Last update - 20:09 27/04/2003
Nothing will be the same again
By Moshe Arens
After the American victory in Iraq, the world will never be the same again. It actually began changing after George W. Bush became U.S. president in January 2001. The change was imperceptible at first, except to a trained Middle Eastern eye. Yasser Arafat, a frequent visitor to the Oval Office in the past, ceased to be a welcome guest in Washington. A friendly hand was outstretched to Israel after Ariel Sharon's landslide victory over Ehud Barak. When Arafat launched his war of terror against Israel in September 2000, there was understanding for Israel's response in Washington. "Israel has the right to defend itself," the president said.
The big change came after September 11, 2001, and the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, when Bush decided to lead a war on terrorism. "Whoever harbors terrorists, whoever finances terrorists, is a terrorist," he said. Whoever read between the lines knew that this included most of the Middle Eastern dictatorships that were also enemies of Israel.
Then came the "axis of evil" speech, singling out Iraq, Iran and North Korea. The first two are implacable enemies of Israel; the last - a supplier of missiles to Israel's enemies. It was only a question of time, after the Americans cleaned up Afghanistan, before they began tackling the "axis of evil."
After the U.S. victory in Iraq, the remaining members of the "axis of evil" are likely to review their behavior. The announced aim of the military operation in Iraq was to bring about a regime change, no less - an end to despotic rule, a beginning for democracy in the Arab world. It is surely a wake-up call to all dictatorships in the Middle East.
America's lightning victory in Iraq was a most impressive demonstration of U.S. military might, of the overwhelming advantage provided by the application of modern technology to the battlefield. Now that American military might has received worldwide exposure, who would consider standing up to it, and who can afford to make an enemy of the United States?
The leaders of Europe who were recalcitrant about supporting the American demand for a regime change in Iraq and who did their best to block the United States at the United Nations are also bound to rethink their positions. Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder and Vladimir Putin will probably be found at George Bush's side when the next crisis occurs. Even the UN will want to be careful not to be pushed again into irrelevance.
For Israel, the American victory in Iraq was the best of news. The Arab regime most hostile to Israel, that threatened Israel with chemical warfare, that launched 39 Scud missiles against Israel during the Gulf War has been toppled. Whatever replaces it will certainly not be a similar danger in future years. Saddam Hussein's defeat brings Iraq a giant step closer to peace with Israel.
But it's not only Iraq - Syria, Libya and Iran have been put on notice. They had better mend their ways. Hezbollah will have to stop its provocative initiatives in the North or is likely to put itself and Syria on the receiving end of a punitive response. For the Palestinians, too, the American victory in Iraq is a wake-up call. Hamas, the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad and the Arafat-associated Al-Aqsa Brigades have some food for thought.
The cost to these organizations of further terrorist action is likely to be prohibitive. The close-up experience American troops are having with suicide bombers and other terrorist outrages in Iraq can only lead to better American understanding for the measures Israel is taking to protect its citizens against Palestinian terror.
A Palestinian regime change and the end to Palestinian violence against Israel will be recognized as a prerequisite for useful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
All those astounded by the efficiency of the military use of modern technology will probably remember that after the U.S. armed forces, the Israel Defense Forces has been the army most adept at integrating modern technology into its order of battle. It will be counted among the more powerful armies at this time.
The war against terrorism is not over. Lots of trouble is still to be expected in the months and years to come. But with the American victory in Iraq, a new dawn appears. The world will never be the same again; and Israel is part of this new - and better - world.