Sunday, August 12, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- August 12th edition

August 12, 2004: Scenes of death, protest and Iraqis fleeing from Najaf on the eighth day of ongoing battles between U.S. troops and Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army which had left more than 500 Iraqis dead.

August 12, 2002:

After Saddam: A Power Vacuum May Give Washington Pause

The Iraqi exile community is buzzing in anticipation. On July 12, former military officers gathered in an auditorium in London to hear each other denounce Saddam Hussein. Looking on were aides to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Now, Iraqi opposition leaders are preparing to go to Washington for sessions with U.S. officials in mid-August. "These meetings are different from previous ones because the U.S. is getting ready to take action in Iraq," says Ahmed Chalabi, a leader of the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella organization linking opposition groups.

Most Arab leaders continue to argue against an attack on Saddam Hussein. And analysts warn that a war might tip the fragile U.S. economy into recession. But many observers agree that an effort to depose Saddam is in the cards. George W. Bush will look foolish if he doesn't follow through on his threats of "regime change." And Saddam is playing into the hands of U.S. hardliners by not letting U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq. "I think the U.S. has decided for its own reasons that Saddam is a threat that it cannot live with," says Chalabi, an ex-banker based in London.

Few doubt the U.S. will prevail in an all-out military campaign. The key question is how costly such an effort will be and where will it lead. Much depends on how much help the U.S. can muster from the Iraqi military and civilians in overthrowing Saddam and in running the country. Europeans and neighboring countries worry that replacing Saddam could lead to instability or the rise of an equally menacing strongman. "There has been little political preparation for the inevitable negative reaction in the region and for the follow-on inside Iraq," says a Western diplomat in the Persian Gulf area.

U.S. government officials say the upcoming meetings with the Iraqi opposition are intended to address such fears. The U.S. is trying to encourage brainstorming on how Iraq should be governed after Saddam. But Iraq is a notoriously fractious country, and, for now, there is no leader who can command the whole nation's loyalty. Among the guests invited to Washington is a London-based member of the deposed Iraqi royal family, Sharif Ali bin Al Hussein. But other exiles are skeptical about whether the royals, who were ousted in a bloody coup in 1958, have much appeal for contemporary Iraqis.

Indeed, intramural rivalry is running strong. There is friction, for instance, between Chalabi and Ayad Allawi, a former senior member of Saddam's Baath Party who left Iraq in the 1970s and heads the Iraqi National Accord, a longstanding dissident group. Chalabi, a political liberal, has admirers in Washington, but Allawi's group is believed to have better connections to the Baath Party and the Iraqi military. Both men, who say they favor a democratic Iraq, are invited to meet U.S. officials, along with Shiite and Kurdish representatives. That has some exiles hopeful the opposition leaders will bury their differences. "This could be the beginning of not only getting rid of Saddam but building a stable Iraq," says Ghassan Attiyah, editor of Iraqi File, a London-based periodical.

It's far from clear how much impact these machinations can have on people in Iraq. Analysts think it's unlikely that the Iraqi military or other groups will risk death to move against Saddam unless they know the U.S. stands behind them. So the U.S. may have to do most of the job itself. "The U.S. has to be willing to invade the country, remove the regime, sit in occupation in Baghdad, and prop up a puppet," says Raad Alkadiri, an Iraq specialist at PFC, a Washington-based energy consultancy. That prospect, along with the negative economic fallout from war, means there will be plenty more talk before there's action.

Read the rest at Business Week

August 12, 2003:

Iraq's power deficit

There is nothing unpredictable about the summer heat of up to 125F which has inflamed Iraqi anger over shortages of water and fuel and led yesterday to a third day of stone-throwing outside British military headquarters in Basra. Unlike the European heatwave, such temperatures were to be expected: popular resentment at the failure of the occupying forces to restore these essential supplies was also unsurprising. The British forces on the ground may be doing what they can to help by diverting their own fuel resources, policing the petrol queues and trying to protect the power lines. Yet postwar planners in Washington and London have failed massively to anticipate the situation, more concerned to project their own power than to satisfy the power needs of millions of Iraqi people.

Coalition spokespeople routinely try to shift the blame for these shortages on to the Saddam Hussein administration which, it is suggested, deliberately left the national power grid - essential for keeping the water supply flowing - in a deplorable state. The occupying forces merely inherited a bad situation, the argument goes, now compounded by smuggling and sabotage on the part of "Saddam loyalists". It is true that the system was only limping along before the war began, but that is not the end of the argument. Around 85% of Iraq's national power grid was destroyed deliberately by US bombing in the 1990-91 Iraq war: although Baghdad managed to restore more than two-thirds of it, many repairs were only achieved by temporary patching. Vital new equipment, including generators and water pipes, was routinely blocked over the next decade under the economic sanctions regime. To what extent the system was further degraded in the recent war is still unclear: Washington's claim that "the coalition did not target the power grid", if true, stands in remarkable contrast to the earlier devastation. In any case it was not hard to anticipate that an already overloaded system would collapse under the strain of a new war.

The answer is not simply to crank up oil production for export - which has been a top priority so far. As a careful report in the New York Times yesterday notes, Iraq's obsolete refineries produce too much heavy fuel oil and too little of the gasoline, diesel fuel and kerosene needed for internal consumption. According to a UN estimate, less than half of the domestic demand can now be satisfied. While oil is again being exported, the refined products have to be shipped in, and kerosene which should be stockpiled for the winter has to be dispensed now. Yesterday's news from Basra that one of the country's main refineries producing gasoline has closed because of power failures is a further blow.

What is needed now is a crash programme on two fronts. First, stockpiles must be built up by importing the deficit fuels - and without waiting until Iraq can pay for them through its own exports of heavy fuel oil. Second, funds must be freed now - and bureaucratic logjams freed as well - to repair and install the vital equipment needed, particularly for power transmission and for water purification and pumping. Whatever the cost of such a programme, it will only be a fraction of the coalition's military outlay. The £200m of aid committed by the Department for International Development pales beside the £1bn spent on the British campaign before the war had even begun. Iraq's long-term needs, we are told, still await assessment in the autumn. This is an immediate one which will not wait.

Read the rest at the Guardian

Sanchez tells AP all Iraq troops to serve one year

The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said Tuesday that troops should expect to serve for at least a year, with brief rest breaks in the region and possibly a few days at home.

"It's a one-year rotation," Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told The Associated Press. "Every soldier has been told that they'll be deployed for a year, and then at the end of the year we'll be working to send them home."

But some of the 148,000 soldiers in Iraq said nobody had told them how long they would remain in the country, where guerrillas attack Americans daily and high temperatures hover around 122 degrees.

Pfc. Deacon Finkle, 20, of Dallas, screwed up his face – red from the heat – when asked how long he would be in Iraq.

"Don't know. No idea," he said.

Spc. Jeff Ross, perched atop a bridge overlooking Baghdad's dangerous Airport Highway, knew he was scheduled to be in Iraq for a year, saying: "We really don't have a choice."

"A year's going to be rough. It's going to be a long haul," said Ross, 22, of Hillsboro, Oregon. "But I think we can do it. If it cools off a little bit it'll be all right."

The issue of soldiers' tours has been contentious, with troops and their families posting missives on the Internet criticizing the their government for keeping them in Iraq.

Some express concern about "mission creep," in which what begins as a swift war turns into a long-term occupation that could cause heavy American casualties as Iraqis become more and more skeptical of U.S. promises to let them govern themselves.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

August 12, 2004:

In Iraq, Strategic Failures

George W. Bush and John Kerry have been trading questions about their past views and actions on Iraq. Their campaign exchange is worse than pointless -- it is a distraction from the debate they should be having about Iraq's present and future.

Such a debate might force Bush to recognize that he is losing his moral and pragmatic bearings in Iraq as his administration dilutes its commitment to democracy and the rule of law there. And it might force Kerry to spell out a clear, realistic alternative to the current miasma, if he has one.

The candidates' obligations and options are not equal, of course. The president's decisions are not couched in the tactical subjunctive, as are Kerry's promises. Iraq, the United States and for that matter the rest of the world all live with the consequences of Bush's words -- if he sticks to them.

Last fall the president gave three stirring speeches in which he vowed to end 60 years of reflexive American support for repression by Arab governments: Morality and pragmatism required Washington to support democracy in the region. Iraq would be the model.

But Bush's priorities seem to be different today, as his administration engages in or condones cynical maneuvering designed not to create democracy in Baghdad but to create political cover at home and fear and turmoil in Tehran.

Simultaneous U.S. military assaults on Shiite rebels in Najaf, a new and brutal power play in Baghdad against that ever troublesome Shiite politician Ahmed Chalabi, and the temporary suppression of critical news coverage by al-Jazeera satellite television this week have established the fact that "stability" of the Arab strongman kind is again tolerated at the White House.

Long backed by the CIA, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is now supporting the U.S. intelligence agency's closely related campaigns to destroy Chalabi and use Iraq to subvert Iran's ruling Shiite ayatollahs.

The agency is determined to protect its all-important liaison relationships with Sunni Arab governments in Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which fear the Shiite majorities in Iran and Iraq. That is the decisive background to the appalling choice of priorities for the use of military and judicial power that Bush at least implicitly condones in Iraq.

Baathist killers and Wahhabi terrorists go unarrested, unprosecuted and unchallenged in the streets of Fallujah, Ramadi and Sunni sections of Baghdad. At the same time the ragtag Shiite militia of Moqtada Sadr triggers an all-out U.S. assault in Najaf that risks damaging some of the holiest shrines of the Shiite branch of Islam, for small strategic gain.

Sadr deserves no sympathy. U.S. miscalculation is almost entirely responsible for turning this insignificant demagogue into a rebel with a following. Shiites, who are still bitter and distrustful of the United States for its failure to support their uprising against Saddam Hussein in 1991, are likely to note the disparity of treatment of the Sunni and Shiite insurgencies, and to conclude that Shiite political will is the true target of the Najaf operation.

The fact that Allawi is by heritage a Shiite will not reduce the sting of his approving the operation. An ex-Baathist, he has always made his career in Sunni-dominated power structures.
The timing of the latest burst of specious charges and allegations against Chalabi, his nephew Salem and his political party also suggests, at a minimum, a highly selective use of limited resources.

Chalabi, whom I have known and written about for 30 years, has made a large number of necessary and unnecessary enemies in his long campaign to bring down the Baathists and then to keep them from returning to power. Among the unnecessary and unforgiving enemies was L. Paul Bremer, Bush's proconsul in Baghdad during the formal U.S. occupation and a man quick to see a hidden Iranian hand in Iraq's problems.

This past spring Bremer collaborated with Bush's National Security Council staff on a seven-page memorandum that outlined a strategy for marginalizing Chalabi. This exercise has now been relentlessly brought to fruition while arrests and prosecutions of insurgents have gone unpursued.

Bremer created a secret court, appointed a manifestly unprepared jurist to head it and made sure Iraq's interim government could not disband it after the U.S. administrator left. It is this judge, Zuhair Maliky, who issued a warrant for the arrest of Chalabi while he was -- guess where? -- in Tehran.

Chalabi's fight with other Iraqi factions in Baghdad is his business. But the Bush team petulantly stakes American prestige, credibility and honor on a covert campaign of score-settling against Chalabi, Sadr and any other Shiites who might be influenced by Iran, while terrorists reign in Fallujah. This is not strategy; this is folly.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

August 12, 2005:

Clerics push for Shiastan in southern Iraq

Shia leaders in Iraq demanded an autonomous region for the Shia-dominated south yesterday, raising the prospect of an oil-rich fiefdom dominated by conservative Muslim clerics.

The head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCITI), one of the main ruling parties, called for the creation of a federal southern state in a new national constitution due to be completed this weekend.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim used a rally in the Shia holy city of Najaf to make one of the boldest pitches yet for a "Shiastan" encompassing the Gulf oilfields and almost half of Iraq's 26 million population.

"Regarding federalism, we think that it is necessary to form one entire region in the south," he told tens of thousands of chanting supporters.

Hadi al-Amery, head of the party's militia, the Badr Organisation, echoed the call for a Shia version of the autonomy enjoyed by Kurds in the north, declaring: "Federalism has to be in all of Iraq."

The SCIRI's cleric leaders have strong ties to Iran's theocracy and dominate the Shia bloc, which rules in coalition with the largely secular Kurds.

Some analysts suggested the call for southern autonomy was a negotiating ploy to gain leverage for making Islam the main source of legislation.

The prospect of autonomy dismayed Sunni Arabs who fear being marginalised in the centre of Iraq. Secular Shias and women's rights advocates were more alarmed at the spectre of Islamic sharia law being imposed on a region stretching from Kerbala in the centre to Basra in the south.

Negotiators from Iraq's main religious and ethnic groups have a deadline to agree a draft constitution by tomorrow, giving parliament until Monday to approve the text and submit it to voters for a referendum on October 15.

All sides accept that Kurds will retain the autonomy they have enjoyed since the 1991 Gulf war. But the drive to mirror that with autonomy for the south has encountered fierce opposition.

Sunnis fear that Iraq will disintegrate, or at least fracture, if Shias and Kurds control the oil wells and leave Sunnis with only the "sands of Anbar", a vast, barren province.

"We hoped this day would never come," said Saleh al-Mutlak, a leading Sunni politician. "We believe that the Arabs, whether Sunni or Shia, are one. We totally reject any attempt to stir up sectarian issues to divide Iraq."

Sunnis were a dominant minority under the deposed president, Saddam Hussein, and Sunni militants are driving the insurgency. The Shia prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is keen to draw them into the political process, and this is one reason he opposes southern autonomy.

"The idea of a Shia region is unacceptable to us," his spokesman said yesterday.

Read the rest at the Guardian

Death toll among part-time troops in Iraq soared in early August

The National Guard and Reserve suffered more combat deaths in Iraq during the first 10 days of August — at least 32, according to a Pentagon count — than in any full month of the entire war.

More broadly, Pentagon casualty reports show that the number of deaths among Guard and Reserve forces has been trending upward much of this year, totaling more than 100 since May 1. That ranks as the deadliest stretch of the war for the Guard and Reserve, whose members perform both combat and support missions.

There is little evidence to suggest that part-time troops are being specifically targeted by the insurgents, since the Guard and Reserve troops are mostly indistinguishable from — and interchangeable with — regular active-duty troops.

The 42nd Infantry Division of the New York Army National Guard is commanding a combat force in north-central Iraq that includes two brigades from the active-duty 3rd Infantry Division, and a brigade from the Mississippi Army National Guard is operating with the Marine Corps.

The Pentagon rejects any suggestion the Guard and Reserve are more vulnerable in combat because they are part-timers.

"We will not deploy a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who is not fully trained and prepared for the mission," said Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman. "Combat operations are inherently dangerous and despite the best training and the best equipment, we will unfortunately have service members killed and wounded in action."

Some see it differently. Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst with the Brookings Institution think tank, said Thursday that while the performance of reservists has been generally excellent, some are shortchanged on training prior to arriving in Iraq.

"If we really believe that military personnel need months of intensive training before being at their best — as logic suggests and other evidence would seem to prove — it is hard to believe that most reservists in Iraq are really as strong as active-duty troops, especially when they first arrive in country," O'Hanlon said.

The 32 combat deaths in the first 10 days of August are in addition to one death classified as non-combat.

The previous highest monthly killed-in-action total for the Guard and Reserve was 27 in May, when there were also four non-combat deaths. In August 2004, there were six Guard and Reserve combat deaths and eight total.

The increasing death toll among reserve forces in recent months reflects, at least in part, their more prominent role in Iraq. They represent about half of all U.S. combat forces there, or double the share in early 2004...

The recent surge in Guard and Reserve combat deaths comes as the Army National Guard and Army Reserve are stuck in a prolonged recruiting slump that some attribute in large measure to young people's fear of getting sent to Iraq. More than 1,840 U.S. service members — active and reserve — have died since the war began.

Read the rest at USA Today

August 12, 2006:

Army War Objector Returns to Base

SEATTLE -- Shortly after returning from Iraq last year, Army Sgt. Ricky Clousing gathered a few belongings and sneaked out of Fort Bragg, leaving only a note quoting Martin Luther King.

After six months spent seeing the "daily physical, psychological and emotional harassment of civilians," the 24-year-old said he was confused and disenchanted with the United States' role in the war.

On Friday, he turned himself in to military officials at Fort Lewis around 6:30 p.m., said attorney David Miner, who accompanied Clousing.

"I stand here before you today about to surrender myself, which was always my intention," Clousing told several dozen friends, family members and war veterans who gathered earlier at the University of Washington campus.

If military police find that Clousing is either a deserter or absent without leave, he will be sent back to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the post he walked away from, Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Hitt said.

Officials at Fort Bragg did not return an Associated Press call for comment Friday.

Speaking earlier from a friend's home in Seattle, Clousing said he won't participate in what he considers to be a "war of aggression" that has "no legal basis to be fought."

Clousing sneaked out of Fort Bragg in June 2005. Beginning last fall, his lawyers said, they contacted Fort Bragg and later Fort Lewis to try to negotiate a discharge. But neither installation claims responsibility for him, attorney Lawrence Hildes said. Finally, Clousing decided to just show up at Fort Lewis.

His planned return comes just ahead of a hearing scheduled next week at Fort Lewis for an officer charged last month with conduct unbecoming an officer and missing troop movement after he refused to deploy to Iraq. First Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, has said that his research convinced him that the war was illegal.

Watada could face nearly eight years in prison and a dishonorable discharge if convicted, his attorney has said.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Future of democracy in the ‘new’ Middle East

AGAINST the mounting death toll and bloodbath in Lebanon, American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has attempted to justify her country’s explicit complicity in the Israeli crimes against humanity. She has attributed the mayhem to the ‘birth-pangs’ of a ‘new’ Middle East.

Shocking, though, her finesse may have sounded to some, it wasn’t the first time the world heard such harsh and unconscionable justification of a partisan policy. Another female predecessor of Rice, Madeleine Albright, when asked to justify the deaths of quarter-of-a-million Iraqi children because of vengeful sanctions, had glibly defended the toll as worth the price of keeping Saddam Hussain “caged.”

There is, no doubt, an element of desperation evident in Washington’s policy of backing Israeli aggression against the Arabs — be they in Palestine or Lebanon — to the hilt. The unravelling of earlier U.S. plans and assessments in Iraq has sent its neocon policy planners and makers scurrying back to their drawing boards.

The end-product is what has been articulated by Condoleezza Rice as the new objective of American policy in the region—the birth, even if Caesarian, of a ‘new ME.’

But while the goal has been articulated for the consumption of all and sundry, it’s still far from clear what the modus operandi be for reaching this goal, and what exactly would be the contours of this new order currently on the anvil.

Apparently, the mantra of the dawn of democracy in the region, as articulated by George W. Bush over the past three years — since the invasion of Iraq — is not working or showing any signs of delivering on the lines delineated by Washington. Democracy is proving to be a non-starter, not for want of trying by the people and leaders of the countries where it has thus far been given a chance, but because of Washington’s shifting goal posts.

When it was unveiled by Bush with so much élan, three years ago, democracy was supposed to be the new order in the ME. That was the sole justification and raison d’etre given by Bush for his unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq, especially since his earlier claim of Saddam being the dooms-day merchant of WMDs had fallen by the wayside. But the democratic order has turned out to be a total disorder in Iraq.

In Palestine and Lebanon, the democratic way has spawned governments that aren’t exactly to the liking of Washington and its principal surrogate, Israel, in the region. Both publicly avowed to subvert Hamas in Palestine within hours of its electoral victory; and in Lebanon, Hezbollah is being targeted and torched, despite its impressive ballot box gains.

Even in Egypt — the most trustworthy and loyal of American satellite Arab states — open door democratic experiment was quickly abandoned once it became crystal clear that Hosni Mubarak could be seriously embarrassed by it. Despite this, the outlawed and much-reviled Ikhwan-ul-Muslimen, managed impressive electoral gains under a different nomenclature.

The mere fact that Bush and his associates are getting geared up for a brand new Middle East, after serious reverses in their abortive flirtation with democracy is indicative that democracy will not have a place of pride in the latest ‘new’ Middle East; at best, it would occupy a corner on the back shelf. And Israel would be the vassal in it keeping the regional states in its and Washington’s thrall.

Another obvious inference to be drawn from the latest call is that it is intended to be built in place of, or on the ruins of, the old order. It is common sense to assume that old and new systems can’t run parallel to each other, because the old and established order would simply not give even breathing space to the new one and muscle it out with force.

So, perhaps, that’s what Rice really meant to say—but couldn’t because that would have spilled the beans prematurely—that the new ME would be built on the ruins of the old order. In other words, the death-knell of the old order will be heard long before the birth pangs of the new are felt, in the region and beyond.

The existing order, currently in the throes of turmoil and likely to give way to a new one—was wrought jointly by the then doddering imperialist power, Britain, and its muscle-flexing successor, United States, at the end of World War II. It had two prominent features. One, was dispensing patronage of the new imperialist power to monarchies, autocracies and largely unrepresentative government, because these were regarded as safe bets to contain the challenge from the rival Soviet Union in the Cold War.

In its infatuation with autocratic Arab regimes, U.S. actively opposed and uprooted, wherever possible, progressive Arab forces and movements, with vengeance. Gamal Abdel Nasir’s Arab nationalist movement, the first truly Pan-Arab movement, was singled out for special treatment, just the way Saddam’s regime was made into a bete noir in our times. The US blocked the World Bank funding for the Aswan High Dam and connived with retrogressive Arab states to thwart Nasir and subvert his Pan-Arabism. The supine conservative and autocratic regimes were, in contrast, pampered and doted over.

The second prong of the US agenda of domination of ME was the sponsorship of Israel, which was quickly transformed into a regional power-house teeming with sophisticated arms and state-of-the-art technology.

However, there was one major qualitative difference between the patronage of Israel then and now. Israel, then, was not the sole bully doing America’s proxy in the region as it’s now. The US did not believe in putting all its eggs in the Israeli basket, as it has been prone to in the past three decades. There was the Shah of Iran, a paragon of loyalty to Washington, who shared the dubious honours of America’s proxies in the region with Israel. Washington, in fact, played an honest referee and broker for peace in the Suez war of 1956 and ticked off Israel for its aggression against Egypt.

The success of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran changed and turned that equation on its head. Iran, the regional policeman became the greatest challenge to American hegemony in the Gulf and beyond. Israel’s stock rose in Washington, instantly; it climbed up exponentially after the demise of the ‘evil empire’ of the Soviet Union a decade later.

The unfolding scenario in its wake gave another lease of life to America’s orthodox clients. They heaved a sigh of relief, especially with the apparent success of an organised imperialist backlash against a genuinely democratic Islamic movement, such as FIS in Algeria, at the onset of the 20th century’s last decade.

But the rise of Israel as Washington’s Praetorian guard in the Middle East has invited its own backlash and spawned movements, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which are different in their roots and structure from the traditional movements that the Arab world had been exposed to before. These are grass-root movements, drawing their sustenance and staying power from the ordinary people, unlike movements such as Nasir’s Pan-Arabism, or the Arab Baathist movement of Syria and Iraq.

Those were visceral and intellectual movements initiated by Arab intellectuals, though eventually hogged and corrupted by strongmen like Hafez Al Assad in Syria and Saddam Hussain in Iraq. They spawned their own elitist, and corrupt, oligarchy and became totally divorced from the masses in whose name they ruled with an iron fist.

Hezbollah and Hamas are not visceral or intellectual movements at all. They are people-oriented and run by ordinary men who have little pretensions of elitism. Religion is strongly germane to these movements and because of it, there is little room in them for the kind of intellectual dishonesty and chicanery that ultimately robbed the elitist models of their popular support.

Not so with Hezbollah and Hamas. Both have not moved out of the mass cultural matrix that spawned them. Their being part of the ordinary folks’ milieu makes them welfare-oriented, with hands-on leadership that keeps its ears firmly plugged to the ground to feel its vibrations on a regular basis.

The most notable characteristic of the likes of Hezbollah and Hamas is that they have reached the pinnacle of popularity and acceptance at the mass level because of their ability to stand up to Israel and not be deluged by the regional bully. Deeds speak louder than words. There they are for all, friends and foes alike, to see.

The mighty armies of Syria, Egypt and Jordan crumbled and folded like sand dunes in just six days in 1967 against an Israel, which was not half as bloated with power as it is today.

And yet this bloated, swaggering, giant was not able to progress even ten kilometres in four weeks into South Lebanon against ‘just a terrorist band of guerillas’, as Israel and its western mentors and allies dismissed Hezbollah when Israel invaded Lebanon, last July 12.

Hezbollah has earned its title of cult worship by the Arab masses, not just in Lebanon but also all over the Arab expanse, from Morocco to Oman, because of its proven resilience to withstand the Israeli blitz. Much more than that, it has visibly administered a counter-punch of its own, of sufficient bite, to make Israel reel under its impact.

In short, Hezbollah has punctured, perhaps for good, the myth of Israeli invincibility on the battlefield. This is something which should be worrying Israel as much as Arab orthodoxies —traditionally cosy to Washington and drawing their legitimacy largely from it.

The popular backlash against these traditional states friendly to Washington and apologetic to Tel Aviv is now a distinct possibility, nay a probability. Hezbollah’s heroics have now shown a way, an alternative, to what the inert Arab regimes have been habitually doing to appease and placate the tormentors of the Palestinians, the Lebanese and other Arabs. The alacrity manifested by the Arab League to mount a concerted diplomatic offensive of its own at the UN, in response to Washington’s attempt to suborn the world body in Israel’s favour, is a clear manifestation that the Arab leaders can clearly see the writing on the wall. People’s power prompting their leaders to act is now within the grasp of the long-neglected and dis-enfranchised Arab masses.

Another ‘unsavoury’ feature of the emerging new order—emerging under the locally generated steam and not under Washington’s command—is that Iran would be an active and equal player in it. Alarmed of this prospect, even a loyalist like King Abdullah of Jordan has poured scorn on Rice’s ‘new Middle East’ in his latest interview with BBC. And arm-chair ideologues and think-tank ‘experts’ are still advocating with vehemence to ‘take out’ Syria and Iran, simultaneously with Hezbollah.

So Rice had better plug her ears to the ground. The sound vibes she may hear would more likely be of the dirge mourning the passing away of an alien order imposed on the Middle East by imperialists and hegemons by brute force. Their game is up.

Read the rest at the Dawn