January 12th, 2007

Sharon advised Bush against Iraq war (?)

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

From The Jewish Daily Forward, an interesting (and they say “exclusive”) report re the origins of the Iraq war:

QUOTE: [S]ometime prior to March 2003, Sharon told Bush privately in no uncertain terms what he thought about the Iraq plan. Sharon’s words — revealed here for the first time — constituted a friendly but pointed warning to Bush. Sharon acknowledged that Saddam Hussein was an “acute threat” to the Middle East and that he believed Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Yet according to one knowledgeable source, Sharon nevertheless advised Bush not to occupy Iraq. According to another source — Danny Ayalon, who was Israel’s ambassador to the United States at the time of the Iraq invasion, and who sat in on the Bush-Sharon meetings — Sharon told Bush that Israel would not “push one way or another” regarding the Iraq scheme.

According to both sources, Sharon warned Bush that if he insisted on occupying Iraq, he should at least abandon his plan to implant democracy in this part of the world. “In terms of culture and tradition, the Arab world is not built for democratization,” Ayalon recalls Sharon advising.

Be sure, Sharon added, not to go into Iraq without a viable exit strategy. And ready a counter-insurgency strategy if you expect to rule Iraq, which will eventually have to be partitioned into its component parts. Finally, Sharon told Bush, please remember that you will conquer, occupy and leave, but we have to remain in this part of the world. Israel, he reminded the American president, does not wish to see its vital interests hurt by regional radicalization and the spillover of violence beyond Iraq’s borders.

Sharon’s advice — reflecting a wealth of experience with Middle East issues that Bush lacked — was prescient. The American occupation of Iraq has ended up strengthening Iran, Israel’s number-one enemy, and enfranchising militant Shi’ite Islamists. A large part of Iraq is slipping into the Iranian orbit. Iraq’s western Anbar Province is increasingly dominated by militant jihadi Sunnis who could eventually threaten Syria and Jordan, the latter a strategic partner and geographic buffer for Israel.

All these developments harm vital Israeli interests. This past summer, Israel fought a war against two militant Islamist movements supported by Iran — Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza — that were enfranchised and legitimized in their anarchic countries thanks to Bush’s insistence on hasty and ill-advised democratic elections “in this part of the world.” END QUOTE

If accurate, then we have the picture of the Likud leader advising against the war that the Likud lobby in Washington (Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Kristol, Kagan, Ledeen, Adelman et al) had gone to extremes to bring off.

Nevertheless perhaps it fits with the picture of Sharon late in life, after a career of terrorism and war-mongering, having second thoughts about the wisdom of the Peace Thru War approach to statesmanship that is the Likud’s only card:

– When Sharon pulled out the Gaza settlers, the Likud’s other leading light, Benjamin Netanyahu, resigned rather furiously from Sharon’s cabinet.

– Not long after Sharon left the Likud to found his own party, saying that Likudism would never lead to peace.

– And not long after he suffered a somewhat mysterious stroke and left public life.  Leaving people wondering if he hadn’t been pushed, ala Itzak Rabin.

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