The Mullen-Petraeus Report on the Middle East

by BOUTHAINA SHAABAN

Amidst a cacophony of statements, commentary and analyses about the American-Israeli relationship, and the events since Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, Mark Perry wrote an article in Foreign Policy magazine on March 13, 2010 titled “The Petraeus briefing: Biden’s embarrassment is not the whole story”.  Perry explained that on January 16, 2010, a team of central command officers and officials responsible for American national security in the Middle East made a presentation in the Pentagon to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, headed by Admiral Michael Mullen, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The team had been sent by General David Petraeus to “underline his growing concerns at the lack of progress in resolving the issue”.  The conclusion of the presentation was that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel.  That is why Arabs have started to lose faith in the United States and its promises, and that Israeli intransigence in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was paralyzing the position, role and status of the United States in the region.   It added that “America was not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the region was eroding, despite the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of American troops in the region”. 

Perry says that the briefing given to Mullen, at Petraeus’ request, fell like a bombshell on the White house.  That is why the Obama administration sent Mullen to meet Gabi Ashkenazi.  Mark Perry adds that Biden passed the content of the Mullen-Petraeus report to Netanyahu saying: “This is starting to get dangerous for us. What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace”.  The message was very clear.  “Israel’s intransigence could cost American lives”.  He concludes his article by saying that some people think that Biden’s visit to the region changed the Israeli-American relationship, while the real change happened last January when David Petraeus sent a clear warning to the Pentagon through the team which made the presentation: “America’s relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America’s soldiers".

This review of what was published in the media since Biden’s visit is important because it shows that the Obama administration realizes the links between Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict, on the one hand, and what is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the other.  It also recognizes, albeit indirectly, that the question of Palestine and the occupied Arab territories is at the heart of what is going on in the region; and that the region will not know peace and quiet until justice is achieved in Palestine.

But the real message which the West should hear would be that of the concerned parties, the Arab leaders who are in charge of protecting Arab and Muslim sacred places.  The clearer and more forceful and serious the message is the more seriously others would take and contemplate it.

A week of speculation about the course of American-Israeli relations did not lead to releasing one Palestinian prisoner, protecting one house in Jerusalem against demolition or allowing unarmed Palestinians without protection to praying in al-Aqsa mosque.  American, European and quartet positions did not go beyond verbal criticism of settlements such as expressing ‘concern’, accompanied by invoking the strategic alliance between the United States and Israel and of course stressing for the billionth time the United States’ and Europe’s commitment to ‘Israel’s security’ without any consideration for the security, freedom and rights of the Palestinians.  

All Western statements will remain mere media bubbles unless accompanied by the tools which the United States uses in dealing with Arabs and Muslims such as  passing a binding resolution accompanied by sanctions.  But these bubbles have two objectives in American policy: diverting attention from daily Israeli crimes against unarmed Palestinian civilians; and helping those who do not want Arabs to support the Palestinian people.

The importance of the Petraeus-Mullen briefing lies in its implicit suggestion that an Arab and Muslim stand can be effective, not only against Israeli occupation, but also against all those who support Israel  with arms and money and all those who provide with international cover to enable it to continue Judazing land and sanctities.  It is equally effective in supporting the Palestinian people uprooted from their land, deprived of their freedom and independence and subjected to crimes against humanity, under the full gaze of the ‘civilized’ world.

BOUTHAINA SHAABAN is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She has been the spokesperson for Syria and was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She can be reached through nizar_kabibo@yahoo.com

      

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