Morning Report 6/16/05The Middle East Heat


We can’t generate power in Iraq, but we turn up the heat on ourselves

© IWPR Iraqi Press Monitor


Cutting remark: In this June 9 cartoon in the Baghdad daily Al-Mutamar (courtesy of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting), an Iraqi man holds a paper that says “democracy.” Lodged in his back are the daggers of “poverty,” “oppression,” “wars,” and “sanctions.” Pointed at him are the daggers of “terrorism,” “occupation,” “corruption,” and “electricity.”

It’s called “Lebanonization.” Say it fast three times. Or, say it slowly. You’ll have plenty of time to practice, because that’s the ominous trend in Iraq: the hardening of the current chaos into a semi-permanent civil war between militias.

Even worse for the U.S. in the long-run: a hardening of Arab anger.

Writing from Amman, Michael Jansen brings up the subject in a trenchant commentary in this morning’s Jordan Times. He’s not talking about the current signs of progress in Lebanon. He means the deadly factional fighting between and among internal and external forces:

The ill-conceived Fallujah and Samarra campaigns against the resistance exacerbated Sunni anger and bitterness against the Shiites and Kurds because the US and its Iraqi allies did not deal with Shiite rebels in Najaf and Kufa with equal ferocity. These two communal militias are also being accused by Sunnis of attacking Sunni mosques, kidnapping and killing Sunni clerics, and staging raids on Sunni neighbourhoods in Baghdad in order to intimidate Sunnis into accepting the occupation and the US-backed government. This amounts to the Lebanonisation of the Iraqi communal scene, i.e., transforming it into an area of inter-communal conflict.

Meanwhile, the average Iraqi can’t get enough food or electricity. The latest State Department report shows that Iraqis have a little less electricity than they had right before the invasion—and 30 percent below the current demand. The countrywide average is about eight hours of power a day, and the true summer heat hasn’t even started.

But now that Paul Wolfowitz is on the job at the World Bank, things are happening. The State Department reports that the bank’s International Finance Corporation has just announced a $12 million loan to help the National Bank of Iraq lend money to “small business.” That should help stanch the flow of corrupt dollars and dinars.

It’s not the first time, of course, that the neocons have put money and resources in the wrong places and in the wrong hands.

As Jansen points out, we’re not helping matters now by helping the Kurds and Shiites fight the Sunnis:

Recently, US and Iraqi troops staged a joint raid on the Baghdad office of the National Dialogue Front, a leading Sunni umbrella organisation which has been trying to promote negotiations between the government and the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Mujahedeen Army, two key resistance organisations.

And the bigger picture is getting grimmer. Iraqis are sweltering, but we’re likely to feel the heat all the way back here in the USA. Read Jansen’s analysis and then tell me if you think the Bush regime is making us “safe”:

The reason Washington and its allies in Baghdad have not yet initiated serious dialogue with Iraq’s Sunnis is that they are determined to crush Arab nationalism, the main reason the US, pro-Iranian Shiite Islamists who dominate the government, and the Kurds went to war against the Baathist regime. It remained one of the two surviving proponents of Arab nationalism on the Arab scene.

As long as Arab nationalism is alive and kicking, there is no chance that Israel will be accepted by the Arabs as long as it remains in occupation of Arab land occupied in 1967. But if (and when) Israel were to withdraw from these territories, the Arab nationalists would be prepared to do a deal.

The neoconservatives who dominate the Bush administration do not seem to recognise this fact. They think of nothing but the interests of the current right-wing Israeli government. The US cabal—now deprived of its leader Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy defence secretary who is now president of the World Bank—is quite determined to wreck Iraq and destabilise Syria, the sole remaining advocate of Arab nationalism, as well as Iran, which sees Israel as its most dangerous enemy.

But by destroying secular Arab nationalism, the glue which held the Arab world together from the 1950s until the Iraq war in 2003, Israel and the US are ensuring that the unifying force in the Arab world—and perhaps the Middle East—will become militant Islam, which is totally opposed to talks, negotiations and any sort of peace deal with Israel, whether or not it retains or frees Arab territory occupied in 1967.

Which makes it all the more important for Americans to dive into the Downing Street Memo and related documents to try to understand how we got trapped in the Iraq debacle, so we can try to figure a way out. We can’t deal with Iraq without dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian death dance. And we can’t count on the Bush regime to handle that situation rationally.

For now, demanding information and answers about the Bush-Blair pre-war plot may at least give Americans enough knowledge to prevent the same schmucks who got us into this mess from continuing to control the White House and Congress.