by Tom Clifford
American Reporter Correspondent
July 18, 2007
U.S.-IRAN MEETING HOLDS LITTLE PROMISE
DUBAI -- An international meeting on Palestine proposed by President George W. Bush will not be a conference to end conflict but may herald a "peace to end peace."
The announcement by President Bush that a U.S.-led international conference, to take place before the end of the year, would resolve what he said were all the outstanding issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems hugely ambitious.
The conference will bring together Israelis, Palestinians and Arab governments in an as yet unannounced location. Playing a central role would be the Middle East group to which Tony Blair has been made special envoy - the Quartet, which is made up of the US, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union.
For six years, Mr. Bush has spoken about but largely ignored the Palestinian issue. His intervention now, with 18 months to go before his presidency ends, comes at a crucial point and it seems opportunistic. But the cynicism really starts when you realize the conditions that the President is insisting on. Hamas is to be excluded from the conference. Yet Hamas is the democratically elected government, it has been elected by the Palestinian people. How could it be excluded?
And then it clicks. James Baker accurately stated that everything in the Middle East was inter-related. There is no chance of a Palestinian state before the end of the Bush presidency, but there is a real chance of blaming Iran and its allies Hamas for the failure of the conference and provide another pretext to attack Iran.
If the conference was, improbably, a success then the White House takes credit just before an election and diverts opinion away from Iraq where the withdrawal will be underway and leaves the only issue in the Middle East to be resolved that of Iran's nuclear programme. . If it is a failure, Iran can be blamed. Either way, Iran is the objective not Palestine.
Vice President Dick Cheney has told Mr. Bush to solve the Iran issue before his term ends. A conference on Palestine, whatever the outcome, gives Bush the opportunity to ratchet up the anti-Iranian rhetoric.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad Al Baradei, has repeatedly said his inspectors have found nothing to support American and Israeli claims that Iran is building a nuclear weapon. Israel on the other hand has nuclear weapons, about 300 of them, but who's counting? Certainly no one in Washington.
Iran claims that it has an "inalienable right" under the terms of the Non Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. In actual fact, it does not. It is allowed to do it under the treaty but being allowed is not the same as having a right. What we are witnessing is a struggle between the bombastic and crude Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and relative moderates, struggling to gain power, not just political office, in Tehran.
There is also a power play in Washington, where the new Congress does not make matters better. Even if the Democrats really mean that they will not give President Bush blank checks for the Iraq War, next year is an election year and conservative criticism of Iran will become shriller and shriller. If the Democrats or Republicans take Mr. Bush to task over Iraq, what better way to "prove their patriotism" than by being belligerent about Iran?
But surely not, the argument goes. Even President Bush must realize that he is in such a mess in Iraq that to attack Iran would be a supreme act of folly, arrogance and sheer stupidity. It is, but it depends how you sell it.
If an attack is sold over weapons of mass destruction, then it will be laughed out of the Beltway. If it is sold as protection for Israel, then the only issue in doubt is timing. The same goes if it is sold as the way to bring about a "real peace" to the Middle East.
Attack Iran? Still too incredible, you think. Not if you examine the track record. The West overthrew a democratically elected government and installed a deeply unpopular army officer as the Shah.
That occurred in 1953, when the CIA and MI6 dispatched the democratic government of Mohammad Mossadeq, a nationalist who believed that Iranian oil belonged to Iran. That belief sealed his fate.
It doesn't stop there. When the Shah fell to a brutal Islamic revolution, the West needed a policeman in the Gulf, someone they could depend on to carry the big stick. That "policeman" invaded Iran in 1980 with the nod-nod-wink-wink sign of approval from Washington and London. His broken body dangled from a gallows 26 years later, captured in grainy cell-phone images. When it comes to recognising Iran's sovereignty, the West has, shall we say, a mixed record.
The attack on southern Lebanon by Israel in 2006 was never just about kidnapped soldiers or teaching Hezbollah a lesson. It was a dress rehearsal to see how much damage some of the 500 bunker-busting bombs delivered by the Pentagon in 2004 would inflict on Hezbollah hideouts, and to use that information in relation to an attack on Iran.
And perhaps Iran's rumored test of a North Korean-made missile called the Musudan, capable of hitting Turkey, Rome and London, was a dress rehearsal for that nation's possible response.
Bush's 2002 Nuclear Posture Review cites "pre-emptive" attack with so-called low-yield nuclear weapons as an option. Will the militarists in Washington, desperate now to show that they can deliver ahead of an election year, use them, if only to demonstrate that regardless of their problems with Iraq, they are able to conduct simultaneous war in different theatres?
War, to be supported by the public, can only be waged in the name of peace. And with a Palestinian conference "undermined" by an almost nuclearized Iran, it will be the peace to end all peace.