The U.S. and British Assault on Iraq and the Continuation of the Intifadah
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By: Nima Shirali
Subsequent to the U.S and British assault on Iraq, Bush and Blair’s assertions that such an assault would be beneficial for Middle East’s political progress have been largely dismissed by Palestine’s population. An illustration of this fact can be seen by a significant number of protests inside Palestine, which express the population’s disapproval of the invasion. It is necessary for scholars committed to reconciliation between the Palestinians and Israelis to realize that such disapproval will have consequential effects on any future compromise. These effects emanate from distrust towards the U.S and Britain to facilitate any reconciliation process. The ground invasion of Iraq converges with the assailants’ comradeship with Israel to create and perpetuate this distrust amongst the Palestinians.
It is noteworthy to allude to the fact that Britain’s role in the incursion will give it great leverage to exert political control over Iraq. Though it may seem as if the U.S will set the political agenda for post-war Iraq, such a prediction does not take into account the importance of Britain’s involvement. Firstly, it would be helpful to refer to the makeup of Iraq’s population in terms of religious sects. This reference would disclose the fact that Iraq’s population is sixty, to sixty-five percent Shiite Muslim. Furthermore, the port-city of Basra is known to be the largest Shiite-populated urban centre in the country.
With careful scrutiny, one can discern the reasons as to why the British were adamant on the British takeover of Basra, leaving the ambushes and most violent engagements for the U.S military. The reasons are clear. Britain has a strategic interest in exercising control over the Shiite centre of Iraq, which is of primary importance over the Sunni-populated areas. With this control, the former colonizer of the country can re-establish its influence and authority over the strategically important elements, such as petroleum.
These facts have considerable effects on a future reconciliation process in Palestine. Firstly, as I alluded to, mistrust towards the U.S and Britain will prevail upon the thinking of Palestine’s population. Needless to say, such sentiments would originate from these countries’ invasion of Iraq, which the Palestinians have always viewed as a brother nation. Secondly, the re-establishment of British ascendancy over a former colony would be viewed as the resurgence of Britain’s colonial aspirations in the region.
The fact that Palestine was also a former British mandate implicates Iraq’s invasion to the Palestinian response and sentiment towards Britain and its ally. Though the probability of Britain joining Israel in the occupation of Palestine is low, Britain’s role in the invasion of Iraq is greatly significant to the mental hold of the Palestinians. This of course is in relation with the imperial stance, which Britain took when subjugating Palestine into a mandate in the former part of the 20th Century. Again, this is confounded by the American and British concomitance with Israel.
Palestinian reluctance to cooperate in a reconciliation process (due to the assault against Iraq), will only provide for the continuation of the second Intifadah, and take one more step away from social and political concord. With a considerable analysis of the developments, one can ask how the Palestinians can show confidence, without any suspicion, towards a future reconciliation process facilitated by the U.S, or any of its allies. This lack of confidence and hesitance to engage in a reconciliation process can be directly attributed to Bush and Blair’s hawkish Middle East policy. This policy has obviously dichotomized the Middle East into two categories: the allies, and the enemies of ‘peace-loving-, freedom-aspiring’ nations, such as the U.S. This dichotomization has alienated the need to reconcile in Palestine. Instead, it has deteriorated and intensified the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and has put forth the possibility of eradicating any prospects for reconciliation.
As a direct consequence of the attack on Iraq, Islamic fundamentalists, which resort to terrorism, will gain a more fertile ground to operate with moral impunity. This will be the aftereffect of having had their ‘cause’ strengthened on a moral basis. The U.S and British onslaught in Iraq, and the Muslim antagonism associated with it will allow these groups access to more extensive recruitment. Furthermore, such groups will be able to justify their actions morally, as their ‘brothers’ in Iraq have died due to ‘U.S, British , and Zionist imperialism’. Juxtaposed to this, the world will witness trends, which validate that terrorism against Israel has increased, and chances for reconciliation lost.
To conclude, one can accurately claim that the war against Iraq will have consequential effects on reconciliation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. A close examination of the current crisis involving the military attack on Iraq reveals that such effects would not be contributive to reconciliation, but would instead be counter-productive. This stems from the distrust, which the Palestinian population will have towards the U.S or Britain in promoting a reconciliation process in the future. With reference to history, and the colonial attitude of foreigners in the region, one can discern why such sentiments will be prevalent in Palestine.
Nima Shirali is Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Middle East Reconciliation Journal (MERJ), www.merecforum.org