Monday, February 6, 2012

The Big, Fiery Middle East Picture

The piecemeal nature of the information that reaches the American public - as well as its leaders - prevents us from seeing discrete events within a larger framework, the ‘big picture’ that I have been writing about for years, and which is now the title of Thom Hartmann’s show on Russia’s English language TV channel.

What’s the big picture in the Middle East?  1) Our client governments are trying to keep their people down, using increasingly brutal methods, which we are forced to condemn, but which differ only by degrees from our own. 2) The United States helps them hang on to power until the last minute, then backs the rebels we think will keep their country in our camp.  Not only because we need their oil, but because a radical shift toward independent power in that region puts Israel in real danger (as opposed to the boogeyman dangers it has been crying wolf about for decades: first Iraq, now Iran).

It is no surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood is defying the military rulers of Egypt after first supporting them following Mubarak’s ouster: the Brotherhood’s new generation of leaders are more interested in seeing their country break free of America’s virtual occupation - and its concomitant support of Israel - than in checking on headscarves.

As for Russia and China's dogged support of  Syria, it's not only about a Mediterranean port for the former, and business for the latter: it's about the Big Two's support for Iran, that has long backed Syria as the 'front line state' in the stand-off with Israel. But more broadly, it's about never allowing to be done to other rulers what you do not want done to you: that is, interference in the 'internal affairs' of a country, which usually ends in the deposition of the rulers.

The double veto of the Arab League's initiative at the U.N. to condemn President Assad was followed tonight in the United States by the first mention of the inevitability of military intervention: it will be undertaken as much in the hope of installing a govenment friendly to Israel as to 'save' the Syrian people.  But that is not likely to succeed.

No more than the Egyptians, are Syrians, once free, likely to befriend Israel. Yet Israel focuses obsessively on Iran’s putative nuclear program. Its leaders apparently believe the United States will be able to exact tacit support from new Arab leaders for its protection of Israel, whereas we cannot prevent Iran from lobbing a missile at it.

But Israel is in a state of denial: the flames predicted for years by Arab leaders as it became ever more intransigent toward the Palestinians, are erupting with greater ferocity than anyone imagined, because they are part of a bigger picture: worldwide revolt against America's military and cultural domination, in which Israel has become a junior partner.

Fixated on the supposed deleterious influence of Islam, we have failed to recognize that the Muslim world’s people and their new leaders possess far greater ideological literacy than our politicians. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insists on speaking to them as an unelected leader, it is clear that the United States cannot see the forest fire for the trees.

Were Israel to grant independence to the Palestinians tomorrow, the fire would not be contained.

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