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[casi] Recasting Cheney's Tour

Recasting Cheney's Tour

Current accounts of Vice-president Cheney's diplomatic mission to the Middle
East seriously misrepresent recent events in the region. The intention of the
Vice-presidents tour, we are now told, was NOT to organize political support
for a US war against Iraq. The stated objectives of Mr. Cheney's diplomacy
have been recast to hide its failure. This provides a cover for a major
foreign policy defeat, and more importantly serves to downplay the unanimous
rejection of the Bush Administration's Iraq war strategy within the Arab

Let's set the record straight. On February 12, 2002, the US administration
announced its decision to move against Iraq. This included the proposal that
as many as 200,000 US troops may be deployed against Iraq. Of vital strategic
importance was the Vice-president's Middle East diplomatic effort to win
regional support for the attack.
"...Cheney in fact will tell them that the United States intends to get rid
of Saddam Hussein and his regime, several top Bush aides said." And "He's not
going to beg for support," one senior official said, "He's going to inform
them that the President decision has been made and will be carried out, and
if they want some input into how and when it's carried out, now's the time
for them to speak out." (Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 13, 2002)

The plan didn't work. King Abdullah II of Jordan set the tone two days prior
to Cheney's arrival when he announced his public opposition to the war moves
on Iraq. When Cheney did arrive the monarch went on to call for lifting the
sanctions on "brotherly Iraq." Public statements of opposition to the US war
plans met Mr. Cheney at every Arab capital. For anyone paying attention to
the Middle East this was not a surprising development. The Arab League has
repeatedly rejected the "war on terror" as a springboard to a renewed US
offensive against Iraq.

The tour was in deep trouble and a quick adjustment was made. All of the
sudden, organizing a war alliance against Iraq was NOT the purpose of the
Vice-president's tour. The Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit told reporters that
the US Vice President "conveyed that a military operation was not on the
agenda in the foreseeable future." By the time he got to Israel to meet
Sharon, the Vice-president was accusing the press of misrepresenting Bush
administration intentions. "There has been great press speculation about
possible military action against Iraq. I have said repeatedly no such
decision has been made." (AP, March 20, 02)

The "No-Two-War" Rule of Middle East Politics.

King Abdullah II of Jordan reportedly told Vice-president Cheney, "...the
Middle East cannot support two wars at the same time -- the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an American intervention against Iraq." This
bit of wisdom sent the administration scrambling to settle one war as a
precondition to starting another. The New York Times frames the strategic
connection with Palestine and Iraq in regional politics this way, "the
administration is seeking to assure Arab leaders that it is not insensitive
to the backlash in Arab public opinion that might follow an American effort
to install a new regime in Baghdad. To dampen Arab resentment, Washington
says firmly that it is working actively to stem the violence between Israeli
and Palestinians." (NYT 3-13-02) Within this cynical scheme, an opportunist
US engagement to an Israel/Palestine "peace" has become an essential
ingredient for paving the way to war on Iraq.

But here again, the strategists have calculated incorrectly. Arab
"resentment" against the US over Iraq exists completely separate and apart
from the politics of Palestine. Using a defeated and destitute Iraq as a live
ordinance target range for the last eleven years has not gone unnoticed in
the region. While Americans may choose to disregard the ongoing siege war
that claims the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, it is deeply felt
in the Persian Gulf. The recent Cheney war tour provoked a historic
expression of an unanimous regional sentiment. It is a uniquely clear and
unambiguous political statement to the US administration, and most
importantly, the US people - No war on Iraq.

- March 22, 02

Bob Allen
Campaign to End the Sanctions
Philadelphia Pa

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