The Bush Administration recently and belatedly accepted the viewpoint of Arab governments that the continuation of the Israeli occupation is the main motive for the religious violence in the region and in the world, and that the blatant bias of the administration in favor of Israel is what enables Iran to infiltrate the Arabs of the east (Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine) and to direct them against the United States and Arab governments.
Within the framework of this vision, what are the results of Bush’s tour?
In order to facilitate the inference, it is possible to list the results from reading the expected developments in three spheres: Lebanon, the Gulf, and Abbas-Olmert negotiations.
Amr Musa is returning to Lebanon. If he continues to fail, this small Arab country will face one of two options: either it will be disregarded and the Lebanese will be left alone as President Mubarak says, or there will be a joint internationalization and Arabization of an imposed solution as France and the United States say. Or to put it briefly, electing Gen Michel Suleiman as president through the parliamentary majority, supporting his election with Arab legitimacy (the Arab League Council) and international legitimacy (the UN Security Council), and then convincing Suleiman that these two legitimacies guarantee his presidential legitimacy, even if he was not elected by Awn’s Christian deputies and the Shiite deputies.
Why has Amr Musa failed in Lebanon so far? This is because the long-serving diplomat is the victim of the inability of the Egyptian political mind, since the time of Abdul Nasser, to understand the complexities, puzzles, and philosophies of the Arab east mind. In Cairo, the “ewe” of Syrian diplomacy (Walid al-Muallim) has accepted the Arab solution. In Beirut, Amr Musa clashed with the Syrian-Iranian details! Musa proposed starting with the election of the agreed upon president, and when he proposed authorizing “President” Suleiman to play the role of arbiter between the “majority” and the “opposition,” Nabih Birri immediately referred the proposal to his ally Hassan [Nasrallah] of Hezbollah. Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah referred it to his ally Awn, the terrifying “Frankenstein” of Lebanon, who has been complicating the crises and hindering the solution for 25 years. The impossible solution that he proposes is to elect Suleiman as president for two years, and then he resigns; perhaps by then the situation will change and Awn will be elected president to replace Suleiman!
Amr Musa is similar to the Egyptian lover in the song of by Abdul Halim Hafiz, “The long journey has started. O how much I fear the end of the long journey!” This will be the case if President Bashar [al-Assad] does not rescue Musa’s Arab mission by giving the green light for “President” Suleiman. However, it seems that Bashar might accept the absence of senior Arab leaders from the Damascus summit next March, but he, Ahmadinejad, and Hassan Hezbollah do not accept to dispense with Awn, with whom the majority refuses to negotiate because of his crippling conditions.
Musa’s postponement of the demands and conditions of the opposition till after the formation of the new government has led to the obstruction of his mission. Iran-leaning Hezbollah wants presidential and governmental guarantees that its weapons will not be touched. Bashar wants a Lebanese Government that does not proceed with the formation of the international tribunal to try his intelligence officers who might face charges of involvement in the assassination of Al-Hariri in 2005.
Al-Qadhafi was smarter, because he sacrificed the junior intelligence officers to rescue his regime after he saw what happened to the Saddam regime. Bashar might sacrifice junior intelligence officers, but what will he do if the tribunal were to condemn senior officers of his intelligence institution? The decision will be tantamount to a sentence to ostracize the Syrian regime on the Arab and international arenas if he does not hand over those condemned to international justice.
Does Bush guarantee the protection of the Arab-international solution, which was first proposed by David Walsh, Bush’s envoy to Lebanon, who by the way is one of the extreme neo-conservatives still in the US Administration? Or will Syria and Iran blow up the current Lebanese no-peace-no-war state? The answer comes from the development of the US-Iranian relations following Bush’s visit to the Gulf. The Iranian lobby, which is strong and active in the US universities, media, and research centers, is calling for a negotiating dialogue with Iran. The lobby suggests that the US Administration should recognize the Iranian interests in the Arab east, “which cannot be disregarded,” especially after Iran’s agents and supporters have ascended to the seats of power in Iraq. This means that the United States should accept the Iranian infiltration of Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian religious organizations in exchange for Iran facilitating the solution in Lebanon, the installation of Gen Suleiman as president, and the formation of a coalition government that includes the supporters of both the west and Iran.
The proposals of the Iranian lobby have been met with strong opposition from the Jewish-Israeli lobby, because these proposals would place Iran (and perhaps together with its nuclear bomb) close to Israel in Lebanon and Gaza. The fact is that Bush’s policy toward Iran is extremely contradictory and ambiguous. I wrote these words before his address to the Iranian people last Sunday.
These contradictions and ambiguities anger the Arab Gulf countries. The Arabs do not forget that Bush handed Iraq to the supporters of Iran, and erased the Arab identity of Iraq, which historically used to constitute the wall protecting against Iranian infiltration. Bush’s credibility in the Gulf has been affected negatively. The Gulf does not trust the Bush Administration, and does not accept his advice.
All that the Gulf countries want from the United States is to constitute with its available force in the region a deterrent for Iran, which is in fact currently taking place and in existence. However, these countries do not want a US-Iranian war. The Gulf policy toward Iran differs from Bush’s policy. The Gulf countries engage in dialogues with Iran, and sometimes receive its president. However, Iran’s “Arabs” in the east have not realized yet the change in the policy of the Iranian “supreme leader.” The Arabs have demonstrated against Bush, and they want to “kill off” the United States! However, Iran does not pursue annoying the United States in the Gulf, and does not threaten the west by trying to control the Gulf oil, as the stupid Saddam tried to do repeatedly.
If Iran has really cancelled its nuclear program, there will be no pretext to strike at it. Khamenei himself hinted at the possibility of restoring the diplomatic relations with the United States. This also means that Iran might exert pressure on Syria to facilitate the solution in Lebanon. The reality is that there is a mutual exchange of roles between push and pull; however the solution in Lebanon will not be an urgent gift to Bush while he is in the region. This is unfortunately what Amr Musa had not realized when he mistimed his renewed mediation.
I do not know whether the hidden part of Bush’s visit has included issues that have not been announced: the low rate of exchange of the dollar, the continued pricing of oil in dollars, and the investment of the Gulf monetary surplus (2,000 billion dollars). There is a campaign by the bankrupt US banks and financial institutions in the Gulf to absorb the surplus and liquidity. If I may say so, it would be prudent not to hasten to rescue these institutions and invest in them after they have been turned into casinos for gambling and betting. If we must, it would be more appropriate to put a condition that the representatives of the Gulf institutions should sit on the boards of directors of these US institutions to monitor and benefit from the complex financial experience.
I have nearly forgotten the third angle of the Bush visit, the Palestinian one. Bush has spent more time in praising Olmert and visiting the museum of Jewish victims of the Nazi, “Yad Vashem” with the Jewish “cap” on his head, than he spent in his Christian prayers in Bethlehem. Bush wept in Yad Vashem, but there were no tears in his eyes when he saw the birthplace of Christ surrounded by settlements and cement walls. Bush promised to exert” light” pressure on Israel, but he did not promise to be decisive in the issue of the settlements.
What remains is his promise to reach a negotiated solution about ending the occupation and establishing the Palestinian state. It is similar to the promise by Joha [Khoja Nasruddin: an Arab mythical comic character] to teach the Sultan’s donkey to speak: Either the Sultan (Olmert) would resign, or the negotiations’ donkey would die, or the promises would be forgotten by the end of Bush’s term.