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Robert Fisk: The Arabs will ensure they receive a political reward for their support

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    Assalamu alaikum ININ NOTE: Arabs should learn from their history. The west betrayed them before (many times) after making them many promises, and the west
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 4, 2001

      ININ NOTE: Arabs should learn from their history. The west betrayed them
      before (many times) after making them many promises, and the west will do
      it again.


      Robert Fisk: The Arabs will ensure they receive a political reward for
      their support

      04 October 2001


      The United States Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, heads for the Middle
      East and President George Bush discovers that, even before 11 September, a
      Palestinian state had been part of his "vision" of the Middle East.

      Could it be that the Americans are quietly acknowledging that their
      policies in the region might, just might, have something to do with the
      atrocities in New York and Washington? Of course, it could be just
      realpolitik. When President Bush's father wanted to maintain a
      Western-Arab alliance against Iraq in 1991, he decided to resolve the
      Middle East conflict, calling Arabs and Israeli leaders to a "peace"
      conference in Madrid. Anxious to create a new consensus with Arab nations
      in advance of his strike at Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, Mr Bush Jnr
      now says that "the idea of a Palestinian state has always been part of a
      vision, so long as the right to Israel to exist is respected". Which would
      have been much more impressive a statement had it been made before 11
      September. But it wasn't.

      Arab states, of course, have been making it clear for more than a week
      that their support for Mr Bush's "war on terrorism" was conditional; in
      return, the US would have to promise a resolution of the
      Israeli-Palestinian struggle, meet the Palestinian chairman, Yasser
      Arafat, preferably at the UN in New York, and discuss an end to the
      sanctions against Iraq which have killed, according to some UN as well as
      Arab estimates, hundreds of thousands of children. The fact that these are
      two of the four demands repeatedly made by Osama bin Laden is, needless to
      say, not mentioned.

      The Arabs are in an odd situation: aware of Washington's desperate need
      for their support, both political and military America needs Saudi
      Arabia's airbases they can demand a return on their help. But they are
      also aware that Arab Muslims were responsible for the crimes against
      humanity on 11 September. The "Muslim" bit may be questionable, but that's
      what the mass murderers of New York and Washington claimed to be, and it
      appears, at least, that more than half the killers were Saudis. The Arabs,
      in other words, feel power and remorse in about equal measure. Power is
      likely to be the winner: they want a political reward for their support in
      the "war against terrorism".

      So far, only fringe groups in the Middle East have provided some
      contextual criticism of America's policies. Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the
      secretary general of the Hizbollah guerrilla movement in Lebanon, claims
      the US "needs a vague enemy to justify the internationalisation of this
      war" because "America is afraid to clearly define 'terrorism' to prevent
      it from being held accountable for its own actions." Back in 1983,
      Washington blamed the Hizbollah's satellite groups, Islamic Jihad and
      others, for the bombing of the US embassy in Beirut, the destruction of
      the US marine base in Beirut with its 241 American dead and numerous
      kidnappings of US citizens.

      The Hizbollah are anxious to steer clear of any residual American demands
      for justice. Hence Mr Nasrallah's references to a "vague enemy" and the
      need to "define" terrorism. For if the Hizbollah can be classified as a
      "resistance" group, as the State Department now categorises it, it is
      safe. If its somewhat grimy past is taken into account, Hizbollah leaders
      could find themselves on the list of "Wanted, Dead or Alive" along with Mr
      bin Laden.

      Already, the Israelis are insisting that Imad Mougnieh, a Hizbollah
      "sympathiser" in the narrowest definition of the word, should be an
      American target because he allegedly conducted most of the kidnappings of
      Westerners in the mid-Eighties and may have been behind the bombing of the
      US embassy in Beirut. Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, has long
      called Lebanon "the centre of world terror", a fact that obviously escaped
      Luciano Pavarotti, Richard Branson, Elton John and other personalities who
      recently visited Lebanon.

      Most Arab newspaper commentators, boring though they usually are, insist
      the UN should lead a "war on terror". And it was a former Lebanese prime
      minister, Selim Hoss, as unloved as he is honest, who said yesterday that
      Arabs should themselves undertake "a wide campaign to fight terrorism
      under the UN umbrella". Why, Mr Hoss asked, "isn't international terrorism
      being fought with the weapon of international law?"

      The issue is further complicated by continuing Arab demands that Mr Sharon
      should be tried by an international court for his role as Israeli Defence
      Minister during the 1982 Sabra and Chatila Palestinian camp massacres
      which cost the lives of up to 1,800 civilians. Although the fatalities
      were only a quarter of the dead so far accounted for in New York and
      Washington, they are a constant reminder that "terrorism" is a charge that
      can be levelled against America's allies as well as its enemies in the
      Middle East.

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      "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was
      not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not
      speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the
      Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for
      me, and there was no one left to speak for me." - Pastor Martin Niemoller
      regarding the Nazi reign.
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