Can Bush Succeed in Facing the Iranian Role In Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon?
Raghida Dergham Al-Hayat - 01/12/06//

New York - There are some indications suggesting that US President George W. Bush has grasped the nature of the intertwined issues of Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon and the need for his administration to swiftly find solutions for these issues concurrently, but without necessarily linking them together.
Challenges faced by Bush in the Arab region today are not limited to the doubts of the anti-American camp, but also the doubts of the other camp that fears the boomerang effect of the US promises in the name of realism; turning sweet-talk into poison that kills those who believed these promises.
Hence, after his talks in the Jordanian Capital this week, the US President needs to lay down the mechanisms to implement the commitments he has pledged toward Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq, especially since he voiced his refusal to allow Iran to steer these three files, and his refusal to bow to its diktat and the diktat of radicalism in these three spots.

Jordanian King Abdullah II was keen to achieve scrupulous coordination with key Arab countries in the region and with parties concerned with these files before receiving the US President in Amman and before Bush's meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

King Abdullah highlighted the threat of civil war in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, and significantly contributed in broadening and deepening the understanding scope of the US regarding the prerequisites for dealing with what is currently taking place in the region.

The timing of King Abdullah's contributions is in itself of immensely important significance, as it comes amidst a flow of media reports pointing to the resolve of the Baker-Hamilton commission to recommend that the US administration seek Iran and Syria's assistance in Iraq in return for something or the other.
The Arab message which the US President received via the Jordanian King was the following: Making mistakes now in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine will reduce the region and US regional interests to rubble. The ranks of moderation, both public and popular, will completely collapse and will not find a space anywhere if the US administration yields to the diktat of extremism emanating from Tehran and addressed to, and at the expense of, the Arab arena. Losing control of the ongoing situation in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq will dangerously and irreversibly destabilize the region.

The Palestinian Cause is the key to dealing with the region's broader issues and to saving Palestine from the blunders of terrorism, which comes at the Palestinians' own expense.

Lebanon is at this point a highly important arena for testing the international resolve and sound policies. Lebanon is also the front through which Iran and Syria are sending explosive messages. At the same time, they are both sending messages of pretended affection for Iraq.

On the Iraqi level, it has now become clear that the US President will not rush into withdrawing from Iraq, and that he has not taken the decision to abandon supporting Maliki. Bush is also not prepared to ask for Iranian or Syrian assistance, even if recommended by former Secretary of State James Baker in the upcoming conclusions and consensus of the team that took part in studying the US' strategic options in Iraq and the region.
The Bush-Maliki joint press conference, at the conclusion of their meeting in Amman, marked the US President's commitment to back the Iraqi Prime Minister and assist in his success. Bush spoke of Maliki as a "strong leader" whose "courage" is to be appreciated. He also said that he "appreciated (Maliki's) saying: " stop holding me back, I want to solve the problem." Bush added: "we will strengthen his government and support his efforts."

Bush underlined that "the success of the Maliki government is a fundamental and critical issue to the United States and to putting an end to extremism in Iraq." Referring to Maliki's critical remarks of the U.S position, President Bush said "One of his frustrations with me is that he (Maliki) believes that we've been slow about giving him the tools necessary to protect the Iraqi people. I told the Prime Minister that we are ready to make changes to assist better the unity government in Iraq and there are basic principles behind our strategy,"

Bush's statements entail a mea culpa and an adjustment of the impression that prevailed on the eve of his departure to Amman, due to a memo leaked from the White House, referring to distrust over Maliki's abilities to rule Iraq and control the situation.

Therefore, Bush was determined in stating that "We will support this government". He was also forceful in reiterating that the objective was the "unity" of Iraq and that its partition was not an option. His statement that "this business about the graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all", was remarkable.
The Jordanian King's keenness to consult with all the Iraqi parties concerned before Bush's meetings in Amman significantly served to disperse the notions of the so called "regional Sunni alliance", ascribed to ongoing Arab efforts in Iraq.

Concerned Arab parties, however, must double their efforts to assure Iraq's Shiites and the Shiites in their own countries that they are really adamant on producing a qualitative shift in their relations with the Shiites in order to be able to stop the sectarian unrest and to put an end to the ugly sectarian bloodshed. Perhaps it is high time for Arab and Muslim States, concerned about Iraq and its future fate to start formulating a comprehensive strategy for assisting Iraq in two phases: The current phase, which is now almost drained, and even despite the presence of US troops, and then the next stage to assist in maintaining security and order in Iraq after the withdrawal of US troops.

The last thing Iraq needs now is more incitement against its government and the US troops there, especially since the majority of Arabs believe withdrawing these troops will lead to greater devastation and deeper division, as well as result in dreadful regional repercussions.
Thus, it is in the interest of the Arabs to invest in Iraq, not only to fend off the Iranian hegemony and to reclaim it back to the Arab home, but also to restore the confidence of its people in Arabs, both peoples and governments.

What Iraqis need is the rehabilitation of Iraq in a way that would rid it from the toxins of frustration, hatred, extremism, and coercion so that Iraqis can lead a normal life.

Arabs are required to provide Iraqis with financial aid to rebuild and restore their social fabric, offer them jobs and education and help building an autonomous security apparatus, so that eventually Iraq can be a State, not a cluster of militias.
On of the most important Arab investment in fending off Iran's hegemony and ambitions over the Arab region is backing the State structures in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine in the face of the Iranian adoption of the militia structures.

This calls for huge investments, both Arab and international, that will eventually succeed in tipping the balance toward the side of the State not the militia.
The bulk of the ongoing US debate on the available options in Iraq is rather superficial and reflects the US' narcissism and its engrossment in its stalemate in Iraq, with a great deal of ignorance and neglect toward the reality of what would happen if the US admission acceded to the recommendations to take Iran and Syria for its partners in Iraq and to sanction and bestow legitimacy on a complete Iranian leadership of the Arab region.
So far, there are no indications that George W. Bush is prepared to yield to Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's address to the American people, in which he exhorted the Americans to turn on their government, describing the Bush administration as lacking legitimacy and morality, may have helped Bush face the media drive toward the option of yielding to Iran.

This address may also have influenced the Baker-Hamilton commission's recommendations, as the US governing institution absolutely rejects any contempt of the US presidency, incitement of the US people or interference in US internal affairs.
If this institution was ever to recommend a role for Iran, then it will be under clear conditions and within clearly defined guidelines and without any nuclear or regional incentives, unless such incentives come within a comprehensive and balanced strategic framework. Only then a different kind of dialogue could be conducted, and not a na´ve dialogue about incentives.

The US President addressed the Iranian role in the Iraqi, Palestinian, and Lebanese files. He said Iranians along with other extremists are seeking to nip the Iraqi democratic experience in the bud, and to abort the creation of a Palestinian State.

The Iranian President, for his part, made it clear in his address that he is against the establishment of a Palestinian State alongside Israel. He was unequivocal in rejecting the choice made by the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian People, namely: the Two-State option.

There are those among the Arab popular ranks who agree with Ahmadinejad and see in him a leader and a commander for the liberation of Palestine and the elimination of Zionism and Zionists. What they should do is read the history of Iranian-Israeli relations which characterized by deals struck behind closed doors.
They should also pay attention to Ahmadinejad's exploitation of the Palestinians' strife under the Israeli occupation as a commodity peddled for Iran's ambitions for regional hegemony.

As long as the Palestinian choice, embodied in the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people is the two-State option, then what the leaders of Iran are trying to achieve is no more than mere overstating and exploitation of the Palestinians and their just Cause. For if the leaders of Iran really want to liberate Palestine, let them declare war and open the fronts of their Syrian ally before the deluge of Arab and Iranian masses.

At the same time, the US President continues with his na´ve conviction that he is the first US President to speak of a vision of a Palestinian State, and that that is sufficient to distract attention over his blind bias toward Israel and his administration's pathetic contributions to what the Palestinian situation has now become.
Now, and before its too late, George W. Bush must pair his comprehension of the prevalent circumstances in the region with active and effective measures. For the region is no longer able to withstand new US mistakes, and is not sensitive to promises that are broken by "realism" or the continuation of the current status in the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

George W. Bush is now urgently required to correct his mistakes in Palestine, not only in Iraq. He is also strongly required to avoid committing any additional mistakes in Lebanon, for the atmosphere is anything but conducive to tolerating, dealing with, or turning a blind eye on mistakes.
Just as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in need for real support and an actual empowerment that can take the from of lifting the siege imposed on his people and resume serious negotiations with him, Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert also needs to be rescued from the predicament Israel is in because of its failed policies.

This means that it is high time for George W. Bush's administration to immediately come forward with mechanisms to implement the Roadmap, to establishing a Palestinian State with radical revision precluding provisions on Abbas to dismantle and disarm the Palestinian factions, and on the Hamas government to recognize Israel as a prerequisite and starting point, as neither Israel, nor Hamas have honored previous agreements.
Should there be a chance for Israel for a peaceful solution, then it should realize that it is better off having Hamas as a partner for the Palestinian Authority in any peace agreement.

Let the US administration abandon appeasing Israel and bowing before it, for it is high time now for Washington to seize the reigns of the initiative, as it is not only in its national interest but also enables reaching a just solution and achieving peace.
On the Lebanese level, the US President has made it clear that bartering with Lebanon is not an option and that he is not prepared to rehabilitate the Syrian hegemony over Lebanon in exchange for Syria's assistance in Iraq, nor appease its desperation to be America's ally in anything as long as it insists to keep hold of Lebanon.

Following Bush's Amman talks, sources described notions of dialogue with Syria as pure illusions and that the international disapproval of the Syrian role in Lebanon is growing and that Lebanon is not a commodity in the bartering basket.
It is a good thing that the US President grasps the intertwined files of Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. What is important, however, is that he understands the need for accelerating the resolution of each file in parallel and to immediately take the necessary measures in Palestine and Lebanon, since the Iraq is a longer story that needs to be dealt with now.