Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Just Killing Time

By Tariq Alhomayed
This comment was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 9/11/2010
Washington Post columnist, David Ignatius, asked in yesterday’s edition of the newspaper, whether Iran was serious about negotiating with the U.S. over the nuclear issue, or if it was merely killing time. The answer is, of course, that Iran is procrastinating, and killing time, whether the subject is the nuclear issue, or Iraq and Lebanon. Syria is also guilty of this. Some may wonder:
What is the connection here?
In his article, Ignatius refers to the proxy wars between America and Iran in the region, which he claimed are being waged in Lebanon and Iraq. Tehran is pushing for political gains in these areas, through its agents, in order to strengthen its negotiating position. In contrast, America and its allies are satisfied to simply provide a form of resistance, although this is weak. The author expects the proxy war to escalate in Beirut and Baghdad, over the coming weeks.
This is what is happening in our region, as a result of Iran and Syria’s actions. On the one hand, they maintain that they are keen to keep the peace in Lebanon and Iraq, yet they continue to apply pressure, in order to achieve their own objectives. Iraq may be the easiest model to explain this. It is widely recognized that all the states bordering Iraq, along with America, and most notably Iran and Syria, use one expression when talking about the upcoming formation of the Iraqi government. All of them say: “we support a government of national partnership, representing all Iraqi components”. But what does this mean? For Iran and Syria, they want a government of national partnership because it is widely expected to be a weak government. Thus, Tehran and Damascus are waiting for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, as per the 2011 deadline, in order to take advantage of the country, and run it from the inside, as they are doing in Lebanon today. However, Iraq has different characteristics to Lebanon; it has oil, and from a political stand point is regionally influential. Therefore Iran will keep Iraq in its pocket like someone holds a credit card. Then Tehran will use this Iraqi credit card to pay the bills of its political maneuvers, to negotiate with America for example, and to finance its agents in Baghdad, Lebanon, and Gaza. All of its demands will be addressed to Tehran, whilst its billing address will be Baghdad.
Meanwhile, we find that the rest of the countries neighboring Iraq, as well as America, are tactically targeting Iran. They hope that the next Iraqi government will be able to reduce Iranian influence in Iraq, albeit temporarily, and this is what Ignatius has termed as ‘weak’ resistance.
In order to prove that Tehran and Damascus are playing a game to kill time, we must consider two remarkable statements. Firstly, the Iranian Foreign Minister, in response to statements issued in Washington suggesting that America could resort to a military option, in order to prevent Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, said: “it’s a joke, America is currently preoccupied with the chaos caused by the mid-term elections”. Iran has manipulated the timing, and circumstances, well in Washington.
Meanwhile, in Damascus, the Syrian President, during a meeting yesterday with Democrat Congressman [John] Kerry, praised “President Obama's desire to achieve peace in the region”. [This statement is remarkable], considering that Kerry had said hours earlier that no-one could disable the Hariri tribunal, and not to mention the recent escalation of U.S. pressure on Syria! Thus we can be sure that the game being played in our region is a game to kill time, and procrastinate, as long as there are no real solutions on the table.

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