As George Bush, The American President, heads toward the Middle East in Jan 2008, the region seems to gravitate toward greater instability and weakening American hegemony. From Afghanistan to Lebanon and Palestine, more U.S. involvements yet little fruits have been accomplished. Iraq is still bleeding, Democracy shelved to be replaced by a realist foreign policy, and peace is more elusive as ever.
Only in his last year in office, Bush has decided to make the peace process his last attempt to rectify his previous failed policies. Would he succeed while other attempts by previous presidents failed? He convened a conference in Annapolis for regional representatives to start jump the ailing peace process. The Bush Administration is eager to take such efforts to engage in volatile and risky business while little has changed in the position of the actors in the region or the declared interests of the United States.
We might enter into endless debate about the US administration motives to engage in a region long neglected except militarily. From Afghanistan to Morocco (Al-Maghrib)and all the ot spot in between through Pakistan, Iran Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, the United States foreign policy is at its all time low crippled by adventurous policy carried by the Pentagon and formulated by neo-conservatives.
In Afghanistan, America and its allies after several years were unable to create a powerful central government beyond the borders of Kabul the capital. The power of Warlords are omnipresent throughout the countryside and Taliban and its shadow Al_qa’eda are re-emerging slowly and remain a threat to Karazai’s western oriented government.
Iraq is no better place and the current decline in US casualties and Iraqi citizens are no indications of long term stability or success. George Bush’s “mission accomplished” is taking longer that anticipated and US soldiers deaths are nearing 4,000. The country remain the Wild Wide West at a larger scale. Bombs are taking the lives of Iraqis by the dozens daily. Life is far from normal as refugees are still flocking neighboring states seeking shelter and safety.
The US is unable to withdraw it army at least in large numbers. Al-Qa’eda and other anti-occupation forces remain at large and their threat could remain high for the foreseeable future. The country is divided across sectarian line with the Shi’a holding most of the central power and the Kurds have achieve autonomy in the north. Sunnis are paralyzed between those who support resistance and Shi’a hegemony and those who fear more alienation and the gradual loss of power.
Iran has evolved the emerging beneficiary of the US blunder in Iraq and the region. Although neighboring countries of Afghanistan and Iraq are occupied and controlled by the United States, the Iranian regime has enjoyed relative dominance in the region and this is attributed mostly to its wise policies of engagement and alliances.
The government headed by Ahmadi Najad was able to cultivate many of the missteps carried by the United States and among them the Iraqi debacle. Its influence over Shi’ism in Iraq needs to elaborations. Iran has made closer ties with Syria and other non-governmental organizations in the region such as Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. They steadfastly negotiated the nuclear issues with the West and it is the United States that finally altered its report and perception about nuclear Iran at least for the time being.
Many Arab governments close to the United States made open and friendly and warm reproach toward Iran lately. Now the United States through the engagement of the dormant president decided to put a stop to these rapprochements. Can the US succeed this time even though its hegemony in the region is waning.
What the United States is betting that Syria will give up its close relations with Iran by offering several incentives not yet ripe or declared? Syria openly states that it is willing to make peace with Israel if the the latter return the occupied Golan Height annexed since the 1967 War. The current regime in Syria is faced with mounting pressure over the sheltering of Hamas Leadership in Damascus, its support for Hamas in Palestine and Hizballah in Lebanon. Hamas has controlled Gaza strip and unless a complete annaliation, the organization will continue to grow in power and challenge Fatah in controlling the West Bank.
Hizballah on the other hand along with the remaining opposition forces in Lebanon and mainly that of Michel Aoun Patriotic Party would not relinquish its armed resistance nor give up arms unless a unity government is forged in Lebanon. The United States and its allies are reluctant to give up which would tip the balance of power in favor of the anti-American forces in Lebanon and the region.
The year 2008 will not witness any major US accomplishments in region. A new presidential election is set for the end of the year, Lebanon will remain in the status quo even though an agreement was reached on electing a new president. Syria is in no hurry any longer to open its arms to US even though the pressure of a United Nations Court to try those suspected in the killing of the late prime minister of Lebanon Rafik Al-Harriri is nearing where Syrian hands might be involved.
Iran will not surrender its rising influence, however Turkey might play a greater role. Israel hasn’t overcome its 2006 war in Lebanon against Hisballah. The army is facing declining moral and seems unable to get the US to strike Iran nuclear facilities. The Israeli Palestinian track would remain moving on slow tracks and the prospect of a Palestinian State remains elusive. No final boundaries are drafted, No resolutions on either Jerusalem or Palestinian refugees in diaspora are agreed on, and finally the American dominance in region is eroding steadily thanks to the US failed foreign policy.
Joe Baaklini: Chairman & CEO of Global Derivatives Operations