Iran - We’re gonna hold ‘em to account
By Ahmed Soliman
It’s a line we’ve heard hundreds of times from President Bush over the last 6 years: “We’re gonna hold them to account.” He’s said it about Iraq, the terrorists, and even in regard to US teachers when he was selling his “no child left behind” education plan. It is a reasonable expectation for an executive to have, after all without accountability there can be no progress. But there’s a catch - if you’re going to hold people accountable for their actions, you have to hold yourself accountable as well.
President Bush has never been very good about holding himself accountable for anything. Bush infamously avoided admitting any mistakes while president during the 2004 election. Although he did admit some wrong choice of words once the election was over, he still refuses to admit that Iraq was a mistake. But Iraq is not the only problem facing the world today. There is, of course, the lingering conflict between Israel and Palestine, by which so much of the world’s anger against the US is fueled. Surely the Bush administration can admit their refusal to engage in that conflict is the main reason why there has been no progress, right?
While speaking to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington DC on Wednesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “The policies of Iran constitute perhaps the single greatest challenge for American security interest in the Middle East, and possibly around the world.” Rice alleges Iran is now supporting Palestinian Hamas militants, an action which is hampering US efforts for peace.
Are they serious? Now it’s Iran’s fault? I know that Iran is the flavor of the month for the Bush administration, but what about Bush’s own refusal to engage that problem for so many years? As Ori Nir of Americans for Peace Now (a Jewish organization dedicated to enhancing Israel’s security through peace) pointed out to me this week, “Yes, there was Palestinian violence by organizations with links to Iran, but they have been engaged in violent activities regardless of Iran. The other [obstacle to peace] has been the continuation of Israel’s settlement activity. The third reason has been a sluggish approach by the [Bush] administration to its traditional role as mediator.”
“The role Iran plays in settling the [Israel-Palestine] dispute is minimal,” said Corey Saylor, Government Relations Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C. “We hoped the administration would focus on the key players in this, and not put forward a separate political agenda.”
The last time I checked, America is powerful, and their leverage over Israel is large. Even if Iran is supporting Hamas, it’s not acceptable that Iran would be able to block America from what needs to be done: get the Palestinians their state, thereby winning over millions of hearts and minds in the Muslim world. America could, for example, withhold the billions of dollars in financial aid we provide to Israel each year, so long as they maintain their settlements on Palestinian land (just as we withheld funds from the Palestinian people after they elected Hamas into office). But Bush and the US Congress refuse to do that.
The level of US financial and diplomatic support given to Israel is justified by the notion that Israel functions as a strategic asset to the US, as the “only democracy” in the Middle East. However such an argument holds no water, since Lebanon is a Democracy, Iraq is now a Democracy, and the Palestinians elect their leaders democratically as well. The U.S. bias in favor of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians only makes us more vulnerable to terrorism. Furthermore, Israel’s essential nature as a Jewish rather than a truly democratic state (in which all citizens of whatever ethnicity or religion would be given equal rights and respect) undercuts the “shared values” argument.
So if neither “shared values” nor “strategic asset” can explain the overwhelming U.S. support of Israel, what else is there? Answer: The power of the Israel lobby, which has brought about a situation in which it is impossible for elected officials to question support for Israel, much less redirect foreign policy in any way that would force the Israelis to end their occupation of the Palestinians.
It seems clear that if the Bush administration believes in accountability so much, they should hold the right people accountable – themselves. Choosing to point the finger at Iran instead is not going to bring about peace.
(Ahmed Soliman is a broadcast journalist and the author of “Born in the USA: Reflections of an Arab & Muslim-American Journalist.” Copyright Arab Writers Group, http://www.ArabWritersGroup.com )