Middle East Lies
Arnaud de Borchgrave
Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004
Lies and statecraft are almost synonymous these days. Pity John Q. Public trying to figure out the difference between true lies and genuine lies.
Any suggestion that Ariel Sharon was deliberately scuttling the Mideast peace process was automatically branded anti-Israeli, even anti-Semitic. And this despite three former Israeli intelligence chiefs who leveled the same charge against the Israeli prime minister.
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Now we have Mr. Sharon's recently resigned chief of staff, Dov Weisglass, confirming in an interview with Ha'aretz, Israel's leading newspaper, that the policy is to pre-empt any possibility of a Palestinian state. Mr. Weisglass remains Mr. Sharon's attorney – and close friend.
Mr. Weisglass, in a moment of candor, said the two-state solution advocated by Mr. Bush was DOA. Mr. Sharon's disengagement plan from Gaza, and the dismantling of a handful of hilltop outposts in the West Bank, were designed to ensure the stillbirth of a Palestinian state. He reckons he has broken the back of the intifada and can now issue his own map. Almost 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis were killed in the four-year war.
At the end of August, some 3,700 housing units were under construction throughout the Israeli-occupied territories. Building and infrastructure construction are under way at 50 sites where expansion is taking place beyond existing settlement boundaries – a clear violation of the terms previously agreed to under Mr. Bush's roadmap.
The stamp of permanency and good housekeeping for the bulk of Jewish settlements in the West Bank may also accelerate Israel's demographic undoing. Coupled with 1.2 million Israeli Arabs, the Palestinian population of the West Bank will eventually outnumber the Jewish population. A $2 billion, 420-mile physical barrier between Israelis and Palestinians has thwarted suicide bombers but it offers no protection against rockets and mortars.
Mr. Sharon has repeatedly pressed the Jordanian monarchy and government to resume the mandate it had in the West Bank before the 1967 Six-Day War. For Jordan, the West Bank is a poisoned chalice. Once imbibed, it could lead to a Jordanian meltdown. Jordan's King Abdullah, like his late father, King Hussein, has long known that Mr. Sharon secretly harbors the geopolitical objective of making a Palestinian state of Jordan, the population of which is 60 percent Palestinian.
In recent weeks, Syria has been infiltrating Palestinian terrorists, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles, directly into Jordan. Several were caught and admitted they had been recruited by one of the Syrian intelligence services. There are 11 different security services in Syria.
The suspicion is growing in Amman that Syria is also trying to undermine the Hashemite monarchy with a view to substituting a Palestinian state. Is this Syrian President Bashar Assad's policy? Probably not, but then he is not the ruthless dictator his father was, and most likely doesn't have a handle on his own all-powerful intelligence community.
King Abdullah is not taking a chance. He put the Syrian regime on notice. Cease and desist or a military confrontation is next.
The recent withdrawal of some 3,000 troops from Lebanon, a country Syria regards as a protectorate, was a snare and delusion. Syria's intelligence services rule the roost there, too. Syrian cooperation with U.S. troops to secure the 450-mile Syrian-Iraqi border is also on-again-off-again with jihadi volunteers from other Muslim countries allowed through when U.S. patrols are otherwise occupied.
The Iranian-Iraqi border is also cause for alarm; it has been wide open for the best part of a year and is 900 miles long. An estimated 1 million-plus Iranians crossed over into Iraq's southern Shi'ite provinces since U.S. occupation began. Some Arab intelligence estimates say the Iranian crossover number may be as high as 3 million. Many are Iraqi Shi'ites expelled to Iran during the eight-year war (1980-88) between the two countries that killed about 1 million soldiers and civilians on both sides.
Friendly Arab intelligence agencies have told the U.S. intelligence community that three Iranian divisions have been assigned to cross the 900-mile border into Iraq to sow havoc if and when Israeli fighter bombers and cruise missile-launching submarines in the Gulf attack Iran's nuclear installations. Iran's ayatollahs now believe they have the perfect deterrent against an Israeli attack, which will allow them to pursue nuclear ambitions. They are also convinced Arab opinion will support them if they have to retaliate against a U.S.-occupied Iraq. In private conversations between Arab and Iranian officials, the Bush administration's nonproliferation policy is decried as hypocritical. While U.S. policy is to prevent other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons, the administration is developing a new class of bunker-busting nuclear add-ons. Israel's nuclear modernization also moves ahead unhindered by U.S. criticism.
The Palestinian-Israeli peace process is stillborn, erected on the erroneous assumption that Mr. Sharon had changed his mind and now favored a Palestinian state. The cascade of illusory assumptions about the Iraqi war have also been swept away.
Anyone who suggested before the war the U.S. wouldn't find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction because Saddam Hussein had destroyed them years ago was dismissed as an appeaser. The other major rationale for the war was the claimed al Qaida-Baghdad axis. This, too, is now filed under genuine lies.
It is hard to deny that this was an unnecessary war of choice, driven by ideology, not a war of necessity. It has also proved to be a costly mirage of dashed hopes.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.