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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Unexpected endorsement for Obama, as far as decent folks are concerned

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/02/unexpected-endorsement-for-obama-as-far.html

The Obama campaign couldn't pay for an an endorsement this genuine and wonderful.
 
However, during the same time, Obama cosponsored a Senate resolution opposing Iranian and Syrian involvement in the war, and insisted that Israel should not be pressured into a cease-fire that did not address the threat of Hizbullah's missiles. So even from a Lebanese viewpoint, there is no reason to believe that Obama would be better than Bush on Israel.
But Arabs and Jews agree - a precipitate withdrawal from Iraq would be disastrous for the United States and the Middle East. How can I disagree with this?
 
Arabs should look further than Obama's second name of Hussein or his family's Muslim roots. They should beware of his lack of experience in a region where even experts often fail to anticipate what comes next.
 
Ami Isseroff

 
Wake up Arabs, Obama may be a menace
By Hussain Abdul-Hussain
Commentary by
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A widespread impression increasingly evident in the Middle East is that the election of the Democratic candidate Barack Obama in the American presidential election will serve the Arabs' best interests. This is false. Any US president will have to tackle three main issues in the region. According to American priorities, these are Iraq, a nuclear Iran and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On Iraq, Obama has so far promoted one idea, popular among Americans, though not necessarily wise: He plans to withdraw US troops from the country according to a predetermined timetable, regardless of realities on the ground. Americans have become exhausted with losing lives and treasure. Many Iraqis place "national honor" above anything else. Yet only a few on either the American or the Iraqi side actually support Obama's rigid withdrawal plan.

In the United States, both supporters of the war and opponents know that a withdrawal from Iraq would harm Iraqis, the region and perhaps the world. American decision-makers, both Republican and Democrat, agree that the US should not "cut and run" and should clean up the Iraqi mess it caused, despite the high cost. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell used to say about countries the US intervened in: You break it, you own it. 

A majority of Iraqis, their elected Parliament and Cabinet also oppose a hasty American withdrawal. Realizing the dangerous consequences of a vacuum, Iraqis don't seem in a hurry to demand an American withdrawal, even if they are not enthusiastic about the US presence in their country.

On Iran, Obama has made it clear that he would reverse the current administration's policies by sending American officials to negotiate with Tehran over its nuclear program. But then what?

President George W. Bush's administration, despite its often aggressive foreign policy approach, has so far taken a backseat in dealing with Iran, restricting its pressure to diplomacy and sanctions coordinated with the Europeans, Russia and China. Just as it has been unproductive for the US to go to war alone, it would similarly be counterproductive for it to circumvent its partners through unilateral diplomacy.

If Obama talks to Iran alone, he might well end up handing it leverage to turn the international community against each other. As such, Iran's ayatollahs could inch closer to producing a nuclear weapon, the mere thought of which has so far terrified the Gulf states and their peoples.

In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Arab rationale favoring Obama's election has it that since Obama has expressed his willingness to engage in peace talks from his first day in office, this signals good times ahead. Where Obama stands on the issue of borders, on Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees is still unknown and probably undetermined, which makes all Palestinian arguments favoring his election as yet unfounded.

These three issues of importance will also affect two other Middle Eastern challenges: the situation in Lebanon and relations with Syria.

Lebanon, by itself, is not usually an issue of interest to the US or its leaders. The country only took on added importance when used as a demonstration of Bush's success in spreading democracy to the Middle East, an idea which is fading away in Washington. From the perspective of the Lebanese government and parliamentary majority, the Bush administration has been highly supportive of Lebanon. But there have been serious shortcomings. Bush's critics argue that his administration's biggest mistake occurred when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stood up to defend extending Israel's war against Hizbullah in July 2006.

However, during the same time, Obama cosponsored a Senate resolution opposing Iranian and Syrian involvement in the war, and insisted that Israel should not be pressured into a cease-fire that did not address the threat of Hizbullah's missiles. So even from a Lebanese viewpoint, there is no reason to believe that Obama would be better than Bush on Israel.

Syria, however, will remain important for the coming administration because of its control over Hizbullah and its meddling in Iraq. Israel is expected to be a driving force in mending Syrian-American relations. According to former Israeli diplomats in Washington, Syrian President Bashar Assad has been more "flexible" in his negotiations with the Israelis than his father and predecessor Hafez ever was.

What stands behind Syrian flexibility is plain. Syria fears international justice through the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In order to scale down or remove the mixed Lebanese-international tribunal that will hear the case, and that is now being set up in The Netherlands, Syria has apparently lowered its conditions for peace with Israel. By doing so, and by offering some cooperation on Iraq, Assad appears to be calculating that such steps will make it much more difficult for the international community to pursue his regime for the Hariri murder.

Obama said that once elected, he would engage Syria. Some of his advisers have already gone to Damascus, most recently Zbigniew Brzezinski. Even though the Syrian regime may soon find itself accused of involvement in the Hariri murder, Obama and his team have not set any preconditions for easing the pressure on Damascus, post-Bush. That is why there is a legitimate fear that if Obama becomes president, the Syrian regime might get a new lease on life, much to the dismay of the many Syrians, but also the Lebanese, who have suffered from its iron grip.

With Iraqis fearing a hasty Obama withdrawal, Palestinians still anxiously waiting to see what concessions a President Obama might compel Israel to offer them, Gulf citizens disturbed about the possibility of a nuclear Iran, the Lebanese fighting to oppose any bargain over the Hariri tribunal, and Syrians wary that their regime might get a new breath of oxygen from Washington, how can Obama's election be in the interest of the Arabs?

Arabs should look further than Obama's second name of Hussein or his family's Muslim roots. They should beware of his lack of experience in a region where even experts often fail to anticipate what comes next.

Hussain Abdul-Hussain is a journalist based in Washington. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Source


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