In the midst of Iraq the US stands virtually paralyzed as an awe-struck spectator watching the savagery that they cannot control. Even while they watch others, in Iraq an explosion destroys a sacred site right under their noses. This is not the finale of this drama. This is just the first act. Nothing has been proposed to address the issues in a regional context. In the Lebanese newspaper, The Daily Star, Joris Voorhoeve, a former Dutch defense minister, and currently a professor of international organizations at Leiden University, has proposed a regional approach to all the outbreaks. In a column published on June 14, 2007 he suggested: "The region is a cauldron of five explosive components: Iraq's civil strife, Afghanistan's insurgency, Iran's nuclear ambitions, the longstanding Israel-Arab conflict, and the risk of clashes between extremist groups and corrupt, repressive governments. A comprehensive policy is needed, yet the threats are so diverse and complex that separate approaches have to be applied simultaneously."
He unquestionably sees the momentum in the region and its implications for the future. The difficulty come in his inability to position exactly who or what can have any impact on the current violence in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the repressive Islamism of the governments of Turkey and Iran. As the breadth of the conflict spreads there will be many questions regarding how any international agencies can address it. Think of Iranian nuclear weapons, combined with Hezbollah missiles, Syria's assassinations, Turkish invasions, Israeli assaults, Hamas's fratricide and the Iraqi sectarian war and you have a scenario that defies limitation, and yet demands leadership as never before.
While one region burns, a new one appears the next day. If Kurdistan appears to be too calm, the Turkish generals make their plans and take action. When Israel holds its military in check, Hamas attempts to overthrow the Palestinian Authority to which it was elected. When March 8 and Hezbollah fails to successfully overthrow the government of Lebanon non-violently, there is a return to an old Syrian pattern and the assassination of a March 14 Member of Parliament before Hariri's death can even be investigated. If the sects in Iraq show any possibility of peacefully co-existing the explosion at the mosque destroys all such possibilities.
There is most assuredly a Peace Plan needed that will move beyond the current level of conflict. It requires as much attention to the US Constitution as it does to the Iraqi Constitution. It means stop trying to be firefighters and begin to install the fire alarm. The potential actions mean beginning to see ourselves in a new role and knowing what we can solve and what we can''t.
Let's begin with the primary goals: Demilitarization of the region, Withdraw from Occupied Territories, Recognition of Nation-Building Projects, Accountability for Human Rights and War Crimes, Accountability Within the US Government and Regional Oversight. There are many facets and projects that fall underneath each of these overall objectives. There are many mechanisms that need to be enhanced and developed. There is also a requirement for a certain commitment that needs to be sustained beyond any 5 year window.
It is clear that the common thread running through the work to be done is political Islamism as a contemporary social movement. This "Islamic Reisistance" stands opposed to US occupation, but does so primarily with the blood of Iraqis. It stands opposed to Israeli expansionism but mainly through the bloodshed of Palestinians and Lebanese. It stands opposed to Lebanese confessionalism while Lebanese public officials opposed to Syrian interventions are murdered. It attempts to topple the government of Lebanon through street demonstrations and fails for the time being. It speaks of ending occupation in the region, while promoting Iranian and Syrian expansionism. The Islamic Resistance shows more than a small pattern in its activities in the region that indicates a certain strategy at work. The only question is: What can be done?
In regards to Hamas and Gaza, it would seem as if Egypt would be the natural intermediary in the resolution of the conflict there, along with Suadi Arabia that developed the Mecca Agreements originally. Egypt has stated: "What Egypt, and for that matter the Arab side, is hoping to get out of these meetings [on June 26-27 in Sharm El Sheikh], Egyptian and Arab diplomats suggest, is first to secure international recognition of the possibility of launching a new process of negotiations on the basis of the Arab peace initiative, and secondly, to secure US and Israeli commitment to easing the hardship of Palestinians under occupation, especially in Gaza where the UN and NGOs have long been warning that the grave situation is getting worse by the hour."
Regarding Lebanon the UN and the Lebanese Army remains responsible for enforcement of UN Resolution 1559. Likewise, the tribunal has already been established to investigate the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. No sooner is that process begun than Walid Eido is assassinated by a car bomb. "Walid Eido represented a constituency in Beirut's tough Sunni Muslim Basta area, a populist politician who had constantly condemned Syria's "interference" and had more recently turned on Hizbollah's political action against the government. When the pro-Syrian militia group, who withstood Israel's devastating bombardment of Lebanon last summer, pitched their tents across the centre of Beirut in an attempt to bring down Siniora's government, it was Eido who referred to this as "occupation".
The Lebanese army has been engaged in a protracted war with yet another sect Fatah al-Islam in Northern Lebanon at the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. ""The (UN Security) Council condemns the ongoing criminal and terrorist acts in Lebanon, including those perpetrated by Fatah al-Islam, and fully supports the efforts carried out by the Lebanese government and army to ensure security and stability throughout Lebanon," the 15-member body said in a non-binding statement Monday. This is taking place at the same time as Fatah al-Islam revealed their plans to assassinate "Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt."
The importance of all of this is that destablization is an ongoing campaign of political Islamists wherever they have any influence or ability to implement it. Stabilization is the alternative. The Israelis have not taken any actions knowing that such a response by them would invite escalation in the region. This is not a very long-range strategy as conflicts continue to wage around their nation. A recent statement by Senator Joe Lieberman regarding military action against Iran seemed more indicative of an Israeli plan than a US plan at this time.
Like a deer in the headlights, the US remains frozen while chaos reigns throughout the region. It neither leads nor follows but only succumbs to the actions of others with resignation and without defined policy. No peace process for years has resulted in a war process that has taken a life of its own. Failing to establish any of the slightest objectives for peace in Iraq, it peers at the Turks with only a minimum of a public response regarding their military operation into the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq. It wags its finger at Iran. It shakes its head "No" to Hamas. It watches from the sidelines when Israel fights Hezbollah. What is the US foreign policy in the region? As things stand, there is sure to be economic, political, diplomatic and military impacts in 2008. The question is if the people of the US are as resigned to an extended period of continual warfare as our leaders appear to be.