“America’s moment in the
Middle East is about to end”
By Mike Whitney
Clearing House" --- -There are no “accidents” in Middle
East politics. This week’s assassination of Lebanese
Industry Minister, Pierre Gemayel can only be understood
in the context of the ongoing struggle between the
competing political forces in the region. Presently, the
United States is the big loser in this regard due to its
failed campaign in Iraq. The war has severely damaged
the perception of US military invincibility and
triggered a stunning rejection of Bush’s policies in the
in the midterm elections. Now, the political-paradigm in
America has shifted and a phased withdrawal of American
troops could begin in a matter of months. Needless to
say, this is not the outcome that the hawks in
Washington or Tel Aviv had in mind.
Could the assassination of Gemayel be an attempt to
forestall the impending withdrawal of American forces?
America’s effort in Iraq has failed miserably. It has
created a security vacuum that is now being filled by
armed-militias and resistance movements. The Middle East
hasn’t been this volatile since 1948. It has descended
into a semi-permanent state of flux in which all the
main players are battling for a greater share of
regional power. The assassination of Gemayel is just
another chapter in this regrettable power-struggle. It
puts Lebanon squarely in the gun-sights of regional
rivals and increases the probability of another civil
On one level, it appears as though Israel is the only
country which benefits from a destabilized Lebanon. In
fact, the assassination could be seen as an extension of
the 34 Day War which killed 1300 Lebanese-nationals and
destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. From Tel
Aviv’s perspective, a chaotic Lebanon weakens “Iran’s
western flank”, Hezbollah, and strengthens Israel’s goal
of reshaping the region to meet its long-term ambitions.
(“Iran’s western flank” is a euphemism from an Israeli
Most of the political pundits in the Arab media seem to
believe that Israel was behind Gemayel’s murder. Here is
a small sampling of some of their quotes which appeared
in the BBC. (
This is from Al-Quds, Al-Arabi:
“Those who planned and carried out this assassination
were targeting Syria as much as Lebanon. Indeed they
were targeting the entire Arab region. Syria is the one
that is most harmed by this repugnant crime. The
destruction of Lebanon is in the interest of Israel,
which would like to see the Lebanese resistance busy
with internal wars and Syria exhausted.”
Or this from Al Ba’th, Syria:
“The New Middle East is a US-Israeli project, the
product of US aggression and the Israeli war on Lebanon.
Political assassinations are near at hand and criminal
practices and killings pave the way for sedition. This
sedition leads to chaos and it is chaos which allows the
realization of the project.”
Or this from Al-Jumhuriyah, Eqypt:
“The wave of mysterious crimes sweeping Lebanon since
the assassination of its former prime minister is
clearly aimed at immersing the country, or indedd, the
entire region, in a crisis that will allow foreign
powers to interfere especially given they have already
been acting in the Lebanese area.”
Or this from Jomhuri-Ye Eslami, Iran:
“The political tension in Lebanon entered a new phase
following the assassination of the industry minister.
Undoubtedly this assassination was planned and carried
out by the Zionist regime because the Zionists stand to
gain the most from it”.
While there is no solid proof that implicates Israel in
the killing, it is difficult to see how Syria could have
What would Syria’s motive be? Do they have a twisted
desire to be ostracized by the US and the international
Of course not; so what’s the motive?
Syria’s foreign minister was in Baghdad at the time of
the assassination patching up relations with Iraq after
a 25 year hiatus. By restoring ties with Baghdad, Bashar
al Assad hoped to show Washington that he could be a
reliable partner in stabilizing Iraq and in promoting
Are we to believe that al-Assad is such a madman that he
would stick a thumb in Bush’s eye just as he is making
Al-Assad has no secret “death-wish”! He has been trying
desperately to escape Washington’s crosshairs for 5
years. He certainly wouldn’t throw away all the
good-faith he had earned with his diplomatic mission to
Baghdad just to kill an insignificant politician in
That simply didn’t happen.
So, who benefits from greater antagonism between
Washington and Damascus? Who gains from the continuing
bloodshed in Iraq?
Prime Minister Olmert helped answer this question just a
few days ago when he said:
“I know that (Bush’s) policies are controversial in
America. (but) I stand with the president because I know
that Iraq without Saddam Hussein so much better for the
safety and security of Israel…Thank God for the
determination and leadership of George Bush”. (Reuters)
So the war in Iraq is “better for the safety and
security of Israel”?
Now that the US is facing the most spectacular military
defeat in its history, it’s easy to forget that some
people are pleased with the results. If that’s the case,
then the assassination of Gemayel might be a clever way
of keeping the US in Iraq even though most Americans
want to leave immediately. After all, if a decimated and
Balkanized Iraq is “better for the safety and security
of Israel”, then what difference does it make if more
American lives are spent to achieve that end?
The war has been costly and destructive for American
interests and its continuation will only further
polarize the American public, alienate America’s
traditional allies, enrage Muslims around the world, and
further decimate Iraqi society.
By any standard, the Iraq war has been a dead-loss for
Americans and Iraqis alike and, although the Bush
administration is fully responsible for its choice to
invade, Israel’s attempts to shackle the US to a losing
policy and force a greater commitment of troops and
resources is opportunistic and cynical.
The Gemayel assassination suggests that the plan to
remake the Middle East is moving forward and foreign
agents are using “positive instability” as a means of
subverting national sovereignty in Lebanon.
The ideologues in the Olmert government and their neocon-counterparts
in Washington imagine a Muslim world which is buried
under twisted iron and rubble from Gaza to Afghanistan,
from Syria to Iran. They believe that Israel’s dominance
depends on its ability to topple rival-regimes and
splinter their states into smaller less-threatening
units. This may explain why Olmert sees a positive value
in the sectarian bloodbath that now envelops Iraq.
Imagine the entire Middle East subsumed by this dark and
Who Killed Pierre Gemayel?
The execution of Gemayel was carried out by a nation
that accepts targeted assassination as a viable form of
foreign policy. This point needs no clarification; we
all know who fits that description.
The assassination was swift and professional; the
dispassionate implementation of a political agenda which
requires ever-increasing volumes of blood.
The killing was quickly followed by the predictable
avalanche of absurd theories connecting Syria to the
incident. As always, the New York Times led the charge
with three equally biased reports which were designed to
strengthen the radical, anti-Muslim agenda of far-right
fanatics. Despite the damage to its credibility in the
lead up to the war, (when the Times featured blatantly
false claims about Iraq’s fictional WMD in a series of
front page articles) the Times continues to be the main
vehicle for spreading the disinformation promoting US
foreign policy objectives. Today’s headline, “Beirut
Throngs Mourn Slain Minister and Revile Syria” is
another abysmal example of the Times role as chief
propaganda-organ for the Pentagon and Tel Aviv.
Still, the spurious claims emerging from America’s
flagship newspaper will have little effect of the facts
on the ground. Rather than “reshaping” the Middle East
according to its imperial aspirations, most critics
believe that Bush has done irreversible harm to
America’s national interests and is steadily being
muscled-out of the region by the Iran. That is why Baker
and his coterie of “realists” have inserted themselves
in the process to try and salvage what they can from
Bush’s ruinous policy-debacle in Iraq. Unfortunately,
Gemayel’s assassination undermines Baker’s efforts to
tone-down the violence and create a suitable environment
Was that merely a coincidence?
For now, the advocates of “creative destruction”
(Cheney, Olmert and the neocons) still have the
upper-hand and have “checkmated” Baker’s (forthcoming)
attempts to withdraw from Iraq. But, what about Bush;
where does Bush stand on Gemayel’s assassination?
It’s interesting that Bush immediately issued a
statement pointing the finger at Syria even though no
evidence was available. This shows that Bush is still
very much in the Cheney Camp and is following the
disruptive, war-mongering script produced by the neocons.
James Baker has been working feverishly to open
diplomatic channels with Syria and Iran so that he can
extricate the US from Iraq. Gemayel’s assassination is a
major set-back for Baker’s plans and could put an end to
the talk about negotiations.
Was that the plan; to sabotage Baker’s efforts to
withdraw the troops?
There is a very real possibility that the fighting in
Iraq will spread beyond the borders and swallow-up the
entire Middle East. The long-term affects of this on the
oil-dependent world as well as the suffering it will
cause to Iraqi civilians is incalculable. But, even if
the violence does not broaden or intensify, “America’s
moment in the Middle East is about to end”. That is the
opinion of “The Daily Star’s” Hisham Melhem.
“The United States is boxed in Iraq, its friends are on
the defensive, and Iran is on the ascendancy…We may be
witnessing the beginning of the end of Lebanon’s long
traditional liberal western orientation, and this vision
of Lebanon to be replaced by an Iranian vision.” (We may
see) “Beirut will turn into Tehran on the Mediterranean,
and create a culture of resistance—to put Lebanon in a
permanent mode of confrontation with the United States,
the West and Israel.”
Then Melhem added ominously:
“You want to engage the Syrians in Lebanon bilaterally?
Fine, but the Syrian price is going to be high. They
want to regain their previous hegemony over Lebanon, and
Lebanon to them is more important than the Golan. In the
case of Iran, they want recognition of their regional
stature as the influential power here, as well as the
nuclear file.” (Jim Lehrer News Hour)
The inevitable shift in regional power is something that
wiser men would have considered before initiating a “war
of choice”. Nevertheless, it is one of the many
unintended consequences of Bush’s ruinous strategy in
Iraq. The emerging paradigm is easy to see for those who
are not completely blinded by ideological claptrap. The
US may persist with its foolish saber-rattling against
Iran and Syria, and continue its savage attacks on Iraqi
society, but the handwriting is already on the wall. The
days of “regime change” and “spreading democracy” are
rapidly drawing to a close.