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2 Oct, 2014

Chinese commentary: New Western crusade in Middle East has no better prospects than last

Beijing (Global Times)  September 17, 2014 – Washington’s foreign policy has an increasingly Alice in Wonderland character. But President Barack Obama’s policy toward the Islamic State (IS) does not surprise.

To consider the new US crusade, it is helpful to get first the context and narrative into perspective.

The present mess in the Middle East was caused by the George W. Bush administration’s deeply flawed Middle East policy featuring an unnecessary war for “regime change” in Iraq. The US lied to the world about the Iraq threat and then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Back in 2002, despite warnings from many experts including academics, US military officers, diplomats and intelligence professionals, the US launched what president Bush himself called a “crusade” against Baghdad.

Back then, as today, what experts have to say apparently makes no difference. What does make a difference is what is politically correct inside the beltway surrounding Washington.

Policy is driven by a foreign policy elite linked to a variety of think tanks that receive money from foreign governments and corporations as well as receive generous funding from interested individuals, organizations and lobbies.

Many politicians ardently espouse the foreign policy line of the day, so as to themselves receive campaign funding and good press. This is particularly true with respect to the Middle East, as the pro-Israel lobby in the US is well organized and generous to friends in high places.

When it comes to Middle East policy, the US news media is of no help, as the pro-Israel lobby exercises decisive influence and in many cases ownership patterns are Israel-friendly.

Obama’s policy has been a continuation of the regime change crusade launched by George W. Bush. Contrary to campaign promises, there has been no real “change” in US foreign policy.

The Obama administration joined the UK and France to launch regime change wars against Libya and Syria. Thus it is the West which created the present situation in the Middle East.

The West had help from local allies that are eager to spread their influence through money and through support of terrorist organizations linked to Wahhabi fundamentalist Islam.

So what has taken place over the past decade is that the West allied itself with fundamentalist Islamic monarchies to overthrow secular governments in Syria and in Iraq.

Some Israeli circles support this policy, as they calculate weakened or Balkanized Arab states would make Israel more secure. But other circles argue that this would make Israel less secure.

In becoming allies of the fundamentalist monarchies, the West undertook the present jihad supporting whatever groups seemed expedient.

Unfortunately, experts have long warned about “blowback” from such a policy. The IS is part of the blowback today, just as thousands of would-be terrorists are leaving Europe and the US to join the IS and other terrorist organizations in the region.

Clearly, the IS poses a regional threat. It is logical that regional actors should take the lead in suppressing the IS, but some countries in this region have played a key role in supporting the terrorist jihad against Syria.

Iran naturally has concerns, not to mention its capabilities, but the West seems to play a double game with the Islamic republic.

Air strikes against the IS have only limited utility, because the IS is now in effect a large, well organized, and well equipped army.

Thus ground action will be needed to suppress the IS. But ground action can only be effective in combination with Syria and Iran.

So there are many contradictions now in US and Western policy toward the Middle East.

The contradictions seem so deep as to militate against any near-term success against the IS.

The Obama administration must change its foreign policy before the situation in the Middle East becomes catastrophic.

The author is an educator and former senior professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.