Only time will tell how far George W. Bush succeeded in achieving the goals of his marathon trip to the region. Will his promise to give the Palestinians a sovereign state within a year heal some wounds? Will his attempts to galvanise Gulf support to tame Iran bear any fruition? Will Iraq remain manageable with the present troop level till the time he leaves office?
Keeping in view the current situation in Iraq, Occupied Territories and the Gulf, progress on any of the three fronts is next to impossible unless drastic changes are made in Washington’s Mideast policy.
That Bush chose Israel as his first stop of the tour speaks volumes about his closeness to the Zionist state. Common sense says that Saudi Arabia should have been the starting point of his itinerary for the simple reason that every Arab country looks to Riyadh in the hour of crisis. The powerhouse of the Arab world, the House of Sauds has an inevitable role in resolving major Arab issues.
If George Bush was serious about salvaging whatever is left of his credibility in this part of the world, he should have also felt the pain of the Palestinians. He should have also shed a tear or two for innocent victims of Israeli barbarity as he did while visiting the so-called Holocaust memorial. But how could he do that? It was the green light given by him to Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert in the last five years, which emboldened the Jewish state to wreak havoc.
Tel Aviv went berserk with the long rope given by the US and blew up popular resistance leaders like Abdulaziz Rantissi and crippled wheelchair-bound Sheikh Yassin in cowardly air strikes. Israeli troops shot protesters, razed houses, arrested teenagers, MPs and even the elected Speaker of the Palestinian parliament with impunity and Washington backed the aggression of the worst form.
And see the contrast. When it comes to the excesses allegedly meted out to non-Arabs, a teary-eyed Bush stops in front of an aerial photo of Auschwitz and tells Condoleezza Rice that the US should have sent bombers to prevent the extermination of Jews there. How many more Palestinians should fall prey to the Israeli shelling before Mr President feels the same anguish and agony? Why could he not utter a single word in condemnation of Israel’s brutal use of force against defenceless Palestinians? Is the Israeli blood thicker than that of the Palestinians? No wonder, Bush left Palestine without a breakthrough.
It’s an open secret that the Americans have been itching to level Iran for its nuclear defiance as it compromises Israel’s security. And the slightest threat to the US-transplanted thorn in the Arab flesh gives Israel’s guardian sleepless nights thousands of miles away. Even a US intelligence report made public last month said Tehran halted a covert nuclear weapons programme in 2003, but Dubya cannot help demonising the rising giant in Israel’s backyard. He still insists: “A country that once had a secret programme can easily restart a secret programme.” Neo-cons must know that there are no takers for their leader’s rants.
As Washington’s ill luck would have it, the six-nation Gulf bloc is united against any outside incitement against their friendly neighbour. Iran and the GCC states have decades-old, time-tested and unshakeable ties. Gulf rulers trust Ahmadi Nejad so much so that plans are afoot to set up civil nuclear plants in the region with Tehran’s help.
When the US army finds it impossible to clean the mess they created in Iraq four years ago, Iran’s support to militants is conveniently blamed. But they always fail to provide evidence to substantiate their claims.
Bush said his build-up of troops one year ago has turned Iraq into a place where “hope is returning,” and he predicted a long-term engagement that would outlast his presidency. He said long-term success in Iraq is vital to stability in the Mideast, and warned that the United States should not turn its back on its friends. One does not know whether to laugh or cry over this preposterous perception of a volatile situation. Peace will remain a distant dream as long as the occupation forces are in the country. Washington lost nine men-in-uniform in one day three days ago and the US toll is about to touch the 4,000 mark – so much for efforts to establish peace.
Bush has to race against time. Only nine months are left. He has to take painful U-turns. Call home troops. Contain Israel. Ensure a viable Palestine state with defined borders. Let Iran live in peace. And he will see the peace Nobel waiting for him in 2009.
[The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]