Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Middle East Today

Whilst having coffee with GG earlier today, it was noted that I never post anything controversial in my blog, hence the lack of comments. Given the results of the US mid-term elections and the obvious effect that the war in Iraq had on the outcome, I thought I'd make some comments about the Middle East.

To my mind the invasion of Afghanistan was entirely justified given the nature of the Taleban regime and the fact that they were harbouring the main bases of the Al Qaeda terrorists. When I first heard it suggested that the US was considering invading Iraq, I thought that was a completely mad idea as it would not get any support from other Arabic or Muslim countries.

By the time it happened, I assumed that they would not have invaded unless they really knew there was an imminent threat and I certainly wasn't sorry to see a dictator like Saddam Hussain overthrown. The great shame for the West is that it support this bastard in the 1980s when he was at his most lethal: invading Iran, using poison gas against the Iranians and then against the Kurds in Iraq. When countries like France, Germany and Russia - who had all had dealings with Saddam's Iraq - started taking the moral high ground in the run up to the Iraq War, I really did think they were being very two-faced

Since then it has become very clear that the arguments for going to war in Iraq were fatally flawed and the plans fro what to do afterwards were almost non-existant. Personally, I don't believe that Blair or Bush lied; it just doesn't make sense to me that very canny politicians would choose to knowingly lie when it was obvious that these lies would be found out. During the Cold War the US was very susceptible to panics about gaps in particular defensive or offensive technologies that the USSR might have, often based on flawed analysis by the intelligence community egged on by sympathetic political interests and the military/industrial complex. For the US, I think something similar happened here: they got it wrong because they wanted to 'know' certain facts. For the UK, I suspect that it was more likely that we were overawed by the US and the resources it can commit to these things - we simply assumed that they must be right. I don't believe that even someone as dubious as Rumsfeld actively and knowingly lied; to my mind politicians try to evade saying the truth they don't point at a horse and say it's a deer (as the Chinese say).

The way out of Iraq is to do some kind of deal with the various armed groups there, to bring them into the political process - in much the same way as the UK had to deal with the IRA and Israel had to talk to the PLO. The situation is bad and a great many people are being killed, however, I suspect that this would have happened when Saddam died (or was overthrown, either of which were only a few years off) and it is the main reason why George Bush's dad didn't invade Iraq in the first Gulf War

Looking around the rest of the Middle East, it's all a bit of a mess. Key US allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia are hardly western-style liberal democracies and personally I think we should openly acknowledge the difference between an ally who we hope will reform (e.g. Egypt) and one that is in the process of doing so (e.g. Afghanistan). The Israeli-Palestian problem continues with no end in sight - this, I feel, is another case where we would do well to talk to the opposition (i.e. deal with Hammas), however abhorent their professed views - they have a country (or a territory) to run and ought to make compromises for the sake of their own people and it would do no harm to acknowledge that the Palestian refugees did not volunteer to leave what is now Israel.

Further afield, we can see the US cosying up to various dubious regimes who offer some advantage in the War on Terror. I think this is wrong and it is the same sort of thing that led to us supporting Saddam Hussain in the 80s.

One country that has been beyond the pale for the US for a quarter of a century is Iran which the US regards as part of the axis of evil. I think that there is actually great hope for Iran, it is a democracy - at least in the sense that it has periodic elections and that the vast majority of the population actively exercise their vote. The non-Western aspect of their democracy is that it has a theocracy on top of it that weeds out what it deems to be inappropriate candidates and can over-rule the will of the people. However, I believe that Iran can and will evolve into a true democracy (in the same way that Britain did) as the practicalities of running a successful economy and dealing with material issues become apparent.

1 comment:

basil said...

btw the reason I've never posted anything was you used to only allow people that had accounts. now that you allow any td&h i'll be back!!!