Thursday, January 18, 2007

Return to Arab survival

By Azmi Bishara

".....Iraq was smashed to pieces because various Arab powers colluded with American designs and the Arabs that opposed this war were effectively isolated by force of the same collusion. Iran rose to the vanguard of the most vocal opponents to the war as a result of the official Arab stance, particularly that of the Gulf states, which could barely conceal their glee at the fall of the Iraqi regime beneath relentless bombardment and at the subsequent capture of Saddam Hussein. But what a different tune they were singing then in contrast to their recent protests against the execution of Saddam on the first day of the Feast of Sacrifice. What has happened in the interval to cause this remarkable about-face? On the one hand, the Iraqi resistance has proven its efficacy and durability. On the other, the boundaries of regional axes have gelled, and the members of one of these are pounding their chests and protesting the insult to their honour, now that they've realised that Iran was the foremost beneficiary of the dissolution of the Iraqi army and anti-Baath Party law which they had once cheered so rowdily. Not that these Arab officials went so far as to actually denounce Saddam's execution. They were just upset that it had been carried out on the first day of the feast. Which is worse. What this implies is that they actually approved of the execution and hoped for the opportunity to exploit it, themselves, to stir sectarian passions against adversaries who had nothing to do with the fall of the Saddam regime or his execution, such as Hizbullah and the Palestinian resistance.

At various points along the way, most importantly when the constitution came out, certain parties called into question Iraq's Arab identity and scoffed at those who protested the refutation of this identity. Not a single voice from Arab officialdom, which is now wringing its hands over Iran's gains from the decimation of Iraq, was among the protestors. And, today, instead of responding to Iran's (and America's) sectarian tactics with calls for Arab unity, Arab officialdom is busily fuelling Sunni anti-Shia sentiments. Nothing could be further from the spirit and behaviour of the Sunnis who had once rallied and still rally behind the call to Arab nationalism and unity.

In none of the other trouble spots that flared up or that were ignited in the Arab world is there sufficient endemic cause for full-scale internecine conflict......

In Palestine, for example, a particular faction might contemplate changing the government in a manner that would guarantee it hold over such key authorities as the ministries of interior, foreign affairs and security. Add these to the presidency, recognised by the government, and access to various sources of money and it becomes possible to strike an agreement with Israel through secret negotiations. It's all a question of time. Afterwards, of course, the agreement can be put to general referendum, and the best way to ensure that this comes out in favour of an unjust settlement is to choke off the people's access to food, release the grip gradually to give them a taste, and then let the people use their imaginations to draw the comparison between times under economic blockade and the times to come after it is lifted......

States that had never stepped foot in Lebanon before are now gate crashing into the country through the torn off doors and windows of Lebanese domestic politics, because suddenly they discovered that the way to America's heart is to sign up with the anti-Iran axis. Lebanon is the place to be.....

Syria managed to sustain good relations with both Iran and with the Gulf countries and, therefore, was able to act as a pacifying mediator between them. But rather than capitalising on this role, the partners to coalition politics are contributing to the isolation of Syria. Iran, for its part, should reassure the Arabs -- by which I mean Arab public opinion -- that it recognises the Arab identity of Iraq. It should further relinquish its vindictive policies and its collusion with vindictive practices in Iraq, the most recent manifestation of which was the disgracefully bloodthirsty execution of the president of an Arab state, beneath the axe of the occupation -- a savage act recorded and broadcast with such disgusting felicity that even Arabs who hated Saddam could not help but to feel insulted and degraded. The only way to restrain Iran is to establish a relationship with it that keeps the channels of communication and understanding over Iraq open. To do so, Arab regimes must reassure Iran that they are not colluding with the US against it, as they colluded with the US during the build-up to the war against Iraq......"

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