3/21/2005

Divide and conquer in the Middle East

From Linda Heard of the Online Journal:
Six weeks after the (Iraq) election, the names of the new prime minister and president haven't been officially declared...so what we have here is more like a horse-traders' arena than a united country on the brink of democracy. In short, the non-secular Shiites would like a state based on Islamic (Sharia) law; the Kurds want to re-establish their autonomy, and control the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, while the Sunnis largely feel shut out. As for the United States, it wants a leader on the lines of Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, someone who will publicly go down on bended knees to beg its 150,000 soldiers to stay on and support the idea of 14 permanent US bases. Secular Shiite, former Baathist and CIA mole Eyad Allawi was the perfect candidate and, according to an Iraqi diplomat, he had more or less been promised a continuance of his job as prime minister. However, given that his list came in an unexpected low third in the polls, this was easier said than done. Allawi, who dashed off to meet with Kurdish leaders in an attempt to forge a coalition gets full marks for persistence though...Whatever the outcome, Iraq remains ideologically divided, giving the United States free reign and a perfect pretext to remain "so as to ensure security." It is a similar story in Lebanon. Whereas most Lebanese are glad to see the back of the Syrians and want their independence, the hasty Syrian departure leaves a power vacuum, which the Americans may be only too happy to fill. According to Wayne Madsen, a Washington-based investigative reporter, writing in Online Journal, the assassinated opposition leader and billionaire entrepreneur Rafik Hariri opposed a proposed US airbase in northern Lebanon. Madsen writes that although the Pentagon hasn't received an official okay from Lebanon, it has already awarded a contract to construct the base to Jacobs Engineering Group of California. He maintains the air base "is reportedly to be used as a transit and logistics hub for US forces in Iraq and as a rest and relaxation location for US troops in the region. In addition, the Lebanese base will be used to protect US oil pipelines in the region . . . as well as to destabilise the Assad government in Syria." As we saw from the recent massive pro-Syrian, anti-US demonstrations in Beirut, organised by Hezbollah, the White House may be playing with fire. Lebanon has long been a democratic country-or as democratic as one can be under a succession of occupations-with a constitution carefully drawn-up on demographic lines. If that fine balance were tipped, the country could once again become a sectarian battlefield. On the other hand, perhaps this is the idea. After all, a genuine democratic, free and peaceful Middle East, which includes Israel, would spit out foreign soldiers and their bases. An EU-style union might even be formed over time, rich with ideas, technology, intra-trade and most importantly, oil and gas, which it would be free to sell to emerging powers in any currency it saw fit. Far fetched? Maybe so, but nevertheless, I suspect the above scenario is one which the Strauss-cons and their fellow ideologues in the US administration will do just about anything to deter.

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