The Israel-Palestine peace meeting in Annapolis, Md., was a success in at least one respect. It brought together every Arab state involved, including Saudi Arabia and Syria.
According to many Middle East experts, the coming together of Arab nations at the request of President Bush indicates that Arabs are in such fear of Iran and its efforts to dominate the region that they are willing to cooperate with the United States more than ever before.
In a New York Times op-ed article, author Michael B. Oren writes: ". . . participants in the conference were above all motivated by their fear of a radical and relentlessly aggressive Iran." He went on to point to "the success of the Iranian proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and Gaza, as well as the expansion of Iranian influence westward into the Iraqi vacuum."
That analysis reinforces my belief that the United States could get these same Arab states to recognize that they must help us in Iraq or suffer the consequences of an ultimate Iranian victory when we leave. "Helping us" means sending troops, spending money, and apprehending and deterring terrorists in their countries who are seeking jihad — holy war — against the U.S. in Iraq and elsewhere.
The U.S. has refused to make the threat of leaving Iraq dependent on the offers of help from these Arab countries in the region who have more to lose than we do by our withdrawal of military forces from Iraq. This is the moment for President Bush to deliver such an ultimatum to our Arab regional allies.
Many in the media are crowing about the Times’ recognition that the surge in Iraq has been successful. For so long, The Times printed article after article that we were losing the war on the various Iraqi battlefields.
What caused many in the media to chortle was the Times editorial of Nov. 30, which opened with "There has been so much horrible news out of Iraq for so long that it is natural to celebrate better news. Sending another 30,000 American troops into Iraq has made life better: attacks are down, as are the number of American and Iraqi casualties."
Imagine how much better off we would have been today, if we had followed the advice of Gen. Eric Shinseki, who was forced to retire after testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 25, 2003.
The senior ranking Democrat on the committee asked, "Gen. Shinseki, could you give us some idea as to the magnitude of the Army's force requirement for an occupation of Iraq following a successful completion of the war?"
Shinseki replied, "In specific numbers, I would have to rely on the combatant commander's exact requirements. But I . . . would say that what's been mobilized to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers, are probably, you know, a figure that would be required [Iraq is a large country with competing ethnic groups] so it takes significant ground forces to maintain a safe and secure environment to ensure that people are fed, that water is distributed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this."
On the other hand, the Times is right when it states time and time again that there cannot be a successful conclusion to Iraq’s dilemma unless and until the Iraqi government agrees to a political reconstruction of that government, sharing political power and oil revenues among the three groups: Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. The Shiites — a majority of 60 percent and supported by Iran — appear permanently unwilling to consent to such an arrangement.
In its Nov. 30th editorial, the Times mentions that the day before, six bodies were removed from the Tigris River "handcuffed and showed signs of having been tortured. And five, including a child, had been beheaded."
We are never going to quell the refusal of the Shia to share power with the Sunni minority unless and until the overwhelmingly Sunni majority in the Arab world, 80 percent of all Muslims, flex their muscles in Iraq, offsetting the muscle of Iran in that country.
If we were successful in marshalling those Sunni countries to help us, we could then turn to the leaders of the new France under Sarkozy, and the new Germany under Merkel, leaders who have made clear they see their future with the U.S. unlike their predecessors Chirac and Schroeder.
They too might then join us with troops and funding. If they did, the United Kingdom under Gordon Brown might reverse its policy of leaving Iraq. Why doesn’t President Bush try that approach?
By near unanimous consent, the leading expert on Israel, Palestine, and the Muslim world is Bernard Lewis. In a Wall Street Journal column on Nov. 26, Dr. Lewis made the key statement, commenting on a permanent peace between the Israelis and Palestinians: "Without genuine acceptance of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state . . . peace cannot be negotiated."
We know that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, refused to allow Israel to be described as a Jewish state, as requested by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in any document signed by him, and the representatives of Saudi Arabia, in advance of the conference, stated they would not shake hands with representatives of Israel.
Shaking hands is not an imprimatur of approval; it is a social grace. If you can’t even shake hands at a peace conference in advance of any final decisions, why should you be believed following a signed agreement when you do shake hands?
I am discouraged, but still hopeful.
In diplomacy, what we see in public is not necessarily what's happening behind the scenes.
At some point, however, even the most belligerent of participants and their supporters must conclude that beheading any innocent person, but particularly a 5-year-old child, is savagery at its worst.
Shaking hands in public would have been a modest first step towards civilized behavior.
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