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Who are the two real threats to peace and security in the Middle East? Take the blinders off and see

By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse 


Make no mistake, the danger of terrorism intensifying and spreading is quite real and at hand and cannot be overstated. So is the danger of bloody military conflicts that could easily spin out of control with catastrophic regional and global impacts.


The culprits behind these realities are not the usual suspects we have been led to believe during the past five years of our so-called war on terror. The two sources of real danger, not only to the peace and security of the Middle East, but to the very security of the Western world, including the United States, are not even technically Middle Eastern countries; they are two states that flank the region - Israel to the West and Pakistan to the East.


Both Israel and Pakistan are our allies; Israel has been our permanent appendage for decades now, requiring tender care and attention, lest it erupts into an infectious appendix; and Pakistan has become an ally of convenience since September 11, 2001, serving our immediate interests in our hunt for Al Gha'eda. Each of these two regimes is doing everything it can to ensure continued U. S. support.


The Pakistani regime of General Musharraf has been involved in a daring and risky high-wire balancing act to defuse the well justified wrath of the post 9/11 U. S., maintain stability within the tribally volatile regions and, at the same time, establish some level of détente with its bigger and more powerful neighbour, India, over the problem of Kashmir. It hasn't been easy, and the pressure has been continually building up as the Bush administration is approaching its final bell with lots still unaccomplished, including especially the capture of Bin Laden and the destruction of his terror establishment among the powerful Pushtun tribe.


General Musharraf's recent statements made during interviews in connection with the annual UN gathering clearly indicate the mounting tension and concern over his own and his country's increasingly more precarious position. As President Bush has hinted, the American military would take direct action against the terrorist cells inside Pakistan should their locations be spotted, as this game of hide-and-seek has run its course for far too long. In response, Mr. Musharraf has left no doubt that any such military campaign must be conducted by the Pakistani forces alone. 


During an interview, General Musharraf also admitted for the first time that his agreement to cooperate with the United States in its war on terror after the events of 9/11 was obtained under the threat of military attack by the United States. In other words, he is letting the powerful and influential tribal leaders know that his seemingly traitorous pro-American alliance was necessary to protect them against what was to befall Iraq and Afghanistan. His recent truce with the newly energized Taliban insurgents who seek shelter inside Pakistan after causing problems for the Afghan regime is of great concern for the Afghan President Karzai and the international forces in Afghanistan.


In short, Pakistan is a time-bomb whose fuse has already been lit.


At this time, it matter little what the root causes of anti-West or anti-American sentiments have been or why Pakistan has become the breeding and training grounds for radical Islamic militancy against anything and anyone that does not follow the Wahabi version of Islam, be it the Christians, the Shi'a Moslems or the secular West. The fact remains that this ideology has been fermenting for decades among the independent Pakistani tribes who are funded by the like-minded Saudi billionaires who were even encouraged by the United States to support those Islamic "Mujahedeen", later the Taliban, to mobilize against the Soviets in Afghanistan.


It was also the Pakistanis who allowed advanced nuclear technologies to spread beyond their own laboratories and into the open market. Pakistan, as we know, is now a member of the nuclear weapons club and, unlike North Korea that only claims to have the bomb, Pakistan has already tested its bomb.  So, what do we really have here?


We have an unstable country of some 130,000,000 population, mostly tribal, and predominantly Sunni Moslems with strong Wahabi ties. No central government in Pakistan has ever been, or is likely to ever be, in full control of all this nation's powerful tribal constituencies. This is exactly why Bin Laden and the Al Gha'eda movement have remained so well protected and supported all these years. Any effort to crack down on these tribal strongholds would destabilize the government and lead to nationwide chaos.


Musharraf's military dictatorship, by its very nature, has had a much greater influence in maintaining a degree of stability in that volatile atmosphere than any civilian or a more democratic political leadership could have provided. While a destabilized Pakistan would not have been a major concern for the region or the world two decades ago, the post Bin Laden world is a different story.


As we have witnessed, practically all radical Islamic militancy against Western targets in Europe or America, or the non-Sunnis in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, have had their origins, indoctrination and training in Pakistan and have been funded by Wahabi money. Of even greater concern now is the real possibility of terrorists gaining access to Pakistan's nuclear facilities and making devices such as radioactive "dirty" bombs that could be easily transported in small containers to designated targets. The question is, how much longer or at what price can General Musharraf maintain control over this dangerously unstable situation? More importantly, what could the United States do to keep that pot from boiling over?


On the Western edge of the region sits a different kind of problem staring us in the face - Israel.


Israel as a significant contributing factor, if not the root cause, for most anti-West, particularly anti-American, sentiments in the Middle East, is a well established fact everywhere, but continues to be discounted as a myth here in the United States. For a more detailed analysis of this issue and the power and influence of Israel's lobby in the United States please refer to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt paper.


Again, it matter little what historical events or political influences have contributed to this passionate, albeit manipulatively one-sided, love affair between the United States and Israel; one rather disturbing fact remains undeniable: It has been the case that political instability, wars and threats of aggression in the region have always played a positive role in Israel's pursuit of its agendas. America's involvement or entanglements in the Middle East to safeguard the oil and other strategic interests draws attention away from the misdeeds of this dependant troublemaker. Furthermore, by shrewdly establishing common cause with its benefactor, Israel has managed to get away with the proverbial murder in the name of combating terrorism and self-defense.


With the help of its powerful and influential lobby in Washington, as well as the patronage of America's news and entertainment media, whether the Left, the Center or the Right, financial, military and diplomatic support for the state of Israel has continued to chip away at America's best interests in the Middle East. The long awaited Peace Plan, which is once again a top priority for the current lame-duck American administration, will no doubt be put on hold one more time as new threats of instability to the region loom in the horizon. Meanwhile, Israel will continue to expand its illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories and thumb its nose at the United States, and increase its violence against the Palestinian populations. And, thanks to the ever amplified so-called Iranian threat, Israel will have no problem receiving all the military and financial support, if not much more than it asks for, from the United States, usually pre-approved by both Houses even before the bill is submitted!


This leads us to a most critical question: Was our now highly questionable involvement in Iraq an honest, albeit mistaken, effort to safeguard America's interests and national security, or was it, in fact, a carefully formulated plot that just so happens to have served Israel's best interests by eliminating a major source of support for the Palestinians and a potential threat to Israel's military supremacy in the region?


The even bigger question at this time is regarding Iran. Is Iran, in fact, a real threat to the regional and international peace and security as it is being portrayed? Let us examine some points that might help answer some critical questions in that regard:


1-      Is Iran trying to build a nuclear weapon? It is interesting that, as the official State Department and White House rhetoric regarding Iran's "nuclear ambitions" evolves, we now hear more about concerns over Iran's "technical capability" to someday make atom bombs, rather than the worry that Iran is actually making the bomb. Without doubt, that technical capability is not only something that is inevitably achievable through any even strictly peaceful nuclear technology, it would be ludicrous to deny that knowledge to a country that has been attacked in the past and has remained under threats of military attack by two nuclear powers, U.S. and Israel, and borders an unstable nuclear armed Pakistan. The capacity to develop nuclear weapons might serve as a deterrent, even if, as the Iranian regime maintains, bomb making is not currently on their agenda.

2-      Does Iran support international terrorists? Well, if the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas are international terrorists, Iran is supportive of such groups. By the same token, the United States is also supporting an even bigger and more capable source of international terrorism, the state of Israel. It all depends on how terrorism is defined and who does the defining. If we go by the world public opinion rather than by the views in the United States and a few Western European states and allies, the arrow would point in the other direction. In addition, the United States is openly supportive of the terrorist group, the Iranian exiled Mojahedeen, who have been on the State Department's own terrorist lists for many years now. Is Iran's support for Hamas or Hezbollah creating a threat against the United States or its Western allies? Absolutely not. It does, however, create a definite nuisance for the Israeli regime. Ironically perhaps, this might just help pressure Israel to come to terms with the Palestinians toward the long awaited settlement along the Roadmap to Peace!! Shouldn't that be what we want?

3-      Does Iran aim to destabilize Iraq or Afghanistan? By all accounts, Iran was of considerable help to stabilize the Karzai regime after the defeat of the Taliban. The recent Taliban revival in Afghanistan could be better defused if the political atmosphere was more conducive to an Iranian participation; this would serve Iran's strategic interests.  In Iraq, the current trends leading to a Shi'a dominated political hierarchy is something that Iran could not possibly object to. Again, a greater Iranian influence through religious ties and financial assistance would help the United States forces to overcome the sectarian Sunni opposition and Al Gha'eda terror activities much more effectively. The fear of Iraq becoming another version of the theocratic Shi'a Iran is a flawed argument on two accounts: 1- The Iraqi Shi'a have never been, and are not going to be, subservient to their Iranian counterparts. Historically, the Persians (Farsi-speaking ethnic Indo-European or Aryans) and the Arabs (Arabic-speaking ethnic Semites) have not shown great affinity to integrate well. 2- The phobia against a Shi'a theocracy is based on politically motivated propaganda to serve specific purposes, mostly by the Jewish lobbyists to demonize the Islamic Republic of Iran. Thinking that Iran wants to take over the Middle East, blackmail the West and spread the Shi'a theology worldwide is as stupid as claiming that the United States aims to destroy the Islamic World for the sake of oil.

4-      Is Iran aiming to wipe Israel off the face of the map? This claim is about as evidentiary and based on examined facts as the truth about the famous Protocol of the Elders of Zion! The Iranian President Ahmadinejad never uttered those words that were so deliberately and maliciously misinterpreted and reworded, just as were his supposed denial that the Holocaust ever took place. Expecting Mr. Ahmadinejad to offer a Papal style apology for something he never said would only serve the ulterior motives of the media to give credence to those accusations. I do not believe that Pope Benedict should have bothered to explain or rationalize his speech that has caused concern among Islamic societies. Iran's Ayatollah Khameneh'i's comment about the Pope's statements was simply something along the line that one should be careful about statements that might be taken as an insult, perhaps acknowledging that the Pope had meant no disrespect. Now, does Iran intend to wipe Israel off the face of the map? Wishing Israel were somewhere other than in the Middle East is one thing, announcing an intention to make that wish come true is quite another. Regarding the denial of the Holocaust, the Farsi word for "since" and "if" is one and the same "agar". The statement later evolved into the rhetorical sentence, "Let's assume..."  However, all that notwithstanding, how could Iran, even a nuclear-armed Iran, attack Israel before the Israeli nuclear missiles and the American nuclear-armed forces surrounding Iran wipe Iran off the face of the map? And, how would Iran benefit in any way by taking on Israel, to what end? We could easily argue that the opposite is, however, an option which is currently under serious consideration! 


We can thus argue with a reasonable degree of confidence that Israel's regional agendas of delaying the peace process with the Palestinians, extension of new settlements in Palestinian lands, acquisition of ever greater military capabilities from the United States and Europe, maintaining its unchallenged nuclear arsenal, and eliminating or rendering powerless any and all sources of potential challenge to its regional military hegemony, could be guaranteed only if the United States remains embattled in the ever deepening quagmire of the Middle East.


Now, let us ask ourselves and our leaders in this country, Is this going to serve America's best interests?   After all, whose country and which people is our administration sworn to preserve and to protect?  For whose sake might my young son's blood be spilled on the battlefield? Tell me, please. 

... Payvand News - 9/25/06 ... --

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