« Previous Post | Next Post »

Guest Voice

It's al-Qaeda, Stupid!

By Bilal Y. Saab

This time in Middle East relations, it is crucial to get it right and fast. Why? Because the stakes are so high.

Failure to have comprehensive peace between Arabs and Israelis is going to have consequences and repercussions of a magnitude we have never seen before. In other words, failure, at the risk of sounding too cliché, should not be an option.

A realist pause would suggest that failure can never be discounted in the Middle East given the miserable record of the many ambitious attempts in the past to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or to make serious breakthroughs on the Syrian-Israeli track. So far, those anticipating the failure of Annapolis appear more rational and more confident than those betting on its success. And it's not just a hunch or a feeling. Events on the ground speak for themselves: Israel continues to collectively deny Palestinians their basic rights for what Hamas and other militants do, while Hamas continues to provoke and threaten Israel by terrorizing its people.

Predicting who will have an upper hand in screwing up the process of peace is impossible and futile. It could be anyone or all of them, separately or at the same time. It could be Israel not agreeing to freeze its settlement expansion; it could be Hamas conducting a terrorist operation resulting in mass casualties; it could be Olmert and/or Abbas not being able to deliver on their promises, weak leaders that they are.

But process, we are told, is better than no process at all. True, but what has fundamentally changed is the rise of a new and much more fanatic evildoer in the Middle East: al-Qaeda. Today, located at the heart of the Arab world, al-Qaeda has become a real player in the peace process; its voice is much louder and its actions much deadlier than those of the other spoilers, namely Iran, Syria and their proxies. The Middle East peace puzzle has a new piece. The problem is, this piece does not and cannot fit.

The continuation of the status quo – no peace, just process – will unquestionably empower the already powerful forces breeding radicalism in the region. Popular frustration, despair, realization and conviction in the region that Annapolis will not produce any meaningful results and will not give Palestinians a viable state is going to persuade people in the region that the use of force is the only tool to achieve their aims. Some will fight like nationalists. For example, Syrians have repeatedly said they might recover the Golan by creating a Hezbollah-like guerilla force. Others will stray, go extreme and join the global Islamic insurgency. This means more recruits for al-Qaeda – music to the ears of Osama bin Laden, whose focus these days has been redirected toward Palestine, after he apologized to Palestinians in his latest message for not giving enough attention to their cause.

You can imagine from here the sort of nasty scenarios that could happen were al-Qaeda to expand in the Middle East: Gaza could become an Islamic emirate in Palestine (Fatah al Islam, an al-Qaeda sympathizer group which recently fought the Lebanese army for more than three months in the northern part of that country, has already named an emir in Gaza) and Lebanon, already experiencing one of its most serious political crises since its second civil war, may well sink into the abyss were another Nahr al Bared scenario to emerge in another refugee camp.

By spilling over from Iraq into neighboring countries and gaining new safe havens, al-Qaeda could start working on its tactical and strategic objectives. On the tactical level, al-Qaeda would work on triggering wars between its adversaries and has already begun trying. The recent firing of rockets by al-Qaeda in Iraq from southern Lebanon into northern Israel is only one example. We have seen that scenario before, only with different actors: the 1978 and 1982 Israeli invasions of Lebanon were largely in response to Palestinian attacks from southern Lebanon. At the same time, al-Qaeda would assiduously work on causing a war between Syria and Israel and a round two between Hezbollah and Israel. The biggest prize for al-Qaeda, obviously, is to ignite a war between Iran and the United States – something al-Qaeda's Iraq leader, Omar al Baghdadi, has talked about in a recent message. On the strategic level, al-Qaeda would start planning for one of its most precious goals: taking the fight to Israel's backyard by actively supporting Palestinian radical jihadists in their war against the Jewish state.

So how do you stop these terrible scenarios from happening and how do you reverse the powerful trend of radicalization? Through peace. With peace comes hope, prosperity and human development. From a counter-terrorist perspective, peace wonderfully dries up the swamp of terrorism and puts a serious dent in al-Qaeda’s recruitment process. Al-Qaeda, more than ever, has turned into an ideology and without its foot soldiers. This ideology can be neutralized if we realize that defeating it once and for all will require winning the war of ideas.

At Annapolis, the Bush administration got it mixed up. There is nothing wrong in rallying the pro-U.S. Arab states to better contain the long-term threat of Iran, but the real and more imminent danger is not the Islamic republic, it is al-Qaeda.


Bilal Y. Saab is a senior research assistant at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service.

Email This Post | Del.icio.us | Digg | Facebook

Please e-mail PostGlobal if you'd like to receive an email notification when PostGlobal sends out a new question.

Comments (66)

Rich Rosenthal:

Yes, I will agree that it is not a clash of civilizations but a clash of rationality vs faith and pan humanism vs. tribal. Both cases require people to extract their minds from rectal comfort. Civilization requires us to agree to agree and you can't argue faith or taste. AQ is the poster child for childish exceptionalism. They are so out numbered and ideologically challenge yet we fear them?
All people get hungry and this makes them polite.
We can respectfully disengage from those who tacitly endorse AQ but this also means energy independence and use of wide oceans. Rationality will soon return to the region.

sue:

after reading this set of comments, i need a shower! such loads of ignorant, self-righteous crap. this moronic need to see the world in tribal terms is the problem-the solution?

sue:

after reading this set of comments, i need a shower! such loads of ignorant, self-righteous crap. this moronic need to see the world in tribal terms is the problem-the solution?

Garak:

"Sure, the Israelis COULD roll in to Gaza with a few armored divisions to round up and imprison every Palestinian who is sworn to drive the Jews into the sea or die trying, but if they did that, there wouldn't be any Palestinians left out of prison to hold a sham peace conference with."

You mean Palestinians sworn to getting their lands back from those who stole it, or die trying.

"Israeli's "occupation" of the Golan is for military/security purposes, as a large part of Golan is uninhabitable due to mines."

No, Israel occupies the West Bank for the same reason Hitler invaded Russia--to expel indigenous inhabitants and take the land for those claiming racial superiority.

"Land for peace is a bogus argument since it's proven to not work."

It's proven not to work by the Israelis. Every offer they've ever made is crumbs for peace. Every offer requires the Palestinians to give up more and more of their land. Every offer by Israel is nothing but a demand for surrender.

"The root of this problem is Islam , Islam and only Islam. This terrorist , fascist and tribal religion is responsible for all the troubles of the eastern world. Ban all Muslim immigration to Europe and USA."

The root of the problem is the Israeli theft of Palestinian land. Zionism is the problem, not the solution. Zionism is to blame for terrorism in the Middle East. Zionism brought terror there. Irgun, the Stern Gang, and the rest of the Zionist terrorists taught the Palestinians that terror works. Palestinian terror is simply monkey see, monkey do. Zionism posits that single race has the right to use force to steal the land of others. It is racism, pure and simple.

"Wow! Liberals really do hate America. I thought it was just a myth and then I came to this blog."

Liberals hate LIES, regardless of who spouts them. Even lies spouted by conservative supporters of Israel or any other part of the Israel Uber Alles crowd.

Why do conservatives so love lying?

"I am continually amazed to read articles that gloss over, ignore, or deny that Islam's stated agenda is the elimination of Israel and then America."

Islam's stated agenda is that of every other monotheistic religion: convert the world to its beliefs. In this it is no different than Christianity, and less violent. Just look at Christianity's conversion of Native Americans: convert or die. And die anyways. Blaming Islam for political disputes is intellectually bankrupt. But poltically convenient.

Patrick Huss:

"This time in Middle East relations, it is crucial to get it right and fast. Why? Because the stakes are so high.
Failure to have comprehensive peace between Arabs and Israelis is going to have consequences and repercussions of a magnitude we have never seen before. In other words, failure, at the risk of sounding too cliché, should not be an option."

I only got that far and I could read no more. There wasn't any point in continuing, because if this is the premise upon which your essay is based, Mr. Saab, then the essay suffers from a fundemantal flaw. No one, Mr. Saab, not the US government, The United Nations, the European Union; not the leaders of the world's religions, nor members of the world's armed forces; not Glenda the good witch, or Frodo Baggins; not The Force or the Dark Side; nor anything at all, imagined or real, can make the Arabs and Israelis do what they don't WANT to do. The people of the Middle East need to take responsibility for the "consequences and repercussions", and for the steps they alone must take to bring about substantial progress.

Hank:

By reading the posts here, I can see that some of you get it, and some have swallowed the propaganda, hook, line and sinker. Some focus on one facet of the problem, but either fail or are unwilling to see the big picture. First one has to look at, and accept that humans are the most degridous form of life on the planet. We are wonderful creatures only in our own minds. If you look at what humans actually do, and allow, you will understand that we are a virus, that destroys everything we touch. In point of fact, everything you can classify as inhuman is perpetrated by no other species. We perpetrate atrocities on each other, every other species on the planet, and indeed the planet itself. The second truth is that the wealthy run the world. You combine great wealth with the natural degredous nature of humans, and we get the world we live in. The wealthy don't give a damn about other people, and they have made making money from conflict and war a science. They have created a world wide industry, whos only purpose is to develop new and better ways for us to kill each other, all of which is no good unless they continue to find ways to keep us killing each other. In ancient times they created religion to pit one against another. Then came nationalism. They continue to use both mechanisms because they are so effective. If you eliminate religion and nationalism, war dissappears. Personal conflict will remain, but the mechanisms to motivate armies to do war will be gone. With all of our technological advancment, humans are still primitive and superstitious, and far too easily swayed by unprovable BS. One poster said "it's the military industrial complex stupid". In large part it is, but without their operatives in the government, and a gullible population, too easily swayed by their corporate owned media, they could not do what they do. They start wars, use the government army to fight them, with tax money, they reap enormous profits by supplying that army, and in most cases the army on the other side, and it is the ignorant masses that pay the price in money and blood. All this is not to say that there is not great potential in the human race. We do posess some very noble qualities, but it is incumbant upon us as individuals to discover and nurture those qualities until they become the norm, insted of the exception. As with any human problem, acknowlegement is the first step, and until the masses reach the point that they see and accept the first thing I said about humans, the positive change cannot occur. As long as people in america watch the "news" and think they have been informed insted of propagandized, we won't even be able to start in the right direction. I will continue to hope. Peace.

David Almog:

Dear Mr. Saab
Your analysis is correct and unbiased despite the fact that you work for a pro Israel think tank.
Hamas is well equipped with the tools to defeat Al quida in Gaza. Ask yourself if it is in Hamas interest to neutralize the Al Qaeda cell. What do these 2 terrorist groups have in common? Rejection of Israel as a nation to exist. Hamas leadership has to decide if peace through compromise is its strategy. Just like Israel which must relinquish land for peace. Osama Bin Laden thrives in areas where authority and rule of law are quite weak.
Egypt's war on terror is a good example of how to minimize the strength of radical Islam. It is effective yet, We in the west question Egypt's methods in fighting terror. Unfortunately, Al Qaeda is committed to world Jihad without any compromise. Our future depends on how fast We either kill them all or lock them up and throw away the key. I forgot to mention that We are morally justified to extract information from these Al Qaeda jihadists using questionable methods. You may call it torture if you wish.

Mary Ann Evans:

The only significant threat to the existence of our nation is if we continue to spend ourselves into oblivion Soviet Union style in a misguided attempt to treat these religious nuts as if they are actually a significant miliary entity. Our action adventure Republican holy warriors are the real threat to our democracy.

Y.A. Tittle Knott:

A peace settlement with a stable Palestinian state could be the single most destabilizing development in the region (aside from the current Iraq mess). Why, you ask? Simple:

Arab states would have no reason not normalize relations with Israel.

Their incompetent, autocratic rulers would no longer have an external cause to rally their people against.

The Arab people would now be able to focus on the real cause of their problems, i.e., the incompetent autocrats who rule them. The would then rise up, but since their political cultures are so stunted by autocracy, other autocrats would probably take over. Maybe ones not friendly to us.

Do we have a plan for this? I would guess no. Will that stop Bush from trying to get a peace deal, any peace deal, before he leaves office? Absolutely not. Implementation will be left to his successor, and he'll blame whoever that is if things fail.

But, say that Bush succeeds and the worst doesn't happen. An alternative scenario is that a peace treaty and normalized relations might enable to entire region to grow through a marriage of Israel's capitalistic economy and large, educated Arab work forces. Stability brings investment and economic growth which brings a stable middle class with a stake in Israel's and the region's prosperity. That middle class becomes the bedrock of democratic Arab states - much the way Taiwan and Korea evolved.

We'll have to see what happens.


MIckey Mouse:

This article smells like bullXXXX. Very confusing and misleading. If the Al Queda and or the Islamic Front wants to stop war, lay down your guns,bombs, and negative hate propoganda. Then write about how Usama Bin Laden and/or other terrorist factions are no longer terrorists.

Wallace Brand:

The thousand year wave of Islamic Imperialism peaked in about 1683 at the Battle of Vienna. However the Muslims of the Barbary Coast were still kidnapping Americans and ransoming them in 1786 after we had lost the protection of England over our merchant shipping in 1775. When Thomas Jefferson asked an Arab Ambassador why they were kidnapping our merchant sailors and selling them into slavery, he said it was required by their Koran until we submitted to Islam.

For about 30 years there was an internal political struggle in America, just as there is today, over appeasement vs. fighting the bastards. By 1800 we were paying 20% of American revenues in tribute for protection. In 1815 we worked up the guts to send the Marines to Tripoli and our need to pay tribute ended.

The Arab-Israeli conflict, the problems in Iraq that arose after we defeated its army, our problems in Iran, Sommalia, Sudan, Yemen, the French suburbs, Londonistan, all over the world -- they're all part of a resumption of the global jihad commencing in about 1979 as a result of the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood and financing of the movement with petrodollars by Saudi Arabia.
See Dore Gold, "Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism."

The Arab-Israeli conflict is part and parcel of -- inseparable from winning that battle of global jihad. The peace process is a joke.

Steve:

No, the problem is not America, nor is it the fact that Israel exists. The violence in the Middle East goes on and on because the people there keep fighting the wrong war, and it will keep going on until the right war is fought and won. The wrong wars are BETWEEN cultures -- West vs East, Israel vs Palestine, Judaism vs Islam. The right war is rationality vs fanaticism WITHIN each culture. Bombs and bullets from one culture cannot wipe out fanatics within a different culture -- only the rational people within each culture can muzzle the fanatics among them. The world's attention right now focuses on Islamic fanaticism, but all fanaticism is a cancer on human civilization. Rationalists are the ONLY ones who can stop fanatics -- not just those who commit violence but those who instigate it.

So where are the rational Muslims? Afraid they will be killed if they stand up to the radical clerics who preach hatred in the mosques? Yes, the danger is real, because this is the real war, and people get killed in wars. The question is whether the real war will, finally, be fought. Americans enlisted to serve in combat after Pearl Harbor, risking their lives to defend their nation. Will rational Muslims risk their lives to rescue their faith from the crazies?

Maybe. So far, I haven't seen it. But then, I haven't seen rational American Christians put much effort into rescuing their faith from fundamentalists and dominionists, and that would be far less hazardous than what rational Muslims must face. Yet it must happen. Otherwise, the wrong war will keep getting fought and re-fought, and more people will keep suffering and dying needlessly, because the wrong war -- the war against the other group -- is so much easier to sell than the right war.

William Jorgensen:

The "war of ideas" to "win the hearts and minds" has already been lost. The true war has come and gone, and it was a war that has rarely been mentioned - the war of media control; the propaganda war. For instance, while Americans were cheering through the battle of Fallujah with daily reports of scores of "insurgent fighters" dying on every channel, other world-wide media were reporting tremendous civilian casualties in a US "turkey shoot". "Make no mistake" the mistakes of the recent past will not be forgotten soon, if ever. Iraq has totally destroyed any credibility American foreign policy ever had.

The simmering Israeli-Palestinian issue has been on the back burner for decades, and while historically linked to Islamic unrest, has little bearing on current Middle Eastern major issues.
Far more important is the balance of economic power, which is tipping toward the second largest supplier of Middle East oil, Iran. While Saudi Arabia is beginning to hit the wall on oil supply (40% of its 200,000 bpd increase in supply last year was used domestically on its ever-increasing population), Iran still has capacity for an increase (though they see the writing on the wall - oil is peaking in most OPEC nations - and REALLY wants nuclear so they can sell more oil).

The last-minute push by the Bush administration for an Israeli-Palestinian resolution is surreal in the extreme. Why suddenly has this issue become important? The Israelis will not give up one acre of land, nor will they stop taking more. The Palestinians, though successfully divided, will not be happy about any solution that doesn't include part of Jerusalem. It will always be the same, or at least will remain this way until the oil-driven armies of the Middle-East run dry and the last oil-driven manufacturer of munitions closes down - maybe that's closer than most people think.

W.E. McCloud:

I am continually amazed to read articles that gloss over, ignore, or deny that Islam's stated agenda is the elimination of Israel and then America. The West doesn't need to analyze this, study it, or try and rationalize the reason. We just need to acknowledge it and respond.

We continually believe that if we will just get Israel to give up more land, get our troops out of the Middle East, stop supporting the Saudis,or a hundred other supposed reasons, the radical Islamists will stop attacking us.

This type of appeasement is Neville Chamberlain before WWII all over again. We must recognize that they will never stop until they destroy us and they view negotiation as a sign of weakness.

No one likes to fight and most Americans would avoid one if possible. However, we must realize that some fights can't be avoided. When your enemy states, in every way imaginable, that he will not stop until you are killed or enslaved you must wake up and eliminate him first.

I believe our country must take the following steps.

1. Declare war on the forces of radical Islam and mobilize the full force of America and its people in defeating the threat.
2. Secure the borders and ports. Deport known criminal illegal aliens. A country that doesn't control its borders is not a country.
3. Develop a Manhattan style energy plan that will reduce our oil consumption by 50% within 10 years and make us energy independent within 20 years.
4. Significantly reduce our trade imbalance with China that is reducing our disposable income and eliminating our manufacturing base while enriching a communist adversary. China is not our friend.

America is the first and last line of defense for democracy. We must rally ourselves and meet this threat head on or we will be defeated.

newageblues:

Yes, the spirit of jihad against the US, Israel and the West is a great danger in the present and possibly a much greater one in the future. The most important thing we can do to weaken the spirit of this jihad is to get a permanent peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I would say 'It's the Arab-Israeli conflict, stupid' and 'On the Israeli side it's fanatic settlers, stupid' to point to where our opportunities for progress lie. A military victory over resistance to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (Palestine) is a pipe dream.

Caliph:

The root cause of present problem related to World Muslims is lack of Caliphate as Caliphate is the only Islamic State. But World Muslims will not be able to reestablish Caliphate until all kind of WMD which are in Moscow, London, and Paris and at the hand of Illegal Immigrants in Palestine and America the land of opportunity for all illegal Immigrants since 1942. And it is power of Moscow, London and Paris i.e. Europeans who destroyed Caliphate and occupied all Muslim land except Iran since 1979. At present all Muslim land is under occupation except Iran.

So where is justice of equal opportunity for food, shelter and Wealth as those Europeans are also holding most of the wealth of this world through their power WMD.
Where are true education, Justice and truth and only truth?
Where is WMD? WMD is not in Persia, 7000 years old Civilization?
Stop singing WMD in Persia a country of Hafiz, Sadi and so on. And destroy all WMD.

So where is equal justice?
More is in my book in:

http://www.universal-publishers.com/book.php?method=ISBN&book=1581128770

DontTypeLies:

You can debate the politics of this problem until you are blue in the face. And by the time you dig go back and forth and deep enough, you will discover that the roots of the problem is ISLAM. YES, ISLAM.

The terrorist attacks in Somalia, Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, Indonesia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kenya, Spain, UK, Turkey, etc....have NOTHING to do with Israel. But they have everything to do with MUSLIM IMMIGRATION AND THE TERRORIST LINK BETWEEN THE ATTACKS AND THE KORAN.

Malcolm:

Rebel wrote:
“The root of this problem is Islam , Islam and only Islam. This terrorist , fascist and tribal religion is responsible for all the troubles of the eastern world. Ban all Muslim immigration to Europe and USA.”
-----

IMO, that’s inaccurate. The problem started when the Zionists devised their scheme to get European Jews to move to Palestine and to displace the locals.

ZIONISTS WRANGLE OVER PALESTINE
http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9D06EED6153EE733A25757C1A9609C946897D6CF&oref=slogin

J.A.Madison4:

Plan for Success......

#1. IMPEACH both Bush and Cheney....NOW

#2. Pull all of our Military out of Iraq and
the Persian Gulf.

#3. Redeploy and rebuild our Military...both
in highly trained personnel, as well as,
replace and restock military equipment.
(T.O.&E) Evaluate and update our Military
Preparedness Plans and Structures.

#4. This War has not only cost the United
over 2 Trillion Dollars, but has our own
Department of Defense using over Five
Trillion GALLONS of OIL, purchased at 2X
to 4X the normal costs.

#5. That hidden drain on the world's Fuels
Supplies has caused a doubling (2X) of my
fuel and heating costs. You and I will see
an immediate cost reduction at the pump!!!

#6. The Oil Companies and the Major Oil (OPEC)
Producing Nations will loose their hold
on the U.S. people. The Dollar will rise.

#7. We must demand of our national leaders
100% honesty, and refocus on rebuilding
our homeland.

#8. Lastly, procecute all the War Profitteers.

Don't blame the crimes of Zionism on Judaism:

Let Americans aid the Palestinians, kick out the Zionists controlling our foreign policy! EVEN HANDED policies toward Arabs and Israelis, not this disgusting pro Israel prejudiced bullcrap! Wake up and kick the damned Zionists to the curb. And don't be blaming religious Judaism for the crimes of political Zionism, it is the evil evangelical Zionists that are imbalancing our policies. Stick your antisemitic name calling up your keister.

Mike Peters:

No Palestine Means No Peace. Ever.

At what point does misery and despair become so intense that suicide (bombings) are one's most viable, percieved as only option?

Another day in Gaza. Borders sealed. Apache Attack Helicopter Rockets killing men, women and Children. Whose mutilated bodies are viewed via al jazeera and cell phone pics and the net instantly thru the Arab world.

Slaughtered from the sky the Star of David shining Brightly.

Mike Peters:

No Palestine Means No Peace. Ever.

At what point does misery and despair become so intense that suicide (bombings) are one's most viable, percieved as only option?

Another day in Gaza. Borders sealed. Apache Attack Helicopter Rockets killing men, women and Children. Whose mutilated bodies are viewed via al jazeera and cell phone pics and the net instantly thru the Arab world.

Slaughtered from the sky the Star of David shining Brightly.

John Bailo:


For those of you who read the Pulitzer Prize winning "The Looming Tower", you know that not only is it Al-Qaeda (which means "The Fortress" from its days as a Saudi fighting troop in Afganistan) but the charasmatic leaders like Bin Laden who took it to the nth degree.

The pro-Arab movement was not turned into a hateful terrorist organization until Bin Laden, a very rich socially prominent man, who pushed and funded the evil turn that Al Qaeda took, made it that way, with the help of other miscreants.

Bin Laden is a lot like The Weathermen back in the Sixties. They were privileged crybabies who got all the benefits of society, and yet were not satisfied. They were too immature to take the reigns of power, and they destroyed things "just to show their parents". Bin Laden is of the same ilk. He is a whiny childish fool, who could not step into his father's footsteps and he used poor and middle class people, brainwashed them and made them commit horrible acts, just because he, Bin Laden, was angry at the world.

Lou:

Bilal: "the failure of Annapolis"? - Are you some kind of Bush propagandist? "Annapolis" was GWB's one & only "attempt" at reinvigorating the ME peace process in 7 years & all it accomplished was the spending of millions of US$$ to have a few people who have been talking in circles for decades agree to "talk" again some other time... in other words, nada. Your logic is fundamentally flawed. There will never be peace in the middle east. To propose that as the goal is utterly naive. The jewish presence per se offends the anti-semitic and anti-christian core beliefs of islamic fundamentalists. Want peace? - excorcize religion! Since that's impossible, just be glad that the blood-thirsty terrorists and heavy-handed theocratic reactionaries haven't gone nuclear - yet.

samiam:

It's the military-industrial complex, stupid...I sincerely wonder if the Israelis have been hijacked by the same Nazis that have slithered their way into the U.S. gov't....F***ing shotgun overkill justice over \\

Per:

Al qaida is presently not a strategic threat and wil not be in the near future.
The harm that AL caida can cause is local in their caracter and limited to affect few people directly.
Indirectly and through propaganda they might make the USA bad and the USA might do blunders and taking bad decisions.
The real and long term threat is Iran when they have got nuclear weapons and American moral decadence showing in many areas but especially in economy with the result that it is spending money they dont have and in that way becoming vunerable.In that way you will also get foreign masters from china,and rich middle east states.
You need to start a program at every cost to get alternative fuel.

Chaotician:

The Jewish occupation of Palestine is, was, and continues to be the source of all problems in the ME...and it is our addiction to oil that provides means to inflame what might otherwise just be one more genocide!

It is impossible to envision any peace, justice, or resolution of the Jewish occupation of Palestine; at this point only two possible outcomes could possibly lead to a long-term solution and neither is going to happen until all parties are exhausted or dead!

1) Abolish Israel and create a secular Palestine where all religions are allowed to be practiced and religion has nothing to do with political power, wealth, etc. Resolution of property rights for all inhabitants will be impossible; does an Arab with roots going back a few hundred years have more rights that a Russian Jew who has worked and sweated with the tacit approval and encouragement of the Jewish government?

2) Return the Zionists to the 1948 borders guaranteed by UN with UN troops standing shoulder to shoulder around the "country" for a few hundred years.

Anything else is just political maneuvering between varying levels of armed actions. The Zionists will never stop stealing more and more of their "God given land" and no Palestinian will ever forgive and accept the theft of their lands...nor do I believe that they should! It is not possible for the Zionists to win every time forever, so at some point, today or a thousand years, a critical battle will be lost and the surviving Jews will have one more Holocaust / Diaspora to add to their lore.

The only hope is for Global warming or ecological disaster to overshadow the petty wars over my God, right or wrong!

Carl:

As I read the article from this overpaid hack, all I could see through the noise was that he is saying "peace is good". No kidding. He seemed to be implying that is it the responsibility of the US government to bring about that peace, but he did not say how that could be done. A good manager tries to manage areas he is responsible for. The US is not managed well, that is true. Some would say that the US federal system is broken. Still, I don't see how any of our federal managers could be held responsible for running the arab world, one way or the other, even though I know that the top manager has put the US into Iraq in a multi trillion dollar way, it doesn't make it right, it does not exemplify good managerial techniques, and it has not brought about peace, apparently. A fool and his money... Unbelievable.

Peace and Islam:

Sure!

Give everything Muslims want, you wil achieve "peace".

See, how peace was achieved with Muslims in South Asia: http://www.amazon.com/Art-War-Terror-Triumphing-Political/dp/0979470404

Brookings is almost as good as Al-Jazeera...

Rose Mackin:

The cowards, ostriches, deniers are pathetic. Luckily, President McCain will do what needs to be done.

Hope :

A peace treaty between Palestinians and Israelis is too complicated to be achieved. Let's begin with conflict managment and then move on to conflict resolving.

Petras Vilson:

Did the CIA create Al Qaeda ? This remains an enduring myth no doubt fuelled by Amercian self-loathing. Large numbers of Americans today believe Bush is behind the 9/11 attacks.. doh !

Yes.. the CIA helped fund and arm Afghan and foreign fighters (mostly Arab) to drive out the Soviets.. but the centuries-old tribal warlords and Pakistani ISU-created Taliban had a much bigger role in Afghanistan in defeating the Soviets than did the CIA.

Al Qaeda has its roots in:
* Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood going back to the 1940s...
* Islamic fundamentalism - fueled by $100 billion from the Saudis and traditional anti-Western Wahhabism (a 200-year-old movement)
* in the total failure of Arab Nationalism (economic, political, and military) to provide for Arab peoples growth
* in the hatred (mostly media and leadership-driven) of all things Western (abortion, feminism, Christianity, Israel, democracy etc.)

America and Israel have had very little to do with the growth of Islamic Fascism or Al Qaeda. Were both countries to cease to exist, AQ would continue its efforts to build a pure Islamic Caliphate centered in Iraq and would continue to attack and seek to conquer a decadent self-loathing Europe.

Roy:

Hank may have a point. Why didn't Cheney go after Osama? Why didn't Cheney go after Al Queada in Afganistan and not why doesn't Cheney go after Osama and Al Queda in Pakistan?

Unless we waterboard Cheney, we may never know the truth.

ciap:

You would think after all these years everyone would get the point.

The point is peace is not what the Arab world wants.If they wanted peace they could have had it in 2000.

They want Israel destroyed.

They teach their kids to hate Israel.

If Israel gave all the lands back they took in the wars and half of Jerusalem just like they offered in 2000 it still would not stop the violence.

The problem is Islam and the religious books associated with Islam.

The words in these books give Arab terrorists all the incentive they need to continue a never ending war against the world.

shamus:

once people have jobs, full stomachs and hope of a future, the fighting and hating will diminish...look at Northern Ireland

shamus:

once people have jobs, full stomachs and hope of a future, the fighting and hating will diminish...look at Northern Ireland

Lana:

Hank is right. Al Qaeda is so convenient for Bush. And we drink the fear-flavored kool-aid provided for us by the administration and artfully poured by the media.

If Bush really wanted to win his "WAR ON TERROR" he would have crushed Al Qaeda and killed Bin Laden immediately after 9/11. Instead, he shoots at this monster's knees instead of beheading it.

Guy:

I am tired of the "America is the problem" and "blame America first" arguments. America continues to be the brightest light in the world. Until we come full circle to that realization, we will just continue to feel sorry for ourselves.

thomas:

The neocon 911 gambit and its American acquiescence frames the picture of al-queda as the problem. In some ways it shows a lack of creativity to try to use the solution to one problem (Russian invasion of Afghanistan) as the solution to another especially nettlesome affair like Mideast conciliation....I think its a quaint touch to have the man that created al-queda supposedly put in charge of killing it off......While the cabal employs such lackeys like Bilal Y Saab to disseminate such drivel......It would be funny if it were not such a serious matter now that the thieves of Palestine are now nuclear armed and have purchased the politicians of the most powerful country. Still, minority tribes that by connivance gain control over the majority tribes risk genocide. Everyone in this game has lots to lose and the sleeping masses sometimes wake.

Don't blame the crimes of Zionism on Judaism!:

The apartheid Israelis own the moral low ground, that is for sure. And I mean Israelis, not "Jews."

The "rockets" they continually murder Palestinians over are useless symbols, not effective weapons. The US press is so totally pro Zionist that we don't get to know the difference, and our natural bigotry toward Arabs keeps "fat dumb bigoted America" from caring. But, Israel is a done deal, we can no more make the Israelis be just toward those they oppress than we can give millions of acres back to Creek, Cherokee and other American natives.

The solution is to let Americans who feel so send money & support to the Palestinians, expose the media for the pro Zionist hacks they are, move back to even-handed policies of the sixties that do not favor Israel over Arabs. Israel needs to be FORCED into peace, Olmert should be hung etc etc. Or, stay the bigots that you are, no doubt you will!

Your own Agenda:

Hank, your post is ignorant at best. If you truly believe the American Government is organized and efficient enough to "control" al-Qa'ida, then your a bigger fool than Cheney. Did you not see the Hurricane Katrina aftermath? I am actually critiquing your writing, mainly because your point is entirely lost in your junior high prose. I fault our lack of interest in our education system. For instance, "purge corporate influence from the government in america"--I see what you are trying to get at, but you didn't support your argument.

Observer:

Bilal Saab,

I really do not think that you actually believe the obscurantist drivel that you wrote.

It is really sad that unethical corporate interests have destroyed journalistic integrity.

A brief examination of the responses to this article would reveal a very accurate picture of world opinion today.

Lies can only go so far!

dabrack:

All this discussion overlooks the fact that none of Israel's enemies want peace - even among themselves. Hamas is the only one that gives a damn about the Palestinians but they won't settle for anything short of eliminating Israel. Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are content to let the others fight it out for now, but will come in to the fight when it suites them.
We should be glad Israel is not talking of asphalting over about thirty miles of southern Lebanon and all of Gaza. That is real restraint.

rézan:

ı am sorryy. so so leangche english.welle ez nızanım wün dıbéjın çı ema ez dıbéjım el qaide gerek ide bé sekınandın hemde pır acil....leang is kurdish....thank you...see

rézan:

ı am sorryy. so so leangche english.welle ez nızanım wün dıbéjın çı ema ez dıbéjım el qaide gerek ide bé sekınandın hemde pır acil....leang is kurdish....thank you...see

ff:

"Solving that problem will go a long way to solving the problem of fundamentalist Islamic Terrorism."

Indeed. It's too bad, however, that the problem cannot be solved by us.

You can't want it more than they (the Israelis and Palestinians) do.

Mike:

Wow! Liberals really do hate America. I thought it was just a myth and then I came to this blog.

JRLR:

Will anyone soon volunteer to stop this Orwellian talk about "the peace process" or "the process to peace", in the Middle East?

There is no peace process or process to peace in the Middle East: only permanent conflict and perpetual war.

Pretending to refer to a "peace process" for years on end does not make one such exist; it only proves beyond doubt that one such does not exist.

It being so, the question of who might "screw up the process of peace" is not "futile"; it does not even arise.

To make people believe there exists a peace process when none exists, is precisely what prevents one from ever existing. That is how consent for the status quo has been and continues to be manufactured.

AMviennaVA:

I hate to point out the little detail: Israel pulled out of Gaza because Bush promised that:

1. The US will not agree to the return of any refugees (against UN resolutions we supported and International law, BTW);

2. The US will agree to the occupation of substantial parts of the West Bank (against UN resolutions we supported and International law, BTW).

(If you doubt that, then review the comments he just made on his trip to Israel). So, please cut down on the praise of Israel for 'unilaterally' making a move.

In other words we gave away even more of what is not ours. Then we were surprised that the Palestinians, for some inexplicable reason, voted for Hammas. What were they thinking!

Hiya:

what the hell are you people talking about. Lets just let them fight it out. then we mop up what is left. Take the oil! Make other nations pay too much for it, and just destroy everything that stands in our way. We are America!

To Skeptic:

They don't even have mortars in IQ, they find them, launch one or two into an area such as Camp Victory and then run like hell.

MN:

1. I agree with MC on the Golan's military logistics. If we look back, we will never move forward. Syria was willing to sign a peace treaty with Israel with the Golan to be returned back to Syria. IF Israel wants peace, then that was a great opportunity.

2. In regards to sending rockets from Gaza, you have to look at the bigger picture. Isarel, alone, decide to withdraw from Gaza for whatever reasons. Please, do not view that as a peace move. Before you withdraw, you have to negetiate and agree with the other side on the next steps. From the palestinians side, the withdraw may have been viewed as: this is the only thing you can get and you can do nothing about it.

Just to summarize my thoughts here: for longer peace in the middle east, you have to agree on more broader comprehensive package and CLEAR steps on what is at the end to the tunnel. Don't make people "drive in the dark". Turn those lights on and show them where you're heading "outcome of the negotaitions".

Cheers

rebel:

The root of this problem is Islam , Islam and only Islam. This terrorist , fascist and tribal religion is responsible for all the troubles of the eastern world. Ban all Muslim immigration to Europe and USA.

Simple Observer:

The majority of you seem to have missed the point of the article. It is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that serves as the primary source of animosity and strife in the Middle East, and also serves as the focal point for recruitment of radical Islamists. Solving that problem will go a long way to solving the problem of fundamentalist Islamic Terrorism.

Will it be easy? Hell no. Will both sides of the conflict have to make unpopular concessions? Absolutely. None of it will happen though unless the US starts to actually serve as a true and fair broker in the matter. US aid to Israel and the Palestinians must be balances, and aid must be linked to forward progress. The Israeli settlements MUST be halted and removed. Abbas has to rein in terrorist activities from the West Bank, and Israel must make peace with them. Gaza and Hammas will have to be dealt with separately.

I don't understand why the statement "Land for Peace doesn't work" in light of the success of the Israeli-Egyptian peace, but there are certainly ways to approach the Golan Heights issue that will ensure the security of both nations. It currently is a highly successful agricultural region; perhaps a joint agricultural enterprise would foster peace and benefit both nations.

I'll agree with one thing I've read here. Al-Qaeda is a monster of our own making. First we trained and supported the founders in their fight against the Soviets, and then we failed to recognize how our actions in the region have contributed the further radicalization of these people. The only way to defeat them is to take away the things they rail against. Making sure that the Palestinians have the opportunity to be successful as a nation will go a long way to accomplish that.

Skeptic:

Dear Mr. Saab,

I was wondering how you saw Al Qaeda as a player in the broader region. Your argument is that it wants to be a player, and may be able to recruit angry Arabs. Then it would begin stirring up trouble, acting from Southern Lebanon, possibly through affiliates in Gaza, etc.

This would mean AQ moving into territories claimed by Hezbollah and Hamas, both supported by Iran and Syria, both lead by Shiites.

Do you think that Hamas and Hezbollah will cede what control they have to Sunni groups? Isn't it more likely that it would provoke a fight by the locals against the foreign-led efforts, as in Iraq where even the local Sunnis turned against the AQ foreign fundamentalists?

Finally, please source your report that AQI launched missles against Israel from Southern Lebanon. It may well be true, but I haven't read much about AQI having projectile weapons other than possible mortars in Iraq.

MC:

This author has either never been to Israel or does not understands the importance of high ground in military terms. Israeli's "occupation" of the Golan is for military/security purposes, as a large part of Golan is uninhabitable due to mines.

The Golan Heights is an area in north east Israel that borders Syria. It is mountainous with many hills and valleys. From 1948-1967, Syria used this high ground to lob bombs over into Israel proper. Israel saw an opportunity to end this during the 1967 war and drove Syria out of the Golan, in a particularly brutal battle. Since then, Israel has used this area to setup anti aircraft silos and radar stations in the case of attack (keep in mind, it takes a jet fighter approx 15 minutes to fly from the northern tip of Israel to the southern tip). Time is not a luxury Israel has as far as enemy fighter jets are concerned.

But what haven't you seen since 1967? Have you seen indiscriminate bombing of Syrian civilians from the Golan? Absolutely not. But if Syria takes over the Golan, I'd be wiling to bet they would pick up their old practice.

Unfortunately, this is the reality the region is in. I agree that freezing Israeli settlements in the West Bank needs to happen, and plan to pull back many settlements needs to happen as well. But let's not kid ourselves. Israel pulled out of Gaza, and now that area is used to send rockets into Israel. Hamas even hits the power station that supplies Gaza with electricity, then Israel has to repair it again and again.

Land for peace is a bogus argument since it's proven to not work. Peace will only come once the PA proves that it can function as a normal govt, providing basic services to it's people and creating jobs. I live in America, why should I drive to Canada each day to work? Checkpoints wouldn't be such a problem if Palestinians could work in their own country. To those who say Israel makes life unbearable in the territories I will partially agree with you, life is unbearable and tragic, Israel has played a role in their suffering. But until the PA can police itself and provide for its own people, what is Israel to do?


JR:

You will probably now be targeted as anti-semitic and put in the same league as Mel Gibson.

Chris Holte:

Al Qaeda is one of many problems. It is a risk that needs to be dealt with. But it is one of many risks, and compared to the other risks 9/11 was a bee sting. Our other risk is that the world hit peak oil and is presently going to run low on honey (oil).

Trouble is our country is allergic to bee stings and reacted insanely and now we are surrounded by angry bees who threaten that honey. A few people decided that making a lot of money was more important than democracy, human dignity, or genuine peace -- and so they've kept the bees stirring.

We need the honey so we and they put out a little smoke from time to time to calm the bees who guard the honey, and then go back to business as usual with the fat queens who we put in charge of the "honey sands." Osama is just another smoker.

The smoke is there to prevent people from realizing that the "Emirs" and "Kings" aren't sharing the wealth. Osama can bankroll Al Qaeda because he is from a family of kleptocrats. Families that imitate Pharoah while claiming the mantle of the profit (not prophet).

Israel in Palestine would have been resolved a long time ago if it weren't for geo-politics, and these "honey-games."

There is no reason why Jews, Palestinians, and even Christians couldn't treat the "land of milk and honey" (but no oil since Sodom and Gomorrah) as a pilgrimage destination and giant tourist trap. Jews were in Jerusalem wailing at their Wall almost from the day it was torn down. Arabs and Jews should wail together over their lost children not be fighting each other over smoke and oil.

Mitt Romney:

This is a good story . It is the right story.

Jon E:

To Hank -- big eye roll.
--

A short article like this is bound to oversimplify something as complex as mid-east peace. We're a bunch of Americans trying to use western logic to understand tribal problems. We think we can just swoop in and explain what is rational and what isn't and if we say it just right, the rival factions will see the light.

Yeah.

Square Peg + Round Hole = Mid-East Peace Process

timsiepel:

Jews should be able to make settlements in the West Bank if they want to.

Palestinians should be able to live in Israel if they want to, as well. If some one has illegally seized land or property which was theirs, they should be able to reclaim it.

Both parties should have the right to live peacefully together , in a secular state. No sharia, no Torah. Respect for the rights of your neighbors, the golden rule.

This is my Middle East Peace Plan. Do it, and Osama ceases to be an issue. Because as he said, there will be no peace until there is peace in Palestine, and foreign troops are out of Arabia.

Love and respect thy neighbor. It's simple, it's radical, it can work!

Katie:

It's no wonder American foreign (and domestic as a result) policies are in such a mess. All people who are given voice in the media are either inane, puppets or work with agendas (not even hidden anymore). No integrity whatsoever! Al Qaeda is the source of all the problems? Saab, you must be getting senile to think that any reader would fall for that.

C Tucker:

Bilal Y. Saab wrote, "Predicting who will have an upper hand in screwing up the process of peace is impossible and futile. It could be anyone or all of them, separately or at the same time. It could be Israel not agreeing to freeze its settlement expansion; it could be Hamas conducting a terrorist operation resulting in mass casualties...".

Does your moral relativism run so deep as to blur the lines in your mind between those who would commit mass murder and those who would prevent it? If you think that both of the parties are, for the reasons you gave, equally cuplable in thwarting aims of peace, you are gravely mistaken.


Bilal Y. Saab also wrote, "...Israel continues to collectively deny Palestinians their basic rights for what Hamas and other militants do...".

What other response is possible? And what other response is appropriate? Sure, the Israelis COULD roll in to Gaza with a few armored divisions to round up and imprison every Palestinian who is sworn to drive the Jews into the sea or die trying, but if they did that, there wouldn't be any Palestinians left out of prison to hold a sham peace conference with.

G. Gerson:

ROTLF !!!

Another piece of s*** published by the WP.

Once upon a time, "the middle-east problem" was defined in terms of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Then... 9/11. The U.S. went hunting down Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Then Cheney decided it was time to get a grab on Iraq's oil, and convinced W to become something better than his father. Thus, "the axis of evil" was created.

The Iraq invasion turned things upside-down. It got Iran, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon into the mess. It allowed Al-Qaeda to find safe refuge in Pakistan. It got Musharraf billions in aid, which bought advanced weapons systems with capacity to launch a nuclear attack on India.

With so many hot spots all over the region, the tragedy in Palestine was forgotten, very much like Sudan or the Congo.

This article is a shame for the once respectable Brookings Institution.

It's Iraq, stupid !!!

Eric:

It is always shocking when so called experts grossly over simplify and IGNORE historical precedents. Al Qaeda was and always will be a rection to failed US policies. Support for Israel and Saudi Arabia and failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan keep Al Qaeda with fresh anger and a steady stream of new recruits. End proxy wars and close bases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as well as tie aid to Israel to peace talks and then watch how quickly and how dramatically the region changes for the better.

Hank:

Saab-- Al qaeda is a CIA construct. It was put together in Afganistan to fight the soviets, however, military industrial complex interests in the government, like then defense secretary Dick Cheney, saw another future use for them. The US military industrial complex, the one that Eisenhower warned us about at the end of his presidency, was running out of wars, and thus their bread and butter. What better than to have it's own secretly funded organization with government ties, to perpetrate attacks on US interests around the world, and foment general unrest to keep the cash cow alive. They picked a very rich figure head in Osama Bin Laden so no one would question where the money came from, and continued to fund and train al qaeda against future need for a scapegoat. Someone to blame atrocities on to mobilize an apethetic american public into supporting pre-emptive war. If you want to eliminate Al Qaeda, you need to purge corporate influence from the government in america. Unfortunatly, the desease is so wide spread that the operation would most likly kill the patient. Your idea of making peace is a nice idea, but it's putting bandaids on plague sores.

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.