A political journal
From the eve of September 11 to the fall of Saddam Hussein.
– Introduction: From 9/11 to the fall of Saddam.
PART ONE :
1- In search for peace : Who is the neutral party ?
2- The Israelis have already decided: Arafat is not seeking peace.
3- Tenet plan challenged.
4- Iran: The rules of the game.
5- Powell’s blunder.
6- Sharon’s dilemma: Gulliver and the dwarfs.
7- Israel, the West and the Arabs: misunderstanding and duplicity.
8- Re-inventing Sharon?
9- How the Arabs manage the crisis.
10- Jews and Arabs, media and conflict.
11- What role for America in Arafat’s kitchen?
12- What’s wrong with Bush administration?
13- A second wall in Berlin?
14- When the military perception prevails.
15- WCAR: Babylon or the carnival?
16- Arab failure in Durban.
1- Terrific days for the world.
2- Afghanistan: the unholy war.
3- The British connection.
4- Equivocal questions. Ambiguous answers.
5- Convenient to Israel.
6- Questions to Mr. Rumsfeld
7- The aborted initiative.
8- Hunting the faceless man.
9- Don’t placate the Arabs…
10- The French in the coalition (1).
11- Dissents between the US and Pakistan.
12- Where would America stop?
13- Pressure on the House of Saud.
14- The French in the coalition (2).
15- Hawks hawking strategy.
16- Facts, not just talk.
17- The gap between the allies.
18- Clash of civilizations: Israeli version.
19- Iranian worries.
20- Profile of the ordinary citizen in the lost places of this world.
1- Sharon does not make the difference.
2- Popular wars.
3- The last round (1): Fighting for survival.
4- Dare to answer.
5- Sharon reverses Bush principle.
6- Iranian-American courtship.
7- What is Peres initiative?
8- The need for a new vision.
9- Fuzzy situation.
10- Hard choice for Bush.
11- Better late than never.
12- An eye on Kabul, another on Islamabad.
13- People of Kabul.
14- Terrorism as a problem of communication.
15- Can they still remain allies?
16- Lebanon and terrorism.
17- The last round (2): American double message.
18- The last round (3): Who cares?
19- Ambiguities between Beirut and Damascus.
1- American new vision in the Middle East.
2- The Lebanese quagmire.
3- Shaon’s final plan
4- A matter of perspective
5- Between Arafat and Sharon.
6- Reactions (1).
7- Reactions (2).
10- American groping.
11- Arafat promoted.
12- Guilty of what?
13- Sharon’s syndrome.
15- God “bless” the Arab dictators!
16- A dangerous game.
17- The spokesman and the novice.
18- Israel troubles with Europe.
19- Europe, America and the Middle East.
20- The argument between Europe and the USA.
1- About the deadlock and the Saudi plan.
2- Would they reject the compromise.
3- Why Israel is so frail when it is so powerful?
4- Six statements.
5- Powell’s mission.
6- Alice in the wonderland.
7- Peace Conference as a cover.
8- America Hijacked.
9- Forget Jenin.
10- Cynicism and passion.
11- Ha’aretz lies.
12- Bush-Arafat’s wrestling.
13- What is he waiting for?
14- Between deceit and confusion.
15- American dilemma: facing the Iraqi question.
17- A secret plan to supplant Arafat.
18- Saddam’s choice.
19- Double murder in Beirut.
20- September 11 viewed from France.
21- Opposition to Arafat.
1- The US and its allies: reading through French and American positions.
2- US-Saudi Arabia: towards an appeasement?
3- Iraq and the Arab states: what they will never tell you.
4- The last days of Saddam Hussein.
5- Why they hate us?
6- In the name of Islam.
7- Lucky luck like Bush.
8- State produced terrorism in Indonesia and other countries.
9- The truth behind…French business network in Iraq.
10- About the Arab summit and the rule of the zombie.
12- At the heart of the new desert storm, the “mother of the problems”.
13- Chronicle of an agonizing world.
14- The battle of Baghdad.
15- Forgotten truths.
16- Double standards: Double vision.
17- Twenty one days that changed the Middle East.
The following is a political journal I have kept since June 8, 2001, to July 9, 2003. If I publish it, it is not because it is in any manner related to my life in Paris, but rather because it is focused on the political events in connection with the greatest troubles of our time. All the entries of this journal have been published in time on varied sites and magazines. I have noticed the link with the date when the story was still available online, and just pointed out to the concerned site or newspaper when the story was no longer referred to online. However, I hasten to add that these are not all the stories I have published in the same period. For this work is not intended to be my personal archives, but well a political journal especially dedicated to the events, I, – as an observer- think related directly or indirectly to the American policy in the Middle East, and the tragic circumstances of September 11, and nothing more.
I have thus collected what was scattered hither and thither, with the main objective of forming a whole within a framework determined in time, and guided in the background by the idea that 9/11 did not stem out of nothing. The fact that young people from Muslim Middle East countries planned and executed these terrorist operations was not a simple detail in the affair. I believe such a profile was not a coincidence. As I am an Arab myself, it was normal that I wonder why 9/11? Those terrorists might very well have been living in my neighbourhood. I could have known some of them. I could have been one of them. But that did not happen. In my own belief I am lucky. But from their point of view, they were the lucky ones, not me. This is the limit that separates two worlds from each other in Islam. May be not only in Islam. After all, terrorism struck Europe well before America. And it was not a religious terrorism, but an atheistic Marxist-Leninist brand.
The entries of this journal are thus connected to the events of these last times, in a kaleidoscopic view of some sort. I mean that I was mainly concerned with questions raised by the situation as it was: in the Middle East, in Europe, and in the USA. I tried to give sometimes different views of the same topic from varied positions. It was not always easy, for politics are often distorted expressions of some very hidden economic interests…which reminds me of the Freudian analyze of the dream. This is just to emphasize the importance and the gravity of misinformation in the world affairs. As a journalist, I deal daily with this problem. If I want to stay credible for my readers, I must always keep the “filter” over the information I receive from different sources.
Finally, I want to express my gratefulness to all those who supported my work and encouraged me. I name: Mr. Ali Khan (editor of Media Monitors Network) and the staff of MMN; Mr. Ramzy Baroud (editor of Palestine Chronicle) and the staff; Mr.
adi Chaheen (editor of Middle East News Online, which has to my regret ended its service online); the staff of the Arabic Media Internet Network (AMIN); and of course the staff of Arab News with at its head Mr. Khaled al Maeena.
Paris. Wednesday, 06 August 2003.
From 9/11 to the fall of Saddam
Paris, July 9, 2003. Arab News. (MMN). AMIN.
Even if nobody has so far succeeded in showing evidence of a direct link between the 9 /11 terrorist operation and the regime of Saddam Hussein…A link, which the Bush administration might exploit in its Iraqi projects, as well as in its ongoing attempt to set up a new regional order in the Middle-East, many doubts would still remain in the background of the picture concerning a possible connexion between the events preceding 9/11 on the one hand, and the events following it on the other.
We hardly need to remind the reader that 9/11 was not born out of the nothingness, but rather out of the chaos: regional and international chaos following the destruction of the fragile balances in the Middle-East. While delivering Kuwait from the brutal and mortal “fraternal” embrace of the Iraqi “Big Brother”, “Desert Storm” – when it calmed down- not only left all the thorny questions raised by the invasion of Kuwait, without answers, but even –somehow- heightened the tensions to an unprecedented level. If Kuwait was liberated, the 23 million Iraqis were actually hijacked, because they have been taken between Saddam’s unyielding anvil, and the hammer of the UN sanctions.
On another side of the picture, the two most important accords between Arabs and Israelis – after Sadate/Begin/Carter’s Camp David’s peace- reached an unsaid –because unacknowledged – deadlock. Neither Jordan nor the Palestinian Authority succeeded in selling their peace with Israel to the other Arabs. How would they? Peace actually resembled to anything but peace. President Clinton, who probably was attracted by the perspective of entering American and world history as the man who achieved peace between Arabs and Israelis, did not hide his bitterness when and after the negotiations failed. He will not outdo Carter’s achievement. He certainly passed by so close to the Nobel Prize. He would not fill his golden retirement with the souvenirs of such a glory. Instead of that, he would pass in history as the Don Juan of the White House, which is not really a thin achievement.
Anyway, when his successor came to the White House, almost everything in the Middle East was to be re-settled.
The Israelis and the Palestinians resumed their interminable war. The Iraqis were suffering a thousand pains under the embargo. The Syrians were still recalcitrant and doubtful. The Lebaneses found another reason to continue the struggle in Shabaa. The Jordanians and the Egyptians were jammed with their peace accords: on the one hand they could not deny them, and on the other their hearts were bleeding because Israel has not changed. And all those people along with their Arab and Muslim brethren, from the mountains of Afghanistan eastward, to the confines of the Great African Sahara westward, were living “the time of the assassins”, to use a well known expression of Henry Miller.
In effect, never before that time the Islamic radicalism attained such an authority in those surroundings. The New Assassins were not the direct descendants of Hassan al Sabbah’s middle-aged sect, albeit they use similar techniques of terror against their enemies. They are not doped with Hashish as their Ismaelite predecessors, but rather with modern brainwashing techniques, that have been used – and even gained credit and fame- by the CIA. The Manchurian candidate of the Cold War has become a remote souvenir, although his “fathers” have – unwarily – begotten the new robots of the suicide-bombing mania. A proof – if any- that even in the terrorism business, there is also a lot of work and a lot of progress.
It was 9/11 operations that will make an evidence of these episodes. Since then, everything would sound different.
The friends and the allies are no longer the friends and the allies we know. It has become necessary thus to raise the right questions: Who are our allies and friends in this world? Asked the Americans. Out of the blue, they woke up in a hostile environment, like someone who after wreckage finds himself alone in a little island in the ocean. And the questions followed up: Why do they hate us? Are we then so alone? Whenever they look around them, the Americans saw little sympathy, a lot of hypocrisy and hate and envy. Whereas they thought of themselves as the nicest people on earth, they were dismayed by the fact that this very earth did not send them back the genuine reflect of their image. So, what’s wrong?
The new president who had to tackle the crisis found it easier to resort to the good old Manichean precepts of good and evil. Henceforth, we are the good people, and they are the evil. And like in the cartoons, the cinema, and the comic strips, the good hero would have to fight the evil and prevail. That’s –very simplified- the strategy of nowadays’ superpower.
Once the strategy settled and adopted, the new administration had to find the enemy. It was not hard. If Saddam was self-designated, it was Usama bin Laden who would take on his back the blow. However, to strike at Saddam’s door first would seem nonsense. Everything happened henceforth as if while cleansing the Afghan caves and destroying the Taliban and al-Qaeda’s bases, the Bush administration was all that time long preparing the true, the delicious, and the much attractive, much succulent meal. It was not the stony Afghanistan that concerned America, but well the wealthy Iraq. And it was not the shadowy Bin Laden who represented the real weight in the international balance, but the ruthless Saddam Hussein.
After all, even if there is not the least connexion between al-Qaeda and Saddam… Even if 9/11 has nothing to do with the embargo imposed on Iraq, what could the Americans take from Bin Laden? His life? It is worthless now. His $300 millions? It is a drop in the ocean. Then, compared to the real fortunes of American wealthy people, what is Bin Laden? Afghanistan? That’s easy, but it never belonged to Bin Laden. He was just a refugee out there. Yet, if Bin Laden seemed so worthless, it was Saddam who appealed – almost naturally- to the American Vendetta.
Why a vendetta? Because 9/11 happened. And behind 9/11, there was a dark conspiracy where anybody in the Arab-Islamic world could be involved to some level or another. Maybe this sounds a little paranoid, but there is no other way the CIA and the folks of the Secret Service think. After all, what is al-Qaeda if not the international Islamic terrorist network? Somehow like the International Communist in the Cold War, but with a different ideology.
Saddam appealed to the American anger – that had anyway to focus on some party – not only because he was the model of “evil” decried by president Bush (so numerous other models continue to live unharmed, though), but most of all because something valuable could be snatched from him, and if achieved, such a project could be as rewarding to the USA as punishing to its enemies.
It is obvious that the award is Iraq itself.
Snatched from the hands of Saddam, Iraq would help America in settling the old accounts with its enemies, on the one hand, and in opening the way to the new regional order so wished by Washington, and so waited by Israel, on the other hand.
This is not to mean that Saddam Hussein was an obstacle to America’s plans in the Middle East. Anybody with a little présence d’esprit knows that Saddam actually helped Bush father and son. He helped the fat
her entering in force in the Gulf, when he invaded Kuwait, just because ambassador April Glaspie did not object anything to his plans. He thought that the Americans were encouraging him to overthrow Al Sabbah House, which would enable him to control more than 50% of the Middle East’s oil. It goes without saying that the previous American assistance to Saddam during the war against Iran made him believe that Washington would comply with his wishes if he invaded Kuwait, in order to pay back the billions he owed to almost everybody. Such foolishness was unmatchable. Besides, Saddam was ready to sell Iraq and his own mother to the Bush administration if he was allowed to stay in power. He would have stayed twenty or thirty other years over the hearts of the Iraqis, because their pains meant nothing to him. The collective graves the world is discovering in Iraq would have been nothing compared to the dark future the sinister dictator was preparing for his people. Today the veritable question is not whether Bush was right to attack Iraq or not, but rather whether Saddam was right to cling to the power or not.
As to the pretension of Saddam to lead the “resistance” against the American occupation, this is merely a joke. A bad joke indeed. And his “letters” to the Americans or to the Iraqis or to everybody, relayed by Al Jazeera, sound to be the concern of the same low brand of humour. We know that the dictator is –like many of his kind- a humourless person. Yet, who –among the rational Iraqis – could take him seriously?
Saddam a resistant? Sure, that was in the fifties of the last century. We are in 2003. And the majority of the Iraqi people cannot be assumed to be so foolish, so masochistic, and so stupid as to wish the return of a Tyrant.
Finally, there is certainly a link between all those events, if we read them thoroughly. Neither America is a model of nicety and goodness, nor the rest of the world is all evil and conspiring against it. From the period preceding 9/11, we can probably find a lot of indirect reasons for hatred. After 9/11, the Americans should wonder whether their policy helped to make the world a better place or not. Some of the questions they raised are still unanswered. For the true answers are not to be found in the books and the press, but rather on the field… in all those regions of the world that have been plagued by varied sicknesses, and that are still waiting for the good to come, for their peoples experienced nothing in their lives but evil.
To be faithful to their creed, the Americans are not expected to play the good Samaritans, but just to follow the Ariadne thread, in order to understand and make themselves understood.
IN SEARCH FOR PEACE
WHO IS THE NEUTRAL PARTY?
June 8, 2001…MMN
It is not obvious how security and political problems are to be practically parted when we come to talk of the Mideast dossier, neither it is more obvious to say why policy and security become distinguished topics precisely when the situation explodes and grows unbearable, whereas the common-sense assumes we just acknowledge that security loses strength only when policy collapses in absurd, ineffectual nonsense. And since this is the case- if ever acknowledged-, it would have been much more useful that the American government helps to understanding and handling the reasons which caused the present deadlock. For it is not that difficult to announce a one- sided cease-fire, particularly when it concerns State apparatus – : army, police forces, etc…-, but the real difficulty is about how to transform it into a status-quo and to build upon that. Some commentators have actually talked about a ” one-sided cease-fire” – the Israeli of course- since a few days, as if in the front of Israel on the other side there is an army whose commandment is refusing any advise to cease fire too! Now, people world-wide knows that no such an army exists on the Palestinian side, and what Arafat has announced concerns only his “special forces” and “Fatah”… who – as a matter of fact – have never penetrated Israel or led an offensive over there. So, these organizations are not those who are really concerned with the cease-fire, but rather “Hamas” and the “Islamic Jihad” and alike organizations who are actually opposing Yasser Arafat, and Israel, and the whole Oslo process. The point is however that these people do not recognize Arafat authority or at least are not obedient to the PA. We know, for example, that during the marches commemorating the 1967 war, they raised slogans asking Arafat not to join the security negotiations with Israel and America, and appealing to continuing the Intifada and the suicide operations inside Israel, until its army withdrawal from the occupied territories and the freeze on settlement. These are in fact what the Israelis call “the political conditions” which blocked the former security negotiations.
On June 6, – the day of the CIA chief George Tenet’s arrival to the region- Mr. Abdelaziz Alrentissi – Hamas spokesman – declared to an Israeli radio that at the last meeting with Yasser Arafat, the latter did not order them to stop the military operations.
Would he have done so, he added, Hamas was under no obligation to carry on his orders, for it is an independent movement , with its own strategy and goals. On the same day, the “Washington Post” reported about ” divisions among Palestinians ” that ” may undermine peace efforts.” If a group of supporters were still loyal to the chief of the PA, the islamists were shouting in the streets against the cease-fire. Another Hamas spokesman – Mahmud Zahhar – told reporters in Gaza: ” We are not changing our policy. Resistance means to attack the Israelis everywhere by all means.”
That is why it is convenient to remind ourselves of this framework in order to insure some relativity in our analyses and appreciations. It is noticeable that some commentators did not hesitate to compare Tenet’s mission to the dove from Noah’s ark : ” he is being sent to see if there is any dry land , any place to start”! But this kind of talk is, at the present time, more resembling to a delirium than to anything else. And this is not only because it is hard – if not merely impossible – to figure out that at the head of the CIA there is a “dove”, but also because the” Agency” is not innocent as regards the tragedy that unfolded since months. For it has been actually associated to the three cornered game that led Israel and the PA – under Washington supervision first, then after its apparent withdrawal – to the current deadlock. Mr. Tenet has accomplished at least ten alike missions in the Middle East during Clinton’s administration, and when President Bush decided to distance the policy of his predecessor, he froze the role of the CIA, as it was rumored . Yet, under the pressure of the events, it seems that he decided not only to maintain Tenet in his post – against the wishes of his own party hard-liners- but also to send him out again in what sounds to be ” an impossible mission” in the Middle East.
Now – if we exclude the fools – nobody doubts that Mr. Tenet holds in his hands enough assets enabling him to give an important boost to the former process. For he has data and connections, and he is thus as influent in Washington as in the Mideast, albeit the kind of influence he is able to exert cannot be precise or even compared to the influence of the State Department , or the Pentagon, or even the White House, at the same time that all these institutions and others cooperate with his “Agency” and need some of its varied services. Yet, once again the question is still unanswered : What is the point of trying to separate policy from security?
Everybody knows though that the real problem between Israelis and Palestinians does not consist in violence or counter-violence. These are only the results. The true problem is the political
deadlock that issued from The Israeli refusal of withdrawing from the occupied territories and freezing the settlements. And the conflict is , despite its complication, quite simple if we want to sum it up : For the Arabs, changing the current Israeli policy is the way that insures security, stability, and peace. But for the Israelis, granting security, stability, and peace is the way that insures changing the Israeli policy towards the Arabs.
Obviously, there is no exit from this maze. But here is the need to extern, neutral parties that can mediate and exert a moral influence in order to soften the extremist positions and wipe out the sclerotic paranoia. But let’s ask now: who are these neutral parties? Is it the CIA ? Or the White House ? Is it the European Union ? Or the United Nations?…
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The Israelis have already decided:
ARAFAT IS NOT SEEKING PEACE!
June 11 ,2001 …MMN
As it was expected, the answer given by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the Israeli request asking for the arrest of some Islamic activists was: NO. Mr. Nabil Shaath explained to the reporters that ” it is illegal to say arrest 300 people and then come talk to us”; and he added: ” if we have any information from Israel, or from our own security, that there might be something planned in Israel, we will go after them.” So, this is not a ” carte blanche” given to the Islamists as the Israelis fancied. The PA made it sure that it would arrest people only if they are guilty or – at least- suspected of fomenting trouble. We know it did it in the past, and there is no reason to think Arafat would refrain from arresting those who oppose him again, sometimes in spite of the Human Rights organizations’ critics. What happened once would happen again. Nevertheless, it would be a great mistake to think that nothing changed in the political landscape. The PA has understood – as it sounds- the lessons of the past. It knows for instance that a compromise with Israel that would not reward its people with a real hope for freedom and dignity, not only would not work, but would be discrediting and thus harmful for peace. This is the ground of the current position. More simply put: Arafat is not refusing cooperation, but rather trying not to discredit himself in his own people’s eyes. Let’s remember that some factions from “FATH” – his organization- have claimed that they would not accept to be disarmed. In 1983, in the Lebanese Bekaa, a revolt burst out against his authority in the same organization. So, nothing really could hamper that to happen again in case he is judged too soft on some issues.
Needless to say that the situation is still highly explosive, in spite of the declared cease- fire, and in spite of the shuttle diplomacy and the presence of senior representatives of important institutions, who dropped in the region or are expected, such as: MM. William Burns, Miguel Moratinos, Javier Solana, Joschka Fischer, Terje Rod-Larsen, George Tenet, and Goran Persson. Either on the Palestinian or on the Israeli side – not to talk of the neighbors- the violence is not quite ruled out. And this is not only a physical and a material violence, but also a moral one. It is noticeable for example that a day before Mr. Tenet’s arrival, the Israeli Prime Minister declared to a Russian television channel (NTV) that Mr. Arafat is ” a murderer and a pathological liar “, adding that ” he is not a head of state», for he behaves as the head of terrorists and murderers»! It is tempting to say thereupon: Well! If these words are pronounced by the man who allowed the shameful and inhuman tragic slaughter of Sabra and Chatila, as it has been proved by an Israeli investigation commission, we can say nothing but: He is perhaps speaking of himself! The phenomenon is known in psychology as ” projection”. And if Sharon was speaking as a Prime Minister, then the Israelis are in deep trouble, for this is not the way the chief of a government address another political official, with whom he intends to start or to resume – negotiations. But there is worse: for it sounds that this is not an isolated behavior in Israel these days. Most Israeli newspapers seem to agree upon a recently propagated prototype of Arafat and the PA. Here are some examples: On June 6, “Jerusalem Post” reported the above quotation from Sharon’s interview with NTV, and specified that ” these comments come just three days after the security cabinet issued a statement saying that the Palestinian Authority and Arafat are involved in terror, encourage terror, and incite to hatred and violence.” On May 31, the same newspaper reported the following declaration of Housing Minister Nathan Sharansky:” I think that for many years we have made great efforts to turn Arafat into a partner… I think now we are at the end of the road…” And Sharansky did not hide that he had no great hope, which means that in case Arafat is found not responding to Israel’s conditions, he would be considered as a foe. The Israeli Minister put it more clearly when he said that the purpose of a war with the Palestinians would be ” to destroy the military and terrorist infrastructure in the PA…” Otherwise the same scenario than the one led by Sharon in 1982 when he invaded Lebanon and besieged Beirut proclaiming these goals as a justification for his war. On June 7, “Ha’aretz” reported a declaration of the head of the Intelligence Department, Major General Amos Malka, who said that as long as ” he does not have any strategic victory to point to vindicate the past eight months of violence”, Arafat would prefer the continuation of the conflict with Israel to an internal conflict with the Islamic opposition groups. Amos Malka considered the cease-fire proclaimed by Arafat as ” a tactical step, a pause that may continue for several days or several months», but would eventually end. “After this pause he added, Arafat ” will crawl back to terrorism”. Understandably, these words mean that for the head of the Intelligence Department, Arafat’s file is already classified, so to say; and for the Israeli establishment there is no compromise looping at the horizon, but terrorism and war. “Ha’aretz” has by the way already reported the declarations of Nabil Shaath and Jibril Rajoub about the PA response to the Israeli request (the list of 34 names), and observed that this is actually ” an essential component of the cease-fire, without which it would be meaningless”. At this point, it is important to emphasize that the Palestinian position is so far trying to stick to the norms of world wide legality: nobody can be held responsible for a crime if his culpability is not proved. Now, what about those who resist occupation and are thus allowed by the United Nations’ charter to fight their enemies by all means? Israel has first to prove that the people it is asking for their arrest are guilty. And since this is a war situation, and as long as it continues, it would be a very complicated matter to handle this case if the law is to be taken in consideration. The point is that some years ago, varied mass media and Human Rights organizations, found Arafat guilty of dictatorship, and his management of the self-rule finances far from being flawless. The Islamist activists were considered by numerous analysts and commentators in the West as victims of oppression as long as they were held in custody. It is not an exaggeration thus to say that their release by the PA has been a result of these precedent critical comments as well as a result of the internal pressure after the failure of the peace process. Now, is it fair to ask Arafat to do exactly what everybody reproached him to do some time ago? Observe that for the Israelis there is already at least a guilty person, and this is Arafat himself. He is condemned without further trial. His cease- fire is considered as a joke. He is ” now playing games”, said an adviser to Prime Minister Sharon, who added:» He’s looking for a reduction i
n the hostilities, and thinks that will get him off the hook”! But what’s the “hook” here? And who is actually playing games and hunting down people? The same Israeli official- quoted by the» Jerusalem Post”(June 7)- says: “Arafat wants to keep the violence on a flame low enough to make possible some kind of international conference”…! This is actually the point. This is exactly what Israel is hardly trying to avoid, for an international conference means the intervention of several players, and subsequently more pressure on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, to freeze settlements, and to recognize the Palestinian rights De facto. And this why propagating an image of Arafat as ” a terrorist” – which is not new anyway – has become a goal of the Israeli policy, for if everybody in the West come to agreeing with the Israeli viewpoint, all the pressure would be put on Arafat to play the game wished by the Zionist establishment in order to masquerade the peace, so that no international conference would be held and no more concessions would be allowed to the Arabs. Yet, who among the Palestinian leaders would be foolish enough to accept a masquerade of peace as peace and to mistake the very diminished self-rule for independence?
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TENET PLAN CHALLENGED BY BOTH SIDES
June 15, 2001. (MMN).
If the Palestinians were expecting a viable political solution to their pains from the CIA, maybe it is time for them to wake up. Mr. George Tenet was not sent to the Mideast in order to achieve what his former boss – Mr. Clinton- was unable to do; nor Mr. Bush- by the way – held him in office and resumed his mission in order to put all the pressure on the Israeli side and to scare Sharon or to make him swallow up his former positions and give them up. Suffices it to remind the skeptics that it is well Israel who declared its early agreement on Tenet plan, when the Palestinian Authority (PA) was opposing some of its contents. That is to mean at least that if Sharon found his account in the suggestions made by the Agency chief, Arafat found in it nothing but injustice and bitterness. Now as to what happened between the early agreement of Sharon, and the belated contrived OK given by Arafat, there is matter to speculating, for it is actually the whole summary of the occult CIA intervention. On Tuesday, June 12, when it appeared that Sharon was agreeing on Tenet plan, all the Israeli media network sang in almost a single voice, pushing Arafat to feel guilty for embarrassing Mr. Tenet to the point that the latter was no longer wishing to stay anymore. Throughout the day, Israeli news reports predicted that the Palestinians would reject the plan. It appeared that the CIA chief was testing Arafat. As Israeli Cabinet Secretary, Gideon Saar, put it: ” Arafat will be tested in his actions. If he stops terrorism and prevents incitement then the program can make progress. If not, we will stay in the same situation we have been in for months.” So, obviously the main strain was being exerted upon the PA chief executive, by the simple fact that the Israeli Prime Minister had already accepted the American plan, although he never wished that intervention as it has been rumored. That was very bad for Arafat who has never hidden his bitterness, caused by the American recalcitrance at, on the one hand sending him an invitation to the White House- where Sharon and Katsav have already been received-, and on the other hand intervening if not to support him – he was no longer expecting that perhaps-, then at least to stop the Israeli violence. The Israeli media network was hammering all the daylong that Israel has accepted the Cease-fire and the American plan although it was not favorable to them. The following scenario evolved rapidly and was being widely echoed: Mr. Tenet, it was said, was already packing and preparing to leave. Would he go back to Washington or join Mr. Bush in Europe? Anyway, what he would report to his President would not only definitively convince the latter that his first reflex -: holding back from intervening – was sound, but it would also determine, in the worse way possible, the common position expected to be issued after the US-EU summit, as regards the Israeli Palestinian conflict. That was not exactly the purpose Arafat was seeking after eight months of uprising and political deadlock. It was not the violence that was scaring the PA – that was something they got used to it since the beginning of their national tragedy -, but rather the political discredit. Here a question rises: Political discredit outside the Palestinian territories or inside them? No doubt that the Palestinian leaders felt all the consequences hidden behind the way they were to answer that question. For if they were going to respond positively to the outside pressure- mainly the American – they would face the anger of their compatriots and eventually the erosion of their own legitimacy. Otherwise, the question that would be inevitably put to them is: What Tenet and Sharon gave you in return for your acceptance of the CIA plan? Anyway, what decided Arafat to accept the CIA plan has much more to do with the regional and international political configuration than with his own wishes. The diplomatic ballet that started with the arrival of the Mitchell’s committee on the scene, and continued with the appointment of Mr. Burns as Assistant Secretary for the Middle East, and the interfering of several political players from the international scene – European Union and Russia included-, was expected to reach a climax with a joint declaration at the US-EU summit of Gothenburg on the Middle East. We know that if some hot topics still divide Americans and Europeans, they would resort to the same language when they come to talk about the peace process. This is at least the official position lately emphasized by two men as different as Mr. Vedrine – French Foreign Minister-and Mr. Bush. We have to observe that before the PA acceptance of Tenet plan was made public, the diplomacy was not being dismissed: Shimon Perez and Nabil Shaath thus were invited to the Luxembourg European reunion (June 11 and 12) that preceded and prepared Gothenburg. Meanwhile, Mr. William Burns did not cross his arms to watch what Tenet was able to achieve. We know that he shuttled between the Israeli and the Palestinian leaders, not really in order ” to secure their approval of the Mitchell report’s recommendations”- that was already done-, but rather to suggest that the political process was not to be overshadowed by the security matters. It was quite important to link between the two sides of the appeasing process if the Americans and the Europeans wanted to convince Arafat that he has nothing to fear in stepping forward; and to make all this ballet acceptable, they had to push him to the dance floor. A compromise was to be found. Pressure was maintained to the latest moment. By 5 p.m., the Israeli news reports announced Mr. Tenet’s impending departure and the failure of his mission, saying that he was about to lay the blame on the Palestinians. Whether that was true or part of the play, remains obscure. But we know that in a letter addressed to the CIA director by Arafat, the latter acceptance of the blueprint was already acquired, albeit he rejected the buffer zone clause and said the timetable for lifting Israeli closures of Palestinian territories should follow the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement. (That deal called for closures to be lifted 48 hours after a cessation of hostilities agreement was reached). We know too that on the issue of arresting Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders – as enlisted by Israel – Arafat said he would arrest only people who broke the law. Here two remarks deserve to be noted: 1- On the Palestinian side, it is not only the Islamists who reacted against the agreement, but also some of Arafat’s own people: Thus, speaking to the Israeli radio, Fath General Secretary Marw
an Barghouthi said on the day the agreement was to be carried on, (June 13): ” The Palestinians are not convinced and of course we refuse any agreement, any understanding which will not guarantee the Israelis’ full withdrawal from the occupied territories”; and he added: ” the intifada will continue and it will represent the will of the Palestinian people”. Moreover, although Arafat has declared to Tenet that he had a promise from Hamas and Islamic Jihad to halt all terror attacks, we hardly need to say that the leaders of these organizations reacted almost immediately against the Tenet paper, rejecting it and challenging Arafat authority: ” The deal is born dead”, said Abdel Aziz Rantissi – Hamas-; ” the 450 killed in eight months of intifada are not going to be dust in the air because the people are not going to end the resistance”. 2- On the Israeli side, the scene is not much better. The early acceptance of the Tenet paper by Sharon did not mean that he is definitively acquired to the appeasing process even if he has never ceased to claim that security cooperation precedes any political negotiations. As a matter of fact, Sharon clings to a tight vision of that cooperation. For him, it would be everything or nothing, which means that violence has to be completely uprooted before undertaking any steps towards the peace process negotiations. Otherwise, the Palestinians – according to Sharon – have to accept the “fait accompli” of the occupation and to show obedience to the Israeli security priorities prior to discuss any political matter with them. Yet, nobody reminded him, as it seems that even with the labor governments that preceded him, things did not work that way. In fact, violence has never ceased completely, and what was actually maintaining the apparent ” quietness” in the period that preceded the uprising, was merely the hope that those negotiations would lead the Palestinian people to a positive result. One does not need Einstein brains though to understand that since the negotiations stopped, nothing could hold people anymore from expressing their anger. At last, it seems obvious that Sharon’s strategy would not work. Anyway, he too has a big problem with his own people: we know for example, that Jewish leaders and the Council of Jewish Communities in the west bank declared that the agreement meant ” the abandonment of Jewish residents to Arafat’s terrorists»!!! They warned that the settlers would take over every army post vacated by soldiers! Here are then the real stakes, not in any other diplomatic game. It is on the field that the current program would be tested. And this is not to mean that the security problem does not matter. Of course it does, but why should it be exclusively an Israeli issue, based on Sharon views and conditions? The Israelis were not alone to be killed and injured. What about comparing their losses with the Palestinians’? So, granting security is also a Palestinian problem, perhaps even much more complicated on this side. On the other hand, in the present situation, to ask for a complete quietness is not only utopian but also dangerous. Those who are required to implement the cease- fire and to stabilize the shaky scene, are supposed to know that the current process is not going to work unless it is supported by another -: the political negotiations- without waiting anymore. For it is only that latter process which is able to give hope to the population, and thus to maintain some quietness, or at least to limit violence. This is also the opinion of Mr. Kofi Annan who lately agreed with Mr. Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on the fact that if any Middle East security agreement is to endure, it has to be embedded in a political process. Mr. Annan said precisely:” there should be an effort to move on to the diplomatic process in order to ensure that the ceasefire holds for the longer term”. Translated into more a simple language, this is to mean: Do not wait anymore before resuming the negotiations process. Now, we know that this is not to happen soon, not only because Sharon opposes it, but also because the two plans agreed upon – The Mitchell report and the Tenet paper – schedule more or less a long period of appeasement and confidence building steps, before any real negotiations can start. The question is thereupon: What would happen meanwhile?
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Iran: The Rules of The Game
June 22, 2001. (MMN).
Now that Mr. Mohammad Khatami is in post for another four years mandate, after an overwhelming victory on his rivals and opponents, his task may be even harder than by the past. However, he has immediately given the tone of the next partition he was going to play when he advised ” patience, moderation, and prudence” to his supporters, and he added: ” Now the honourable Iranian nation, as winner of this context, is determined in its just demands and expects the government and the system to take bigger steps to fulfil them… Freedom of speech, criticism and even protest within the law, is the precondition for quicker victory”. Indubitably, followers as well as enemies would never dismiss these words as “euphoric rubbish” until they see the end of his era. This is not to say he is not serious or does not mean exactly what he promised. On the contrary, he might very well be the man Iran needs right now for many qualities bestowed to him. Yet, he is far from being the only “king” on the Iranian chessboard, not just because there are several other leaders, but above all because he is since the departure disabled by the system he is trying to rule or to reform, and the key word is here: the constitution!
An official biography of President Khatami introduces him as a well-educated son of a respected cleric – actually an Ayatollah, which is the highest title in the Shi’i religious hierarchy. In a region where the rulers, if they are not kings and princes, come to power either from the barracks – generally without even the certificate of a secondary school-, or from the streets, carried by a populist dusty wave, which once vanished would let them plaguing the country for a quarter of a century, Khatami is certainly more a brilliant leader. He has attended Qom theology school -: a reference for the Shi’ites matched only by the Al Azhar mosque in Cairo which displays the same kind of lectures for the Sunnites-, and he got his B.A in philosophy from Isfahan University, and lately he completed his studies at Teheran University where he attended courses in educational sciences, before returning to Qom for the Ijtihad seminary. This is to make him already a man of an interesting profile for the Iranian intelligentsia which was by then struggling against the ruthless power of the Savac-: Mohammad Ridha Shah dreadful police. That’s how he got involved in the political activities against the Shah. That’s how he became a disciple of Ayatollah Khomeini and worked closely with his son Ahmed and some other religious leaders. That’s how also he has been appointed twice as Minister of culture, first during the premiership of Mirhossein Mousavi (1982), then a second time by President Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989), not to speak of his responsibilities as head of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces and chairman of the War Propaganda Headquarters. Otherwise, the man we are talking about is really an “insider». He is a pure product of the Iranian political- religious establishment. The fact that he is acquainted with three foreign languages – English, German, and Arabic – and that he studied philosophy, while not disadvantaging him, does not make him a liberal in the western acceptance of this term, although he is deemed to be more open- minded than any of his rivals who run for presidency.
This is a man of culture, and an author who has written a number of books and articles in different fields. All right! How can we explain then that during his presidency, writers and journalists and other liberal opponents and intellectuals have been hunted down and arrested and molested and dragged in mud
? What did he do for them? He shed tears! That was great if he was sincere, and would have been greater if he has retired, said his critics. Let’s remind the reader that if some irreducible opponents to the Islamic Republic- such as the National Council of the Iranian Resistance, led by Massaoud Rajawi – consider him responsible for the murder of hundreds of people – among them writers and artists and varied intellectuals-, even before he was elected president, what occurred in his first term might have completely shattered his image as a “democratic” or a ” reformist” ruler. It is known that hard-line judges closed some 40 pro reform newspapers, and jailed prominent allies of the president, and arrested dozens of liberal Islamist dissidents in a pre election crackdown. Yet, as bizarre as that may sound to the Western mind, 21.7 million or 76.9 percent of the total of 28.2 million votes went to this man, and he was neither the single nor the second candidate, since there were nine others running for the post! Indeed, there might have been some fraud, as it has been pointed out by the observers of the dissident NCIR of Mr. Rajawi who even talked of” wide boycott” of the election by the majority of the people. But as there is no evidence, these allegations have not been taken in consideration by foreign observers. How then can we explain the mystery of that victory?
To answer that question we have to put it in its real context and to assume that if Iran is not currently and rapidly changing, then its people is so craving for change that it is ready even to the more incongruous compromises with the political- religious class. Otherwise, if Khatami is not the man by whom the change may happen, at least he is the hope of it. Yet, far from answering the above question, this is perhaps to complicate it, for we admit – if at all – that Iranian people haven’t got any choice while making their choice. The paradox cannot be understood if we do not step forward to make another hypothetical statement: thanks to the constitution the game is over even before starting. Otherwise, the voters as well as their candidates are being held within the limits of a system set up to maintaining them as hostages of a single man, who is neither their elect president nor a person subject to their will. This man is the “Imam” or the “Faquih”, the spiritual leader of the Republic whose function much resembles to the great inquisitor in the Christian middle age history. And to make the picture more understandable to the Westerners, some observers summed it up in these simplified terms: the struggle is between reformists and hard-liners, they say, and it happens that the “Faquih”- Ayatollah Ali Khameini – is at the head of the forces opposing resistance to any change. The basis of such statements is the fact that the repression that has undermined the reformist program occurred with the full support of both Ayatollah Khameini and the former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. As a matter of fact, they have used a variety of non elected institutions – the judiciary sections of the Revolutionary guards, the state controlled radio and television, and the Guardian Council – to relentlessly block proposals that would facilitate political competition and open discourse. And this is likely what happened really. However our question was not about who did everything to undermine the reforms, but rather about who did nothing to oppose it and is still at the top of the state! That’s the point.
While pointing out to the 1979 post revolutionary constitution (amended in 1989) which gives both reformists and hard-liners enough ammunition to advance their own versions of how the Islamic Republic should be run, some observers locate the tensions not only between people of different options, but also between democratic and undemocratic elements in the Iranian constitution, or to put it plainly, between popular and Divine sovereignties. Thus, since the constitution contains a number of clauses running implicitly or explicitly counter to the principles of popular sovereignty, no matter what any reformist president, any democratic parliament, would do, there would be always important forces able to counter them in all legitimacy. Ultimately, the “Faquih” can even depose the president of the Republic even if had been elected by 100,100 % of the voters. Such a system – we must acknowledge it – has no equal! This is to make of Khatami at the one hand, a responsible as a key player, and on the other hand, he would always find an excuse for not fulfilling his promises. And much more important in respect of the foreign policy which involves regional and international issues, the rules of the game are almost the same.
A 1998, May 14 Congressional statement about Iran under Khatami (: Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorism, and the Arab Israeli conflict) concluded that if it is ” now possible to discern a new vocabulary (emphasizing: détente, stability, and the dialogue of civilizations), while the new government has launched a diplomatic charm offensive to mend fences with its Arab Gulf neighbors most notably manifested by its recent rapprochement with Saudi Arabia”, however other aspects of Iran’s foreign and defense policy ” show more continuity than change”. The American statement alleged that “Tehran could probably acquire a nuclear capability within a few years ” if it were to obtain fissile material and help from abroad; but ” without such help, it could take Iran 5 or 10 years”. Now, if this estimation is valuable, two questions rise to the mind: 1- Where is Iran nuclear capability right now? And 2- Why in the light of this data the USA are just closing their eyes about Iran – deemed not only to be in possession of nuclear capability but also of chemical and biological weapons -, and opening them widely on a barren Iraq unable even to give food to its people? Moreover, in the light of what happened since 1998, it is almost amazing to notice that after four years, the Congressional statement we quoted is still valuable. In fact, if we remove the year 1998 and put 2001 instead, nobody would notice anything!
Some people however may not agree on this point. For them Iran has considerably changed. Admittedly, it has, what then did not change? For if we try to make two lists, one for the things that changed and the second for the others that remained as they were before Khatami, are we sure that the first list would be longer? The fact is that Khatami in his first term had either to put up with the political configuration or merely to go away. He made the first choice, which led him to sacrifice some of his allies in order to get a second term. That was a pure political act, even advised by Machiavelli in his famous Prince. Nevertheless, nobody here is dupe as to the other party’s strategy. We know for example that the second front – which sustained the re-election of Khatami- is composed of no less than 18 organizations with disparate interests and ideological orientations. Among them, we find The Association of Combatant Clerics, of which the President is a member; the Islamic Revolution Mojahedeen Organization; the Islamic Iran Solidarity Party; the Servants of Construction; the Freedom Movement of Iran (founded by former Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan)…etc. Among these people, there are factions that while criticizing the impotency of the President, preferred to follow him in hope that something would happen in his second term.
Needless to say that the hard-liners identified as ” the followers of the Imam” are no less ordered. Their coalition is composed of 16 organizations, and the link between them – excluding the Imam or the Faquih- is the mere belief that the concept of democracy is a Western import that has nothing to do with Islam. Here are gathered the ingredients of any eventual civil conflict: on the one hand, the reformists and the democrats struggling for a popular sovereignty, and on the other hand the “followers of the Imam”. So far, the system is working and some are even satisfied with it. But this is not going without repression, violence, injus
tice, and misery. The system even allows to a Minister in the Cabinet of the President to run against him! Thus, Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani and Vice President Mustafa Hashemi-Taba were candidates against their own boss: Khatami! Of course, this is to raise a delicate question not only about their loyalty, but most of all about the meaning of the reforms to them. For if they think that Khatami is unable to carry out his program, just what were they doing in HIS Cabinet? And if they think that he is a good president, so why run against him? Some observers suggest that this was a strategy monitored by the hard-liners who would have eventually supported any candidate – including reformists- to divert votes from Khatami. If this is to reveal accurate, it is even much more dangerous to the reformist camp that would be weakened by such dividing manipulations.
Here appears the necessity – maybe even the urgency – of a step that Khatami, although empowered by his recent plebiscite, seems- so far- unable to accomplish, to the despair of his supporters: an amendment of the Constitution in order to give the President the legal tools to make the real changes the country needs. Something like the act of Charles De Gaulle in 1958 when he resorted to the referendum and asked the French: would you like to change the constitution, yes or no? And the French said: Yes. And that was the birth of the fifth Republic.
Now, is Khatami willing to move forward? And where to? That’s the question!
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June 29, 2001. (MMN)
Before meeting President Bush for the second time since the beginning of his current mandate, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made some conspicuous declarations to “Newsweek’s” reporter Lally Weymouth, which if they were not a scoop for those who know the general and his recent past lately refreshed by the well informed BBC’s Panorama, proved one more time to what extent the man is determined in his heinous dealings with the Palestinians. First, Sharon repeated tirelessly his old refrain about Arafat playing with terror”, ruling ” a coalition of terror”, ” coordinating with Hezbollah”, ” getting used to negotiating under terror”… etc, before ending up with ” I think Arafat is an obstacle to peace”. Secondly, when he was asked whether he accepts Oslo- the peace process launched in 1993- or is it dead, Sharon said simply: ” Oslo didn’t bring peace. It didn’t bring security.” So what? Sharon did not hesitate to tell Weymouth what was really on his mind: He was not going to make a deal with someone he despises and hates and considers as the head of a “terrorist organization”! There is more of this stuff in the complete story, but here one must only underline that when Sharon talks this way, he is not forcing his nature or giving some hawkish hard-line hefty portrait of himself. The man is really made that way, and at his age he is not going to change in order to meet the American or the world expectations. Even the European attitude – which never was really hard on Israel- seems to him “unbalanced”- sic! – as long as it is not servile, since he is expecting everybody to be at his orders. Perhaps even Secretary of State Colin Powell! The latter made an “unforgivable “mistake – a lese majeste crime- that earned him to be snubbed by Sharon who merely canceled a scheduled meeting with him on Friday. The Secretary of State headed to Amman, but not before pulling back from his initial position. No reason was given for the change, but an Israeli official said, “Powell and Sharon completed their discussions”! What was actually reproached to the American Minister concerned a declaration he had made after a meeting with Arafat, which was immediately reported and published by the press. Thus, the damage – if any – was done, so to say. Powell said: ” I think there is clear understanding of the need for monitors and observers to see what is happening”. Those monitors would go to points of friction between Palestinians and Israelis and serve as go-betweens to resolve disputes and make independent reports. That has always been an Arab request supported by the European Union. But Washington had twice blocked a UN resolution about sending such a mission to the great bitterness of the Arabs. The Saudis reacted particularly angrily: The heir to the throne, Prince Abdullah rejected an invitation to the White House. The Saudi news network habitually moderate and never keen on shaking or molesting the good relationship with the American ally, felt utterly provoked by the American incomprehensible attitude which was – and so far still is – harshly attacked and dissected in the kingdom: No matter what are the Arabs saying, Washington seems unable to listen to them! However, Sharon’s answer was not long to come. He merely dismissed as “mostly” unnecessary the idea of observers overseeing the steps Israel and the Palestinians would take. ” I think it is much simpler than that”, said he. ” For example, when a school is attacked the action is seen clearly”! Of course, but what is he afraid of then? Anyway, it was not much glorious of Powell to deny what everybody heard him saying as soon as Sharon’s murderous eyes went blood-shot with furor. He succeeded only to lose the little confidence he had gathered from his meeting with Arafat. Otherwise, he undermined his own chance of success and brought the case back to the zero. Either in Washington or in the Israeli government, the bells went ringing the alert! It was “worse ” than any declaration a Secretary of State could make: it was an assessment of a new foreign policy… a policy that was going to give fair balance to both parties in implementing an impartial structure of independent observers as a first step to holding the cease fire. What then? Was Powell oblivious of the “basics” in dealing with the Arabs? Was he going to play against his own camp? An op-ed of the Israeli newspaper “Ha’aretz” published on June 28- the day he left for Amman – pretended to reminding him of these ” basics” under the resounding and pompous title: Ten recommendations for a new Secretary of State! An article full of pretension and quite ” well in the line» of Israeli self-sufficiency. Meanwhile, Powell had already abdicated and said: “there was no intention of my part to surprise” Sharon. So, no US policy shift. No independent observers that would not be accepted by “both” parties: e.g. by Israel! For Sharon made it clear: ” We never supported UN observers», and more to the point: ” We never accepted European observers. I don’t think they are needed”! They aren’t, indeed! This said, one does not know who is the most foolish: a Secretary of State going rashly against the double veto of his government and promising what after a quarter of an hour – a difficult one doubtless! – He would merely deny, or a Prime Minister expecting the whole world to be at his orders- Americans, Europeans, and -to be sure- stone throwing children in the Palestinian streets included! There is an Arab proverb saying: ” a single madman is able to drive mad a whole group”! Here is the illustration of the case: Whether in the chaotic Middle East, or in the cold minded Europe, or even in the Bush administration that is pushing forward the shaky crinkled old peace carriage, on those rude unpaved paths, nobody knows exactly what is going on or where Sharon is heading to and driving everybody with him. To L. Weymouth, he said such contradictory things that it is almost impossible to tell whether they emanated from a single person or from several! Look at these examples: – He (: Arafat) has full control. -He (: Arafat) accepted Tenet document. -He (: Arafat) is playing with terror. – It is impossible to continue this way. -There is not going to be a war. – There is no cease-fire. – There should be a combina
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