After 7 months of besieging Tyre, the legendary Greek King Alexander the Great built a bridge to connect the insolent island with land. He stormed the high walls with newly invented war machinery and killed every person in the city (333 BC). He provided future foreign conquerors with an important lesson: in the Middle East you have to kill everyone or they will battle with you till the end of time.
The crusaders remembered that lesson when they captured Jerusalem in 1099; they killed all of its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants. In 1258 the barbaric Mongol King Holako stormed Baghdad and burnt it to the ground. President George Bush conquered Baghdad in 2003 but left most of its people alive. He was a kind invader who gave people a choice: convert to a new religion called democracy or be killed. Most of them did not convert and they persisted in their old creed. He is now reaching a fork in the road and it is befitting that he went to Jordan this week to seek the inspiration of the gods for a new direction.
The Middle East has been and will always be the crossroads of all human conflicts. A more optimistic term is usually used when referring to the Middle East as the crossroads of all civilizations. It is the birthplace of human civilization and human misery. History has shown that any nation that wants to be on top must be in control of Jerusalem. When the British controlled the world Jerusalem was under their yoke. Before them, the Ottoman Turks possessed Jerusalem and they controlled half of Asia and Europe. We can keep going back in history to the Muslim Arabs and before them the Romans and before them the Persians and before them the Greeks. Every great empire is lured to its demise in the Middle East.
Today, the Star of David flies over Jerusalem and the children of Israel rule the world. They allied themselves with a young rising nation called the United States of America and ruled it from within. America became addicted to oil. The value of its dollar became addicted to the control of oil assets. So, Bush found himself like all the other emperors that came before him, in the unenviable position of having to conquer the Middle East or risk losing his empire's wealth and power.
After more than three years of waging war in Iraq, Bush thought his enemies would be worn out. But his own army and his people at home who grew tired and worn out. The enemy is prepared to fight for another hundred years, unless Bush is prepared to do what Holako had done.
This week, one of the American Generals in Iraq warned that the sectarian violence might have developed its own unstoppable momentum. Iran's President Ahmadinejad, called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Iraq and he blamed them for all the anarchy. Next to him was Jalal Talabani, the highly ceremonial and powerless President of Iraq who did not denounce any of Ahamadinejad's words.
The new game championed by Shi'a cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr; admittedly the most-influential figure in Iraq today, is to break down the Iraqi government and make it illegitimate just like the Lebanese and the Palestinian governments. The American forces obtain their occupational legitimacy from Al-Maliki's government and if it loses support then the occupation would have to end abruptly.
Bush refuses to negotiate with Iran over the Iraq issue. Iran is going to make sure that it carves up a big and visible role in Iraqi politics. Bush will keep denying Iran a role in Iraq until the Maliki government disintegrates and a power vacuum emerges. The US and Iran are probably preparing for the next phase of Iraqi politics and each is grooming his own Iraqi strongman to be the next dictator.
King Abdullah of Jordan warned this week on ABC News that we could have three civil wars raging in the Middle East; Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. The Palestinians offered a cease-fire and it was accepted by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. Hours after the cease-fire took effect, Israeli forces stormed into Jeneen killing and abducting scores of Palestinians. The European Envoy, Javier Solana, called for International monitors to observe the cease-fire. It was summarily rejected by Amir Peretz, the Israeli defense minister. No one in America reported the killing of Palestinians in Jeneen. A couple of primitive rockets were fired by Palestinians from Gaza. Israelis released a statement saying that they will be restrained in their response. The US state department praised the Israeli response.
This vicious cycle of American officials sucking up to Israeli positions is something the Arab world has grown accustomed to. American officials never mention any of the daily violations that the Israeli military commits against the Palestinians or the Lebanese. This asymmetrical reporting maintains the benefit of US policy to the Israeli side, all the time.
Jimmy Carter's new book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid" and the courageous interviews he's been doing to promote his book may help America understand that all of its problems with Arabs and Muslims can end if they give Palestinians an independent state. Olmert asked the Palestinians this week to give up their right of return. Fat chance. His request is equivalent to asking the Israelis to strike from the bible any words that may give Israel a right to the land of Palestine.
The battle for the "right of return" is going to be waged in Lebanon as it inches ever closer towards a civil war. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon will be caught in the cross fire and they will be forced to choose between the path to Lebanese citizenship through the Sunni-Christian alliance or the path of resistance through the Shi'a-Hizbullah-Syria alliance. Both are rough roads and everyone is ready to sacrifice the Palestinians for their cause.
At this highly inflamed juncture in the Middle East, if Bush and Olmert are not prepared to do what Holako had done then they better sit down with their enemies and work out their differences, sooner rather than later. Delaying the inevitable will make the loss that much greater for the American people who never asked for a hundred year war with Arabs and Muslims. Staying the course to get "the job" done that was laid out, yet again, by Bush after his summit meeting with Al-Maliki, leads straight through the gates of hell.
Neal AbuNab is a Michigan-based author of "The War on Terror and Democracy"- available at Amazon.com. He is a commentator on Arab and Muslim affairs and his weekly column appears in the Arab American News. He can be reached at: www.IslamPalestineBlogger.com
Jerusalem was important one time to Christians; to-day, Christians don't care about it (except bozos like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell). I have serious doubts that even muslims care much about it (at least not the muslim governments). The only people who care are Israelis and Palestinians, because they live there.
Middle East has no stretagic importance in global geo-politics, except OIL. Guess what, Oil is going to run out very soon (we expect demand to outstrip supply worldwide starting in 2010); so, Middle East will have little or no importance in 50 years or so. Jerusalem will lose its importance (even to Jews); and so, will Tel Aviv, Damsacus and Baghdad lose their importance. Oh yes, there will wars there, they will be internal; outside powers will have no reason to get involved there. None of the Middle East areas are good vacation spots (moreover, tourism requires availability of oil, which will be short and Middle East will have no tourist importance).