Friday,17 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013
Friday,17 August, 2018
Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

Criminals of war

Criminals of war
Criminals of war
Al-Ahram Weekly

The Arab Spring unfurls and the clouds of economic, political and social upheaval have not yet parted. Instead, the sun of a full-fledged democracy has failed to poke through. The Syrian crisis hit the headlines, but the trauma that engulfs most Arab states in the wake of popular uprisings that toppled the antiquated tyrannical regimes of yesteryear is simmering on.

The 10th anniversary of the United States-led invasion and occupation of Iraq preoccupied Arab pundits. Most concurred that the current situation in Iraq is politically untenable. And, it could get worse. The political establishment in Iraq cannot get its act together. Washington’s military intervention undermined the things that did work in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Zuheir Kseibati writing in the pan-Arab London-based daily Al-Hayat aptly surmised the Arab predicament focussing on Syria and Iraq. “On the 10th anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq, Obama made a pledge while in Israel to uphold its security. On the 10th anniversary of the destruction of an Arab country’s capabilities and the liquidation and displacement of its scientists, the war in Syria is undermining the unity of the people, eating up its children and burning all the foundations of the state,” Kseibati reasoned.

“In both cases, the Baath Party and dictatorship are the targets, despite the difference between the invasion and occupation of the Mesopotamia, Land of the Two Rivers, and the uprising which has transformed into a revolution and a war of mass destruction in Syria. But in both cases, is there any cheaper price to pay to uphold Israel’s security, on which all the American presidents insist?”

Cynicism is the order of the day. One reason for pessimism is the lack of trust in America’s intentions in the Arab world. “On the 10th anniversary of the American tanks’ storming of Iraq under the pretext of punishing the evil ruler who threatened the world and Israel with WMDs, many recall that the Syrian Baath received the message sent by Washington, warning it that it will be the next target. The Marines are now on the border separating a Baath Party which has already collapsed and another that hid behind the cards of the resistance against the American occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” argued Kseibati.

The dysfunction of the nascent democracies that replaced the dictatorships in the Arab world is creating a climate of extreme popular discontent. But the “manufactured crisis in the Arab world” conjured up by Washington does not exonerate the lack of Arab leadership from blame. “Ten years have gone by and what is new is that Iraq, which used to protect the Eastern gate of the Arab world, is now a thing of the past, especially due to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, his illusions over his ability to defy the West and his exaggeration of his strength,” lamented Kseibati.

In much the same vein, Jihad Al-Khazen also writing in Al-Hayat demanded that the American leadership that orchestrated the chaos in Iraq must be brought to book. “On this day, 10 years ago, the United States invaded Iraq. The administration of George W Bush committed a war crime, but none of those involved in fabricating evidence to justify the war that they planned and implemented have been held accountable. This is despite the fact that their war has led to the death of one million Arabs and Muslims, along with 5,000 of America’s prime in Iraq alone; furthermore, the killing there is ongoing,” extrapolated an angry Al-Khazen.

“Justice requires that these individuals be put on trial, and the only fair punishment is for all of them to be executed, including George W Bush, former vice president Dick Cheney, former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and officials like Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith and John Bolton,” Al-Khazen urged.

And, Al-Khazen went even further in his scathing critique and condemnation of the Bush administration, echoing a sentiment deeply felt by many Arab pundits. “If there was any justice in this world, the war criminals from the Bush administration and around it would have been placed in a Nazi-like concentration camp,” Al-Khazen summed up the unfortunate repercussions of American intervention in Iraq.

Writing in the pan-Arab London-based daily Asharq Al-Awsat Tarek Al-Homayed was more concerned with the turn of events in his own country Saudi Arabia. He was especially critical of the Saudi Shia religious leadership in the kingdom. “Some Saudi Shia intellectuals have issued a statement rejecting the Saudi authorities’ announced arrest of an espionage cell consisting of 18 members, including 16 Saudi Shia, accused of collaborating with Iran (it should be noted here that Riyadh did not mention the sect or Iran officially, and strongly defended the Saudi authorities).

“The least that can be said about the Shia intellectuals’ statement is that it is scandalous and erroneous, especially as the signatories of the statement accuse their country of playing the sectarian card and trying to avoid the inevitability of internal reform,” Al-Homayed said, pointing an accusing finger against Saudi Shia clerics and intellectuals.

“This rhetoric clearly falls in line with the statements of Muslim Brotherhood symbols in Saudi Arabia. However, it is a fatal mistake. If the signatories went to the trouble of actually considering what the Iranian intelligence services are doing within Iran itself, then they would not have committed this error and issued a scandalous statement that not only discredits them inside Saudi Arabia, but also in Iran. Had the signatories waited for more results to be revealed from the investigations, they would have discovered that this is not a story of sectarianism, for this is a naive interpretation. Let us not forget that Iran previously exploited Saudi Sunnis, affiliated to Al-Qaeda, against their own country,” Al-Homayed expounded.

The former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat noted that Saudi Shia intellectuals “have failed to realise that Washington considers Iranian intelligence to be one of the leading threats against it and our region, and a recent US report indicated that the Iranian intelligence services have approximately 30,000 spies across the Middle East”. His, was a word of warning, ringing the alarm bells of sectarian strife.

“Therefore, the Shia intellectuals’ statement is reckless and scandalous. It is political manoeuvring with sectarian motives. It does not serve to exonerate the defendants as much as it harms the rational Shia among us,” Al-Homayed concluded.

The visit by US President Barack Obama to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan solicited some interest in the Arab press, but was dismissed as largely symbolic and of little consequence. In a speech in Jerusalem [last] Thursday, Obama insisted that “peace is possible” between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the commentators noted. Asharq Al-Awsat quoted Obama as saying that Israeli settlement activity was “counterproductive to the cause of peace” in the Middle East. However, the paper also indicated that Obama failed to openly reiterate his administration’s demand that Israeli settlements be halted.

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