In a previous post, I noted that the Hezbollah raid on Israel seemed to anger Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak almost as much as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In subsequent days, the depth of “official” Arab hostility toward Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran has become big news.
The New York Times (“Militia Rebuked by Some Arab Countries“) and the Washington Post (“Strikes Are Called Part of a Broad Strategy“) take note of official Arab reaction to the Israeli conflict with Hezbollah.
The possibility of Arab-Iranian rivalry has not escaped the notice of Israeli officials, either. Shimon Peres had this to say on CNN’s Larry King Live as King was concluding an interview:
KING: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, always good to see you. We’ve had…
PERES: I want to say one thing, Larry. Even the Arabs, this time — thank you.
KING: Go ahead. Whatever you wanted to add.
PERES: Yes, I wanted to add that, for the first time, the Arab countries, many of them, if not most of them, are calling for Hezbollah to stop it. The Lebanese government is asking for the same. It never happened before. And we feel that we’re doing the right thing, and we shall not permit the devil to govern our destinies or our region.
KING: Shimon Peres, the former prime minister, now Israeli Deputy Prime Minister.
Wonder of wonders, the “devil” is not Arab. The “devil” is Persian.
Swopa over at Needlenose goes so far as to link the idea of a new Arab/Zionist axis against Iran to the pro-Sunni Arab tilt of US policy in Iraq.
I am not sure that Right Zionists have abandoned the hope of a regional alliance with the “Najaf” Shiites aligned with Grand Ayatollah Sistani. But that doesn’t mean they are unwilling to try to simultaneously exploit both sides of any Arab/Iranian rivalry they can find.
The Bush Revolution, Part II: A Little Something for the Arabs
In my reading of David Wurmser’s book, Tyranny’s Ally, as a kind of Right Zionist playbook, I noted that Wurmser wrote about “dual rollback” in Iraq and Iran. One way of looking at this “dual rollback” plan is to think of it as a two act play:
The invasion of Iraq is Act One of the Bush Revolution: Sunni Arab rule in Iraq is destroyed and the US turns to the country’s Shiite majority as a new “client.” Arab regimes are nervous and angry.
Act Two may is just beginning (please return to your seats and ignore Time magazine which seems to have mistaken the “intermission” for the end of the show).
Act Two centers on “rollback” in Iran and in this scene Arab officials presumably play a supporting role, with Israel in the lead. The second Act opens in Lebanon, although the finale is almost certainly supposed to be set in Iran.
The drama unfolding in Lebanon centers on the pivotal role of Saudi Arabia. There has been long-standing tension between Saudi Arabia and Syria over control of Lebanon. In many respects, the Saudis perceived the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri as a Syrian attack on their interests in Lebanon. Hariri–like Israel and the US–wanted Syria out of Lebanon.
Today, Hariri’s son continues in his father’s footsteps. Stratfor reports:
Saad al-Hariri, current leader of Lebanon’s Sunni community, is headed to Riyadh on July 16 for talks on the building conflict between Israel and the militant Shiite Islamist group Hezbollah.
Hezbollah’s actions, which have led to the verge of a major war with Israel, threaten the interests of the al-Hariris. Saudi Arabia, as a principal behind the al-Hariri clan, is concerned about Iran’s advances deeper into the region.
The Saudis and Hariri will have to weigh the risks and advantages of allowing Israel to wage war against their common enemy, Hezbollah. Will Hariri return from Riyahd with instructions to back Hezbollah’s uprising against Israel, or to keep his mouth shut, let Israel do its work, and prepare to inherit Lebanon?
So far, he has been critical of Israel, although his language has been somewhat ambiguous. The Daily Star reports:
“A clear Arab stand should be taken on this Israeli aggression against Lebanon,” [Hariri]… said Saturday. “Lebanon should not be left as a battlefield for everyone, and Israel must know that Lebanon is not a terrorist state but in fact a resisting state and that Israel is the enemy.”
The key line is that Lebanon “should not be left as a battlefield for everyone,” which presumably includes Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah as much as it does Israel.
Gilbert Achcar makes the point quite well:
Israel holds hostage an entire population in a disproportionate reaction that aims at pulling the rug from under the feet of its opponents and at pressuring local forces to act against them. But if this is indeed Israel’s calculation, it could backfire, as it is possible that a military action of such a scope could lead to the exact opposite and radicalize the population more against Israel than against Hezbollah…
To hold the present Lebanese government responsible for Hezbollah’s action, even after this government has officially taken its distance from that action, is a demonstration of Israel’s diktat policy on the one hand, and on the other hand the indication of Israel’s determination to compel the Lebanese to enter into a state of civil war, as it tries to do with the Palestinians. In each case, Israel wants to compel one part of the local society — Fatah in Palestine and the governmental majority in Lebanon — to crush Israel’s main enemies, Hamas and Hezbollah, or else they be crushed themselves.
We’ll see. There is an obvious risk for Israel that its aggression will inflame the “Arab street” and force Arab “officials”–including anti-Syrian Lebanese Christians and Sunnis–to rally around Hezbollah, etc.
On Palestine (aka Jordan):
The drama unfolding in Gaza may not really have much to do with Gaza. Right Zionists may not have a particularly complex plan for Gaza. The only real plan is to divide Gaza and the West Bank and help deliver the latter to King Abdullah in Jordan.
Right Zionists are reviving the old plan–last championed by George Shultz in the late 1980s–for Jordan to take over the West Bank.
The most prominent champion of such a plan is Meyrav Wurmser–whose husband is David Wurmser (see above). Wurmser announced a “Paradigm Shift” in the New York Sun today:
We are witnessing the collapse not only of the Road Map and the Disengagement and Convergence concepts but of a paradigm which emerged in 1994 during the Oslo process. That paradigm was grounded in the idea that the best solution to the Palestinian problem was the creation of a third state along with Israel and Jordan within the League of Nations mandatory borders of interwar Palestine. Until Oslo, Jordan, Israel and the United States all publicly repeated that an independent Palestinian state was dangerous to their national interests...
From September 1970 until September 1993, it was universally understood in Jordan, in Israel and in the West that the local Palestinian issue was best subsumed under a Jordanian-Israeli condominium to isolate the issue from being exploited by broader regional forces that sought to trigger Arab-Israeli wars that were convenient diversions or vehicles for imperial ambition.
This plan has been circulating in Right Zionist circles. See, for example, the March 2003 Middle East Quarterly article, “Re-energizing a West Bank-Jordan Alliance.”
Hamas’s landslide victory in the recent Palestinian parliamentary elections is the latest sign of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) failure. The collapse of the West Bank into civil chaos and jihadist control would pose a security dilemma not only for Israel but also for Jordan. It is a scenario that increasingly occupies the Jordanian government’s strategic thinking…
King Abdullah has signaled a willingness to reengage in West Bank affairs. In the most significant Jordanian intervention in the West Bank since July 1988, Abdullah began in March 2005 to enlist new recruits for the Jordan-based and influenced Badr security forces (also known as the Palestinian Liberation Army) for possible deployment to parts of the West Bank…
Marouf al-Bakhit, at the time Jordan’s ambassador to Israel and, subsequently, the kingdom’s prime minister, elaborated that the Jordanian government hoped to play a more active role in the West Bank. On the eve of Zarqawi’s attack, former prime minister Adnan Badran told the Palestinian daily Al-Quds that Jordan could no longer sit idle “with its arms crossed and watch what transpires in Palestine because it influences what happens in Jordan for better or worse”
In March 2005, the Jordanian government made clear its willingness to alter the traditional peace process paradigm. On the eve of the March 2005 Arab League summit in Algiers, Jordanian foreign minister Hani al-Mulki called for a “regional approach” to Middle East peacemaking along the lines of the 1991 Madrid peace conference. This set the stage for King Abdullah’s proposal at the summit, in which he called for a broader and more creative approach.
The Jordanian leadership appears increasingly willing to play a direct role…
Wishful thinking, perhaps. But not unimportant to know just what kind of “thinking” Right Zionists are doing these days…