Iraq's lost lessons
Something remarkable is happening in Iraq. There is a civil war going on and the terrorists are losing. US Marine commanders in Fallujah reported Wednesday that they seized enough weapons in the city "for the insurgency to take over the whole country."
Iraq is currently undergoing a post-Saddam revolution. Last April, when the Marines first attempted to take over Fallujah from the Sunni terrorists, they were joined by an Iraqi army brigade led by a general from the former regime. His troops quickly went AWOL and joined the ranks of the terrorists in fighting American forces. Under pressure from the UN, the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by then-viceroy L. Paul Bremer, lost its nerve to continue fighting. The Marines fell back to the city's outskirts and enabled the likes of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Palestinian-Jordanian arch terrorist, to take over Fallujah.
This month's combined US-Iraqi offensive into Fallujah was different. It was marked by tight cooperation between the Iraqi and American forces on the ground, and ordered by Iraq's Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who didn't back down even when three of his relatives were kidnapped by the terrorists. The new Iraqi army that is now being trained is the first instance of an Arab army to be developed to fight Arab and Islamic terrorists. This is an extraordinary accomplishment. Iraqi soldiers are now fighting and dying to purge their country of Arab terrorists, many of whom are also Iraqis.
In addition to the new Iraqi government's determination to fight on the side of the US on the battlefields, it is also fighting the intellectual war against terror. This week, in an interview with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Aswat, Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan branded Al-Jazeera television station a "channel of terrorism." Shaalan went on to threaten Al-Jazeera, saying, "Let God curse all those who terrorize Iraqi citizens and the children of Iraq, be they journalists or others. The day will come when we will take measures against Al-Jazeera other than by words."
As PLO chieftains and the likes of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak defend their regime-controlled media's dissemination of constant calls for jihad against Israel and the US as an exercise of free speech, Iraq's leaders are admitting openly that these media operations are part and parcel of the terror arsenal. And so, in Iraq today, we have a situation in which it is the Iraqi government itself – rather than the US or Israel or any other country targeted by jihad – which is taking the lead to punish organs of incitement.
And then there is the question of democracy. Ahead of the January 30 elections scheduled to be held in Iraq, some 126 political parties have registered to run. Some are Islamists. Some are crypto-Ba'athist. Some are Iranian backed. But many of them are regular political parties that want to earn power and a piece of the pie through the democratic process.
When asked about the possibility that elections be delayed until the civil war has subsided, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, speaking at a conference at Sharm e-Sheikh this week, vowed that in spite of the violence the government would hold elections as planned. In his words, "our very credibility is really on the line."
Zebari made these statements because the Arab leaders present at the conference, like their counterparts from the UN and France, were all pushing for Iraq to delay the elections. The conference itself was almost scuttled due to the French demand that the terrorists fighting in Iraq also be allowed to send representatives, as if the international community shouldn't choose sides between the terrorists who until a week ago were running slaughterhouses in mosques and apartment buildings and the soldiers sent in to destroy them. So it is now the Iraqis themselves who are standing up to the so-called international community in demanding to be allowed to become a democracy while fighting terrorism.
The Arabs, like the UN and France, are worried. If the Iraqis pull off the elections and a democratic representative government is established early next year, then their entire policy rationale is done for. Their calls for maintaining the status quo of terror-supporting autocracies in the Arab world that refuse to accept Israel but control the world's largest oil reserves will be rendered obsolete.
In a call of desperation on Wednesday, Zarqawi sent out a whiny-voiced tape recording on the Internet in which he slammed Muslim leaders for not joining his fight against the Americans. In his words, "Men have lost their virility; maybe it's time for women to pick up the fight."
Unfortunately, even as US President George W. Bush gives full-throated support for the establishment of a terror-fighting Palestinian democracy, the lessons of the Iraqi experience seem lost on one and all as they approach the question of who should now lead the Palestinians in the wake of Arafat's death.
For the past four years, every time Israel or the US has demanded that the PLO leadership take action against terrorists, the Palestinians, from Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas to Ahmed Qurei and down the line, have refused, claiming that they will not fight against their brothers and that there will not be a Palestinian civil war. Now, with Arafat dead, we see Israel's elites, like their European and American counterparts, buying into the notion that the only "legitimate" Palestinian leaders are those who have been active in terrorism and who support the view that Israel must be destroyed by hook or by crook.
Arafat confidant Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the London-based Al Quds al-Arabi newspaper, admitted this week to The Jerusalem Post that after signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, Arafat told him, "The day will come when you will see thousands of Jews fleeing Palestine. I will not live to see this, but you will definitely see it in your lifetime. The Oslo Accords will help bring this about." And so we have an admission that the entire deal from top to bottom was a hoax.
Is it possible that Arafat hoodwinked not only the Israelis but also his closest underlings in the PLO? Is it possible that Mahmoud Abbas, his presumptive replacement – who this week held talks with Hamas to the applause of US Secretary of State Colin Powell and vowed that there would be no peace until four million foreign-born Arabs are allowed to freely immigrate to Israel – did not know that Oslo was, in the words of the late Palestinian "moderate" Faisal Husseini, "a Trojan horse?"
No, it is not possible.
As Powell made his farewell visit to Jerusalem this week, we were witness to a revolting display of the moral turpitude of the Israeli press. Powell was asked continually whether he supports granting permission for convicted mass murderer Marwan Barghouti to run for the position of Palestinian "president."
Happily, Powell refused to play ball. All he would say is, "This is a matter to be worked out here in the region and not by the United States expressing a view or putting itself in the middle of this situation."
The Israeli media, whose saturation coverage of Arafat's funeral bordered on necrophilia, has descended to a new low with its campaign to free Barghouti. Most tragically, what it shows is that in Israel the biggest thought our ruling punditocracy can think involves crowning a terrorist who speaks gutter Hebrew as well as gutter Arabic to replace a dead one who spoke only gutter Arabic.
While Israelis, like the Americans and Europeans, apparently think they have no power to force a regime change among the Palestinians, the fact of the matter is that their pining after Palestinian terror chiefs has given the Palestinian leadership license to become more extreme.
Ahmed Qurei told the US consul in Jerusalem last week that he wants to bring the Fatah's Aksa Martyrs' Brigades terror group into the "reformed" Palestinian official militias. The State Department reacted by declaring that, for the first time, they would be giving $20 million in direct aid to the PA. It should be noted that the Martyrs' Brigades have carried out more terrorist attacks than either Hamas or Islamic Jihad. And, as Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz noted last year, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are no more religious than Fatah. Since 2002, their main supporter, as is the case with Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah, has been Iran.
During British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's visit on Wednesday, he defended Abbas's statement about unlimited Arab immigration to Israel as a condition for peace, stating that Israel should overlook it as simple posturing for domestic consumption. Again, what Straw's statement exposes is the fact that all the interested parties have swallowed whole the notion that it is perfectly reasonable that the only legitimate Palestinian leaders today are those who openly call for the destruction of Israel.
Finally, in the Palestinian Legislative Council's memorial ceremony for Arafat on Tuesday, Abbas, Qurei and Rouhi Fatouh, Arafat's official replacement, together pledged to be loyal to "Arafat's legacy." Is it possible for them to be any clearer?
And so, those who would wish for a true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians gaze longingly at Iraq. If the experience there has shown anything, it has shown that it is possible to topple terrorist regimes and it is possible to build the organs of a democracy in the Arab world.
Why are Iraq's lessons lost on the Palestinians?
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.