by Zafar Bangash (Reflections, Crescent International Vol. 35, No. 10, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1427)
Visiting Vietnam last month, US president George Bush tried to put a positive spin on the US’s defeat in Iraq by comparing it with the US experience in that country. The truth, however, is that the US defeat in Iraq surpasses the humiliation it suffered in Vietnamin terms of its political implications. Already, its reverberations are being felt in such places as Latin America, where the Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega returned to power in Nicaragua last month. He joins other regional leaders, such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuelaand Eva Morales of Bolivia, in standing up to US bullying. Domestically, the Republican party’s defeat in last month’s congressional elections shows the American public’s anger at Bush’s failures. In this column last month, we discussed the US’s certain defeat inIraq. What Muslims must now do, to reclaim control of their own destinies, is avoid losing the peace, as they did after defeating the Red Army in Afghanistan.
The US drive for “full spectrum dominance”, outlined by the neo-conservatives in the now-infamous “Project for the New American Century”, was the direct result of the sacrifices of Muslims in Afghanistan. That the New American Century, launched with Bush’s election victory in 2000, should last even less time that Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich” has profound implications for the Muslim world. The present geo-political map of the Middle East, shaped by the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, could be radically transformed if Muslims understand what has happened and act accordingly. It would be an immense tragedy if the US were allowed to reclaim power in the political vacuum created by its defeat, or if the Europeans, Chinese or Indians step into this.
Before we consider the implications of the new reality in the region, let us be clear about the architects of the US’s failure. Two names immediately spring to mind: Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. Both are well-known zionists who served in the US defence department while also having close links with Israel. In 1992, soon after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Wolfowitz outlined his ideas in a paper presented to Dick Cheney, now Bush’s vice president. He argued that the US must ensure that no rival power emerges to challenge the US’s hegemony, and advocated the total domination of the world by the US, through endless war if necessary. These ideas were further developed by Perle. In a 1996 paper called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”, Perle advocated an Israeli alliance with Turkey and Jordan to overthrow Saddam Husain’s regime in Iraq, and military assaults against Lebanon and Syria as a prelude to creating “a New Middle East” in which Israel would enjoy unrivalled supremacy. Thus the neo-con agenda explains not only the US war on Iraq but also Israel’s brutal assault on Lebanon this year (described as the “birth pangs of a New Middle East” by Condoleezza Rice) and the US’s continuing political pressure on Iran and Syria. (Perle also predicted, during hearings in the Senate in November 2002, that the US’s war on Iraq would be financed entirely by the sale of Iraqi oil.)
There is indeed a new Middle East in the making but it is not the one envisioned by Perle. Instead, it is one forged by the sacrifices of mujahideen determined to take control of their people’s destinies by throwing off the yoke of US imperialism. The new dominant players in the region are Islamic Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas. These are all indigenous and popular Islamic movements, leading the resistance to imperialism. Following the defeat of the US, the logical next step is for its local proxies—the governments of Arab countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and the Gulf States—also to be consigned to the dustbin of history. The Muslim masses have suffered enough at the hands of these dictators; now that their foreign sponsor stands exposed, these local tyrants must go as well.
Achieving this, however, will require clear thinking and bold action by local political forces, particularly the Islamic movements in these countries. They must rise above nationalist and sectarian loyalties, and realize that Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas are their natural allies. In particular, those movements that have chosen to work within existing state structures, for example by operating as political parties within electoral political systems, must ensure that they are not manipulated into defending the status quo against popular forces demanding total, revolutionary change. Instead, they must take the initiative and lead the movements for the liberation of their societies. If Islamic movements in the Arab world fail to seize this moment, the defeat of the US/Zionist alliance is liable to become just another tragic and costly missed opportunity in the Muslims’ long, painful struggle for liberation.