Jewish World Review May 22, 2003 / 20 Iyar, 5763
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The bombs are blowing all over -- at the time of writing, five hits still recent in Israel, four in Saudi Arabia, five in Casablanca, one in Ankara -- and an indeterminately large number in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. These last our media persist in describing as "looting and disorder", as if the seemingly random rapes, murders, and property destruction in neighbourhoods that never had crime problems before were a spontaneous expression of joie de vivre. They're not, and according to the more respectable sources both Iraqi and U.S., the co-operative Baathist-Islamist underground are the authors of nearly all of it.
They think they can scare the Americans away; that at the least they can force the U.S. to employ Baathists against Baathists. They are thus continuing their "war against American imperialism" by the last available means; and there are thousands of them still out there. The U.S., with crucial local help, has now rounded up more than half the card-deck of the senior Baathist leadership, and an unknown but much smaller proportion of the nasties who did not quite merit cards. The borders can be only semi-secured against the arrival of more. Whole towns, such as Tikrit and Faluja, continue to be populated by people who did well out of the old regime, and deeply resent the new one. Our media naturally confuse disturbances there with more benign expressions of discontent -- by Iraqis of all ethnicities and classes still waiting for Saddam's head on a platter, and with religious Shia Muslims expressing themselves after many decades of repression.
This last has been overstated as a problem. Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's highest Shia cleric, who appears to enjoy broad popular support among the three-fifths of the population who are his co-persuasionists, has said repeatedly through his Baghdad spokesman Mohammad Taqi Al-Husseini, and others, that he doesn't want an Islamist state, in the Iranian fashion. "We demand and insist on an elected government that represents the majority but respects the rights of the minorities and all religious factions," was the statement yesterday.
The media lights have instead shone upon Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, a truly dicey character, who spent 23 years in Iranian exile, and does indeed demand an "Islamic democracy" on the model of Khomeini's disastrous government of Iran. He needs watching, but the "huge cheering crowds" that greeted him when he arrived in Najaf a week ago were not quite as described. >From my information (multiple sources), a fairer description would have been "huge curious crowds with cheering from his supporters in the front rows".
One will go seriously wrong by assuming that Iraq's Shia, or even the Islamist radicals among them, are copies from an Iranian original. The history is entirely different; and Shi'itism in Iraq is a phenomenon of much more recent history. It has never been embodied in pseudo-nationalist power aspirations -- this is a new situation. Moreover, Iraqis at large are sick to death of government by nutjob. The contrasting Western-style taste for a fairly strict separation of mosque and state is also part of Iraq's pre-Baathist legacy. I have faith in them.
I have much less faith in the inhabitants of Saudi Arabia, where a true civil war between Wahabi factions could be ignited. Morocco is more of a mystery to me, and I suspect to itself. The hits in these countries must be interpreted as sucker punches by terrorists either Al Qaeda by actual membership, or sharing Osama bin Laden's murderous ideology. They are fighting an international war, which they happen to be losing. Their recent choice of targets offers a partial proof of this: for they would not be soiling their own nests if they could get at someone else's.
The latest hits in Jerusalem and Afula have another immediate cause; but are not therefore something entirely different. Palestine's murderous fanatics belong to the same terrorist international, held together by psychopathic antipathy to common enemies -- the U.S. and Israel. But the Palestinian bombers dance to a local piper (Yasser Arafat by name). Hamas and Fatah have gone back into action in response to the latest "road map to hell". They do this without fail whenever the diplomatic button gets pressed on their behalf. They relax when it doesn't -- and as they were doing for the last many months. The theory behind this is a simple one -- the one-two punch, in which the political arm exploits diplomatic pressure on Israel, while the terrorist arm plays on Israel's longing for security.
Each peace offering -- at least, each offering that includes carrots but no sticks, like the latest "road map" -- is a new reward for such behaviour. When President Bush expresses his determination to pursue peace regardless of the terror hits on Israel -- and especially when he communicates this idea to the new Palestinian prime minister, Abu Mazen -- he plays right into the terrorists' hands. He might as well be saying, "Go ahead, kill as many Jews as you can, that won't stop us making concessions to you."
The alternative is to follow the principles enunciated in the President's excellent speech at the University of South Carolina last Friday, in which the key phrase was, "The future of peace requires the defeat of terror." Sticks work better than carrots to this end, and unless the entire Palestinian leadership can be convinced that they have something to lose by playing these games -- something big, heavy, and final -- their attitude won 't change. They'll continue to say they are powerless to stop the terror cells they have armed, trained, encouraged, and directed.
What links Jerusalem with Riyadh with Baghdad, and ultimately with every
other city in the Middle East, is the carrots. Wherever Colin Powell or
senior members of his State Department go to offer more, there will be
violence. Wherever the stick is waved -- as recently in Iraq -- there will
be fresh thinking. It really is time we began to master this silly little
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