December 01, 2006
Tipping the Wrong Way: MENA & US Policy
The slow motion disaster that is Iraq has come to bore me, now that I have written off personal interests there (although as an aside, now one doesn't cease to get offers to take part in US reconstruction - sorry boys, too late. In '03 I would have done it. Now you're 3 years down the road to utter catastrophe, not a bloody chance).
However, as part of the larger wreckage of US policy, that remains sadly a major but largely negative driver in the region (not due to overall intentions, but realism of how and on what schedule said intentions can be implemented - which is to say due to the utterly magical fairy-dust approach they insist on taking) one has to be interested in Iraq and US MENA policy which surrounds it and is in part driven by the fiasco.
Last week before being sucked into a project I had a quick open item re changes in MENA policy. Some follow on perhaps is warranted given the American press, I am told, is finally using the phrase "civil war" and the last Right Bolshevik delusions (so stunningly reminiscent of the original Left Bolsheviks delusional agitprop) are disolving. The idiotic use of the Ukrainian phrasing (Orange Revolution) to apply to the Lebanese situation (soi-disant "Cedar Revolution", as pimped by the dimwit Totten) has blown up in their faces and Iraq's down-draft begins to have the exact inverse effect that the delusional Right Bolsheviks predicted.
Of course the Maliki snub reminds me of my old Agency amigo coming out of Baghdad late '03 - early '04 with the eternal classic for me: "We ain't no kinda pimps when our own whores don't wanna be seen with us."
However, this is merely obvious (except in the apparently increasingly desperate corners of the pre-fooled Right Bolshy dupes).
The tipping in the wrong direction for the United States is painfully clear with respect to Lebanon where American engagment has remained typically driven by a fantastical misreading of the political dynamic in the Levant, from the over-reading of the anti-Syrian reaction post Hariri assassination to the Hezbullah-Israel confrontation.
Some illustrative items from the linked FT article on Lebanon:
Hizbollah’s Shia followers and Gen Aoun’s Christian supporters appeared to have only partially overlapping political agendas but they were united in their disapproval of the Sunni Muslim leader of the anti-Syrian camp, Saad Hariri, the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. “Die, die, Saad die,” several groups of demonstrators chanted.
Charming, but then the Hariris' canonisation (to be ironic) has been rather overdone in the West.
Hizbollah’s supporters mainly voiced anger at what they described as the government’s “betrayal” of the Shia during the movement’s war with Israel in July and August. “I am here for our dignity. Siniora supports Israel and America,” said 63 year-old Fatemi Nasri who had come from the south of Lebanon together with her granddaughter
Many demonstrators took up the theme of the government’s alleged pro-Israel bias, with some disparaging chants taking aim at anti-Syrian minister Ahmed Fatfat, calling him “a Jew”.
Banners demanded the resignation of the “Feltman government”, in a reference to the US ambassador in Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman.
Well, well. The excellent results of the clumsy idiocy that has been American policy towards Lebanon and Syria.
Gen Aoun’s supporters were more focused on the alleged corruption of the cabinet, with many referring to it as “a government of thieves.” But their main reason for attending the demonstration appeared to be a demand that has so far remained unvoiced by either Hizbollah or Gen Aoun’s movement. “We are here because we want the general as president,” said a group of demonstrators sporting orange umbrella’s on their heads.
Aoun as President.
And meanwhile, of course, all analyses suggest that Iraq is simply spinning farther and farther into chaos
What can the Americans do to get out of this?
Hard to say with respect to Iraq - nothing really than perhaps withdraw and try to support a stable Kurd zone and prevent the Kurds from engaging in too much nastiness.
For the remainder of the region...more tomrorow
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Aoun as President.
I posted something on this, but comments were down, so... guess I should read the warning texts first next time.
Anyway, what I was saying was, that while the Hariri bloc has the parliamentary majority, they still need a 2/3 vote to appoint the president (if I understood the constitution correctly), and the Shia bloc plus Aoun can stop that by themselves.
So both sides need to have a really popular (and really Maronite) figure to rally votes from the opposing camp, in order to even stand a chance -- and the Aounists have, well, Aoun. But who on earth would play that role for the March 14?
I won't even consider the possibility that they try to send Samir Geagea to the presidency (although I would love to see Condoleezza descend on Beirut to proclaim him a champion of democracy and tolerance), and who else is there? A second round for Amine Gemayel? Some old Chamoun leftover?
Barring some hitherto unknown prodigy, it seems to me there has to be a deal around Aouns candidacy, and that's where the level of foreign (US, Syrian and Iranian) influence and dedication to stop the other side from scoring points, gets really relevant. I could well imagine the leaderships in all three countries deciding that it is more important to spite their rivals, than to save Lebanon from itself by letting it fudge out a dirty little compromise between the key players. And that could lead to massive tragedy.
Posted by: alle at December 3, 2006 12:38 PM
I really don't get what Aoun (or possibly Hariri &c) is playing at. The deal that would be cut is pretty obvious, right? So why haven't they cut it long since?
Posted by: Tom Scudder at December 3, 2006 12:46 PM
The Thinking Lebanese has a post on this very subject, though neither contributors nor commenters want to touch Aoun with a bargepole. Said one, "As long as it is not Aoun I am fine with anyone else who actually has some kind of election program." However no one seemed to have a very good idea who this 'anyone else' might be.
Posted by: Antiquated Tory at December 4, 2006 10:53 AM