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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2006

March 1, 2006

AMMAN, JORDAN - The mood across the Mideast could not be grimmer. Crisscrossing the region and meeting with politicians, intelligence officials and businessmen reveals a pervasive feeling of despair and a sense events are fast spinning out of control.

The recent destruction of a key Shia shrine in Samarra brought Iraq to the edge of all-out civil war. Ironically, intelligence officials here in Jordan believe rogue Shia government troops blew up the mosque to steal the gold encrusting its dome. This non-political criminal act provoked a Shia- Sunni bloodbath that left 1,300 dead in the past few days alone. Besides near civil war, add rampant criminality and anarchy to Iraq’s woes.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan have been quietly aiding Sunni forces in Iraq to counter growing Iranian influence over the Shia-run regime in Baghdad. Fears are even being expressed that Iraq’s civil conflict might igniting a Sunni-Shia war across the Mideast, though this writer finds such alarms exaggerated. But things are so bad in Iraq that a leading Israeli general just observed that overthrowing Saddam Hussein had been a serious mistake – a position maintained by this column for the past decade.

Even America’s staunchest Arab allies are deeply dismayed by the Bush Administration’s destabilizing policies. Washington has become the proverbial bull in the Mideast china shop.

Pro-Israel neoconservatives around Bush have been working hard to overthrow Syria’s besieged, isolated regime. But just as another `regime change’ appeared likely, the necons pulled back when it was clear the only alternative to Syria’s Asad regime was the long-persecuted underground Muslim Brotherhood.

Israel’s strategy has been to get the Bush Administration to shatter Syria, as it persuaded the US to crush Iraq, so cementing its hold on Syria’s former Golan Heights. But Israel now sees a chaotic Syria dominated by Islamists as a major danger, and is rethinking strategy. Israel’s far right, which advocated breaking up the fragile Arab states ever since the 1920’s. did not anticipate the emergence of violent Islamist guerilla movements in the ensuing chaos. Lebanon was the first example of this process.

Washington’s support of minority, anti-Syrian factions in Lebanon and clumsy political machinations there risk re-igniting the ferocious civil war that afflicted that fractured, unstable nation from 1975-1990. Right now, Lebanon is teetering on the edge of violence. Demands by the Us and Israel that Hizbullah be disarmed – and thus defanged – could also ignite another conflict.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s recent Mideast trip designed to financially and politically strangle the democratically elected Hamas government in Palestine roused rage and contempt across the Mideast’s political spectrum.

America is being denounced as arrantly hypocritical for first pretending to promote democracy, then trying to crush its results. Hamas’ hard-line rejectionist policies are not particularly popular in the region, but people feel the deepest anguish for the misery, suffering and relentless dehumanization of Palestinians.

While the Bush Administration trumpets Hamas’ refusal to so far accept Israel’s existence, Arabs keep asking why no pressure is put on Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, as the UN resolved, stop colonizing the West Bank and Golan, and dismantle its covert nuclear program. While the US threatens war against Iran over its limited nuclear program, it winks at Israel’s large nuclear arsenal.

This glaring double standard is a primary cause of anti-American rage across the Muslim World.

Egypt’s formerly petrified political system is beginning to wobble as Islamists gain momentum in spite of repression and vote-rigging. The Saudis escaped a potentially serious attack last week on their main oil complex. In Jordan, security is intense and nerves frayed after the recent deadly bombing of an Amman hotel. The Danish cartoon drama enflamed anti-government passions from Morocco to Pakistan, shaking the entire region.

America’s allies in the Arab World and Pakistan are pleading with Washington to show some support for Palestinian rights and tone down what is seen across the Mideast as George Bush’s anti-Islamic crusade. But Washington is heedless to the dangers faced by its allies who must deal with their people’s growing anti-US wrath.

The appearance of senior Bush Administration officials as speakers before the powerful Israel lobbying group AIPAC – which has been under FBI investigation for passing US secrets to Israel – is being viewed, rightly or wrongly, in the Muslim World as ultimate proof of who really runs US Mideast policy.

Most Mideasterners blame the US for their current woes. Few blame themselves or the inept policies of Arab governments. Anti-American feeling has reached a boiling point as the region waits with dread for more political upheavals and worsening violence.

Published at since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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