Something to consider before attacking
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Saturday, October 27, 2007
The main Middle Eastern issue being discussed in the US these days is not Iraq, Arab-Israeli peacemaking, or Turkish-Kurdish-Iraqi tensions, but rather what to do about Iran and its perceived threat to the region, the US and the world. The Bush administration sets a shrill and aggressive tone on this and is taking action, including this week's new sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, its Quds Force, and several banks.
Possible American moves against Iran should be considered in light of the 2001-2007 lessons of US-led wars to change regimes and remake national governance systems in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more indirectly in Palestine and Lebanon. This is not just a Bush-Cheney problem, but an all-American one, since most presidential candidates in both parties do not stray far from the administration's aggressive policy options.
The post-2001 experience suggests that American military attacks against Iran would probably result in more turmoil in the Middle East and Asia, and greater anti-American sentiments and actions around the world. The American-led wars and aggressive diplomatic stances vis-a-vis Iran, Hamas, Hizbullah and Syria have already generated two specific phenomena: widespread criticism of the US in public opinion around the entire world (see the recent BBC and Pew polls); and, a determination by many Middle Eastern actors to actively resist and defy the US, and militarily fight it (or its Arab and Israeli proxies) when such an opportunity arises in Lebanon and Iraq, rather than to react with the expected acquiescence and compliance.
The six-year-old US-led "global war on terror" has expanded terror networks and their threats, hastened weapons of mass destruction proliferation by assorted regimes, bolstered Arab-Asian dictators, weakened indigenous democracy movements, mangled nascent rule of law traditions, badly isolated and weakened the US diplomatically, and virtually nullified the deterrent power of American-Israeli military might. Attacking Iran will only exacerbate these trends in the short term.
Americans should grasp precisely why a US-led war on global terror has backfired, and isolated the US as much as the terrorists. The main reason, simply, is that every single aspect of Washington's "global war on terror" is perceived by the majority of people in the Arab-Asian region as reviving, reaffirming, expanding and accelerating all the negative Western policies that have devastated the people of the Middle East for nearly a century. Here is a quick summary list of these issues:
l From the days of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt two centuries ago to the birth of the modern Middle East state system at Euro-colonial hands a century ago, a steady stream of Western armies that invade, occupy and seek to remake the Middle East to suit Western strategic aims;
l European and now American policies that blatantly favor Israel at the expense of Arab rights, and turn a blind eye to Israel's continued colonization of Palestinian land;
l Persistent marginalization of Palestinian rights, and collusion in barbaric Israeli policies against the Palestinians, such as this week's Israeli move to cut electricity supplies to civilians in Gaza;
l Supporting autocratic Arab regimes and police states, and showing chronic disdain for the democratic aspirations of Arab citizens;
l Promoting the ethnic and sectarian division of the region in order to enhance American hegemony and Israeli control (why is the US today the only source of apparently serious proposals to divide Iraq into three smaller units?);
l Demonizing Islam and Islamic values, to the point where 75 percent of Arabs and Muslims surveyed recently express an astounding fear that the US actually wants to dominate or destroy Islam itself;
l Attacking any Arab or Islamic power or mass popular force that rises in the region, such as Nasser's Egypt, Baathist Iraq, Iran, Hizbullah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and others;
l Dictating economic, political, social, educational, and religious norms and values that should define Arab-Asian societies, and trying to enforce those values through military power and political force;
l Pursuing blatant double standards in implementing UN resolutions and international law, such as relating to Israeli occupation and colonization of Arab land, Iran's nuclear industry, recognizing or rejecting democratic elections, and other issues;
l Exploiting local leaders and movements to suit Western policies, then dropping these erstwhile allies and friends when they are no longer needed;
l Maintaining control of Arab-Asian natural resources, such as oil, gas and strategic geography.
This is what ordinary Arabs, Iranians and other Middle Easterners see when they hear about American plans possibly to attack Iran. This is not because people in the Middle East have fertile imaginations, but rather because this is the actual history that they have experienced for the past century at the hands of once colonial masters who have now turned into post-colonial and neo-colonial nightmares. They see America's "global war on terror" as a frightening renewal and continuation of foreign threats and predatory intrusions at the hands of powerful Western armies and political demagogues.
Rami G. Khouri is published twice-weekly by THE DAILY STAR.