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The Website of Elie Elhadj
 
 
 
Washington's Un-winnable War in the Middle East

 
The Bush administration’s so called “War on Terrorism” was a failure. Almost a decade later, the world is gripped   by greater fear of the next terrorist atrocity than ever before. By focusing on  Arab democratization and military action against the jihadists Washington’s diagnosis was like voodoo medicine.
 
The making of walking bombs
Interconnected religious and political causes stand behind jihadism and terror. Quranic assurances that paradise is the reward of jihadists prepare the mind set of future terrorists. Islamic zeal makes self annihilation against tyrannical non-representative Arab rulers, against their American supporters, against Israel’s humiliation of the Arab peoples, and against the empowerment of the Shi'ite population of Iraq, and by extension Iran, as a result of the Bush administration's misadventure in Iraq have been turning angry extremist Sunnis into walking bombs. To brush these causes aside or pretend that they are unconnected is to breed more Jihadists and more terrorism.
 
Military solutions alone will fail to end terrorism
To end terrorism, military action alone will not succeed against fanatics whose greatest ambition is to be martyred. The Obama administration's  plan of January 2010 to bolster Yemen's capabilities to  fight Al-Qaeda would not be effective unless Washington combines military might with three additional strategies: 1) Pressure Arab kings and presidents to implement genuine religious and political reforms. At the top of the list is taming Wahhabi indoctrination of extremism and violence against other Muslim sects and non-Muslims. 2) De-politicize the Bible and the Quran in order to end the century old conflict in Palestine. 3) Repair the damaged Shi'ite/Sunni relations that the Bush administration created in Iraq.
 
Are these strategies attainable? To be realistic, the answer is negative. Why?

Arab religious and political reforms is a mirage
Genuine religious reform in Arab countries means separating Islam from the state through replacing Shari'a laws by modern laws. In so achieving, the debilitating control of the ulama (Muslim clerics) over the masses would also ease. To secularize, a towering charismatic leader, a combination of a Martin Luther and a Kemal Ataturk would be needed. The Arab masses, ulama, and  rulers, however, would turn Islam into a shield against the emergence of such a leader.

The Arab masses are inseparable from Islam. The Prophet, His Companions, the Quran, and the holy sanctuaries in Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem are all Arabic. Also, the founders of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, which survive today were all Arab (though, Abu Hanifa was the grandson of a Persian slave). The Arab peoples are proud in the belief that God described them in Verse 3:110 as: “The best of peoples evolved for mankind.” The Arab peoples feel that Islam is an Arabic religion and that they are the defenders of the "true" Islam. A BBC survey of 68 countries in 2006 found Egyptians as having the strongest religious identity. The Arab masses: poor, illiterate, superstitious, and under the spell of the ulama are generally politically quietist. The minority of Islamists are violent theocratic dictators. The minority of intellectuals has little credibility or popular support.

To the ulama, maintaining Shari'a (Islamic law) rigidity maintains their jobs and privileges. To the rulers, Islam helps prolong their non-representative tyrannical rule. Pandering palace ulama help their benefactors along. The palace ulama preach “Obey God and obey God’s messenger and obey those of authority among you” (Quran 4:59). They also quote the Prophet on every turn: “Hear and obey the emir, even if your back is whipped and your property is taken; hear and obey.” The ulama teach that obedience to Arab presidents and kings is a form of piety. Arab kings and presidents fear that genuine religious and democratic reforms might end their rule. So, they keep their masses intoxicated by Islamic dogma and superstitions; notwithstanding, Islam's effect on radicalizing frustrated young Muslims.

Under such conditions, it is unlikely that genuine religious and democratic reforms would evolve in Arab countries for a very long time, if ever? Instead of chasing a mirage, Washington would do better to support benevolent dictatorships in Arab countries and fight Islamist radicalism.

De-politicizing the Bible and the Quran is a fantasy
Politicizing Genesis 15:18 politicized the Quran. Genesis 15:18: “The Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, unto thy seed have I given this land from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates" radicalized despairing Arabs. Defeated, humiliated, and powerless, many Arabs took refuge in Islam, fueling a Jihad war that could possibly last for a thousand years.

A purely Jewish state is impossible to attain. The Palestinian Israelis (1.3 millions) are a quarter of Israel’s Jews (5.2 millions). Unless the Palestinian-Israelis vanish, demographic realities will eventually make them the majority. If the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip are taken into account, the Palestinians are already a majority.

Western democratic and secular ideals ought to inspire a single, democratic, and secular state for Palestinians and Jews instead of the two-state solution. Having lived together generally peaceably for 1300 years, Arabs and Jews can live together in peace again. Islam venerates Judaism. Arabs believe they share a common ancestry with the Jewish people. The Quran praises Abraham as the first Muslim and describes Islam as the Religion of Abraham. The Quranic Chapter 14 is named after Abraham and the Quranic Chapter 12 is named after Joseph.
 
A single-state eliminates the obstacles that have bedeviled the two-state solution since the 1993 Oslo Agreement: Jerusalem, borders, security, water, settlements, and the refugees’ right-of-return. Most importantly, the Arab masses shunned Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) but would embrace a single state.
 
Whether it would be a good bargain to exchange a partial and declining Jewish exclusivity in an unstable two-state solution for a durable single state for Jews, Muslims, and Christians is a question Israel alone can answer. The likelihood of de-politicizing the Bible and the Quran, however, is not encouraging. Confident in its superior military might and unlimited U.S. support, Zionism is not likely to give up the Bible any time soon.

Iraq will be remembered as Mr. George W. Bush’s gift to Shi'ite Iran: a watershed since Saladin ended the rule of the  Shi'ite Fatimids in Cairo in 1171, a triumph for the Khomeini revolution and for Shi'ism. The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, concluded in 2006 that Iran is the most influential ‘external’ power in Iraq today. Without firing a shot Iran won the war for Iraq.
 
Iran’s goal to control southern Iraq is age-old. Southern Iraq houses the holiest of the Shi'ite holy shrines, plus ninety billion barrels of crude oil. Shi'ites in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia’s oil rich Eastern Province, and Yemen would seek Iran’s help to end Sunni subjugation--Witness Bahrain's Shi'ite noises for equality, the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, and the powerful Hizbollah in Lebanon. Egyptian President Mubarak charged in 2006 that Arab Shi'ites were more loyal to Iran than to their own countries. Sectarian conflicts threaten to destabilize the region, breeding hoards of Jihadists; until the Sunni majorities either accept the march of Shi'ism or stop it.
 
There can be as many scenarios for Iraq’s future as a fertile imagination conjures. Irrespective of whether U.S. forces stay in Iraq or depart, however, Iran’s hegemony over the oil rich eastern shores of the Arabian Peninsula has become unstoppable. Staying means that the U.S. will be challenged by a nationalist/religious liberation movement and a Shi'ite-Sunni sectarian conflict. Staying is expensive, especially when the result is to enhance the power of anti-American ayatollahs and Iraqi politicians linked to Tehran. Departure means leaving southern Iraq to Iran and a nasty regional Shi'ite-Sunni conflict.
 
In its frustration, the U.S. and/or Israel might attack Iran; a move that would make the Iraq disaster by comparison look like a child’s play. Al-Qaeda must be praying fervently for such a catastrophe to happen!
 
The Bush administration's misadventure in Iraq has weakened Washington's hand in the Middle East, leaving  it with little choice but to  recognize Iran's rapid ascension towards becoming the new hegemon over the politics of the world's richest oil region. 
 
A crystal ball view
Over the past five decades, the Democratic Party has been as responsible for the problems that engulf U.S. relations in the Middle East today as the Republican Party. It is naive to think that the parochial designs of those self-interest groups and lobbyists that crowd the Washington landscape and produced such policies would change much any time soon. It is doubtful that the lessons from the past decades have awakened Washington to the realities of Islam and the Arab peoples. In the November 2006 congressional elections and the 2008 presidential and congressional elections the Bush administration was punished for its mismanagement of the American economy and for America’s losses in Iraq. The Bush administration was not punished, however, for pulverizing Iraq, or for its defense of Israel’s occupation and humiliation of Arabs, or for supporting Arab tyrannical rulers. Unless the American electorates demand changes in these areas, Islamist orthodoxy and Jihadism will continue to proliferate, with all the consequent cycles of attacks and counter attacks.

What is the likelihood of defeating terrorism? In the short term, as long as the confrontation involves the Bible and the Quran, the likelihood for defeating terrorism would be slim. In the long term, however, if the leaders; Americans, Arabs, and Israelis, eliminate the causes that stand behind terrorism, there might be hope. Otherwise, the confrontation threatens to engulf the masses, East and West, in a war between Christianity and Islam: a “clash of civilizations.
 
 
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