US hypocrisy clouds Clinton's Mid-East headache

Can Hillary Clinton salvage a credible US foreign policy from its self-serving history?

As Gaza burns and the carnage mounts the United States has been going through the niceties of investigating how much its next Secretary of State knows about the world, including in the widest possible sense America’s largest foreign policy headache – the Middle East.

Hilary Clinton demonstrated to the Senate Committee that she is seriously well appraised on any topic they wished to hurl her way. The entire process however has exposed just how much work America has to do at home to reform from being the world bully, first class hypocrite and xenophobe.

These tendencies were present with bells on as Senators asked questions that just treated as accepted their prejudices towards Arab states, supposed terrorists and of course Iran.

Most of the countries they have issues with have of course been interfered with in some way by the United States within living memory – Palestine/Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

Sure it is all history, but it is a truism that forgetting history leads to a repetition of mistakes and in the Middle East it is only with the context of an appreciation of the complicated histories that those outside this beautiful, diverse and culturally rich part of the world can make any sense of what is happening today.

This is why the Bush determination to export democracy has been such a disaster, costing lives from many nations.

Even in his exit press conference this week Bush could not be certain that after seven years of war in Iraq, democracy as he sees it, will be a certainty. If going to war in Iraq was not criminal, doing it for noting save ousting the tyrant who “tried to kill my (his) daddy” must surely be.

The unintended consequences of such a bully tactic are now on full display.

Destroying Iraq has destroyed Iran’s most serious foe, leaving it free to busy itself with the job of pursuing nuclear capability. Such a goal it must be noted is fully within the nation’s sovereign right. As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran is permitted to develop peaceful/civilian nuclear energy.

Iran is suspected of trying to take that further and develop weapons grade material, and its filibustering with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council resolutions and demands for disclosure do nothing to persuade the international community otherwise.

Nevertheless, Iran has stayed within the NPT. North Korea abandoned its NPT commitments, developed and tested a nuclear weapon, and yet the US still negotiates with North Korea.

Israel is in violation of many United Nations Resolutions, including Resolution 487 which directs it to put its nuclear facilities under the safeguard of the IAEA. Yet the United States professes its continued backing for the Middle East’s only nuclear state.

The hypocrisy of such a mélange of foreign policy stances by the United States is not lost on Iran. This week’s disclosure that Israel tried for US permission to fly over Iraq to bomb Iran’s nuclear plant at Natanz has only reinforced Iran’s determination to pursue nuclear capability.

Sad that it took until the dying days of his Presidency but Bush did finally see past the short term into the possible longer-term implications of acquiescing to Israel’s request for bunker-busting bombs and air-space clearance.

Iran would not have sat by and let Israel bomb its facilities. Iran knows the US forces are stretched to the max in Iraq and Afghanistan and highly vulnerable should Iran take revenge on them in those theatres of war.

And then there are the Palestinians who do not miss the hypocrisy of the US backing of Israel despite Israel’s continued violations of a myriad of other UN resolutions. Amongst these are demands for compliance with the Geneva Convention in terms of its occupation of Palestinian lands, demands it protect the safety and security of Palestinian civilians, that it investigate previous deaths during the Israeli assault on the Jenin Refugee Camp, and demands that it cease construction of settlements in Arab territories.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton will have to make good on such hypocrisy and until she does US Foreign Policy will continue to be seen as a self-serving and discriminatory practice from a nation which supposedly prides itself on treating all people as equal. At the moment some seem more equal than others.

Another key facet behind the hideous actions in Gaza that the world should be concerned about is the role Israel’s February 10 elections are playing..

It seems certain that the toughest candidate will win so long as the momentum of the “war” continues so heavily in Israel’s favour. That would mean Likud Leader Benjamin Netanyahu will be at the helm of the next administration and he will be there along with his anti-Palestinian baggage of years gone by.

At some stage very soon Israel will cease what has turned in to a repulsive slaughter in the name of weeding out Hamas fighters. However when Israel’s bombs stop there is unlikely to be a cessation of rocket fire from Hamas, so what will the point of all of this have been?

Israel will be right to stop collective punishment of innocent Palestinians. Hamas will be wrong to continue firing rockets. But rights and wrongs have never yet been of much value here.

The only victor from it all will be the growth in devotion to the Hamas resistance movement (just as the war on Iraq gave birth to al-Qaeda in Iraq). Sheer numbers – so far nearly 1000 Palestinians killed and nearly 5000 injured – means few degrees of separation from the experience of Israel’s wrath for a huge number of Arabs.

In the past week in Gaza – let alone on the rest of the Arab street – the cry has been to avenge those deaths, not to put away the rockets. In a sinister move Hamas has sent out the call for arms, fighters and money.

Come next week – war or otherwise - Mrs Clinton has one hell of a job on her hands and the countries the US has messed with will all be watching.