Saudi Arabia And Kuwait Are Giving

*Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are giving Jordan three months of its oil supplies free to make up for the interruption of its petroleum imports from Iraq. Jordan is being economically hurt by the Iraq war, and its people are boiling over with rage about it. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have just made an extremely important contribution to the US war effort, in helping Jordan avoid economic problems that would otherwise threaten its security. This sort of thing is the reason for which the neocons like Richard Perle, who dream of ousting Saudi Arabia from the good graces of Washington, will probably fail. The Saudis may not be letting us fire Tomahawks over their heads, but they are pumping 9 million barrels a day instead of 7 million barrels a day, to make up for the Iraq oil that is now off the market and avoid huge price rises that would hurt Western economies. And now they are helping Jordan in this way.

*Colin Powell in an interview with al-Hayat of London said he doubted the US would blockade Baghdad, a city of 5 million, as a way of conquering it. He also said he hoped that soon it would be apparent to everyone in the Arab world that Saddam was a tyrant undeserving of their admiration. The al-Hayat interviewer suggested that no one in the Arab world admired Saddam, but that they didn’t exactly admire US policies [i.e. giving Israeli PM Ariel Sharon a blank check to occupy and collectively punish the Palestinians] either. Powell said that the US was going to make an effort to change all that. He also gave post-war Afghanistan as an example of how the US respects the wishes of the people and respects Islam, saying that Hamid Karzai was freely chosen by the Loya Jirga.

Well, look, Colin Powell is a good man, and I admire him, but he has lately started engaging in a good deal of propaganda that diminishes his stature. Hamid Karzai was shoe-horned into power by the US and everyone knows it. And, the Karzai model is not even the one that the US currently has in mind for Iraq! The American secretaries-general of the various Iraqi ministries are already in Kuwait.

As for the Bush administration doing anything even handed on the Arab-Israeli front, don’t hold your breath. 1) Bush appointed Elliot Abrams as the point man on that issue on the National Security Council; Abrams is probably to the *right* of Sharon and has fired all the high-level NSC staffers who know anything serious about Arab-Israeli stuff and might buck the direction he takes. (Abrams was convicted of perjuring himself during Iran-Contra and should not be holding high office anyway). 2) Bush is not going to do anything on the Arab-Israeli front before the ’04 election because it would be politically risky. And 3) Bush is highly unlikely ever to buck Sharon (why he has suddenly become “whipped” on this issue is beyond me. So, Powell’s assurances on this score are empty. I don’t see the Arab and Muslim rage toward the US subsiding any time soon, and I certainly don’t see the Bush administration assuaging it. In fact, I very much fear that the combination of the Iraq war, drift to fundamentalism in South Asia, and Sharon’s frankly fascist policies in the Occupied Territories are likely to produce more anti-American terrorism and more American ripostes, so that the whole thing ratchets out of control.

*Sharon has taken advantage of the focus on the Iraq war to continue to violate the 4th Geneva Convention in the West Bank by engaging in collective punishment. See The Palestine Monitor for examples of what I mean.

*I am assured that Abd al-Majid Khu’i is in fact in Najaf. He is well spoken of as a moderate and an excellent liason for the US to the Iraqi Shiites, though some fear that his American connections will eventually make him unpopular in Iraq. That remains to be seen.