Saturday, July 29, 2006

When Mr Blair went to Washington

Bush and Blair are to table a UN resolution that possibly "could lead to a ceasefire" as early as next week. However - and I notice none of today's newspapers appears to have picked up on this point - Bush is seeking a Chapter VII resolution which endorses the possible use of force.

So he plans to end the war by threatening war.

Obviously it's impossible to know what they propose putting in this resolution as both men are so spectacularly vague when you put them on a press podium, and so easily slip into platitudes.

However, one thing is clear, this is not peace as you, or I, or any normal person understands it. From what I can gather from the tone of the press conference, this will be a resolution designed to save Israel's face and imply defeat for Hizbullah, Syria and Iran.

It will be a declaration of victory that the reality on the ground simply does not merit.

As they set out a vague plan for bringing a cessation of violence in the Israel-Lebanon conflict at a joint press conference in the White House, they repeatedly referred to the threat posed by Iran and Syria, and their links with Hizbullah.

Mr Blair said events such as the conflict in Lebanon underscored the "simple choice" faced by Iran and Syria. "They can either come in and participate as proper and responsible members of the international community, or they will face the risk of increasing confrontation," he said.
Again, the risk of widening the war is implicit in their threats.

Speaking of their plan for a peace deal in Lebanon, Mr Blair and Mr Bush set out a timetable that the prime minister said could lead to a ceasefire by next week. Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, is to return to the Middle East today to present the plan to Israel and Lebanon.

Her aim is to tempt Israel with a pledge to install the Lebanese army, backed by an international force, in southern Lebanon to stop Hizbullah rocket attacks and to tempt Hizbullah with the return of the disputed Sheba'a Farms area. Hizbullah will not have to disarm immediately.

Like so much of this proposal, quite who would volunteer to put their troops in the suicidal position between Hizbullah and the IDF remains spectacularly vague.

However, what Bush and Blair have singularly failed to do is to face up to the very real danger that this conflict could escalate. Indeed, from their statements yesterday, they appear to be waving a Zippo lighter above the straw in the barn and daring Syria and Iran to back off or they will light it.

Blair, far from being a supposedly sobering influence on Bush's policies, appears to have officially joined him in a policy best described as, "Bring it on!"

We must always remember that it need not have turned out this way. Israel could have easily done a prisoner swap at the beginning of this, and now Bush and Blair are risking escalation on an unprecedented scale simply to cover up for those Israeli mistakes early in the conflict.

Paddy Ashdown summarises it rather well in today's Guardian Comment:

Hizbullah may have started this with an outrageous breach of international law and a sustained and flagrant contravention of a UN security council resolution. But it is not Hizbullah's position that is weakening now. It is Israel's. Its stated war aim was to destroy Hizbullah. It is not clear why, having failed to do this by occupying Lebanon, it thought it could achieve it by bombing. But whatever its thinking, it has been unable to deliver the knockout blow that was its primary military aim.

From now on, Hizbullah does not have to win. It merely has to survive as a potent force - and it appears to be doing just that. Meanwhile the political damage done to Israel through miscalculation, overreaction and targeting errors is incalculable. But there is no comfort to be taken in the thought that Israel may be reaping the whirlwind it has helped to sow. A defeat for Israel and a victory for Hizbullah would have terrifying consequences for the Middle East, which would probably begin with regime change on a wide scale (but not the kind Washington looks for) and could end with the very battle for survival that Israel has always claimed that its use of military force was designed to avoid.

Alongside Israel's failure sits the failure of what I suspect was the strategy of Blair and perhaps Bush. The most positive construction that can be put on this is that they hoped Israel would weaken first Hizbullah and then Iran and Syria, and thus create the context for a wider Middle Eastern settlement, incorporating Palestine and easing our problems in Iraq. Israel's failure so far to achieve its war aims means that this strategy too is in danger of being frustrated.

The world should get very nervous when the US feels frustrated and Israel faces defeat. This is when miscalculations of even greater magnitude become even more possible. There are powerful voices among the neo-con Christian right - now very influential in Washington - that the US policy aim should be to use Israel's excesses to draw in Iran and Syria, so that the US could "take them down" as a prelude to reshaping the Middle East for democracy. This is the Clint Eastwood-style "C'mon punk, make my day" strategy. If it were adopted it would be bound to lead to a widening conflagration that would embrace the fragile tinderboxes of central Asia and goodness knows where beyond. I have to believe that no responsible government, in Washington or elsewhere, would follow such a path. But I wish I felt more sure in that belief.

As I have always argued, Bush and the neo-cons want a wider war with Iran and Syria and the proposed resolution sounds to me like a threat that, if Syria, Iran and Hizbullah don't accept these terms and back down - allowing Israel to claim victory - then such a widening of the conflict is exactly what they are going to get.

It is impossible to underestimate the danger of the situation Bush and Blair have now placed us in. The neo-cons are no doubt delighted to be so near to the wider regional conflict that they have long dreamed of.

However, you should be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it.

Click title for full article.

2 comments:

Mark said...

It's all part of the plan. The vast majority of Americans who are able to read now know this, and if they allow Bush and his nutjobs to continue getting their way in defiance of all that's human, they deserve their fate.

Kel said...

Mark,

It is terrifying. If Bush and his cohorts get their way the the whole of the Middle East will go up in flames. And from the way Israel have been faring so far, there is no guarantee that she would survive.

Therefore it is in the interests of even the neo-cons to stop this stupidity now.