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Posted by andreas from ( on Wednesday, September 11, 2002 at 2:21AM :

In Reply to: US wants to "Reshape Entire Mideast &quo posted by Lilly from ? ( on Tuesday, September 10, 2002 at 11:56AM :,7792,785394,00.html

Playing skittles with Saddam

The gameplan among Washington's hawks has long been to reshape the Middle
East along US-Israeli lines, writes Brian Whitaker

Tuesday September 3, 2002

In a televised speech last week, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt predicted
devastating consequences for the Middle East if Iraq is attacked.
"We fear a state of disorder and chaos may prevail in the region," he said.
Mr Mubarak is an old-fashioned kind of Arab leader and, in the brave new
post-September-11 world, he doesn't quite get the point.

What on earth did he expect the Pentagon's hawks to do when they heard his
words of warning? Throw up their hands in dismay? - "Gee, thanks, Hosni. We
never thought of that. Better call the whole thing off right away."

They are probably still splitting their sides with laughter in the
Pentagon. But Mr Mubarak and the hawks do agree on one thing: war with Iraq
could spell disaster for several regimes in the Middle East. Mr Mubarak
believes that would be bad. The hawks, though, believe it would be good.

For the hawks, disorder and chaos sweeping through the region would not be
an unfortunate side-effect of war with Iraq, but a sign that everything is
going according to plan.

In their eyes, Iraq is just the starting point - or, as a recent
presentation at the Pentagon put it, "the tactical pivot" - for re-moulding
the Middle East on Israeli-American lines.

This reverses the usual approach in international relations where stability
is seen as the key to peace, and whether or not you like your neighbours,
you have to find ways of living with them. No, say the hawks. If you don't
like the neighbours, get rid of them.

The hawks claim that President Bush has already accepted their plan and
made destabilisation of "despotic regimes" a central goal of his foreign
policy. They cite passages from his recent speeches as proof of this,
though whether Mr Bush really knows what he has accepted is unclear. The
"skittles theory" of the Middle East - that one ball aimed at Iraq can
knock down several regimes - has been around for some time on the wilder
fringes of politics but has come to the fore in the United States on the
back of the "war against terrorism".

Its roots can be traced, at least in part, to a paper published in 1996 by
an Israeli thinktank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political
Studies. Entitled "A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm",
it was intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of
Binyamin Netanyahu. As the title indicates, it advised the right-wing Mr
Netanyahu to make a complete break with the past by adopting a strategy
"based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores
strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every
possible energy on rebuilding Zionism ..."

Among other things, it suggested that the recently-signed Oslo accords
might be dispensed with - "Israel has no obligations under the Oslo
agreements if the PLO does not fulfil its obligations" - and that
"alternatives to [Yasser] Arafat's base of power" could be cultivated.
"Jordan has ideas on this," it added.

It also urged Israel to abandon any thought of trading land for peace with
the Arabs, which it described as "cultural, economic, political,
diplomatic, and military retreat".

"Our claim to the land - to which we have clung for hope for 2,000 years -
is legitimate and noble," it continued. "Only the unconditional acceptance
by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, 'peace
for peace', is a solid basis for the future."

The paper set out a plan by which Israel would "shape its strategic
environment", beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the
installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad.

With Saddam out of the way and Iraq thus brought under Jordanian Hashemite
influence, Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel to weaken
and "roll back" Syria. Jordan, it suggested, could also sort out Lebanon by
"weaning" the Shia Muslim population away from Syria and Iran, and
re-establishing their former ties with the Shia in the new Hashemite
kingdom of Iraq. "Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend
them", the paper concluded.

To succeed, the paper stressed, Israel would have to win broad American
support for these new policies - and it advised Mr Netanyahu to formulate
them "in language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of
American administrations during the cold war which apply well to Israel".

At first glance, there's not much to distinguish the 1996 "Clean Break"
paper from the outpourings of other right-wing and ultra-Zionist thinktanks
... except for the names of its authors.

The leader of the "prominent opinion makers" who wrote it was Richard
Perle - now chairman of the Defence Policy Board at the Pentagon.

Also among the eight-person team was Douglas Feith, a neo-conservative
lawyer, who now holds one of the top four posts at the Pentagon as
under-secretary of policy.

Mr Feith has objected to most of the peace deals made by Israel over the
years, and views the Middle East in the same good-versus-evil terms that he
previously viewed the cold war. He regarded the Oslo peace process as
nothing more than a unilateral withdrawal which "raises life-and-death
issues for the Jewish state".

Two other opinion-makers in the team were David Wurmser and his wife,
Meyrav (see US thinktanks give lessons in foreign policy, August 19). Mrs
Wurmser was co-founder of Memri, a Washington-based charity that
distributes articles translated from Arabic newspapers portraying Arabs in
a bad light. After working with Mr Perle at the American Enterprise
Institute, David Wurmser is now at the State Department, as a special
assistant to John Bolton, the under-secretary for arms control and
international security.

A fifth member of the team was James Colbert, of the Washington-based
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Jinsa) - a bastion of
neo-conservative hawkery whose advisory board was previously graced by Dick
Cheney (now US vice-president), John Bolton and Douglas Feith.

One of Jinsa's stated aims is "to inform the American defence and foreign
affairs community about the important role Israel can and does play in
bolstering democratic interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East".
In practice, a lot of its effort goes into sending retired American
military brass on jaunts to Israel - after which many of them write
suitably hawkish newspaper articles or letters to the editor.

Jinsa's activities are examined in detail by Jason Vest in the September 2
issue of The Nation. The article notes some interesting business
relationships between retired US military officers on Jinsa's board and
American companies supplying weapons to Israel.

With several of the "Clean Break" paper's authors now holding key positions
in Washington, the plan for Israel to "transcend" its foes by reshaping the
Middle East looks a good deal more achievable today than it did in 1996.
Americans may even be persuaded to give up their lives to achieve it.

The six-year-old plan for Israel's "strategic environment" remains more or
less intact, though two extra skittles - Saudi Arabia and Iran - have
joined Iraq, Syria and Lebanon on the hit list.

Whatever members of the Iraqi opposition may think, the plan to replace
Saddam Hussein with a Hashemite monarch - descendants of the Prophet
Muhammad who rule Jordan - is also very much alive. Evidence of this was
strengthened by the surprise arrival of Prince Hassan, former heir to the
Jordanian throne, at a meeting of exiled Iraqi officers in London last

The task of promoting Prince Hassan as Iraq's future king has fallen to
Michael Rubin, who currently works at the American Enterprise Institute but
will shortly take up a new job at the Pentagon, dealing with post-Saddam

One of the curious aspects of this neo-conservative intrigue is that so few
people outside the United States and Israel take it seriously. Perhaps,
like President Mubarak, they can't imagine that anyone who holds a powerful
position in the United States could be quite so reckless.

But nobody can accuse the neo-conservatives of concealing their intentions:
they write about them constantly in American newspapers. Just two weeks
ago, an article in the Washington Times by Tom Neumann, executive director
of Jinsa, spelled out the plan in clear, cold terms:

"Jordan will likely survive the coming war with US assistance, so will some
of the sheikhdoms. The current Saudi regime will likely not.

"The Iran dissident movement would be helped enormously by the demise of
Saddam, and the Palestinians would have to know that the future lies with
the West. Syria's Ba'athist dictatorship will likely fall unmourned,
liberating Lebanon as well.

"Israel and Turkey, the only current democracies in the region, will find
themselves in a far better neighbourhood." Would anyone like to bet on


: You guys realize how lucrative a war against Iraq would be, esp. if it spreads to the entire Mid East for the weapons industries? More sales for them. & you know the oil industry wouldn't care - they'd keep on pumping oil while all that fighting is going on. The US gov't could give a rat's ass about democratic change in the Mid East. & those jackasses in the defense industry are the kinds of people who'd sell their grandmothers for a profit if they could.

: --------------------------
: September 10, 2002
: Boston Globe

: Iraq War Hawks Have Plans to Reshape Entire Mideast
: by John Donnelly and Anthony Shadid
: WASHINGTON - As the Bush administration debates going to war against Iraq, its most hawkish members are pushing a sweeping vision for the Middle East that sees the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq as merely a first step in the region's transformation.

: The argument for reshaping the political landscape in the Mideast has been pushed for years by some Washington think tanks and in hawkish circles. It is now being considered as a possible US policy with the ascent of key hard-liners in the administration - from Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith in the Pentagon to John Hannah and Lewis Libby on the vice president's staff and John Bolton in the State Department, analysts and officials say.

: The argument we would be starting a democratic wave in Iraq is pure blowing smoke.

: Jessica Mathews, president of Carnegie Endownment for International Peace
: Iraq, the hawks argue, is just the first piece of the puzzle. After an ouster of Hussein, they say, the United States will have more leverage to act against Syria and Iran, will be in a better position to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and will be able to rely less on Saudi oil.

: The thinking does not represent official US policy. But increasingly the argument has served as a justification for a military attack against Iraq, and elements of the strategy have emerged in speeches by administration officials, most prominently Vice President Dick Cheney.

: ''The goal is not just a new regime in Iraq. The goal is a new Middle East,'' said Raad Alkadiri, an Iraq analyst with PFC, a Washington-based energy consulting organization. ''The goal has been and remains one of the main driving factors of preemptive action against Iraq.''

: Cheney revealed some of the thinking in a speech in August when he made the administration's case for a regime change. He argued Hussein's overthrow would ''bring about a number of benefits to the region'' and enhance US ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

: ''When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace,'' he told the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

: The arguments are, by no means, uniform, and critics dismiss some as wishful thinking. Even among neoconservatives who see an attack on Iraq as a first step toward transforming the Mideast, there are debates over how far-reaching and fast the change will be.

: The more modest version sees an attack as sending a message to the rest of the region, making clear the US is prepared to unilaterally deploy its military power to achieve its goals, objectives, and values.

: Among its most extreme versions was a view elaborated in a briefing in July by a Rand Corp. researcher to the Defense Policy Board - an advisory group to the Pentagon led by Richard Perle, a leading hawk.

: That briefing urged the United States to deliver an ultimatum to the Saudi government to cut its ties to militant Islam or risk seizure of its oil fields and overseas assets. It called Iraq ''the tactical pivot'' and Saudi Arabia ''the strategic pivot.''

: Within those poles some clear themes are emerging, and Saudi Arabia receives much of the attention, analysts and officials say.

: Patrick Clawson, deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, contends that a pro-US Iraq would lead to a reassessment of the US-Saudi alliance, which dates to World War II but has become strained since Sept. 11 attacks, and the worsening of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

: A friendly Iraq - home to the world's second-largest oil reserves - would provide an alternative to Saudi Arabia for basing US troops. Its oil reserves would make Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, less important in setting prices, he said. In general, others contend, a US-allied Iraq could work to diminish the influence of OPEC, long dominated by Saudi Arabia, over oil supplies and prices.

: ''We would be much more in a position of strength vis-a-vis the Saudis,'' Clawson said.

: Others espousing the vision see potential changes in Syria and Iran, as well. The fallout from an attack on Iraq could bring to a head the longstanding power struggle in Iran between conservatives in the clerical leadership and reformers grouped around President Mohammad Khatami.

: Some see the reformers invigorated by the example of a democratic Iraq, or even a surge in popular discontent leading to far-reaching change. At the very least, they argue, the show of US power would give the administration more leverage in pressuring Iran over its suspected missile and nuclear programs.

: The United States could exert that same leverage in forcing an end to Syrian support for Lebanon's Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim guerrilla group allied with Iran that opposes Israel.

: A powerful corollary of the strategy is that a pro-US Iraq would make the region safer for Israel and, indeed, its staunchest proponents are ardent supporters of the Israeli right-wing. Administration officials, meanwhile, have increasingly argued that the onset of an Iraq allied to the US would give the administration more sway in bringing about a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though Cheney and others have offered few details on precisely how.

: ''Maybe we do stir the pot and see what comes up,'' one US official said.

: In its broadest terms, the advocates argue that a democratic Iraq would unleash similar change elsewhere in the Arab world - an argument resonant among Bush administration officials who have increasingly called for change in a region where Western-style democracy is virtually nonexistent.

: ''Everyone will flip out, starting with the Saudis,'' said Meyrav Wurmser, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute in Washington. ''It will send shock waves throughout the Arab world.

: ''Look, we already are pushing for democracy in the Palestinian Authority - though not with a huge amount of success - and we need a little bit more of a heavy-handed approach,'' she said. ''But if we can get a democracy in the Palestinian Authority, democracy in Iraq, get the Egyptians to improve their human rights and open up their system, it will be a spectacular change. After a war with Iraq, then you really shape the region.''

: Critics call the arguments misguided at best, with tragic worst-case scenarios.

: ''There are some people who religiously believe that Iraq is the beginning of this great new adventure of remapping the Middle East and all these countries. I think that's a simplistic view,'' said Judith Yaphe, an Iraq scholar and senior research professor at the National Defense University.

: Jessica T. Mathews, president of Carnegie Endownment for International Peace, a Washington policy group, said that installing a democracy in Iraq, much less the rest of the Middle East, would be extraordinarily difficult, if not out of the question. She contended that change in Iraq is more akin to building a wall brick by brick and will require the support of allies.

: ''The argument we would be starting a democratic wave in Iraq is pure blowing smoke,'' Mathews said. ''You have 22 Arab governments and not one has made any progress toward democracy, not one. It's one of the great issues before us, but the very last place you'd suspect to turn the tide is Iraq. You don't go from an'' authoritarian '' dictatorship to a democracy overnight, not even quickly.''

: Nevertheless, there are signs the thinking has powerful backers.

: While many of the hawks are under the wing of Wolfowitz, several conservatives hold influential positions in Cheney's office and in the State Department, which is headed by the administration's most prominent moderate, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. During the Clinton administration, many of them served with far-right, defense-oriented think tanks such as the Center for Security Policy and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

: Perle, an adviser to both groups, remains a resident fellow at the hawkish American Enterprise Institute and a member of the board at the Hudson Institute.

: ''There are people invested in this philosophy all throughout the administration. Some of the strongest voices are in State,'' said one senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

: The most vocal hawk at the State Department is Bolton, who holds two titles - undersecretary for arms control and international proliferation and senior adviser to the president for arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament.

: Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company


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