Saturday, November 12, 2005

Another Possible Plan

On October 7, 2005 I suggested a plan for the US to exit Iraq in such a fashion as to avoid a civil war. In today's NY Times, Milton Viorst suggests another way to accomplish this.

COULD the answer be the Arab League?

The question, of course, is how do we get out of Iraq? President Bush is increasingly isolated in claiming we are on our way to victory or democracy or human rights or even the restoration of Baghdad's electric grid. Even before Iraqi violence began spilling over into Jordan, American forces have clearly failed at maintaining order. It is time for a different approach, one that may lie with the Arab League.

In Lebanon 16 years ago, the Arab League ended a seemingly intractable civil war. The Lebanese - Christians, Druzes, Shiites, Sunnis, even Palestinians - had been killing one another since 1975. Interventions by Syria, Israel and the United States made matters only worse. ...Exhausted as the Lebanese were by the fighting, the vision of a unified nation remained intact. That is when the Arab League stepped in.

The Arab League was always known as a weakling. But the fractious Arab states agreed at last that Lebanon's civil war and the prospect of partition threatened them all. Pulling Lebanon together was an incentive that superseded their divisions.

In January 1989, the Arab foreign ministers met and set up a Committee of Six - Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Sudan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates - to devise a peace proposal. At a subsequent Arab League summit, a troika of the Saudi and Moroccan kings and the Algerian president was given six months to come up with an agreement. Lakhdar Ibrahimi, then a highly regarded adviser to Algeria's president, was named the project's chief diplomat. Though Mr. Ibrahimi had no army behind him, he spoke as an Arab to Arabs, with the full moral authority of the Arab community. The Lebanese listened.

In September of that year, after Mr. Ibrahimi had negotiated a cease-fire in Lebanon, the troika invited Lebanon's Parliament to meet in Taif, a mountain town in Saudi Arabia, to discuss an Arab League draft of a new charter. After three weeks of bargaining, the parliamentarians signed an accord based on the draft, with all the Lebanese factions conceding more than they ever imagined they would. To be sure, the time was right: Lebanon was fed up with war. But crucial to Taif was the absence of foreign involvement. It was an Arab triumph.

Is there a lesson for President Bush? Even more than Lebanon's combatants, Iraq's factions agree on one thing: they want no more Western intrusions. Although Iraqis recently ratified a new constitution, the insurgency goes on. In contrast to the Arab League in Lebanon, the United States has a huge army in Iraq - and no moral force to stop the killing.

Since failing to head off the invasion of Iraq, the Arab League has been waiting in the wings. It has made clear that it considers the regional autonomy contained in the constitution a bad precedent, divided as many Arab countries are by sectarianism. And with insurgents attacking their diplomats, Arab nations have been slow to send representatives to Baghdad.

But given the chance, the Arab League might well pull together, as it did in Lebanon, to settle what looks increasingly like a hopeless war.
[Emphasis added]

What the US regime has not taken into consideration is that any Western style imposition of democracy or even order is simply not going to work. I think it doubtful that even the presence of United Nations troops would succeed, unless those troops were entirely made up of Middle East soldiers, and even then, there would be problems with a UN presence that will be perceived as dominated by the US and its allies. This problem requires the assistance of Iraq's neighbors, those with shared cultural and religious values.

With the release of information on 'black' prisons in Europe and the use of white phosphorus as a weapon in Fallujah, we've lost what little moral authority we had in the Middle East. Secretary of State Rice needs to stop using her Middle East trips to bash Syria and Iran and to start contacting their leaders to generate a Middle Eastern solution to this horrific situation.

We can't wait for January, 2009 or even January, 2007 for this. It needs to be done now.


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