Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Iraq Study Group Report, Amen!

Dr. Khaled Batarfi

The most important recommendations the Iraq Study Group (ISG) came up with were exactly what we, US friends in the region, were calling for since the start of the disastrous invasion-occupation of Iraq: Solve the Arab-Israeli issue, cooperate with Iraq’s neighbors, and bring all Iraqi parties to the table — your enemies included. My last article reached those conclusions.

Many American readers felt I was an Arab extremist. Now, their own officials and senators, from both the Democratic and Republican parties, are in agreement. Interestingly, the pro-Israel neoconservatives and evangelicals are accusing the Baker-Hamilton group of weakness and appeasement — the opposite of extremism and wickedness charges against me.

It is understandable, though, that the “Israeli more than Israel” are nuts about uncovering the Israeli link to the Iraqi debacle. It was much easier and safer for their Zionist deity when the blame was squarely on the savage side — the extremist Arabs and Muslims.

As they portray it, the Crusaders, on God’s orders, were only spreading the light of democracy, freedom and love! The champions of peace and prosperity were fighting the ghosts of darkness and forces of evil.

They had to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent bystanders as a small price to pay for defending superior values of a superior religion, culture and race. They had to burn the woods to save a tree. Now that they failed, it is entirely the others’ fault. That includes not only the long list of enemies, but also agents, allies and friends. The only exception, of course, is the one who dragged them there — Israel.

It is frustrating to hear the arguments of the ISG critics. They come strong, for example, against any contacts with the so-called evil regimes — Syria, Iran and Hamas. That is amazing coming from a country that kept a presidential hotline with the worst of its enemies, the Soviet Union, for forty chilling years.

Such contacts saved America and the world from nuclear annihilation more than once, the most famous being the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The lesson here was, you lose nothing by talking to your enemies, but you may lose everything by not doing so.

You and your enemies have shared interests. If you start on them, you build a working relationship that could help your negotiation about contrasting interests. In the case of Iraq, all, except Israel and the warlords, have the same interests — peace and stability. This is a good start.

Then there are valid concerns and legitimate interests you should appreciate. You cannot ride over to people’s backyard promising loud and clear: I’m going to change your world forever. Iraq first, Syria and Iran next, then the rest of the Arab world, and expect all to wait in the slaughter line peacefully. You cannot let yourself be led by Zionists, spilling rivers of blood, yours included, to make the world a better place for Israel, and expect Arabs and Muslims to be cooperative. You cannot divide a united nation, taking sides, and letting one party prevail over the other, getting away with theft and murder, then blame the oppressed losers for fighting back.

More importantly, you cannot set a standard that can only apply to you. If you break the universally agreed rules you can’t blame the others for charting their own. In Iraq, you shocked and awed the whole population as a proudly announced strategy. You shot and bombed on suspicion and collectively punished, collaterally damaged your enemies.

Why, then, do you expect the reaction to be any different? In your treatment of prisoners of war, you killed and tortured, and when exposed, lightly punished the perpetrators and let their superiors get away untouched. In doing so, you set an example that endangers your own as the insurgents felt justified in doing the same to their hostages.

Appreciating your opponents’ valid concerns and showing your readiness to accommodate their legitimate interests will help win their confidence and cooperation. It is not a zero-sum, win or lose game. There are enough gains for all from a comprehensive peaceful solution for the region’s staggering conflicts — including Israel. That is what the Iraq Study Group found, and that is what we were advocating for ages.

Simply put, you cannot pick and choose what to fix in a falling roof. Every column has to be raised, every window has to be fixed, and every weak link and leak has to be addressed. Solving the root of all troubles, the Arab-Israeli conflict as the group recommended, is a must.

Since America, with the powerful Israeli lobby in control of its Mideast policies, cannot play the honest broker, the way out is what the Baker-Hamilton report advised: An international conference that includes every stake holder in the region plus Russians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Europeans and the United Nations. The same goes for Iraq and Iran — the multinational, multilateral approach is the one and only way to go.
From what I hear, the new Congress is all for the ISG recommendations. The question is, will this administration buy in? Or is it too invested in its arrogant policies that we have to endure the hell waiting until a new administration takes over? Only Cheney can tell!

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