The UK sailors incident was pretty spectacular but is only a small part of what has been going on in the Middle East over the past couple of weeks. When one looks at the whole scene, it appears that the Middle East is fed up with Elliot Abrams/neocon-driven foreign policy of George W. Bush. Been there, done that war thing, didn’t work. Even Israel knows that the neocon strategy is a bust.
When Bush took office, there were three major problems in the Middle East:
- The Palestinian question,
- the rise of Islamic fundamentalism of the al-Qaeda brand, and
- what to do with Iraq.
A fourth issue, oil dependency, compounded the difficulties. Under the influence of the neoconservatives, our Middle East foreign policy has included essentially NO diplomatic activity, and no effort has been made to address our oil dependence. Instead, the neocons have taken the Middle East into three significant armed conflicts (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon/Israel). All three have been, it is fair to say, failures.
The three major problems are all now much worse than before Bush took office. And oil dependence continues. In addition, we now have three more problems:
- sectarian violence,
- a massive refugee problem, and
- the Iranian nuclear issue,
not to mention worldwide and Middle eastern anti-Americanism on a scale never seen before.
We have touched on the Saudis’ displeasure with Bush. The Saudis have been disgusted by the Iraq fiasco, and by Bush’s refusal to consider the Saudi solution to the Palestinian problem. The Saudis may be uncomfortable with Iran’s brand of Islam, with their nuclear program, and with their regional influence, but Tehran has never been an aggressor, and will support the Saudi proposal for the solution to the Palestinian problem.
The US approach to Syria has been similar to its relations with Iran. This is not surprising, considering that it also originates out of Abram’s ISOG. The visits made by Speaker Pelosi to Syria and Saudi Arabia this week speak volumes. From Josh Marshall:
A better question than ‘why is it such a brouhaha’ is ‘why is the White House making it such a brouhaha’?
At one level, just to score points domestically. We all understand that. But more broadly the whole episode comes down to a commentary on Bush’s irrelevance.
The president has been despised abroad for years. But that’s not a bad thing for an American president — at least judged in domestic political terms. Now, however, he is also wildly unpopular in his own country. And all his initiatives on the world stage are seen at home and abroad as unmitigated disasters.
In response, the president has withdrawn into a cocoon of his fantasies, ignoring most of the stuff that’s actually happening in the world, most of the drivers that will be affecting our lives for years into the future.
The Israelis use of Pelosi as a go-between between them and the Syrians tells not only the specific but the larger tale. Isn’t this what the US — or whatever country has the pretense of being the great power in the region — is supposed to do?
Here’s what the message was about. As often seems to happen between these countries, the Israelis had been picking up hints that the Syrians thought the Israelis were going to attack this summer. And the Israelis worried that the Syrians would preemptively attack on the Golan Heights to get a jump on the Israelis. But the Israelis say that they’re not planning anything like that. So they asked Pelosi to convey this message to Damascus — to prevent a possible chain of misunderstandings leading to war.
This seems of a piece with February’s news that the Bush administration was insisting that the Israelis not pursue exploratory talks with the Syrians about a potential peace deal.
Pelosi’s trip is an embarrassment for the president because it shows an American actually involving herself in realities on the world stage rather than stuck in denial and fantasy. That may sound a bit starry-eyed. But think about it and I’ll think you’ll see that that’s a lot of what this is about.
So the real point of the UK sailor crisis is that it was solved in spite of Bush’s attempts at escalation, by the Brits, the Iranians, and the Iraqis, who “coincidentally” released an Iranian prisoner at exactly the right moment. I would be surprised if there were not also some input by the Saudis. Essentially no one in the Middle East is listening to Bush (or Condi who?). Not the Saudis, not the Jordanians, not the Lebanese, or the Israelis.
But you keep barking, Elliot Abrams….
The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.