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Bad Week for Bush
by Syed Khurram Husain
01 April 2002 09:59 UTC
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This is an interesting summary of the kinds of problems that are now
beginning to surface for the Bush administration which has ridden rough
shod over so many interests since coming to power.

A week of setback for US hegemony 

By Jim Lobe 

WASHINGTON: It was a bad week for the aspiring global hegemonies around US
President George W. Bush. Not only did virtually all of Washington's
closest Middle East "allies" - Arab and Israeli alike - reject its efforts
to ensure a smooth Arab League endorsement of Saudi Arabia's latest peace
proposals, its next target in the "war against terrorism," Iraq, was
welcomed back into the Arab fold with open arms. 

As the week in which Bush had hoped to achieve a cease-fire in the ever
escalating struggle between Israel and the Palestinians ended, a new spiral
of killing was already underway, with Israeli tanks and armoured personnel
carriers moving into the West Bank and Gaza on Friday in retaliation for
the latest Palestinian suicide bombings. 

Meanwhile, Europe continued to seethe over the latest manifestations of US
unilateralism - a 30 per cent hike in tariffs on steel imports - and China
blocked a routine port call by a US warship at Hong Kong to protest the
Pentagon's reception of a top Taiwanese defence official. 

And, after insisting for months that US troops would not be used for
peacekeeping in Afghanistan, the Pentagon rejected desperate pleas from the
United Nations and Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, to expand
the size and reach of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
US forces would have to keep peace between the warlords who control most of
the country, after all, said Washington. 

Nor was that all. Pakistan rejected outright the suggestion that US troops
be permitted to operate on its side of the border with Afghanistan to
prevent Taliban and al Qaeda forces from gaining sanctuary there. 

Finally, uniformed military commanders, who have long grumbled privately
about the hegemonic ambitions of the civilian hawks who now dominate the
Pentagon, have been going public. 

In Congressional hearings over the past two weeks, they suggested their
forces are already stretched too thin by the war on Afghanistan and other
deployments to take on major new missions. That provoked a visibly
irritated and testy defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to warn on
Thursday: "It's a disservice to them to leave that impression, in my view." 

"It's not easy ruling the world," noted one caustic Congressional staffer,
whose Democratic boss has been among those lawmakers gradually more willing
to question the administration's goals in its anti-terrorist campaign. 

Rumsfeld's testiness reflected more than frustration with his more cautious
commanders concerned about the administration's promiscuity in taking on
new military tasks virtually around the world. 

More important, things are not going well for administration hawks
clustered around Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney who, after
claiming victory with the swift and virtually painless ouster of the
Taliban regime in Afghanistan late last year, had hoped to take the war
next to Iraq. 

Indeed, preparing the diplomatic groundwork for such a campaign, to be
launched as early as next fall, was the major purpose of Cheney's 11-day
trip to see US allies in the Mideast and Gulf region. But, with the
exception of Israel itself, Cheney received the same message in virtually
every capital he visited, most bluntly expressed by Crown Prince Salman bin
Hamad Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, the country that provides the US Navy with its
main base in the Gulf. 

"The people who are dying today on the streets are not a result of any
Iraqi action," the Crown Prince told Cheney. "The people are dying as a
result of an Israeli action. And likewise the people in Israel are dying as
a result of actions taken in response." 

The administration had hoped that dispatching Bush's special Mideast envoy
to the region to try to negotiate a ceasefire during Cheney's trip would
have appeased Arab sensitivities sufficiently to focus the trip on how to
overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Just in case, it threw in
unprecedented US sponsorship of a UN Security Council resolution affirming
support for a Palestinian state "within secure and recognised borders". 

But Washington's Arab clients were unusually steadfast in the face of
Cheney's appeals. They underlined that position at their summit in Beirut
this week, not only by arranging an unexpected reconciliation between Iraq
and Kuwait, but also by approving a resolution that - in addition to
offering peace to Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from territories
occupied since 1967 - warned that any attack on Iraq would be considered an
attack against all Arab states. 

Their action followed a series of stunning rebuffs to Washington: Arab
leaders insisting to Cheney that the Israeli-Palestinian question was more
urgent than Iraq, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejecting the
vice president's personal appeal to permit Palestine Authority Chairman
Yassir Arafat to attend the Beirut summit, with the assurance that he could

"The US expended a lot of political capital to no avail, illustrating how
deadlocked the situation is and the limits of American influence," Samuel
Lewis, a former US ambassador to Israel, told the Washington Post. His
successor, Martin Indyk, warned darkly that "the situation on the ground is
going to full-scale war. But even as events and actors in the Middle East
appeared to spin out of Washington's grasp by week's end, the
administration found itself grappling with other problems. 

The European Union, for example, has drawn up a politically explosive list
of US exports that it has targeted for retaliation against the steel
tariffs. Highest on the list are major products from states where Bush's
Republican party is especially vulnerable in upcoming Congressional

Brussel's action, according to David Broder, one of Washington's most
influential political analysts, reflects in part the suddenly widening gap
between Europe and Washington over the latter's anti-terrorist goals,
particularly its plans on Iraq. 

Writing from Rome, Broder, who is not prone to hyperbole, described the
Europeans as "furious" with the administration and "ready to fight
back".-Dawn/The InterPress News Service. 

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