MIDDLE EAST – OPTIMISTS HOPE FOR CONVENTIONAL WARS


12.12.06
MOSCOW. (Yevgeny Satanovsky, President of the Middle East Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, for RIA Novosti)

A little more than 10 years ago it seemed that there were enough grounds to hope for peace and prosperity in the Middle East. Today, those who are optimistic hope that the region will be a scene of conventional rather than nuclear wars.
It is enough to look at what is happening there. Iraq has turned into a territory of anarchy and terror. Iraqi Kurdistan is virtually independent, and a risk of a clash with Turkey is the only obstacle which prevents it from becoming a sovereign state. Most probably, after the occupational forces withdraw, the rest of Iraqi territory will be divided between local Sunni and Shiite leaders, and al-Qaeda-linked Islamic groups.
Iraq’s neighbors – Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan – could try to stabilize the situation there, but they have problems with stability themselves. Iran is probably the only exception.
The only stable parliamentary democracy in the Muslim Middle East, Iran is growing stronger and expanding its influence in Iraq, other Gulf nations, as well as Syria and Lebanon. Before long, Iran will acquire nuclear weapons. The main question is whether Iran and Israel will avoid an armed conflict, which is unlikely given the course pursued by the current Iranian leaders.
Palestinian territories are a source of threat not only for Israel, but also for Jordan and Egypt. The idea of creating a Palestinian state has been merely used by the Palestinian elite as an excuse to embezzle the money granted by international bureaucratic structures. The billions received by the Palestinians over several decades have made the Palestinian economy uncompetitive, engendered mega-corruption, and turned Palestine into a world Harlem living off welfare. Tough military control is indispensable for fighting terrorism, and restoring economy and social environment in Palestine. But none of its neighbors wants to tackle these problems, and become an occupant.
In the meantime, Israel has been gripped by an all-out political crisis. Instead of enhancing security, its “peacemaking” efforts have caused human losses. The Israelis are justifiably mistrustful of Americans and Europeans, thinking that both may sacrifice them for their own interests. The experiment of the Israeli elite on implementing its peace-for-territory plan has led to the collapse of their own country. Now any attempt to evacuate Israeli settlements from the West Bank of the Jordan River, or the Golan Heights, will meet with fierce resistance of their residents, putting Israel on the brink of a civil war.
Paradoxically, the Iranian threat has produced an informal Arab-Israeli military-political alliance, which has not yet been put into action. At the same time, the radical Islamists are stepping up their activities, and enhancing their political influence in the entire Middle East – from Pakistan to Turkey, and from Sudan to Algeria and Morocco.
They are trying to come to power in Lebanon; they are resuming their leading positions in Afghanistan; having seized power in Somalia and Palestine, they are consolidating their positions there. Harassment of national and religious minorities is on the upsurge in the entire region, although the UN is laying the blame for this on Israel, where the position of these groups is close to ideal compared to its neighbors. The risks for Christians are the highest in the Middle East. In Lebanon, they are still fighting for their future, but they are already fleeing from Palestine and Iraq.
Many armies in the region are weaker than Islamic formations, which are better armed and trained. There is a growing threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction there – biological, chemical, and nuclear (from Pakistan). The level of drug trafficking, the backbone of the Afghan economy, is also on the rise. Against this background, the danger of Sudan’s disintegration, a dynastic vacuum in Oman, and instability of some other regimes seem to be a not-so-great evil.
The policy of the “great powers” in the region has fallen through. The inability of the UN, all peacemakers, and the U.S. Administration to achieve any positive change in the region demonstrates the bankruptcy of the world community’s political and diplomatic approaches.
The bad situation is being made worse by the mistakes multiplied from one generation to another, futile attempts to carry out stillborn theories of half a century ago, failure to understand the local realities, and orientation of policy to the schedule of domestic elections. It is further aggravated by the fact that the media and politicians pay the most attention to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which is peripheral and the least murderous.
Millions of people are destroyed in a barbaric manner and turn into refugees not only in the Middle East. But it is the problems of the Middle East that its elites are trying to resolve at the expense of the rest of the world, including Europe. It is a question of preserving Europe’s right to life rather than its heritage.
There is no point in trying to apply democratic methods to people who use democracy exclusively for their own selfish purposes. Democracy can overcome radicals and terrorists only morally and posthumously. The Americans and their allies have tried to disseminate “democracy” in their own way.
Obviously, Winston Churchill was right when he said that the world’s entire history boils down to the conclusion that when nations are strong, they are not always fair; but when they want to be fair, they are no longer strong enough. –0-