Thursday, June 21, 2007

The View From The Gulf Street

By Cernig

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other crucial Gulf allies have gone on record as saying they will not allow their territory to be used for an attack on Iran. Their own grave worries about a period of Iranian expansionism - enabled by the mess the Bush administration has made of Iraq - isn't enough of an incentive for them to ditch their grip on reality and back said Bush administration in an attack which would certainlt eclipse even the Iraqi quagmire as a disaster for the region. Maybe it would help if they thought the Busheviks had learned anything from their experiences in the region - but it's plain to all they haven't. Here's an editorial from the Kuwaiti-published Arab News, the largest circulation newspaper in the region:
Afghanistan is not Iraq. However certain elements in the violence there are beginning to bear a disturbing similarity to the tragedy in Iraq. One is the rising civilian death toll from NATO airstrikes, most of them delivered by US aircraft. The latest example is the death of schoolchildren in a suspected Al-Qaeda compound. NATO commanders, who say they are investigating what happened, have already asserted that the suspected terrorists refused to let the children leave the building when an airstrike appeared imminent.

This is simply not good enough. If NATO had intelligence on the location of the terrorists, then they surely knew of the presence of innocent Afghan children. They could have rescheduled the assault to a time when the suspects had left the compound and the children were not with them.

The US failed in Iraq because, in its ignorance, it did not know how — or seek to find out how — to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis. It compounded its lack of understanding by heavy-handed military tactics such as the assault on Fallujah that alienated even those who were willing to give the benefit of the doubt. There are signs that America’s NATO allies in Afghanistan are fed up with US behavior there. The British in particular, who have stood by while Washington blundered in Iraq, seem unprepared to let the Americans make the same mistakes in Afghanistan.

There is a further similarity in the excuses trotted out by NATO commanders since the Taleban switched to car bomb tactics in Kabul. It is ascribed to NATO successes in the Taleban heartland in the south and east of the country. The Americans have made identical claims in Iraq when what has really been happening is that the insurgents have been expanding the scope of their operations. Given that Taleban forces have briefly seized control of two districts in the south in the last few days, it hardly looks as if, militarily, they are on a bad footing.

The third similarity is just as disturbing. Sophisticated roadside bombs are beginning to take a growing toll among Afghan and NATO army units and civilian transport. These devices are reportedly identical with those deployed against the British forces in southern Iraq and they appear to be of Iranian origin. Tehran never enjoyed comfortable relations with Afghanistan’s Taleban regime. Indeed at the time of Mullah Omar’s ouster, the Iranians were open in their backing for the western warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Now, however, Iranian munitions are flowing to the Taleban and to Al-Qaeda. If this is a private smuggling operation, Tehran ought to clamp down immediately. If, on the other hand, this logistical support has the covert backing of the Iranian government, then Tehran is making a terrible mistake. The only motive could be to trouble the hated Americans. Such a policy is wrong-headed. Humiliating America in Afghanistan will be self-defeating because, in the end, the real victims will be the Afghans, not Washington. The US troops can always go home and the politicians will find excuses for their failures. The long brutalized and deprived Afghans have no such option if they are stopped from rebuilding their country.
No, the locals in the Gulf aren't being fooled either by neocon American war-hype which demonizes Iran beyond the actual evidence or by Iranian protestations of complete innocence in everything and anything.

No comments: