Bush Sets Preconditions for Iran, Syria;
Senators Critique ISG
At a news conference with Tony Blair, George W. Bush basically blew off the Iraq Study Group’s recommendation that he talk to Syria and Iran without preconditions. Excerpts:
‘ “Having an international group is an interesting idea,” Bush said.
“We have made it clear to the Iranians that there is a possible change in U.S. policy, a policy that’s been in place for 27 years,” said Bush. “And that is that, if they would like to engage the United States, that they’ve got to verifiably suspend their [nuclear] enrichment program.”
The Bush administration suspects Iran of using its nuclear program to develop weapons. Tehran insists its program is for peaceful purposes only.
As for Syria, Bush said Damascus should “stop destabilizing” Lebanon’s government. “If they want to sit down at the table with the United States, it’s easy,” Bush said. “Just make some decisions that’ll lead to peace, not to conflict.” ‘
In other words, Bush wants compromise before negotiation, and virtual submission to Washington as a prerequisite even for talks. Same old W.
Bush and Blair seemed to agree with the ISG assertion that it is necessary, in order to get the Middle East to settle down, to get the Israeli-Palestinian peace process started again. The main engine driving hatred of the United States in the Arab and Muslim worlds is Washington’s knee-jerk support for Israeli crushing of the Palestinians as a people. Under Israeli hegemony, half of Palestinians are now food-insecure (including children), and unemployment is 40 percent in Gaza (in the West Bank it is only Great Depression territory– 25 percent). Plantation owners in the 19th century treated their slaves better than the Israelis treat the Palestinians under their control in the Occupied Territories. Unlike American television, Arab television daily shows readers what is happening in Palestine, and the anger spreads.
Thomas Ricks reports that some senators were highly critical of the Iraq Study Group report as they took testimony from co-chairs James A. Baker III and Lee Hamilton.
Hamilton at one point let them have it, asking where the senators have been the last three and a half years. The US constitution gives them advise and consent authority over warmaking, which that august body hasn’t bothered to exercise for decades.
Shorter Joe Lieberman: Iran is bad.
Shorter John McCain: Whaddaya mean we don’t have more troops to put in there?
Shorter Hillary Rodham Clinton: But how can you make W. do it?
Shorter James Baker: 16 years ago I convinced Syria to invade Iraq on our side, what makes you think I can’t do it again?
I saw McCain on television the other day uttering some nonsense about Iran seeking hegemony in the region for the last 1,000 years. There hasn’t even consistently been an Iran over that kind of timeline. Nation states like Iran always claim ancient patrimonies, but they are actually mostly modern phenomena. In the 800s, the Abbasid Empire, an Arab dynasty based in Baghdad, ruled what is now Iran. In the 900s and 1000s, the Buyid Empire based in Iran invaded what is now Iraq and ruled both the Mesopotamian valley and the Iranian plateau. Then you have a Turkic Central Asian empire like the Seljuks. And what about the Mongol Empire, which included both Baghdad and the Iranian plateau in the 1200s and 1300s? Making up an eternal Iran that is always an aggressor seeking hegemony is just an exercise in historical whimsy. In fact, even modern Iran has not aggressively invaded another country for two centuries.
Senators should please not misuse history for mere politics.
As for McCain’s bizarre idea that an extra division would make any difference in Iraq, or that we have an extra army division to send there for any length of time, that is pure politics. He thinks he will get to be president peddling these fantasies.
As for Iran, here is what foreign minister Manucher Mottaki had to say:
‘ Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki says his country is “in a position” to help end the cycle of violence which he blames on the US. . . Mottaki says Iran is in a position to “finalize” [i.e. “end”] the crisis in Iraq but says the US will have to ask. And he says his government wants to see action, specifically a change of policy, and not just hear words. . .’
Sounds to me a lot like what W. said about Iran.
As for the real Iraq, Reuters reported several major incidents of violence— including the blowing up by guerrillas of 5 US GIs near Kirkuk in the north on Wednesday. Altogether the US death toll for Wednesday was 11.