Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

"Linkage" Means Winning the Peace

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

"Linkage" Means Winning the Peace

Article excerpt

In launching what became the Gulf war by invading Kuwait, Iraqi President Saddam Hussain broke two Middle Eastern taboos, but almost got away with it. His Arab state attacked another Arab state, but four Arab chiefs of state seemed to support him. His predominantly Muslim state attacked another Muslim state, but some Muslim politicians and demonstrators as far away as Pakistan and Indonesia supported him.

The reason was that he wrapped his cause in the Palestinian flag, and promised Yasser Arafat a march on Jerusalem and perhaps someone else's Gulf oil fields for good measure.

Usurping the Palestinian Cause

By usurping the Palestinian cause, Saddam Hussain captured hearts and minds in the Middle East, Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and even the United States. If the US allows him to go down in history as a hero of the still homeless Palestinians, Americans will lose the peace. This means our Arab allies will, eventually, be undermined. Our relations with all of our NATO allies will suffer. And US troops will someday be back in the Middle East, but very likely without either Arab or European allies.

This doesn't have to happen. Starting last Aug. 2, the US did a lot of things right. President George Bush rapidly and effectively came to the aid of an Arab ally, Saudi Arabia. With masterful, and expensive, diplomacy, Secretary of State James Baker turned what was a unilateral US action into a UN collective action in which the world boycotted and embargoed Iraq and, eventually, authorized collective military action to get Iraq out of Kuwait.

Secretary of State Richard Cheney, Chief of Staff Colin Powell, and Desert Storm Commander Norman Schwarzkopf also proved, to Americans and the world, the US was no paper tiger. Now is the moment, therefore, for the US to capitalize on a diplomatic and military victory on the Gulf side of the Arabian peninsula by attending to unfinished diplomatic, military and moral business on the Israeli-Palestinian side.

With leaders on both sides of the quarrel totally dependent upon financial assistance from members of the coalition that just liberated Kuwait, there never will be a better opportunity. Yasser Arafat, after years of desperately playing Arab leaders against each other to keep any of them from wresting control from him of the Palestinian cause, has suffered a double disaster.

A Double Disaster

Politically, he hitched the Palestinian wagon to the most despotic leader to arise in the Arab world in modern times. Anyone who doubts this need only reflect on the pleas by Iraqi prisoners of war that their names not be published because, if they are, "they will kill my family." Can anyone cite another Arab leader whose people fear he will kill their families for their misdeeds?

Even more disastrous for the Palestinians, the government of Saudi Arabia is convinced that Arafat entered into a conspiracy with Saddam Hussain directed at it as well as Kuwait and the other major Arab oil producers. At one stroke, the leader of the PLO has alienated the only reliable sources of funding for all its obligations, from the salaries of its bureaucrats, teachers and doctors to pensions for the widows and children of its martyred soldiers.

That the leader of the Palestinians could choose such a disastrous course can only vindicate observers who believe that Israel, both through its own Mossad and by manipulating Palestinian extremists, has systematically assassinated Palestinian leaders with intelligence and common sense for the 43 years Israel has been in existence.

On the other hand, Israel is scraping the bottom of the barrel for its own leadership. Yitzhak Shamir is a former terrorist personally guilty of every sin of which he accuses the Palestinians. During World War II, the terrorist LEHI (Stern Gang) underground organization Shamir headed fought America's British allies in Palestine at the same time Nazi Germany was fighting them in nearby Greece and North Africa. …

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