Bush Administration Puts Arafat on Notice
In one of Washington’s most dramatic policy turnarounds in half a century, President George W. Bush has announced that a Middle East peace is not a prerequisite for winning the war against terror. “There’s no doubt in my mind,” he said, in a joint appearance with visiting British prime minister Tony Blair November 8. “We’ll bring al Quaeda to justice, peace or no peace in the Middle East.”
The US president thus abandoned the diplomatic campaign to buy Arab support for his world war on terror in the coin of a Middle East settlement, announcing he was going ahead with or without the Arabs. debkafile‘s political analysts term this policy somersault a mortal blow to US relations with the Arab world and a turning point in the ties between Washington and Jerusalem. It also devalues the various European Middle East mediation initiatives hinging on major Israeli concessions to the Palestinians and takes negates the accommodationist policies espoused by Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and his left-wing following.
But the worst drubbing of all, the US president reserved for Yasser Arafat in person.
It was articulated clearly and curtly by his national security adviser Condoleezza Rice in a statement in Washington Thursday. President Bush will not see Yasser Arafat at the United Nations this weekend, she said, believing the Palestinian leader does not take seriously the US war on terrorism and the al Qaeda terror network.
“There are responsibilities that come with being the representative of the Palestinian people,” the national security adviser pointed out. “And that means to make certain that you do everything you can to lower the level of violence, everything that you can to root out terrorists.” Those sentences are interpreted by debkafile‘s Middle East sources as a message to Arafat that the United States no longer regards him as a political leader with the requisite attributes for representing the Palestinian people – a blunt threat to Arafat’s leadership.
To sharpen the message, Rice continued: “You cannot help us with al Qaeda and hug Hizballah – that’s not acceptable – or Hamas. The president continues to make that clear to Mr. Arafat and there are no plans to meet with Mr. Arafat inNew York.”
Ms. Rice with those words incidentally confirmed what debkafile has been reporting in the last 11 months, that Arafat has established a covert partnership with the Hizballah for collusion in terrorist operations against Israel. By this relationship, the Palestinian leader placed himself in range as a target in the American war on terror.
Now the Americans have put him on notice; he must at this twelfth hour change his ways, drop his ties with terrorist groups such as Hizballah and suppress the Hamas, the Jihad Islami and the Front for the Liberation of Palestinian, or else he and the Palestinian people will take the consequences.
That ultimatum is meant not only for Arafat’s ears, but also for Syrian president Bashar Assad, who explains to the Americans that the Hizballah is only a popular liberation movement; and for Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who the day before refused a US demand to freeze Hizballah assets in Beirut banks.
That ultimatum has cleared the way for the United States to take its anti-terror war to Lebanon and fight all those who “hug” terrorist organizations.
The Bush statement and its follow-up by Rice are Washington’s reply to moderate Arab rulers, such as those of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who made their backing for America’s war on terror conditional on a precise definition of the term terrorist and on a Middle East settlement acceptable to the Arabs.
Those rulers, out of a natural concern to preserve their own regimes, have stalwartly refused to let their domestic terrorist groups be defined as terrorist and therefore fit targets for the US-led war on terror.
The Bush administration has now short-circuited their maneuvers and put them on notice alongside Yasser Arafat.