Washington's "Likudniks" — Ariel Sharon's powerful
backers in the Bush administration — have been in charge of U.S. policy
in the Middle East since President Bush was sworn into office.
Arnaud de Borchgrave
Israel is asking the U.S. for $4 billion
in additional military assistance — in addition, that is, to the just
under $3 billion a year a year it receives automatically — plus $8
billion in commercial-loan guarantees. The $12 billion question about the
$15 billion grant-and-loan package is "What is the quid pro
quo?" Is it tied to a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
conundrum? The beginning of a dismantlement of 145 Israeli settlements in
Gaza and the West Bank? A freeze on new settlements? A timetable, however
vague, for the establishment of a Palestinian state within five years?
None of the above. The strategic objectives
of the U.S. and Israel in the Middle East have gradually merged into a now
cohesive Bush-Sharon Doctrine. But this gets lost in the deafening
cacophony of talking heads playing armchair generals in the coming war to
change regimes in Baghdad.
On Feb. 9, The Washington Post's Bob Kaiser
finally broke through the sound barrier to document what has long been
reported in encrypted diplomatic e-mails from foreign embassies to dozens
of foreign governments: Washington's "Likudniks" — Ariel
Sharon's powerful backers in the Bush administration — have been in
charge of U.S. policy in the Middle East since President Bush was sworn
In alliance with Evangelical Christians,
these policy-makers include some of the most powerful players in the Bush
administration. The course they plotted for Mr. Bush began with benign
neglect of the Mideast peace process as Intifada II escalated. September
11 provided the impulse for a military campaign to consign Saddam Hussein
to the dustbin of history.
Mr. Sharon provided the geopolitical ammo by
convincing Mr. Bush that the war on Palestinian terrorism was identical to
the global war on terror. Next came a campaign to convince U.S. public
opinion that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were allies in their war
against America. An alleged secret meeting in Prague in April 2001 between
Mohamed Atta — the lead suicide bomber on September 11 — and an Iraqi
intelligence agent got the ball rolling. Since then stories about the
Saddam-al Qaeda nexus have become a cottage industry.
And when bin Laden himself, in his latest
tape-recorded message made clear that Saddam is an "infidel" he
had no use for, while urging Iraqis to become suicide bombers against
American invaders, Secretary of State Powell quickly declared it to be
another smoking gun.
Bin Laden clearly hopes to use a U.S.
invasion of a Muslim country to recruit thousands more to his cause. But
the Saddam-bin Laden nexus was barely Step One in the Bush-Sharon
Doctrine. The strategic objective is the antithesis of Middle Eastern
stability. The destabilization of "despotic regimes" comes next.
In the Arab bowling alley, one ball aimed at Saddam is designed to achieve
a 10-strike that would discombobulate authoritarian and/or despotic
regimes in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Emirates and
The ultimate phase would see Israel
surrounded by democratic regimes that would provide 5 million Israelis —
soon to be surrounded by 300 million Arabs — with peace and security for
at least a generation. A meritorious plan if it achieves all its
Close U.S. allies Jordan and Turkey were to
form an axis along with Israel to weaken and "roll back" Syria.
Turkey was the first Middle Eastern state to recognize Israel in 1949. In
1996, the two countries also signed a strategic partnership that allows
the Israeli air force to train in Turkish air space.
The roots of the overall strategy can be
traced to a paper published in 1996 by the Institute for Advanced
Strategic and Political Studies, an Israeli think tank. The document was
titled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm"
and was designed as a political blueprint for the incoming government of
Benjamin Netanyahu, a superhawk in the Israeli political aviary. The
complete break with the past was to be a new strategy "based on an
entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic
initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible
energy on rebuilding Zionism."
Israel, according to the 1996 paper, would
"shape its strategic environment," beginning with the removal of
Saddam Hussein and the restoration of the Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad.
The Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in a military coup in 1958 when young
King Faisal, a cousin of Jordan's late King Hussein, was assassinated.
Last year, Jordan's former Crown Prince
Hassan shocked King Abdullah by failing to inform him he was journeying to
London to attend a conference of exiled dissident Iraqi officers. Hassan
speaks Hebrew and is known to be bitter over his removal as Crown Prince
by his brother Hussein a few days before the king lost his battle to
The rebuilding of Zionism, as the paper
urged, must at the same time abandon any thought of trading land for peace
with the Arabs, which it described as "cultural, economic, political,
diplomatic and military retreat."
The strategic roadmap — which has been
followed faithfully thus far by both Mr. Netanyahu and his successor Mr.
Sharon — called for the abandonment of the Oslo accords "under
which Israel has no obligations if the PLO does not fulfill its
obligations." Yasser Arafat blundered by obliging Israel.
"Our claim to the land [of the West
Bank] — to which we have clung for 2,000 years — is legitimate and
noble," the paper continued. "Only the unconditional acceptance
by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, is a
solid basis for the future."
For the strategy to succeed, the paper
suggested, Israel would have to win broad American support for these new
policies. And to ensure support in Washington, Mr. Netanyahu was advised
to use "language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of
past U.S. administrations during the Cold War, which apply as well to
Prominent American opinion-makers who are
now senior members of the Bush administration participated in the
discussions and the drafting that led to this 1996 blueprint. Prime
Minister Sharon has flown to Washington seven times in two years to meet
with Mr. Bush, more frequently than any other head of state or government.
Mr. Sharon quickly convinced a receptive and
deeply religious Mr. Bush that Palestinian terrorism, al Qaeda and Saddam
Hussein's weapons of mass destruction were part of a three-pronged
offensive against the Judeo-Christian civilization.
The destabilization part of the strategy
appears to be working. The Arab League seems to have reached a dead end.
And it has no idea how to turn around. Arab states are the only ones in
the world with living standards that have declined steadily for the past
two decades. Even the richest one — Saudi Arabia — has fallen from per
capita incomes of some $20,000 plus to $7,000 since 1983.
Saudi royals know they have to open up their
private fiefdom to participatory democracy. Eight other Arab states are
committed to political pluralism and market economies. How to keep
politico-religious extremists from winning elections is now their common
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large
for The Washington Times and for United Press International.
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