TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below is the editorial in today's issue of the ARAB NEWS, Saudi Arabia's leading English-language newspaper. (Perhaps President Bush read it with his breakfast. If so, and if he also read yesterday's SAUDI GAZETTE editorial, he may wish to have a stern word or two with King Abdullah about freedom of the press.)
For people who actually live in this region, there is something seriously psychedelic about the apparently prevalent belief in American ruling and punditry circles that Gulf Arabs are trembling with fear of the alleged "nuclear ambitions" of Iran and might even be willing to sell out the Palestinian people if the United States were to "take out" Iran on their behalf.
In light of Israel's ample nuclear arsenal, I suspect that most of "the street" would, in fact, be thrilled if any Muslim state within reach of Israel (even a non-Arab and Shiite one) were to acquire nuclear weapons and, thereby, establish a "balance of terror" in place of the unilateral terror of the past four decades.
To the extent that Gulf Arab rulers are worried about Iran, it surely has far less to do with any potential Iranian military threat to them or their countries than it does to the inconveniently admirable political example set by Iran's courage in proudly and defiantly standing up and talking back to America and Israel and the inconveniently admirable moral example set by the apparent austerity and genuine piety of Iran's leaders. (The shabbily dressed President Ahmedinejad is reputed to carry his lunch from his modest, pre-presidential home in a paper bag, to sleep on the floor of his office when he works late and to have performed Haj last month, at the invitation of King Abdullah, like any other pilgrim, without any security guards.) The contrast with the political and lifestyle choices of local rulers does not go unnoticed.
President Bush has done his royal "friends" in this region no favor by descending upon them as he has. From the standpoint of the local populations, the spectacle of their hereditary rulers literally rolling out the red carpet for -- and hanging heavy gold chains representing their countries' highest honors around the neck of -- the man widely viewed as the worst enemy in living memory of Arabs, Muslims and Islam itself, the man who is already responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Muslims and who appears eager to kill more, can hardly enhance the respect in which these rulers are held.
Perhaps Mr. Bush's "Middle East democracy project" is based on humiliating and degrading pro-American monarchs in the eyes of their own people.
The Middle East's Leading English Language Daily 15/01/2008
Editorial: Peace Now
15 January 2008
Our region is not short of bloodshed and instability. Iraq, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territories and Afghanistan are all scenes of past and present conflicts where largely innocent blood has flowed in plenty. We do not need yet another dangerous conflict.
That is why it was so sad, even depressing, to hear US President George W. Bush use his visit to the Gulf to continue his saber-rattling against the Iranians - and over a nuclear weapons program which his own intelligence chiefs say Tehran abandoned five years ago. To any dispassionate observer, US military action against Iran is unthinkable. Unfortunately the Bush administration's record since 9/11 has not only embraced the unthinkable but, more dangerously, it has embraced it in an unthinking fashion.
To continue such dire warnings was inconsiderate given that Bush was the guest of Gulf states which are on Iran's doorstep. Such warnings were not what we wanted to hear. As Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal told his Canadian counterpart Maxime Bernier this week in a message that he then repeated to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, confrontational behavior by Washington toward Iran was not the answer. If Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states had a problem with Iran concerning its nuclear program, then they would talk to Tehran as neighbors should.
Before Bush's Middle East visit, White House briefers were telling correspondents that the president would be pushing the Israelis for a Palestinian settlement in return for Arab backing of a tough stance with Iran. It was suggested that Israel might be more tractable if the "Iranian nuclear threat" were removed. But the linkage simply is not there. It is because of the enduring injustices visited upon the Palestinians, with US connivance, that the Arab world, not least Saudi Arabia, which has long been a US ally, has been so disappointed by the failure to reward loyalty and friendship by Washington's driving through a Palestinian settlement. And further, it is because Israel - again with US connivance - has acquired a nuclear arsenal that Iran and, before it, Saddam's Iraq even thought of acquiring their own nuclear deterrents.
Purblind US policies and Washington's desperate failure time and again to listen to the advice and guidance of its Arab friends in the region have brought us to this new moment of tension with Iran. We do not need more threats of war. Warmongering has already created the greatest level of regional instability in 60 years. Bush's inflammatory threats against Iran ride roughshod over the counsels of peace that he has heard from every Arab government on his Middle East visit.
Whatever threat Iran may constitute, now or in the future, must be addressed peaceably and through negotiations. The consequences of further war in the region are hideous, not least because they are incalculable. Even Bush, with the ruin of Iraq before him, must surely see that. Yet in his confrontational remarks about Iran, he offers no carrot, no inducement, no compromise - only the big US stick. This is not diplomacy in search of peace. It is madness in search of war.
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