Worst is yet to come as US pays price of failure

4 June 2004, David Hirst, The Guardian


So in Iraq and Palestine, more obviously than anywhere else, the US has directly or indirectly empowered the very forces - Islamist and nationalist, populist, violent and fanatical - it came to quell, because that is where western interference has gone further than anywhere else.

But such forces are also the progeny of the moral and political bankruptcy of Arab governments, which - in addition to their strictly domestic shortcomings - have collectively failed in what should be the basic duty of any state, the defence of land, people and sovereignty against foreign assault and domination.

From that standpoint, the Islamists, or "Islamo-nationalists", are simply non-state actors who have assumed that duty themselves, with jihad, terror and suicide as their means. A Palestinian scholar said: "They are profiting from a climate in which the Arab masses' greatest joy is to see the US invasion of Iraq becoming ever more painful."

Al-Qaida, the quintessential expression of pan-Arab, pan-Islamic outlook and action, is the most fearsome of those profiteers. America has turned Iraq into the perfect arena for conducting the pan-Islamic struggle against the western infidel and the "apostate" Arab order.

Lebanon's Hizbullah is strictly local in origin and membership, but it enjoys greater region-wide prestige than al-Qaida, because it confined itself to fighting - and besting - Israel in a classical guerrilla war which few but Israelis and America classified as terrorist. It now regards Iraqi resistance as accessory to its own.

Increasingly accused by the Israelis of aiding and abetting Palestinian Islamists, and of accumulating a vast new firepower, it is ready and waiting for a cross-border conflagration; but it wants Israel to start it, so that its re-entry into the jihadist arena is legitimate as well as spectacular.

Iraq cannot but hasten the day. Last week, breaking new ground, the Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced that the struggle against Israel and America was one; he only awaited the call from his Iraqi brethren to join the latter.

An American failure will give also free rein to a whole other category of non-state forces. Some are Islamist too, and hostile to the US, but their defining characteristic is that they are ethnic or sectarian, and hostile to each other. The danger is anarchy and civil war, Lebanese-style.

In 1990 Arab regimes finally put out the Lebanese fire that threatened to burn them all.

But Iraq will be a Lebanon writ large. So pivotal a country at inter-communal loggerheads with itself will infect a whole region replete with potential conflicts. Kurdish disturbances in Syria, stirrings among Shias of the Gulf, are premonitory tremors of convulsions to come.

The flow of oil and the security of Israel are fundamentals of US policy in the Middle East. As its soaring price portends, the spread of the Iraqi contagion to the Gulf will pose a real threat. As for Israel, an American debacle will be very disturbing indeed.

Complete article: Worst is yet to come as US pays price of failure

No comments:

Post a Comment