What President Bush Can Do to Strengthen US Middle East Allies

By Findley, Paul | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 31, 1990 | Go to article overview

What President Bush Can Do to Strengthen US Middle East Allies


Findley, Paul, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Speaking of history, Ambassador Robert Neumann, a noted wit and scholar who served in 1981 as the first Reagan administration ambassador to Saudi Arabia, offers this quaint definition: "History is just one damned thing after another."

Anyone associated with recent events in the Arabian Gulf area will surely find Neumann's definition appealing. A month ago, who would have forecast that the government of Iraq, which had been aided substantially by Kuwait in its long and costly war with Iran, would suddenly invade this very same benefactor and place menacing forces against the border of another primary benefactor, Saudi Arabia?

The aftermath of the Iraqi assault is, however, the occasion for rejoicing, not expletives. In what must be accepted as the ultimate expression of friendship and cooperation, United States and Saudi Arabian military forces now stand together in opposition to the occupation and annexation of territory by force of arms, and in support of the principles of territorial integrity and the peaceful adjudication of international disputes.

A Double Standard

President Saddam Hussein, whose conquest of Kuwait is inexcusable by any reasonable standard, has nevertheless helped to focus world attention on the double standard to territorial conquest that the United States has applied in its dealings with nations in the Middle East. In a surprising statement, Saddam thinks that Iraq might withdraw from Kuwait if Israel withdraws from the West Bank and Gaza, and Syria withdraws from Lebanon. To which I say: hurrah!

Three days before, I had suggested a way for President Bush to strengthen powerfully the US position in the Gulf region, by demonstrating the strong opposition of the US to the forcible occupation and annexation of territory by Israel, not just Iraq.

To our credit, we are taking high-risk military measures to oppose the occupation and annexation of Kuwait by Iraq. At the same time, our government acquiesces quietly in the occupation and, in two instances, the annexation of Arab territory by Israel. To make matters worse, the US has continued to provide crucial financial, military and political support to Israel, notwithstanding these violations.

This double standard is not lost on the Arabs we need on our side in this confrontation with Iraq. Much of the support that Iraq's Saddam Hussein receives, both at home and elsewhere, arises from frustration among Arabs because so little has been done to bring Israel's violation of human and territorial rights to an end.

Who can blame Arabs for giving up on the US, given its bias favoring Israel?

The US is viewed worldwide as the willing financier of Israel's occupation and annexation measures. …

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