Posted by: quiscus | December 29, 2012

December 29, 2012

1. “Schwarzkopf (RIP) and How the United States got Bogged Down in the Middle East

Britain withdrew from the Gulf gradually through the 1960s, and pulled out altogether in 1971, as part of decolonization. In the meantime, many of the former trucial states had discovered petroleum and were getting rich just as their Great Power patron was departing.

Rich, tiny countries with no armies of their own to speak of were vulnerable to being annexed by the larger states in the region. Iraq claimed Kuwait, Iran claimed Bahrain, and even the somewhat larger Saudi Arabia was not secure from annexation.

It was not inevitable that the US should fill the power vacuum left behind by the British. President Richard M. Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, attempted to arrange for the king of Iran, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, to replace Britain. The Shah sent forces to Oman to put down an allegedly Communist tribal insurgency. But then he was overthrown by Imam Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979, and the Iran proxy plan crashed and burned.

Then from about 1983, President Ronald Reagan attempted to replace Iran as guardian of the Gulf with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

But Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait made him unsuitable to the task from the point of view of Washington.

In deciding to push Iraq back out of Kuwait and guarantee the status quo ante in the Gulf, George H. W. Bush and his Centcom commander Gen. Schwarzkopf took the fateful step that would lead to the US replacing Britain as the Great Power in the Gulf. Schwarzkopf is said to have helped convince Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd to allow the pre-positioning of hundreds of thousands of US and allied troops on Saudi soil in advance of the 1991 invasion of Kuwait.

Once the US pushed Iraq out of Kuwait, it established a no-fly zone in the south of Iraq, and ultimately another one in the north. The Shiites and Kurds had rebelled against a humiliated Saddam Hussein in spring of 1991, and the regime used helicopter gunships to crush the protesters. In the aftermath of that PR embarrassment, the US had little choice but to put in the no-fly zones to prevent the Baath regime in Baghdad from further massacring the Shiites and the Kurds. Washington leased the Prince Sultan airbase from Saudi Arabia, and did the overflights over Iraq from there. The US was stuck

The US also had leased a naval facility at Manama, Bahrain, taking over from the British in 1971. But from 1997, the US presence at the base was much expanded.

The US thus become the guarantor of Gulf security, finally replacing the British.”

2. “Are the Palestinians Ready to Share a State With Jordan?

President Abbas may be pursuing a confederation with Jordan — a move that could finally break the stalemate in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The idea of Jordan having a greater role in Palestine is attractive for various parties. With the Israelis claiming that the Palestinians might repeat the Gaza rocket problem if they withdraw from the West Bank, the idea of a Jordanian security role in the West Bank can defuse such Israeli concerns. A role for Jordan in Palestine would be publicly acceptable in Israel, where the Hashemite enjoy consistent respect among everyday Israelis. Americans would also find such an idea easier to deal with if talks ever return. And even among Palestinians who are unhappy with the PLO and its failures to end the Israeli occupation, any process that can end Israeli presence in Palestinian territories is welcome — even if that is replaced, temporarily, by an Arab party, whether it is Jordan or any other member of the Arab league.

The suggestion that Jordan returns to a direct role that can include sovereign control (and therefore responsibility) for the West Bank is a long shot for most Palestinians — and more importantly, Jordanians. Palestinians will see it as infringing on their independence. Jordanians will see it as a burden that will weaken their attempts at building a new East Bank Jordan with as few citizens of Palestinian origin as possible. Such a deal would certainly make Palestinians a majority in a federal system, bringing about the scenario that right-wing Israelis have been pushing, namely that Jordan is Palestine.

A Palestinian-Jordanian confederation, however, is another issue. Confederations are political systems that include two independent countries. For some time in the 1980s, this was the most talked-about term in the region. The late Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyyad), the former head of intelligence for the PLO, was quoted as saying that what Palestinians wanted was five minutes of independence and then they would happily agree to a confederation with Jordan. However, the issue became politically poisonous as soon as the late King Hussein of Jordan said publicly that he doesn’t want anyone to ever utter the term “confederation.” And so it has been for the past two decades.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, whose wife is of Palestinian origin, doesn’t have the same sensitivity, nor do Palestinians have the same concerns about him and a possible Jordanian lust for Palestinian land. Since 1988, Jordan, which had controlled the West Bank until it was lost in the 1967 war, has declared that the unity of the two banks back in the early 1950s is no longer the case. Shortly after the eruption of the 1987 Palestinian intifada, King Hussein declared a cessation of its role in the West Bank. This cessation, which has yet to be constitutionally mandated, has been rejected by the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood — the largest and most organized opposition group in Jordan. ”


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