Bill Totten's Weblog

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Politics of "Appeevement"

Is There a Method to Bush's Middle East Madness?

by Rannie Amiri (October 22 2007)

Over the past several weeks, the United States has gone out of its way to offend, irk and otherwise provoke a select group of leaders and nations. Through a series of deliberate and calculated actions intended to purposefully estrange those most likely to succeed at diplomacy with Iran, its failure has been ordained and the stage for military action set. For those who think the upcoming war will be another Bush-Cheney folly (as they believe Iraq to be), the collusion of the Democrats in the process again belies that assumption.

The groundwork was laid in September, when the Senate overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging the State Department to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard a "foreign terrorist organization" - the prerequisite term needed to justify the use of force and the first ever such characterization of a governmental entity.

The Iranian parliament responded similarly, labeling the CIA and US Army in kind for everything from use of atomic weapons in World War Two to the killing of civilians in Iraq [surprisingly omitted was mention of the CIA's role in orchestrating the 1953 coup of the democratically elected Iranian president, Mohammad Mosaddeq. This led to the installation of the Shah, whose rule was ruthlessly enforced by the Israeli-trained mercenaries of SAVAK, until the Iranian Revolution of 1979].

Defying all rational thought, Bush then had the audacity to certify the opposite of Saudi Arabia last week; calling it an "anti-terrorism ally cooperating with efforts to combat international terrorism" it allows the United States to allocate additional monies to the Kingdom.

Although purported Iranian support for Shia militant groups in Iraq may be nominally true, there can be no doubt of their desire to see a stable government run by fellow Shia Muslims succeed. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has done its utmost to see it fail. The early stages of the post-Iraq conflict witnessed the influx of thousands of militants bent on exporting the radical Sunni version of Islam, inspired and funded by Saudi Arabia, into the country. Suicide bombings, mass marketplace carnage and destruction of religious shrines have been hallmarks of these religious extremists and Sunni Iraqi nationalist groups which Saudi Arabia likewise supports. As if to officially sanction such violence, Saudi clerics even issued a fatwa calling for the demolition of all the Shia holy shrines in Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala. This makes the above Senate resolution and presidential "certification" all the more extraordinary.

Quite artfully, the United States has also made sure a peaceful and reasoned solution to the Iranian nuclear question never takes place, primarily by alienating both Russia and China. For should they become so disillusioned with the United States that they veto further punitive measures leveled against Iran at the UN, they will have conveniently left Bush and the Democrats "no other alternative but ..." the use of force.

And indeed this has been the case. Russian President Vladimir Putin, recently completing a trip to Iran as part of the Caspian Sea Summit, is still seething at United States plans to install a missile defense system in Russia's backyard through placement of interceptor missiles in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic. This comes atop another American initiative to build an oil and gas pipeline through Caspian Sea countries yet bypass Russia.

To raise China's ire, Bush decided to hold a public meeting with the Dalai Lama - the first ever by a sitting US president - and award him the Congressional Gold Medal. This prompted the enraged Chinese to summon the US ambassador in Beijing for an explanation, further escalating tensions. But was this a genuine show support for the Dalai Lama or just a good opportunity to poke a finger in China's eye?

In the midst of worsening Russian and Sino-American relations, Congress decided to get into the act and rile the Turks by proposing a resolution calling the killing of 1.5 million Armenians during World War One under the Ottoman Empire an act of genocide. At the hint of it being brought up for a vote, Turkey recalled its ambassador to Washington and passed a parliamentary resolution the same day authorizing the incursion of Turkish forces into Iraq to combat the PKK. If it was possible to inflame the sensitivities of yet another country which might provide needed diplomatic leverage with Iran, the United States did well to take advantage of it.

So there you have it. The friend of a friend has been declared the enemy and the enemy of a friend a great ally. In a matter of weeks, the United States quite intentionally miffed the Russians, Chinese and Turks under the guise of defending Europe, upholding human rights and suddenly decrying an historical tragedy. This assures their cooperation on Iran will be made all the more difficult and gives the United States the pretext it needs to act unilaterally and likely, militarily. An ingenious, yet diabolical, plan.

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on the Arab and Islamic worlds. He may be reached at:

Bill Totten


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