The Palestine-Israel Journal is a quarterly of MIDDLE EAST PUBLICATIONS, a registered non-profit organization (No. 58-023862-4).
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Editorial Board

Hisham Awartani

Danny Rubinstein

Sam'an Khoury

Boaz Evron

Walid Salem

Ari Rath

Zahra Khalidi

Daniel Bar-Tal

Ammar AbuZayyad

Galit Hasan-Rokem

Khaled Abu Aker

Galia Golan

Nazmi Ju'beh

Gershon Baskin

Edy Kaufman

Ata Qaymari

Benjamin Pogrund

Nafez Nazzal

Simcha Bahiri

Nadia Naser-Najjab

Dan Jacobson

Jumana Jaouni

Dan Leon

Anat Cygielman

Khuloud Khayyat Dajani

Izhak Schnell



Vol.10 No.1 2003 / Violence and its Alternatives

Viewpoint

Did President Bush Expect the Unexpected?

What will be the repercussions of the war in Iraq for the rest of the region?

     by Ziad AbuZayyad

The rapid occupation of Baghdad and the collapse of Sadam Hussein’s regime caught every observer by surprise, presumably, along with US President George W. Bush himself. But if military operations in the city seem to have ended, the job is not yet done. It is easy to imagine what this country will look like when it sinks into anarchy, in the absence of law and order. There could even be more bloodshed after the war than there was during it.
Maintaining public order, preventing individuals taking the law into their own hands and stabilizing the situation seem to be the real challenges ahead. Things could yet get out of hand. The less time the coalition forces remain in Baghdad and the quicker they hand authority to an authentic democratic Iraqi regime, the less bloodshed there will be.
President Bush has admitted, for the first time since preparations for war against Iraq began, that this conflict will be longer and harsher than expected. This admission was not a revelation for many observers. But the fact President Bush made it is significant.
Iraq is not a minor state but a large one with considerable resources and advanced military capabilities. It also has significant experience in the administration of war, its conditions and requirements, as a result of its lengthy war with Iran and the attack led by the US in the early ’90s. Iraq has ambitions to play a leading role in the Gulf region and in the Arab world in general. Accordingly, it has continuously worked on developing its combat capabilities and building up its military forces. It seems this has disturbed the US, as it is not in America’s interest to have any strong Arab state, especially not in the Gulf. Iraq controls one fifth of the world’s oil reserves and is situated near the oil fields of the Gulf States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Thus, if Iraq becomes too strong militarily, it could pose a threat to Western interests in the area.

War without Pretext or Legality

On the eve of the military attack and immediately after it started, a number of world leaders condemned the war, emphasizing its immorality and illegality. This war is without legitimate rationale and is not covered by any international legality. Additionally, the US administration is trying to deny the Anglo-American character of the war by describing it as one launched by “international coalition” to demilitarize Iraq, render it void of weapons of mass destruction and bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people!
No matter what political opinions or analyses state, the main difference between this war and the one in 1991 is that the first was a technological war, aiming to damage Saddam Hussein’s regime and his country’s infrastructure, but without occupying Iraq. The first war failed to either topple Saddam Hussein, change the regime in Iraq, or force it to submit to US interests and policies. This second war has arrived with the clearly stated goal of making ground incursions into Iraq and occupying it to take control and change the regime.

Iraqis are Experienced

The Iraqi people have experienced a long, tough war with Iran. Almost every Iraqi male participated in that war and therefore has military training and experience. Islamic commitment is deeply rooted in this society. All Iraqis carry weapons. The tribal structure is strong and militant. The Iraqi people have been known throughout history, since the days of the Rashideen Khalifas, as a tough, proud people. They never surrender or succumb. This has been bred in them over more than five thousand years of civilization.
In the worst-case scenario, the Iraqi people will absorb the shock and the American army will enter a number of Iraqi cities and occupy them, after a lengthy and bloody war with thousands of victims. But this occupation will be very costly. It will encounter resistance at every level. An Iraqi grassroots national and Islamic resistance movement will soon develop to fight the American and British koffar (non-believer’s) occupation. It will attract volunteers from different Arab and Islamic countries to join the Jihad.
I could even go as far as to say that if the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq continues, the resistance against it would develop into a fundamental Islamic resistance which will attract volunteers from all over the Arab and Islamic world to join the Jihad for the sake of God - similar to the one that arose in Afghanistan against the Russian army’s occupation, and which was able to defeat the Russian forces. Later it developed into a fanatic nucleus from which the Taliban and the Bin Laden group, which were behind the events of September 11, emerged.

An Honorable Stance

Some in the Arab world have tried to dress this war in crusader garbs, referring to the religious beliefs that influence Bush. He used the term crusade himself, though it was later described as a slip of the tongue. The moral and religious stand taken by Christian religious leaders all over the world against Bush’s war has negated any “Christian” influence and placed it within the circle of colonial wars. His Holiness Pope John Paul II tried hard to prevent this war, strongly condemning it, along with a huge number of ecclesiastic leaders from all over the world. This honorable stance against the war is in harmony with the spirit of Christianity as a religion of brotherhood, love and peace, and has torn the mask off Bush and his colonial war.
If the occupation of Iraq, or parts of it, provokes an Islamic resistance movement, and Islamic volunteers start arriving in Iraq to fight this sacrilegious occupation, will the confrontation remain between the Islamic resistance and the colonial occupation forces or will there be elements who try to derail the tracks of this confrontation thus giving the conflict an Islamic-Christian attribute?
The most dangerous state this war could develop into is a religious conflict in the region, which is furthest from the minds of its nations. Some may predict how this religious conflict, which the American administration will be responsible for igniting, might begin, but no one knows how it could end. And those who think it might create a pretext for their continued interference in the affairs of the region are mistaken.

Implications for Israel and Palestine

Some may have questions about the impact of the war in Iraq on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and on international efforts to achieve a political settlement to this conflict, ending the suffering and methodic killing and destruction of our people. The Blair government and its Washington cronies has lately been making proclamations about the finalization of the Road Map, while linking this to the appointment of a Palestinian prime minister, giving the impression that everything depends on whether he will enjoy real authority or not. This is interpreted as an attempt to delude Arab citizens into the assumption that the Palestinians’ suffering is about to end, while leaving the door open for arguments about his effectiveness, and preventing a serious attempt to reach a new peace settlement. The Palestinians are not in need of mere declarations about the Road Map or a new peace settlement; there are already many versions of those. What is needed is actual implementation of this Road Map. But there are fears about what will happen if the US finds itself stuck deep in the Iraqi mire. Would it still have time for the Israeli Palestinian conflict?
Most disturbing, is the fact that if the war in Iraq does not go according to American plans, the US administration will find itself more and more caught up in its attempts to drag itself out of the Iraqi quagmire, which could marginalize the conflict here, distancing it from the top priorities of international diplomacy. It is easy to plan and declare a war, but no one can guarantee how it will end. Iraq, with its internal complexities - a multi-factioned internal opposition, along with the presence of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis and their proximity to Iranian Shiites in the south and Turkish Kurds in the north - is a good example of the complexities of war and the potential for the original plans to be derailed.

What does Bush Want?

Thinking of the bloodshed that will result from this war and the incredible destruction that will be visited on Iraq and its people, the possibility that flames of fighting will spread beyond the borders of Iraq has instilled fear in the hearts of people in the region.








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