Isn’t it time for Arabs to unite?

By: Linda S. Heard

On June 22, in reference to the crisis in Iraq, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “When your enemies are fighting each other, don’t strengthen either one of them weaken both.” Every Arab conflict is in Israel’s interest was expressed by Oded Yinon, an Israeli journalist attached to the Foreign Ministry, in a 1982 paper titled “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen-Eighties”.

Splitting-up the Arab world into bite-sized toothless entities is a staple of neoconservative philosophy. One of the blueprints for rearranging the territorial deckchairs was a document titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” drawn-up in 1996, by three of George W. Bush’s neocon national security advisers, was designed to benefit Israel’s existential concerns. It advises Israel of the need to destabilize the region so as to “shape its strategic environment” by bringing down Saddam and rolling back Syria.

In retrospect, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, waged under a laundry list of false pretexts, aimed to divide Iraq into three according to an 8-page report and maps that have been published by Time Magazine — Kurdistan in the north, a Sunni state annexing a part of Syria and large areas of the south slated for Shiites. With Iraq heading for a sectarian civil war, it’s clear that plan hasn’t been shelved. Although the US says the future of Iraq must remain in the hands of the Iraqi people, there’s a growing clamor in Washington to see it carved-up. Ominously, White House Press Security Josh Earnest has declined to rule out partition.

Those of us, who naively imagined the neoconservatives were hiding somewhere burying their heads in shame at their failed ideology, were wrong. They’re back, doing the media rounds and being listened to as though they have a panacea for the violence crippling the Middle East. The fact that they got it so wrong has been erased from people’s memories.

Forgotten are the words of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who, in 2002, claimed the use of force in Iraq would last no longer than five months. Forgotten is the prediction of Dick Cheney, who said US forces would be “greeted as liberators” while President Bush was certain that “democracy would succeed and that success would send forth the news from Damascus to Tehran.” Were they grossly mistaken or were they telling outright lies?

Interestingly, when Cheney was interviewed in 1994 as to why the Americans didn’t go all the way to Baghdad in 1991 when Kuwait was liberated, he answered truthfully. He said that it would have been a US occupation of Iraq and once you got to Baghdad and took down Saddam Hussein’s government “What are you going to put in its place?” “That’s a very volatile part of the world and if you take down the central government, you could easily see pieces of Iraq fly-off…” The Syrians and the Iranians would like to claim parts, he said, and “if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire!”

Amr Moussa, then Secretary-General of the Arab League, said, “America’s war on Iraq would open the Gates of Hell in the Middle East.” How right he was! An important fact to note is this. Prior to 2003, Iraq wasn’t the terrorist swamp it is now. Moreover, Sunnis and Shiites lived side-by-side, worked together and even inter-married. America still asserts that Iraq is better off now than it was when its tanks rolled in, which would be laughable if the situation weren’t so utterly tragic. And now the Americans are back in country with military advisers and “Hellfire Missile” drones pledging serious air power in the event Baghdad comes under attack.

Sticking Iraq back together currently looks insurmountable. Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has rejected appeals from influential Shiites, such as the Ayatollah Ali Sistani and Muqtada Al-Sadr, to form a unity government. The Kurds have pulled up the drawbridge and are no longer accepting people fleeing to the comparative safety of Irbil. The danger is that if Iraq is, indeed, meted out in chunks to Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, this could set a dangerous precedent for other regional countries. Sudan was split, ostensibly, to avoid religious conflict, but violence is raging in the “new” state of South Sudan as never before. Yemen and Libya may be heading toward a similar fate if secessionists get their way.

It’s beyond time for Arab leaderships to put aside their differences and adopt a common stance to rid the area of the terrorist scourge, which some commentators believe has been deliberately injected to foster instability. Egypt’s new President Abdel Fatah El-Sissi is doing just that. He’s recently been engaged in mending fences with neighbors Algeria and Sudan and has pledged that the Egyptian military will defend Saudi Arabia and Gulf states if called upon to do so. These seeds of unity should be built-upon by all Arab states before the Arab world becomes a mere footnote in tomorrow’s history books.

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