S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Directions in the Middle East

No one knows which direction the fast breaking events in the Middle East will take the millions of people who live there. Their fortunes are dependent on fate, the forces of violence, what the West does, and merely the passage of time. Events in the Middle East can change overnight. And very often the change centers on one individual. That is the case of todays big news, which is the health crisis of Israel's Ariel Sharon. Thursday's Aljazeera feed reports that surgeons were able to stem the bleeding in his brain after he suffered a massive stroke. To quote,

Ariel Sharon is to be kept sedated for at least 24 hours after surgeons stemmed bleeding from a massive brain haemorrhage. The Israeli prime minister, who suffered a stroke on Wednesday, underwent six hours of surgery to stem bleeding in his brain. But a subsequent scan showed new bleeding in several areas so doctors then operated for another hour to control it.

Whether Israel's Prime Minister lives and recovers, lives and is unable to govern, or dies, will inevitably make a significant difference in the directions of both Israel and their neighbor Palestine. Palestinian radicals already see this as good news, feeling that their enemy has been vanquished. Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas knows that this has large implications for the success or failure of their two countries' peace efforts.

And with the recent establishment by Sharon of a new political party, it is clear that all of that is now up in the air. Israel's political parties have suspended activities at this time. Political forces already in place will continue the momemtum already established, to some extent. But the directions taken by each individual player could still make huge differences in the outcomes. Time will tell whether Benjamin Netanyahu can make moves in the best interest of his country.

Will a Hamas' leader such as Sheikh Ismail Haneyya perform for good or ill for the people he claims to represent? Hamas has decided to participate in the upcoming Palestinian elections. When will the election occur? Will Condoleeza Rice act deftly during these fast moving events?

After a rather peaceful period around mid-December, violence in Iraq is increasing at a frightening pace. With the outcome of the election becoming more clear, those who are now power down are trying to influcnce the direction of negotiations to form a new government. Juan Cole uses this news as his post's lead today. He links to a story from CNN about our current president's predictions that troop levels in Iraq will soon drop, noting that the briefing seems out of touch:

President Bush's and Vice President Cheney's recent pronouncements do not seem to me to fit very well with the Iraqi reality they say they are describing."Those who want to stop the progress of freedom are becoming more and more marginalized," says Bush.

The BBC writes in this story from yesterday that it has been,

Iraq's deadliest day since poll: After a lull in attacks, there have been a rash of deadly incidentsA string of attacks across Iraq has made it the deadliest day in the country since the 15 December election. In the worst attack, at least 36 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a Shia funeral north of Baghdad. Across Iraq, more than 50 people died.
In Washington, President George Bush said the plan in Iraq was going well. He said Iraqi forces were improving all the time. "As Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down," he
said, touting possible further cuts in US troop levels. Mr Bush said wide participation in Iraq's election showed the people were buying into the new democracy, and had more confidence in their security. "The election results served as a real defeat for the rejectionists," he said. However, after a drop in insurgent attacks around the time of the elections, car bombings and suicide attacks have intensified.

But good things are happening, too. The Kurds seem to be the pivotal players in the outcome of organizing the new government in Iraq. And now they will be a little freer to lead towards a more secular direction as threats from Turkish interference may be lessening. A significant development is occurring with the improvement in relations between the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey. The BBC News reports, in part, that,

The (Kurdish) region's relative safety is drawing in foreign businesses interested in
relocating from other, less secure, areas of Iraq. Much of this construction work is being done by Turkish firms. Ilnur Cevik, president of the Turkish construction firm told me his company has secured about a quarter of the estimated $800m worth of contracts awarded to Turkish contractors in the region. "We are exporting so many of our products here," he said. "Not only for construction, but trading. Everything you see here is Turkish-labelled. So I think if Turkey can overcome some of its mental blocks and start getting more involved in this region, the area will be completely linked to Turkey in many senses. And that will be very healthy for them - and for us."
'Soured relations'
When he speaks of "mental blocks" one of the things he means is Ankara's long-running concern about the effect the virtually autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region might have on the aspirations of its own restive Kurds.
And there is one last development that convinced me that some directions never change. Again, Ahmed Chalabi was named the Iraq oil minister. What are ya' gonna do? The Washington Post in a December 31 story reported that,

As a fuel crisis deepened in Iraq, the government replaced its oil minister with controversial Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi, whose poor performance in the Dec. 15 elections was a setback in his recent attempt at political rehabilitation.
The oil minister, Ibrahim Bahr Uloom, was put on a mandatory, month-long leave. He had previously threatened to resign over the government's recent decision to increase gasoline prices sharply, a move that has outraged motorists and sparked attacks on gas stations and fuel convoys.
So the Middle East is truly at a crossroads, which is very often the case. That is why fascination with the region never wanes with me. It is like the weather in the southwest. If you don't like it, just wait a little while and you can be sure it will change.



Fayrouz said...

So the Middle East is truly at a crossroads, which is very often the case

I think M.E. will always be this way even if Israel moved somewhere else. I wish they can look at Far East Asia and see how powerful that part of the world is becoming. They have their problems too. But, that didn't stop them from advancing their position as an industrial and technological power in the 21st century.

jamal said...

At a crossroads, but at least the right road is no longer blocked by Sharon.

Carol Gee said...

Fay, good point. In fact you have nudged my curiosity. I'll research and write a bit for true novices like I am. Any ideas on direction will be helpful. Thanks.

Fayrouz said...


I've been to Singapore and Malysia. So these are two countries you can start with.

good example financial power. Not to forget China, South Korea and the rest of that group.

Then you have India. Gosh, they have every religion in the world but still doing well with technology. I worked with Indian techs in Australia and they're the smartest people you can meet.