Global Policy Forum

Peace In Iraq Is Inextricably Linked


By Michael Shaik*

The Age
August 13, 2007

It's not too late to refocus on defeating al-Qaeda. Six months since the launch of the "surge strategy", the United States has yet to bring Iraq's sectarian bloodletting under control. The coalition death toll is averaging three a day and a coalition of Democrats and disaffected Republicans are giving voice to a frustrated and angry majority of American voters by calling on President George Bush to bring the troops home.

Acknowledging a growing consensus among US legislators that a withdrawal of coalition forces will take place next year, former American ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk has recommended that the coalition focus its energies on dealing with the "ripple effect" of its defeat by working to contain Iran's growing influence throughout the Middle East ("Securing the Arab world", Opinion, 25/7). The logic of this proposal is certainly persuasive. If the coalition has exhausted its repertoire of military and political stratagems to tame the insurgency and create a functioning Iraqi state, then the case for cutting its losses is irrefutable. Yet perhaps it is not too late to learn from past blunders and deny al-Qaeda its first victory over the world's only superpower by revisiting the report presented to Congress by the Iraq Study Group last December.

The report, prepared by a committee of elder statesmen, Middle East experts and retired intelligence analysts, warned that there was no military solution to the conflict and that a US defeat in Iraq could lead to a broader regional war, a drop in global oil production and a loss of public support for future military deployments in defence of America's global interests. Crucially, it noted that all the key issues in the Middle East - Iraq, Iran, terrorism and the Arab-Israeli conflict - were inextricably linked and that America would not be able to achieve its goals in the region unless it dealt with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

To stabilise Iraq and defeat al-Qaeda, the study group recommended that the US co-operate with Iran and Syria in stabilising Iraq, promote national reconciliation by engaging with all parties to the conflict except al-Qaeda and renew its commitment to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. The elements of the peace, the study group stipulated, must be a US security guarantee for Israel, the return of the Golan Heights to Syria, support for a Palestinian unity government and a two-state resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict based on UN Security Council resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories.

Regrettably, Bush rejected the report's recommendations. In January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described a "new alignment" in the Middle East, which was being threatened by the "extremist forces" of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran. In the same month, the President announced the launch of the "surge strategy", the key elements of which were an increase of troop levels in Iraq, the deployment of Patriot missiles to the Gulf oilfields, the arrest of Iranian diplomats in Iraq and the deployment of a third aircraft carrier to the region. The strategy reveals a depressing pattern to America's conduct of the war on terrorism.

In 2003, the invasion of Iraq allowed al-Qaeda to recover its losses in Afghanistan by opening a new theatre of operations in Iraq. In 2007, the US is edging towards a protracted conflict with a country whose assistance in stabilising both Iraq and Afghanistan is indispensable. To be fair to Bush, his predicament is not wholly of his making. For four decades, successive American administrations have failed to halt Israel's colonisation of the occupied territories. With Washington's redoubtable Israel lobby openly calling for an attack on Iran, the besieged President probably feels it would be safer to follow its lead than confront Israel over its refusal to enter into final status talks on a settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The tragedy of the present course, however, is that it might be letting slip America's last opportunity to secure Iran's co-operation in the pacification of Iraq and a two-state settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the establishment of a viable and pro-Western Palestinian state.

Having spent all his political capital in dissolving the Palestinians' unity government, the pro-Western Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas finds himself humiliated by the West's silence regarding Israel's latest land grabs in the West Bank. If he fails in his endeavour to negotiate a peace treaty along the lines of those described in the study group's report, the West will pay a high price for Bush's failure to act on its recommendations.

Should Israel's colonisation of the West Bank continue, the US will find itself defending what former US president Jimmy Carter has described as a regime of apartheid in which Jews and Palestinians living in the same area are subject to different laws and differential access to resources. Should America succumb to Israeli pressure to isolate Iran, it will lose the war in Iraq.

About the Author: Michael Shaik is the public advocate for Australians for Palestine.

More Information on Iraq
More Information on the Political Consequences of the War and Occupation in Iraq
More Information on Withdrawal?
More General Analysis on US Military Expansion and Intervention


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