The one thing that they are not short of in the Middle East is armaments, but that’s what they are getting. Yet more arms courtesy of G.W. Bush and no doubt his sidekick Dick C. With unexploded ordnance lying across the Lebanon, much of it hastily put down when Israel knew it was withdrawing, people are being killed and injured still by existing dangerous explosive debris.
According to the piece below from Jewish Voice for Peace much equipment lies rusting since there is no one trained in its use. The argument that the provision of arms will bring stability anywhere seems to be well tried and tested. Where though has it been shown to have worked? Certainly not in this region. The problem is not only has Bush learned nothing – we don’t expect that – but there is no sign that anyone anywhere in the present or prospective U.S. administration has cottoned on. The latest bright spark, Barack Obama wants to go into Pakistan all guns blazing. And Gordon Brown goes on intoning the “special relationship” and “shared values”. Not my values Gordon.
And now we learn that the U.S. have mislaid 190,000 weapons in Iraq which are probably in the hands of insurgents. How did that happen?
“This week saw the dramatic unveiling of the Bush Administration proposed Middle East arms deal. One is reminded of the long-held Republican refrain that “liberals solve problems by throwing money at them.” In this case, the Bush Administration is throwing weapons at a troubled region that is short on just about everything except arms.
The part of the deal that has drawn the most controversy is the proposed sales of $20 billion worth of weapons over the next 10 years to various Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia.. As Uri Avnery aptly points out, such sales to the Saudis and other Gulf states are for show–the equipment sits and rust for want of trained personnel to use them or people who know how to maintain them.
The idea behind this is that the Gulf states need to be strengthened in the face of the Iranian threat. To be sure, Iran has designs on regional hegemony, but the lessons of recent history are all too clear. By increasing the general lawlessness and chaos in the Middle East, Iran’s goals are served, not impeded. Flooding the region with arms inevitably leads to some of those arms getting into the hands of combatants, whether through intentional government action or not.
In order to appease Israeli concerns over the arms sales, the Bush Administration is boosting US military aid to Israel by 25% for the next 10 years. This is said to “maintain Israel’s qualitative advantage”, but in reality it is unnecessary for that purpose, as Israel’s advantage is already enormous and, in any case, the Gulf states are not capable of using the equipment they will get to maximum effect. What this all really amounts to is a huge subsidy, with the majority coming from US taxpayers, for the American arms industry. Nearly 75% of US aid to Israel (and this applies as well to all other military aid, including the $13 billion Egypt will get over the next 10 years) must be spent with American corporations.
It is no coincidence that at the same time the Bush Administration is bringing forth this arms deal, the Saudis have offered to attend a US-sponsored peace conference with Israel, an outcome that Ehud Olmert has been virtually obsessing over since the Arab League reissued its peace proposal in the Spring.
The Saudis said their participation would depend on being substantive, dealing with solutions, not form. Condoleezza Rice obliged, offering both a US endorsement of the Arab League plan as a foundation for talks and also pushing Israel toward more, though unspecified, actions to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas.
This is a continuation of Bush Administration strategy which attempts to unify all of its allies in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states) against the emerging Islamist alliance (Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas along with the secular Syrian government and scattered Shi’ite militias and activist groups throughout the region).
Confrontation, Not Diplomacy
The basis of Bush Administration strategy is to avoid diplomacy at all costs. No doubt, Hamas’ own inability to compromise with Israel and deal realistically with Israel as a permanent fact helps this strategy. But equally true is that Hamas’ rejectionism is more than matched by the US and Israel, and this is a strategy that is increasingly being questioned, most recently by former Mossad chief, Efraim Halevy.
The refusal to talk with Iran, and the refusal to talk with Syria (a refusal which has gone so far as to see the US forbidding Israel to negotiate with Syria) are factors pushing the region toward greater instability and toward war. It cannot reasonably be defended as a measure to support Israeli security when it is clearly endangering Israel and Israelis.
Fatah as well is caught in this game. While there have been reports of quiet negotiations between Hamas and Fatah the US has made it clear that such talks are completely unwelcome.
Where can this strategy possibly lead? Palestinians on the West Bank will not simply forget their friends and relatives in Gaza. It is widely understood that Hamas represents a minority of Palestinians, but a significant minority. Recent polls (as cited in last week’s edition of this newsletter) may show that Hamas’ popularity has declined, but they still represent somewhere between a quarter and a third of Palestinians. This cannot be ignored, and indeed, even the mainstream US press is taking notice of what should be obvious to everyone.
It is simply impossible to reach an agreement worth more than the paper it is written on without the full participation of all segments of Palestinian society. While it’s true that all of Hamas’ statements have rejected any recognition of Israel, we have not yet seen what results engagement with them could yield. Many other groups have changed their tune due to engagement and negotiation. We know that Hamas needs to see itself as a popular movement and that the Palestinians in the west Bank and Gaza overwhelmingly endorse honest and productive negotiations. Since the strategy of isolation and segmentation is an obvious dead-end, why not try the equally obvious alternative?
Similarly, a recent poll in Syria shows clear support for peace with Israel in exchange for the return of the Golan heights as well as overwhelming support for working with the US to resolve the siege of Iraq. Given the amount of bloodshed these developments can preclude, it is unconscionable that they not be pursued.
In the Palestinian Territories
The Gaza Strip continues to boil, even while Hamas has established control, with several reports portraying that control as iron-fisted. The International Crisis Group reports on arbitrary arrests, torture and deaths in custody as well as ongoing attacks on Fatah members. There are also reports that Gazans are expecting further factional conflict, this time between Hamas and Islamic Jihad, (reported in Al Hayat, available only in Arabic) while the ICG asserts both coercion and negotiation as tactics Hamas is using against other, smaller factions.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has publicly issued a complaint about the harassment of one of its lawyers in Gaza by the armed wing of Hamas. The incident happened when the lawyer was investigating other allegations against the Hamas rulers in Gaza, including that armed Hamas militias were operating detention centers outside of the legal jurisdictions, and that torture and other forms of mistreatment were occurring.
Meanwhile, two incidents in the West Bank reflected the daily reality of occupation for Palestinians. A water tank and tractor were confiscated because a shepherd had ventured slightly off course, according to the IDF. The area in question was declared a closed military zone and the people living there required to leave in 2006. Some of this land was privately owned, and the residents have tried legal methods to remain there.
In another incident, settlers attacked a UN car. The settlers claimed the UN personnel, at least one of whom was an Israeli Jew and who were accompanied by a Ha’aretz reporter and photographer, were trying to uproot their olive trees. The attack was rather violent, with the first man to approach the car smashing the windshield and sending glass into the eye of the driver. The settlers were eventually driven off by an army patrol called in by the reporter, and were questioned by police.
These are small incidents, but they are also routine. It is precisely these sorts of things that breed the unhappiness, reinforce the resentment among Palestinians and add fuel to the fire of a conflict that needs no such contributions.”
Source Jewish Voice for Peace News Round up 5/8/2007