This is excellent article and I agree with what Patrick Seale has written.
A regional security pact to calm the Middle East
By: Patrick Seale
2007-05-12The failure of the Bush Administration’s Middle East policy is now so catastrophic as to pose a danger to international peace and security. It is high time the United States stepped aside and turned the region’s problems over to local powers.
What can be done? In my view, Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s real heavyweight, should join its Gulf partners in offering Iran a wide-ranging security pact. The Arabs would guarantee not to allow their territory to be used for a U.S. attack on Iran, while Iran would guarantee not to use Shi‘a communities to destabilize the existing political order in the region.
Such a pact could help stabilize Iraq and cool Sunni-Shi‘a tensions. It might even be the only way to persuade Iran to give up whatever ambitions it may have to acquire nuclear weapons.
At the same time, Egypt should be given a wide Arab mandate and massive international backing — from Europe, but also from China, Russia and India, as well as the United States —to sell the Arab Peace Initiative to the Israeli public as a matter of urgency. This offers Israel peace with the entire Arab world if it withdraws to its 1967 borders and allows the creation of a Palestinian state.
The situation is grave because of America’s deplorable record. Its smashing of Iraq —for fabricated and fraudulent reasons — has led to a strategic, political, and human disaster unparalleled in the modern history of the Arab world. The United States has itself paid a heavy price for its criminal folly, but not nearly as heavy as that paid by the wretched Iraqis whose collapsed state has opened the door to a hell of utter lawlessness.
America’s destruction of Iraq has shattered the balance of power between Arabs and Persians, which for centuries was a key to the region’s stability; it has created an Iraqi refugee problem of mammoth proportions, matched only by that of the Palestinians driven from their homes by the creation of Israel in 1947-48; and it has ignited a cruel civil war between Sunnis and Shi’a, which threatens to set the region on fire.
The United States should get out at the earliest opportunity before it does more damage still.
Originally aimed at eliminating Al-Qaeda and its Taliban hosts, America’s war in Afghanistan has turned into a doomed struggle with the powerful Pathan tribes which dominate the east and south of Afghanistan and straddle the frontier with Pakistan. These are the men now fighting under the revived Taliban banner.
The unfortunate President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan (whose minister of interior was nearly killed by a suicide bomber last week) is caught between American pressure to prevent cross border infiltration into Afghanistan and the natural instincts of the fighting men in Pakistan’s tribal agencies to rush to the aid of their tribal brothers in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, much of Afghanistan is raging against America and its puppet government in Kabul for the ghastly casualties inflicted on the civilian population by indiscriminate U.S. air strikes and other abuses.
This is a war America’s NATO allies should never have joined. Far from eliminating “terrorism,” the war in Afghanistan, like the war in Iraq, has become a “terrorist factory,” creating whole armies of men bent on revenge for what America has done to their shattered societies.
The way to defeat Al-Qaeda —essentially a parasitic body feeding on other people’s conflicts —is to put an end to these wars, not to expand them. The urgent priority is not to stoke the fires of war but to lower tensions as much as is humanly possible and bring about calm and security so as to allow much-needed reconstruction to begin.
In Iran, the United States is in danger of making an even graver mistake than in Iraq and Afghanistan. It began by handing Iran two precious gifts: the (temporary) defeat of the Taliban and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. This freed Iran from old enemies and potential threats on both its flanks, allowing it to emerge as a leading power in the Gulf, with extensions into the Levant by means of the Tehran-Damascus-Hizbullah axis.
The United States and its Israeli ally then took fright at this new challenge to their regional hegemony and have sought to put the Islamic Republic back in its box. They have together mounted a world-wide campaign to isolate Iran economically and politically, threatening it openly with armed attack.
As a “message” to Iran, the United States has sent two powerful carrier battle groups to the region and — again with enthusiastic help from Israel — has sought to undermine Iran’s banking system and starve it of international credits by pressuring major banks to stop dealing with it. These are illegal actions, which go far beyond the sanctions authorized by U.N. Resolutions.
In demonizing Iran, the United States and Israel have focussed primarily on its nuclear program, portraying it as an “existential threat” to Israel and a danger to the entire world. This is dangerous propaganda with little basis in fact.
Iran is many years away from being able to manufacture atomic weapons, even if it wished to do so, which is by no means clear. It is perfectly entitled to the peaceful uses of nuclear power under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which it has signed but which Israel, India and Pakistan have not.
It is worth recalling that the possession of nuclear weapons can protect a country against attack, but that such weapons cannot be used against more powerful enemies without risking national extinction. I do not believe the Iranians are contemplating national suicide.
The present American and Israeli position is that they will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. That is what they say. But what does it mean? What if Iran enriches uranium for peaceful purposes, as it is entitled to do under the NPT, but stops well short of a military program? Will the United States and Israel go to war to prevent that? It would be a catastrophic error.
There is hardly a corner of the region where U.S. policy has not spread mayhem. The latest victim of its diplomacy is Somalia, where the Ethiopian intervention it encouraged has caused a bloodbath and enormous human misery.
Last summer, it encouraged and supported Israel in its all-out war against Lebanon —a gross overreaction to a relatively trivial border incident.
The result has been to demonstrate Israel’s vulnerability to missiles and asymmetric warfare, to dent the deterrent capability of its army, to demoralize its population and expose its leaders as a bunch of incompetent and morally-dubious politicians.
The United States has followed Israel’s lead in seeking to undermine Hizbullah, the victor in the Lebanese war, and to boycott Hamas, the victor in democratic Palestinian elections. It has thus made bitter enemies of two popular and deeply-rooted resistance movements, which have sprung up in response to Israeli aggression and occupation.
Instead of urging Israel to make peace with its neighbors —the only long-term guarantee of its security —Washington has funded and turned a blind eye to its occupation and settlement of Palestinian and Syrian territory and has provided political cover for its aggression against Lebanon and for its extraordinarily brutal treatment of the Palestinians.
There is now serious talk of a third intifada, which would set the desperate Palestinian territories alight and carry death and destruction into Israel itself.
On a visit in April to the West Bank, Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Assistance, noted that the situation in the territory had never been worse. Some 60 per cent of the population is living below the poverty line on two euros a day or less. Some 35 percent of the population — 1.3 million Palestinians — are going hungry. More than half the children suffer from anemia. A quarter of the population have no access to drinking water. Hundreds of Israeli check points rule out any possibility of economic development, reducing the population to a situation of permanent siege and permanent terror. Does Israel’s security justify such measures, Louis Michel asked?
Is it not time regional powers took their destiny into their own hands, free from external, and specifically nefarious American, interference?
Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of “The Struggle for Syria;” also, “Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East”; and “Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.” Copyright © 2007 Patrick Seale
Source : The Arab American News.com