Two Cheers for the Peace Process
- July 30, 2013
Let the trumpets blow, and smiles all round, for the Obama administration is kickstarting the moribund Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace process’, assisted by the Quartet’s illustrious ‘peace envoy’, the Right Reverend Tony Blair.
It would be something of an understatement to observe that these developments are not taking place at a particularly propitious or auspicious period. For there has rarely been a period in the history of the Middle East when peace has seemed so remote. In Syria, there is no end in sight to a civil war that has killed close to 100,000, despite recent government military successes – and which is threatening to destabilize Lebanon and Iraq
In Iraq more than 2,800 people have been killed since April, a death toll that is now beginning to approach the darkest days of the Anglo-American occupation. For viciousness and cruelty, this latest bout of violence takes some beating. Targets have included police and members of the security forces, and also ‘soft’ or ‘social’ targets, such as soccer players and spectators, customers in cafes, and children swimming in the Tigris river.
In Libya a soldier was killed and the office of an Islamist Al Watan (Nation) party attacked in Tripoli yesterday in the latest outbreak of violence that has gripped the country since the 2011 overthrow of Gaddafi.
In Egypt the military’s ‘soft’ coup is become progressively ‘Algerianised’, following last weekend’s merciless killing of 72 Muslim Brotherhood supporters – a development that is now ominously being presented by the army as a ‘war on terror.‘ Now in Tunisia, eight soldiers have been killed in an ambush by unnamed assailant, following the country’s first ever car bomb attack last week, against a background of sharp tensions between the ruling Ennahda movement and the secular opposition.
These developments have their own local causes and internal dynamics, but they are also reflect more general trends.
The Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict that is spreading from the Middle East to Pakistan; the tensions between Islamists and secularists; the inability of Islamist governments to address the socioeconomic problems that generated the Arab Spring; the attempts by the Gulf States to neutralise the geostrategic gains made by Iran – all these factors have played a part in the ongoing mayhem.
It would be reductionist to suggest that all this is due to American or western influence, but the cynical, reckless and destructive role played by western states in the region has done nothing to make things better and more often has made things worse.
The US-backed coalition invaded Iraq on the basis of fabricated intelligence and ignited a storm of violence that still continues. The West then intervened in Libya in order to ‘prevent a massacre’ and ignited a civil war and a struggle for power that is still ongoing.
In Syria western states in alliance Turkey and the Gulf plutocracies have fueled the civil war and promoted an armed opposition riddled with Salafist extremists, in the hope of bringing down the Assad regime and moving on to the big war with Iran.
In Libya and Syria, western states have at times allied themselves with jihadists who have carried out horrific acts of violence against civilians. Yet it has now declared Hezbollah a ‘terrorist organization’ – regardless of the potential impact that this might have on Lebanon.
In Egypt, the West supported Mubarak and the army for more than thirty years. It then switched its support to the Muslim Brotherhood, and it is now tacitly supporting the army in its crackdown on the Brotherhood, despite its tepid calls for ‘restraint.’
Last but not least, since 2007 the West has given its unqualified support to Israel’s ruthless quarantine of the Gaza Strip and two brutal military assaults, in an attempt to destroy the elected Hamas government and promote the puppet Palestinian Authority government instead.
Now the governments that have done so much to contribute to the chaos and violence that is now ripping the Middle East apart want to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once again, or at least begin a ‘peace process.’
I can’t help thinking that it just won’t work, and I suspect that Obama and most of the diplomats preparing to take part in this geopolitical theatre know it too.