Peace Seems to Trump War in the Middle East


By Edmond Y. Azadian

The Middle East is a tinderbox ready for a conflagration when hit by any spark. The Bush-Cheney administration not only failed to avoid triggering that spark but it deliberately and recklessly began a war against Iraq which continues to be a bloodbath to this day. We have yet to see the day Mr. Cheney’s prediction comes true — that Iraqi people would embrace the aggressors with flowers.

All in all, the war initiated on a lie by the above-named warmongers, murdered more civilians than the dictator Saddam Hussein could have ever slain.

Additionally, that war cost the lives of 4,500 young Americans, besides the 50,000 injured and maimed veterans, suffering from physical and mental ailments who have become dependent on US taxpayers for a living.

The war in Iraq cost $3 trillion, bringing the US economy to its knees.

The war hatched by Paul Wolfowitz and his neocon allies was waged primarily to eliminate a threat to Israel. Saddam Hussein had not threatened — nor was he in the position to threaten — the US.

It is believed that Mr. Cheney’s plan was to expand the war to Iran and Syria had the Iraqi adventure proved to be a success, as he imagined.

While awaiting the flowers to shower his way, Mr. Cheney vacated his bunker at the White House.

It was left to President Obama to clean up the mess. President Obama has been trying to make good on his campaign pledge to create more peaceful situations in the troubled regions of the world. Yet almost halfway in his second term, he has yet to claim victories in his domestic policies: Obamacare is in trouble, the immigration bill is still fuzzy and the rest of the domestic agenda still in the works.

Reneging on his campaign promise to recognize the A Genocide will not impact on his image of a peacemaker, though it will disillusion the Armenian community.

Mark Laudler writes in the New York Times: “Deep war wariness of the Americans has reinforced Mr. Obama’s instinct for negotiated settlements over unilateral action. While the White House officials suggest that the president always planned to arrive at this moment and that everything that came before it — from troop surge in Afghanistan to the commando raid that killed Osama Bin Laden was cleaning up after his predecessors.”

Through intense shuttle diplomacy, Secretary of State John Kerry was able to bring the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiation table, while West Bank settlements are continuing inexorably, contrary to his admonition to Israelis to freeze the settlement expansion. No one knows where these negotiations could lead, but at least parties are talking to each other, after a long and fruitless hiatus.

Jodi Rudoren writes in his “Memo from Jerusalem” (New York Times, November 25): “Benjamin Netanyahu’s self image first and foremost is shaped by wanting to lead Israel out of the shadow of the Iranian bomb. His image is not driven by being the peacemaker, creating two states and dividing Jerusalem,” which means that negotiators can spin their wheels endlessly to no avail.

But on the other hand the US administration has ceased two opportunities to bring breakthroughs to two intractable problems, which could cause region wide devastation, if left unchecked: one is negotiations on Iran’s nuclear facilities and the other convening a conference on the war in Syria. These two issues vitally impact Armenians in the Middle East.

President Ruhani of Iran launched a charm offensive when he attended the UN General Assembly last September, and after a series of dramatic sorties, he finally talked to President Obama over the phone and that conversation kept the diplomatic ball rolling until an interim agreement was reached between Iran and five major countries of the UN Security Council. After a six-month period, the parties will negotiate a final deal, which, if successful, will give a clear foreign policy victory to the Obama administration.

This agreement calls for Iran to keep its uranium enrichment to no more than 5 percent and convert its stock of nearly 20-percent-enriched uranium to 5 percent, halt construction at a planned heavy water reactor and also allow intrusive international inspections, which can detect any cheating or non-compliance of the agreement at an early stage.

The international community, in return, will ease some sanctions on Iran, allowing the use of $4 billion in frozen assets and $30 billion from the sale of oil and petrochemical products, which will boost Iran’s sagging economy.

The agreement has worried Israel, which wants to settle for nothing less than bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has been leading a campaign against the agreement, calling President Obama naïve and weak against a wily Iran. Of course, the Israeli lobby is in action to derail the deal. The Wall Street Journal even had published a picture of Neville Chamberlain signing his agreement with Hitler in 1938, an appeasement policy that led nowhere at that time and allowed Hitler precious time to prepare his strategic plans.

Anyone questioning Mr. Obama’s resolve should bear in mind that he just ordered B-52 bombers to the area disputed between Japan and China — and China is a world power, not a regional one.

It is ironic that while the Obama administration was negotiating the deal, the US congress was drafting a bill for stricter sanctions against Iran. And there was a bipartisan coalition supporting the bill, with Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer spearheading the movement with the cooperation of Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, also a Democrat.

While the debate is raging about the merits or the dangers of the deal, the Economist states: “Bombing would probably set Iran back by only a few years but it would certainly remake the Middle East in a very different way. Nobody knows whether the gamble with Iran will pay off. But it is already clear that the risks are low, the prize is potentially vast and the alternative is dire.”

The other breakthrough came about the war in Syria.

After the debacles of Iraq and Libya — under the nose of Russia and China — Syria proved to be a tough nut to crack. President Obama was pushed into a corner to bomb Syria, accusing the Assad regime of using chemical weapons against its population.

As a reluctant warrior, he referred the issue to the US Congress, while losing the support of a close ally, Britain, which had been badly burnt previously in Iraq, falling prey to former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lies and verbal gymnastics in support of the Bush-Cheney line. Russia provided the fig leaf the Obama administration needed, by proposing to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, which has since been carried out successfully.

While international negotiations were moving forward, Assad’s forces gained ground in the battlefield with outright support from Russia and Iran. The factions fighting Assad’s government sometimes neutralized each other but they mostly raised the specter of another extremist Islamist regime in the region, alarming the West.

The opposition was mostly composed of mercenaries, hired by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan, the same concoction which had been sent to Libya to overthrow Col. Muammar Qaddafi.

Now a meeting is scheduled for January 22 in Geneva. The New York Times says, “Regime change in Iran and even in Syria is out; cutting deals with former adversaries is in.”

Under Hafez al-Assad and his son, Bashar al-Assad, Syria has been one of the countries in the Middle East — along with Iraq — where politics and religion have been separate. Besides, Assad has been extremely benevolent toward Christian minorities, including Armenians. Aleppo has been the last bastion of Armenian culture and literature, even in recent years. Besieged Armenians in Aleppo today enjoy the government’s protection and receive food supplies. His opponents have already destroyed Armenian churches, or have replaced the crosses with their black flags.

In peacetime, Syria has been a friendly nation to Armenia.

In Iran, the stakes were even higher for the Armenians. Had Iran been bombed, Armenia would have lost one of its reliable lifelines to the outside world. Besides, the West always harbors plans to use any occasion to compromise Iran’s territorial integrity, by gifting northern Iran to Azerbaijan, which would increase the population of the Aliyev dynasty-led Azerbaijan by 20 million, spewing words of hate, on Armenia’s border.

The peace prospect is beneficial for the region and in particular, for Armenia. On the other hand, US businesses are gearing up for hefty deals with Iran.

After suffering so much from wars, extremism, terrorism and colonialism, the nations in the region deserve peaceful and safe times, which after all, will deliver a well-deserved diplomatic and economic victory to the US.