special Forces used helicopters to storm an
Iranian consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil and take six
consular workers for questioning who had not obtained a diplomatic status
since the restoration of Iran-Iraq diplomatic relations in September 2004.
But a diplomatic status would not have helped them anyway. Now only
Washington can say if the Special Forces found innocent PCs or brand-new
portable grenade throwers in the consulate.
Is this a rehearsal of a U.S. military raid against Iran? With this burden
of aggressive sentiments that preclude the participation of the region’s
main players, Iran and Syria, in the Iraqi settlement, Ms Rice’s Middle
Eastern mission is doomed to failure.
But then, perhaps the mission was designed only to imitate diplomacy? I
can believe that.