Special Report: Middle East Tour 2002
Vol: 6 Issue: 21 Thursday, March 21, 2002
Special Report: Middle East Tour 2002
“One War At a Time”
Vice President Cheney learned a lot on his eleven-nation tour of the Middle East. His mission was to change Arab minds about supporting a US-led 1990’s-style coalition against Iraq. He learned that wasn’t going to work.
Ten years ago the Iraqi invasion was joyfully supported by Palestinian popular demonstrations carrying pictures of Saddam. Yasser Arafat paid a visit to Baghdad to express his solidarity with Saddam and the Iraqi people. Both kingdoms viewed Arafat s support as the double-cross that it was. After the war, both expelled their considerable populations of expatriate Palestinians to Jordan.
Jordan was forced to absorb hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The steady flow of cash back home from Palestinian expatriates working in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait dried up. Instead of sources of income, the expelled workers became a heavy drain on Jordan s meager resources.
Arafat embraced Saddam because Saddam promised to strike Israel. Given ten years to reflect, memories of Kuwaiti incubators dumped of their Kuwaiti occupants so the hardware could be sent back to Iraq fade against this noble purpose.
Considering the thirty-nine lashes administered against Israel by Iraqi Scuds in 1991 eases the Saudi royal family s hurt at knowing Saddam s next target after the rape of Kuwait was Riyadh.
The economic catastrophe visited on Jordan via Saudi Arabia and Kuwait caused directly by the joint actions of Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat are but a memory.
Israel s unqualified support for the liberation of Kuwait — characterized by her restraint in the face of the unprovoked Scud attacks is totally erased from the collective Arab memory.
Dick Cheney learned that none of these nations are willing to support Washington against Iraq. All they wanted to know was how much support Washington would give Yasser Arafat and the oppressed Palestinian people against the evil aggression and state sponsored terrorism visited upon them by the Israeli warmongers.
Attacking Baghdad Would Be A Disaster
Cheney learned in Jordan that the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan is only as valid as the shakiest cease-fire between Israel and her worst enemies.
King Abdullah of Jordan told Cheney that attacking Baghdad would be a disaster because the Middle East cannot support two wars at the same time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an American intervention against Iraq.
King Abdullah of Jordan is considered the most pro-Western Arab government in the Middle East. Jordan earned its pro-Western label, not be being necessarily pro-Western, but by generally being the last Arab country to join the various pan-Arab wars against Israel and by being the first to surrender at their conclusion.
In the same way, the Saudis earned their reputation of being pro-Western by only supporting those wars in secret, financing and encouraging the war effort but not actually contributing troops.
Egypt s Check Is In the Mail . . .
Cheney learned the Egyptians whose annual US aid check is second only to that doled out to Israel will only go as far as necessary to keep the checks coming. Hosni Mubarak told Cheney Egypt would only support military action if diplomacy fails .
Since diplomatic efforts with Iraq have been in a constant state of failure for ten years, Egypt s offer is meaningless and was worded so as to make that clear. Egypt decides diplomatic efforts have failed. Only then will it support military action.
We ll Call You If We Need You
The Arab nation that owes the most to Dick Cheney is the tiny kingdom of Kuwait. Kuwait was the object of Saddam s wrath. The atrocities inflicted on the Kuwait people during the occupation were medieval.
Washington swooped in like an avenging angel, swept Kuwait clean of Iraqi troops, restored their government, repaired their oilfields, returned their stolen property and earned Kuwait s undying ambivalence.
Cheney learned from Kuwait s foreign minister that even the supreme sacrifice offered by American soldiers for Kuwait s freedom doesn t buy loyalty.
At a joint news conference, Cheney stood glumly by as Kuwait s foreign minister announced that Kuwait is not in support of any military strike on Iraq before he went on to urge Cheney instead to put pressure on Israel.
Thank You For Your Support
Cheney also learned that America has two allies. Israel, whose support for US policy in the region, no matter how it affected them, has never wavered, and Great Britain, the only other nation on the eleven-nation tour not to give Cheney the bum s rush.
The Iraqi press immediately started crowing about its diplomatic victory. The Iraqi News Agency published a commentary proclaiming the Cheney diplomatic offensive a bitter disappointment for the evil American administration.
Cheney s Middle East Tour 2002 lays out the tactical reality, stripping away all the pie-in-the-sky political fictions about America s allies in the Middle East.
The Arabs can talk about peace. The Saudis can proffer peace plans and the Arabs can send emissaries to Arab gatherings to discuss ways to bring about a just and lasting peace , but when pressed, their true aims always surface. A just and lasting peace to the Arab mind means a Middle East without a Jewish state.
Having been the recipient of Saddam s tender mercies, Kuwait would prefer Saddam s Iraq on its doorstep to countenancing Israel s continued existence. It would rather back the same Palestinians who chanted in the streets carrying pictures of Saddam while Kuwait suffered under his heel.
Arab reaction laid bare the actual Arab blueprint for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East with undeniable clarity.
Plans Within Plans Within Strategies
But while Vice President Cheney seemed to be taking a diplomatic pounding, he was subtly weaving a diplomatic trap of his own. Cheney promised he d meet with Arafat in Egypt next week and would eventually restore Arafat to Washington s good graces. But that was the sugar coating covering a make-or-break ultimatum.
Cheney said all that would happen if Arafat made good on his promise to fully implement the obligations imposed on the PA by the Tenet Plan.
Innocuous as it seems, given the number of times it s been said before, Cheney s move was a brilliant diplomatic riposte. In diplomacy, timing is everything.
Zinni is in Israel, looking over Arafat s shoulder. His job is to report Arafat s progress to Cheney. The Tenet agreement requires Arafat to cease acts of war and terror and disband officially designated terror groups, including his own Fatah-Tanzim, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP.
To comply with Tenet, Arafat must also arrest its leadership.
Arafat will have to round up all illegal weapons, explosives, mortars and rockets. The PA is required to sever all its relations with terrorist groups abroad, including Hezbollah.
And Arafat will have to end all Palestinian incitement, especially the PA controlled media and educational system.
With Zinni watching his every move, Arafat will either have to comply with his signed agreement or lose the US entirely.
And if Arafat meets the terms of Tenet, his political, military and intelligence infrastructures will collapse.
The Cheney ultimatum to Arafat will either accelerate the spiral in the Middle East or it will end Saddam s influence in the region. If Arafat meets Cheney s ultimatum, Saddam will lose its forward line of defense against the US and eliminate any serious threat of opening up a new front in Israel.
In either case, Cheney s trip has effectively untied Washington s hands, making it possible for Washington and London to move unilaterally, if necessary. The next move is up to Arafat. And Saddam.