DR. FATIMA SHAHNAZ reveals the three-pronged strategy of the neo-cons vis-à-vis Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s wait-and-watch policy.
One of the symptoms of the floundering neo-conservative administration of President George W. Bush after its Congressional defeat is the upgraded psychological offensive to enlarge the theatre of war from Iraq, where the U.S. is mired in a hopeless impasse. The desperate strategy of the neo-cons is now three-pronged: First, to expand the war on three fronts, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan; secondly, to manipulate sectarian Shi’ite-Sunni sectarianism to subdivide the Muslim world, and promote a civil war, or ‘chaos scenario’ in Iraq, which is a cover-up for the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Iraqi population; and thirdly, to sabotage the findings of the Iraq Study Group (headed by former State Secretary James Baker III and former Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton).
US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair met in Washington a day after the Baker Commission issued its findings (December 6), which admitted the failure of the U.S. war policy; they suggested a major correction in course to salvage American credibility in the region through direct talks with Iran and Syria; and advised troop withdrawal from Iraq. But the Bush-Blair duo, flailing about them for life-jackets as they sink, promised to chart “new strategies” dismissing the Baker Commission as merely one of several reports, and diverting blame to Iran and Syria for inciting extremists. Bush persists in his veiled threats to Iran refusing dialogue unless the Islamic Republic freezes its nuclear construction. “If people come to the table to discuss, they need to come understanding their responsibilities to not fund terrorists, to help this young democracy survive, to help with the economics of the country … And if people are not committed, if Syria and Iran is not committed to that concept then they shouldn’t bother to show up.”
The Zionist Agenda
As Blair’s own scalp may go (with his political survival), he will dash off a mission to the Middle East allegedly to prove U.S. and U.K. commitment to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Following U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit to the Saudi Kingdom, with a dubious agenda to forge a ‘Sunni bloc’ to counter Shi’ite Iran (thus expanding regional war to other Persian Gulf countries), Blair’s motives can only be questionable, based on British cooperation in the U.S.-led war. The endgame of the Anglo-Americans is to drag down the whole region in flames with them. New players may directly or vicariously be involved, with the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal passed by American legislators. Despite assurances that India can continue dealing with “third countries” (like Iran) to acquire technologies, the Middle East tinderbox has the potential for a major conflagration in South Asia as well. The Iraq war enters into a deadly phase as the sinister objectives of the Anglo-Americans grow transparent: they have already lost leverage over Muslim nations, none of whom can continue to remain duped by the anti-Islamic propaganda behind the neo-cons’ desperate smokescreen, hiding a Zionist agenda supporting Israel. This works in Iran’s favour, since the self-destructive course of the Bush adventures in both Iraq and Lebanon have made Iran leap from an ‘axis of evil’ nation (as Bush called it in 2002) under the dark cloud of an American threat, to a key regional player, a kingpin in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Hezbollah’s defeat of the Israeli Defence Forces in Lebanon, the rise of Hamas in Palestine, added to the Shia insurgent groups in Iraq such as Muqtada al Sadr’s al-Badr factions have bolstered Iran’s image vastly, particularly when it has challenged American interventionism in the region.
US Playing Sectarian Politics
Still, the U.S. and its allies are far from giving up their mission to contain Iran, despite warnings from multiple sources, including within U.S. ranks. A former U.S. Commander in Iraq, Gen. Jay Garner, who headed the first post-war reconstruction mission to Iraq before Paul Bremer, warned Bush against playing up sectarian politics in the Middle East, or a “Sunni card”: “Any attempt by the U.S. to line up with the Sunni or Shia side would be one hell of a dangerous thing to do,” he said. He referred to the American manipulations between Shi’ites and Sunnis, when the Shi’ites were first sponsored by Washington in Iraq. Now, the Americans are making overtures to Sunni Arabs to counter-balance Iranian influence.
Expressing scepticism in getting a central government to control Iraq, Garner opposed divisive strategies in the country and suggested a “stronger regionalisation where real power was being wielded by known local leaders, but within the framework of a national entity. The only precondition for that would be an arrangement by which the oil revenues would be shared among the regions.”
Meanwhile, on November 29 in an address to AFP at a UN event in Malaysia, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (also chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, OIC) saw the assault by the West on Islam as “one of the gravest threats to international stability in the history of the world.” He added that “the Muslim world sees the suppression of Palestine, the invasion of Afghanistan, the conquest of Iraq, and the destruction of Lebanon as a complicity to humiliate Muslim countries. Muslims see the refusal of the Christian west to acknowledge Islam as a way of life for all Muslims as intolerance and arrogance.” He blamed Western secularism, particularly in Europe, for removing religion from the public domain. “They expect Muslims, especially those living in their societies, to do the same.” This, he stated, contradicted the Muslim faith.
Another voice for peace was from Jordan’s King Abdullah (who visited Delhi after a meeting with President Bush on November 26). The king told ABC’s This Week that there were three civil wars in the Middle East region: Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon.” As in his speech in Delhi on November 29, he emphasised that settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was central to regional stability, and containing the spiralling violence. “I know people will say that there are several core problems in the Middle East. Obviously, the closest to American minds, because of your commitments of soldiers, is Iraq. But for the majority of us living in this part of the world, it has always been the Israeli-Palestinian, the Israeli-Arab problem. And I fear that if we do not use the next couple of months to really be able to push the process forward, I don’t believe that there will be anything to talk about.” The King’s grave warning was followed by other regional strategists, all sucked into the new strategic architecture Washington is desperately attempting to shape.
US Power Weakened
But this is no longer the first Gulf War under Bush’s father, who successfully linked a regional coalition against Saddam Hussein. This time around, few heed the U.S. drumbeats of war against Iran, or the strategy to foment Shi’ite-Sunni sectarianism in the Middle East to expand the war into a broader regional disaster: In brief, such scenario would be a threat to the entire Arab-Islamic world, a suicidal course. For this reason, most of the regional players are leery of the Anglo-American manipulations. Also, most nations see the transparent signs behind Bush, Cheney and their British strategists in the massive psychological propaganda to pit Muslims against Muslims, Arabs against Iranians, or to see the Islamic world go up in flames. Countries on the sidelines like India are also wary of the backlash in their own backyards, particularly with vast Muslim populations on the subcontinent.
On November 25, Dick Cheney visited Saudi Arabia and according to a report, the gist of the message to Saudi King Abdullah was to prevent a dialogue with Iran. With the American position weakened particularly in the Persian Gulf region, the need for a new security arrangement was stressed to counter the growing Iranian influence. NATO has initiated talks with Qatar and Kuwait for cooperation. Cheney’s proposal included the establishment of a new regional ‘balance of power’ to counter what Washington perceives as the “Iranian threat,” magnified by a predominantly Shi’ite government in Iraq (one established by the U.S. itself), and the Shi’ite insurgency against American occupation. The new military organisation promoted by Cheney would include the Gulf Cooperation Council states, Egypt and Jordan, with NATO and the United States involved and Israel a participant. During President Bush’s visit to Amman, Jordan, to meet Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki, he is expected to make a proposal to Syria to break ties with Iran and join a so-called Arab Sunni bloc. Similarly, following the assassination of Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, an effort was made to make the Lebanese break their alliance with Hizbullah, and join a Sunni Arab, Christian, Druze coalition. The deal offered Syria would be to regain the Golan Heights from Israel in return for pressuring Hizbullah to disarm, which is highly unlikely. Added to all this is Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice’s crusade to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks by meeting with Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert of Israel. One of the issues would be to build a separation wall along the Israeli border with Lebanon, such as the one in the West Bank.
Saudi Arabia as Balancing Power
Rumours have spread that Saudi Arabia has been dragged in by Cheney as a source of funding for Sunni Arab insurgents in Iraq, but Saudi officials denied this: “There isn’t an organised terror finance, and we will not permit any such unorganised [funding],” according to Brig. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry. A national security adviser to Bush, Stephen Hadley, recently wrote in a leaked memo that Washington should “step up efforts to get Saudi Arabia to take a leadership role in Iraq, by using its influence to move Sunni populations out of violence into politics.”
Despite efforts to drag Saudi Arabia into a conflict with Iran for regional power, Saudi officials have maintained a moderating role, stating the kingdom worked with all sides to reconcile Iraq’s warring factions. Talks were held in Saudi Arabia between officials and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Meanwhile, Iran can play the waiting game as the U.S. falls into the bottomless quagmire of Middle East politics and self-destructs, like a giant with clay feet. Well aware of the Cheney strategies of tension to split Arabs and Iranians, President Ahmadinejad’s approach is diplomatic. Instead of falling into the new architecture of the Americans to play a Sunni Arab-U.S.-Israel coalition, the Iranian President knows that the Muslims have created a united front against Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and in Palestine. So, if Iran were threatened, there would be revolt in Arab streets. The Iranians can thus be confident of Arab support crossing the sectarian Shi’ite-Sunni divide.