After Donald Rumsfeld was summarily dumped after the elections, I wrote that we were watching the beginnings of a rout. Was I wrong?
- Bush and Maliki discuss a speedier handover of security control to Iraqi forces as a prelude to the start of a U.S. withdrawal when they meet in Jordan this week, top Iraqi government officials said Monday. Meanwhile, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani sought Monday to enlist Iran's help in quelling the escalating violence that threatens to tear apart the country. "We are in dire need of Iran's help in establishing security and stability in Iraq," Iran's state-run television quoted Talabani as saying after he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran. (AP)
- Britain, Poland, Italy plan Iraq withdrawal: Thousands of British soldiers will leave Iraq over the next year, significantly downgrading the country's commitment in the region, the defense secretary said Monday. Poland and Italy also announced the impending withdrawal of their remaining troops. (AP/Forbes)
- Foreign ministers of countries neighbouring Iraq will meet at the Arab League in Cairo on Dec. 5 to talk about ways to stop the violence, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. It will be the first such meeting since nine ministers -- from Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey -- met in the Iranian capital Tehran in July. (Reuters, hat tip: Winds of Change)
This comes at a time when King Abdullah of Jordan is asking the US to hold the region together. King Abdullah of Jordan told journalists that "the Middle East is on the verge of three civil wars -- in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories".
He said that "something dramatic" must come out of George Bush's meeting with Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, to stop the violence. The United States must look at the "big picture" and seek Middle Eastern solutions involving all the regional players, he told ABC's This Week programme. He said there would be another decade or two of violence if a regional peace process was not developed soon.
Now I'm thinking to myself, King Abdullah is going to argue that the American invasion of Iraq unleashed a regional struggle for power between the Sunni and Shi'ites. But I was wrong. Abdullah's exposition makes a ninety degree turn. The core problem isn't Iraq, according to Abdullah, it is Palestine.
Jordan's King Abdullah said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained the "emotional core issue" of the Middle East. Jordan is home to the largest number of Palestinians outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Asked if Syria and Iran should be included in an international conference on the Middle East, he said: "the problem is, that America needs to look at it in the total picture. It's not just one issue by itself. Palestine is the core. It is linked to the extent of what's going on in Iraq. It is linked to what's going on in Lebanon. It is linked to the issues that we find ourselves with the Syrians. So, if you want to do comprehensive - comprehensive means bringing all the parties of the region together."
Parenthetically Abdullah's father was responsible for the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan into Lebanon during the Black September in 1971, an incident which illustrates how everything is interconnected. Given his experience, Abdullah can be forgiven for thinking Palestine was the problem and hoping the Palestinians can acquire Israel, the better to get rid of them. Here's the background to Black September.
In Palestinian enclaves and refugee camps in Jordan, the police and army were losing their authority. Uniformed PLO militants openly carried weapons, set up checkpoints and attempted to collect what they called "taxes". ...[an agreement was negotiated to stop this creeping takeover -- Wretchard]
The PLO, reneging on this agreement, acted like a state within a state in Jordan. Between mid-1968 and the end of 1969, no fewer than five hundred violent clashes occurred between the Palestinian guerrillas and Jordanian security forces. Acts of violence against civilians and kidnappings frequently took place. Chief of the Jordanian royal court (and subsequently a Prime Minister) Zaid al-Rifai claimed that "the fedayeen killed a soldier, beheaded him, and played soccer with his head in the area where he used to live." ...
Many elements in the PLO extorted money from merchants at gunpoint under the claim that they were donations to the Palestinian cause. ... The PLO also continued attacking Israel from Jordanian territory without regard to Jordanian authority. Heavy Israeli reprisals resulted in high Jordanian civilian and military casualties. Jordanian soldiers who were on weekend leave were continuously attacked by Palestinians.
When a "regional peace process" works Abdullah will be the first to know. The kindest and fairest thing to say about the Middle East is that everybody's got a beef. And the Jew and more latterly the US provides the inestimable service of being the convenient reason for problems which are at least partly rooted in the warring parties themselves. So Abdullah's strange declaration makes sense in, with apologies to Chester, a "magical realism" kind of way. Viewed from that perspective, it really is America's or Jew's fault that folks are fixing to kill each other in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank. Now some people are inevitably going to ask why, if the Sunnis and Shi'as are dead set on killing each other across the Middle East because of some disturbance caused by the presence of America or Israel (remember this makes sense in some way), the reason this shouldn't be cold-bloodedly regarded as the greatest act of strategic genius since Alexander beat the Persian Empire. A variety of objections come to mind, chiefly to do with morality and the oil security, the preferred order depending on whether you are an idealist or a "realist". I will add a third. The killing's not going to stop and we're not going to stop it. In another era we might not have cared, but the lesson from 9/11 which we have forgotten already is that they will carry their magically realistic hatreds to other shores with unimaginable weapons. And remember, it's always our fault.