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Guest Column

Mid-East Unpredictability and the Peace Process
By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Apr 22, 2012 - 3:43:01 AM

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In order to comprehend the real Mid-East, the root causes of regional turbulence, the key obstacle to peace and the oversimplification of Western peace-processors, one should examine the Iraq-Syria labyrinth, an arena of flaming and chronic unpredictability.

In April 2012, the Iraqi regime -- led by Shiites -- is supporting the Assad regime in the battle against Syria's Sunni majority and the Muslim Brotherhood, which are perceived as a worse threat -- than Assad - to the current regime in Baghdad.

However, from 2003 until the eruption of the current civil war in Syria, Iraq was haunted by Assad-armed and trained pro-Saddam Sunni terrorists, who terrorized Iraq and undermined the stability of the current Iraqi regime.

Moreover, from 1966 - when a split occurred between the Damascus and the Baghdad wings of their ruling Ba'th party - until the 2003 demise of Saddam Hussein, Syria supported all anti-Saddam Hussein ideological, ethnic, tribal and religious elements. In fact, from 1979 until 2003, Damascus and Tehran provided asylum to Iraq's current Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, who was then in opposition to Saddam Hussein.

The rivalry between Syria and Iraq has raged -- on and off - since the eighth century, when the Damascus-based Umayyad Caliphate lost the military battle for intra-Muslim leadership to the Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphate.

Welcome to the real Mid-East, the role model of violent unpredictability, where the most predictable factor is unpredictability!

Inherent Mid-East unpredictability has produced a multitude of intra-Muslim accords concluded, but routinely, brutally and unpredictably abrogated. Hence, the frequent intra-Muslim cease fire agreements recently concluded in Syria, but summarily and mercilessly violated.

The higher the unpredictability, the lower is the prospect of compliance. The lower the compliance, the higher is the threshold of security, especially in the unstable, treacherous, fragmented, violent and unpredictable Mid-East.

The failure of Mid-East Muslim regimes to adhere to intra-Muslim agreements, attests to the provisional and fragile nature of agreements signed with "infidel" entities, such as the Jewish State. The critical issue is when and how -- not whether -- agreements will be shattered. For example, in 1994, Jordan's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff told his Israeli colleague that "agreements signed with the Palestinians in the morning are violated by the end of the day."

However, President Obama, West Europe and the UN -- just like the Israeli Osloites and New Middle Easterners - are obsessed with the formalities of concluding Israeli-Arab agreements, failing to grasp the deeply-rooted fragility of all agreements concluded in the Mid-East. They pressure the Jewish State to assume irreversible "painful tangible concessions"- in return for reversible intangible Arab declarations. They lean on Israel to retreat to the pre-1967, defenseless 9-15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean. They prod Israel to transfer, to unpredictable and violent neighbors, the cradle of its history, which is also a mountain ridge, dominating the Mediterranean sliver and constituting an indispensable, protective high ground for Israel's survival in the most conflict-ridden region in the world.

The real Mid-East is currently further traumatized by the tectonic implosion of the Arab Street, the meltdown of traditional regimes, and the surge of radical Islamic elements, irrespective of the Palestinian issue or the Arab-Israeli conflict, which have only had a secondary impact upon the Mid-East.

Islamists have catapulted to leadership in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and are challenging every Arab regime.

Emad el-Din Adeeb, a columnist of the London-based Arab daily, A-Sharq al-Awsat, wrote on February 4, 2012: "I sorrowfully say, God bless the days of Saddam Hussein, compared to today's Iraq!... Iraq has been dismantled, and is now practically divided into three minor states: the Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions.... The number of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Iraq amounts to 200,000 armed troops. This is in addition to the fact that some government correspondence in Baghdad is now written in both Persian and Kurdish.... The state has shifted into a major power center for extremist Islamic currents that threaten national and regional security, most prominently al-Qaeda.... The Iraqi authorities want to relocate the late President Saddam Hussein's corpse from his grave - because of the numerous visits and crowds gathering nearby-- to an unknown or remote place.... Judging by what happened in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, no one believes change in Syria will be democratic in the long term. It will bring to power a sectarian Islamic fundamentalist party. Instability will continue to be the order of the day."

But, President Obama, Europe and the UN persist in ignoring Mid-East reality. They pressure Israel to be the only country negotiating away its cradle of history, while lowering its security threshold, as if the Mid-East were relatively-predictable and compliant.

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
The Ettinger Report
"Second Thought: A US-Israel Initiative"
First published in "Israel Hayom", April 20, 2012


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