Bush Making Final Prepartions For Attack On Iraq

by DEBKAfile

16 June 2002

"The Middle East statement/ communiqué/ address US President George W. Bush has promised this week has put the region on high suspense. Most of its prominent leaders have crossed the Atlantic to make sure of a word in the president’s ear in good time. The Palestinians have registered their basic demand for a Palestinian state in two years, even though their sponsor, Saudi foreign minister Saud al Faisal, who was the last White House visitor from the region, was more modest, demanding only a Palestinian homeland.

In the view of DEBKAfile ’s political sources, the principal goal of the Bush statement will not be solving the Palestinian issue, but generating the best possible circumstances for the coming US offensive against Iraq.

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, during his visit last April to the presidential ranch in Crawford, Texas, set out the oil kingdom’s price for backing the American offensive: Washington must show the Arab world a more “balanced” approach on the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

This proposition kindled hopes in sections of the Bush administration, principally secretary of state Colin Powell, that Riyadh was not a lost case. Making Israel pay the price does not appear extortionate in those circles and might even win the Europeans round to at least token participation in the campaign against Saddam Hussein.

At the same time, none of the parties is under any illusion that this trade-off can be anything but short lived, if not illusory. They are going through the motions in order to get the strike against Iraq moving. Even if Bush promises to force Israel to accept a Palestinian state within six months and evacuate every last settlement in three, they all know that Yasser Arafat will never turn away from terrorism to the end of his days, especially the suicide variety which he proudly regards as the apex of his achievement in the Muslim context.

All the parties are equally aware that for the US president a terrorist is a terrorist and not to be tolerated.

Therefore, the White House team will attempt the impossible, to draft a statement that suffices to win Saudi Arabia and Egypt round to supporting America’s war on Iraq – a doubtful prospect - as well satisfying Europe – which is just as dubious. The European Union as a bloc has finally decided that it does not like George Bush. This does not stop Eurocrats saying all the things Washington wants to hear, while at the same time sabotaging its policies.

On Saturday, June 15, for example, Europe added to its black list of terrorist organizations the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an arm of Arafat’s Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian, whose leader is held in Jericho for ordering the assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister, and the Palestine Liberation Front. Hardly 24 hours went by before Europe announced the resumption of its $15 million subsidy to the Palestinian Authority – with more to come, after Israel failed to convince their representatives of Arafat’s direct implication in Palestinian terrorism. The flow of funds was interrupted when Washington protested Europe’s overt funding of the Palestinian suicide campaign against Israeli civilians.

Once again, the European taxpayer will be financing Arafat’s suicide brigades.

Israel is unlikely to be better satisfied than the Arabs and the Europeans. Prime minister Ariel Sharon would prefer no statement at all, but whatever Bush says, he will present it as a feat of his government’s diplomacy.

The US President will most probably set his sights on the lowest common denominator for Arab- European-Israeli-Palestinian consensus in order to propel the Middle East into a new era. He will not be the first US leader to aim for this goal and fail. Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad, Yasser Arafat and Hasan Nasrallah will unleash the flames of terror and violence to make sure he does, however forthcoming he may be.

Five years ago, President Clinton made the grand gesture of appearing before the Palestinian National Council in the Gaza Strip and emotionally announcing US support for an independent Palestine. This solemn occasion, termed at the time as the greatest Palestinian political achievement, has long been drowned out by wave upon wave of terror and suicide killings that Arafat orchestrated in the interim. The Palestinian leader cares nothing for US presidential utterances; nothing can turn him away from the path of violence and bloodshed as long as he is convinced that this is the only way to vanquish and obliterate Israel."