The American Mistake

By Vittorio Emanuele Parsi:

 

The White House guarantees “U.S. support to those who demonstrate peacefully for freedom in Tunisia and Egypt.” The truth is that, for America, the fall of the regime would mean the loss of the most important ally in the Arab world, with dramatic consequences for the whole picture of the Middle East.

There’s an element, of which we are afraid, that unites phenomena as diverse as the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia, the anti-Mubarak riots in Egypt, the Hariri government’s crisis in Lebanon and Habu Mazen’s troubles after the disclosure of the “Palestinian Papers.”

This shared element should not be sought in a common cause but in the consequences of these events. It can be described as the sudden loss of U.S. “hegemony” in the southern and eastern Mediterranean, which could occur through the replacement of pro-Western regimes and governments with anti-Western regimes and governments. If this process continues at the current rate, it is possible that in a short time the United States will have only a handful of allies in the region, who will be very unpleasant (such as Israel or Saudi Arabia, albeit for very different reasons), practically irrelevant or very fragile (the various Emirates and Jordan). And all this increases the likelihood that, in the new strategic framework, an Arab-Israeli conflict will become almost inevitable.

Right now, the greatest concern is represented by Egypt. Mubarak’s regime is definitely in trouble: After the anti-Christian attacks in the beginning of the year, and the following protests by the Copts, the tension has flared up again in the wake of the successes achieved by the revolt in Tunisia. Although the Muslim Brotherhood has declared it is not leading the protest, neither in Suez nor in Cairo nor in Alexandria, the crowd clashed with the police shouting “Allah akbar!” After all, the Islamic organization, fraudulently excluded from the elections in November, would be the main beneficiary of a possible collapse of the regime. Maybe, thanks to the crucial prop offered by the armed forces, Hosni Mubarak will be able to stay in power, but it is almost impossible that his son will succeed him.

Meanwhile, the White House guarantees “U.S. support to those who demonstrate peacefully for freedom in Tunisia and Egypt.” The truth is that, for America, the fall of the regime would mean the loss of the most important ally in the Arab world, with dramatic consequences for the whole picture of the Middle East. If the Muslim Brotherhood were to come to power in Cairo, they would hardly continue to participate in the international isolation of Hamas (who often invokes the “Brothers”). The unsafe position of Abu Mazen would get more and more unsustainable, and the same “cold peace” with Israel would be called into question.

The Israeli nervousness is then heightened by the witnessing of the irresistible rise to power in Lebanon of its Hezbollah “archenemies”. With the task of forming a new government assigned to the pro-Syrian Najib Mikati (instead of pro-Western Saad Hariri), the season of hope opened with the “Cedar Revolution” in 2005 seems to fade, at least for now. Since then, Lebanon had got closer to Washington and Paris, despite the brief but devastating conflict with Israel in 2006 and the growing importance of Hezbollah in the domestic political landscape.

All of this may already be a memory. And the U.S. responsibility for having contributed to “losing Lebanon” doesn’t appear to be insignificant. The dogmatic position of the United States on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (with the special responsibility to shed light on the murder of Rafik Hariri) has come to affect the various Lebanese governments that, in order to continue to get American help, had to maintain a strictly pro-STL position, despite the fact that the domestic political framework wouldn’t allow this anymore and with the illusion that U.S. support was crucial to keep them alive.

And this was a tremendous mistake. In fact, U.S. dogmatism has helped to radicalize the domestic political confrontation, thus producing a more favorable situation for Hezbollah. Now the U.S. is already threatening to cut aid and economic cooperation with Beirut, in the case that the Mikati executive will be launched, and it’s preparing to impose sanctions against Lebanon if the STL seeks the indictment of members of Hezbollah and the new government opposes it. A suicidal policy, which would merely reinforce the influences of Syria and Iran on the country. Meanwhile, everyone wonders if Israel would accept such a situation without being tempted by a new, better prepared and more ruthless campaign in Lebanon. Imagining Egypt without Mubarak and Palestine without Abu Mazen is an already worrying scenario that would become simply a nightmare.

Translated By Simone Urru

La Stampa, Italy

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