Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The road to peace leads through Tehran? Bush in the Middle East:

News Item:

"U.S. President George W. Bush arrived in Israel Wednesday as part of a nine-day visit to the region to boost stalled Mideast peace talks. . . 'We seek lasting peace. We see a new opportunity for peace here in the holy land and for freedom across the region,' said Bush while standing on the airport tarmac. 'We will discuss our deep desire for security and freedom and for peace throughout the Middle East.'" [CBC.CA]

W. and Condi are off on the first leg of their awesome adventure to the Middle East; first stop Israel. W.'s selling the story that he's confident Israel and the Palestinians will have come to some sort settlement for the creation of a Palestinian state by the time he leaves office, "I'm an optimistic guy," W. says. Ha!

As I remember it, he was also an optimistic guy when it came to the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East, the elections in the PA in 2006 that put Hamas into power and the outcome of the mid-terms in November 2006; just to name of few famous predictions from the Decider that went horribly wrong.

W. & Co. seems to think all he has to do is say some optimistic sounding stuff and --voilĂ  -- a new reality is created. Sure, he's done precisely nothing about the Arab/Israeli conflict the past seven years -- beyond giving Israel carte blanch to do whatever they feel like doing and re-arming them when they shot their wad in Lebanon -- but now with just over a year to go in office, just because W. says so, everybody in the region is just going to fall into line and accept whatever Israel wants.

In return for selling the Palestinians out, however, the U.S. will assure that all the Sunni oil monarchies and authoritarian regimes in the region that they will be protected from the emerging Shiite threat posed by Iran with tons of U.S. arms and boat-loads of borrowed money.

Such a deal!

[Perhaps, King Abdullah will wall paper one of his new palaces with all those worthless greenbacks.]

W.'s arrival in the Middle East is the follow-up to that big meeting in Annapolis six weeks ago which was initially hyped as a ground breaking initiative that was going reanimate the fossilized remains of the "road map" and usher in a new era of peace, which would in turn would secure W.'s legacy as the great peace maker (or some such drivel). As a hint of how unpromising the prospects of any such thing actually coming to fruition were, before he even arrived, Ehud Olmert played down any expectations of anything positive occurring saying that just showing up would be a major achievement.

Of course, even that wasn't true. In the event, besides the photo-ops and W. mangling Olmert's and Abbas' names, all that came out of this elaborate hoax was a vague promise by Abbas and Olmert to keep talking. In effect, what resulted was the status quo: Abbas keeps flailing and Olmert keeps building settlements. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

The real story of the Annapolis meeting was the so-called memorandum of agreement, a deal made via video conference (totally under the radar), between W. and Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki to set up a process for the final disposition of the role of US forces in Iraq. By summer, as we withdraw a token amount of troops, we and the Iraqis will be codifying our legal status to stay in Iraq for decades to come. Naturally, unlike similar Status of Forces Agreements Congress this time will have no say in ratifying any such far ranging agreement that will lock this country, and whoever becomes president in 2008, into an open-ended commitment of blood and treasure to Iraq.

But, we're over Iraq, that's yesterday's news.

All eyes now are on the threat of Iran, the one thing the Arabs and Israelis can all agree on. If you listen to today's press conference in Israel most of what anyone wanted to talk about was Iran. The Iranians seem to have figured this out as well; they can read the writing on the wall.

The "incident" in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday between a few Revolutionary Guards fast-boats and three U.S. Navy warships seemed aimed at making the point to the rich oil Sheikhs in the region that Iran could really mess with the life-style they've become accustomed to if they throw in too eagerly with the U.S. ahead of W.'s grant arrival in their capitals.

Ironically, the revelation by the most recent NIE that Iran gave up their nuclear weapons program in 2003 has not only cut the legs out of Cheney's war plans, but it has also allowed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's opponents to become more bold. As the reality has set in that the Bush administration hasn't got a leg to stand on when it comes to threatening Tehran with either bombs or sanctions, Ahmadinejad has lost his best weapon to cow his more moderate detractors, the ones who favor a more nuanced and less belligerent approach to the West.

The Revolutionary Guards faction, who Ahmadinejad is a part of, apparently sensing this ebbing of their power, are attempting to ramp up the fear and regain their status, the best thing we could do is not allow ourselves to get suckered into some shooting incident in the Strait that could reinvigorate the whacko wing of the Iranian political labyrinth.

Of course, another more serious incident in the Strait is just the sort of thing the whacko wing of in this country, centered within the Veep's office, would love see happen. While Cheney & Co. probably hammered away about the threat of Iran's nukes before W. left, something tells me Olmert has prepared a pretty impressive power-point presentation for W. in Israel showing what the US intelligence community got wrong and what the Mossad got right.

Real men want to go to Tehran:

To me, this entire exercise W. & Co. are engaging in is laying the ground work for some sort of military adventure against Iran. He'll wrap up his charm offensive in the West Bank and then move on to Egypt with the check-book open, overlook his worries about how quickly a civilian nuclear program can be turned into a weapon's program, give Mubarak a fast track to a meeting at the IAEA -- say nothing about Ayman Nour, of course -- move on to the Saudis and assure them of our continued support for their fellow Sunni "concerned citizens" brigades in Iraq and then on to the Gulf States to promise the protection of the 5th Fleet no matter what happens and beg them to cling to the petro-dollar, despite the hole its burning in their pockets.

Once he's got all his ducks in a row he'll bide his time until probably the very second an new president is elected and then leave whoever it is with a big fat war to deal with as he skates out the door to do some brush clearing at the ranch and raise some more money for his presidential "lie-brary."



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