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Old 13th January 2008, 04:01 PM
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The Australian sees Bush trying to stem declining US influence in Middle East

ON his visit to Arab states in the Persian Gulf, US President George W.Bush is tackling an aim almost as formidable as his peacemaking with Israelis and Palestinians -- resuscitating an anti-Iranian bloc that has virtually collapsed in the past few weeks.

The undisputed primacy of the US in the oil-rich region has been badly buffeted since the summit meeting of the six members of the Gulf Co-operation Council in Doha, capital of Qatar, six weeks ago.

Qatar - without consulting other council members - invited the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to attend the meeting, even though Iran is not a member of the GCC. The invitation was a swipe at Saudi Arabia, nominal head of the bloc, which Qatar has frequently attacked through Qatari government TV station al-Jazeera.

The Saudis and the other GCC states accepted Iranian participation with reluctance. However, the anti-Iran front collapsed with publication of the new American intelligence assessment that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program five years ago.

Fear of Iran's nuclear ambitions had been a central element behind the formation of the Gulf council. So was the fact that Iran was a militant, non-Arab, Shia state which sought regional hegemony, while the Gulf states were Arab, predominantly Sunni, and militarily weak.

The states were aggrieved at Iran for having seized three islands from one of its members, the United Arab Emirates, in 1971 and for having recently threatened the sovereignty of another member, Bahrain. The US sought to package these fears and grudges into an anti-Iranian alliance.

According to a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the revised US intelligence report shook the confidence of the Gulf states in American judgment - and led many Arabs to consider accommodation with Iran. The report notes that Arabs also fear that Washington's revised intelligence assessment may signal an imminent US rapprochement with Iran that could come at the expense of the Gulf states.

Mr Ahmadinejad, who reportedly asked Qatar to issue him the invitation, capitalised on it by presenting to the Arab states a 12-point proposal for economic and military co-operation.

Mr Ahmadinejad was invited by Saudi King Abdallah to the haj, or religious pilgrimage, to Mecca last month.

Other signals of reconciliation swiftly followed. Bahrain's Prime Minister, Khalifa bin Salman Aal Khalifa, spoke of "Gulf-Iran rapprochement ... which strengthens security in the region".

Oman's Foreign Minister Yousef Bin Alawi Bin Abdulla visited Iran and spoke of "a new chapter in co-operation between Iran and the GCC states".

US Defence Minister Robert Gates flew to the Gulf to try to stem the shifting tide - but with little visible success.

Iran saw these developments as a historic shift in the power balance in the region and beyond, clear evidence that attempts to isolate Iran had collapsed.

"America will never be able to prevent the emergence of Iran as a symbol of Muslim strength in the Middle East and the world," wrote the Iranian daily Kayhan.

Uneasiness about Iran's intentions, including its nuclear plans, still lingers in the region. This makes it unlikely that the Arab states will completely dissociate themselves from Washington.

However, Iran has in large measure offset the Annapolis conference in November, which was intended by Washington not only to start an Israeli-Palestinian peace process but to rally the moderate Arab states as an anti-Iranian alliance.

Mr Bush will have his work cut out for him as he attempts to persuade these oil-rich, power-poor states that Washington is a more benign and reliable patron than Tehran.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au...-15084,00.html
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Old 13th January 2008, 04:44 PM
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Re: The Australian sees Bush trying to stem declining US influence in Middle East

Bush won't be president for much longer, and we're unlikely to see a Republican replace him, so relevance factor is almost zero I think RD. US foreign policy will change, particularly if they can't afford to keep the boats sailing around in the Gulf much longer with a coming recession and rising oil prices.
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Old 13th January 2008, 05:20 PM
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Re: The Australian sees Bush trying to stem declining US influence in Middle East

Yes, your probably right, but he might think that the Americans won't vote out the Republicans if they are in the middle of an active war, who knows?

Might even be the Fiscal Stimulus he is hinting about?
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Old 13th January 2008, 06:02 PM
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Re: The Australian sees Bush trying to stem declining US influence in Middle East

The USA stopped being benign the moment they decided pre-emptive war with a non-threatening nation was a good idea.
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Old 13th January 2008, 06:57 PM
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Re: The Australian sees Bush trying to stem declining US influence in Middle East

I think before Bush goes any further he should look at the history of Iran. It might also help some of the rest of us to understand why talk of Freedom and Democracy wears a little thin in the Gulf Region.


Wikipedia:

In 1951, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh was elected prime minister. As prime minister, Mossadegh became enormously popular in Iran after he nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later British Petroleum, BP), which controlled the country's oil reserves. In response, Britain embargoed Iranian oil and invited the United States to join in a plot to depose of Mossadegh; and, in 1953, President Eisenhower authorized Operation Ajax. The covert operation soon went into full swing. Iranians were financed to protest Mossadegh and fight pro-Mossadegh demonstrators. Protesters that were both for and against the monarchy violently clashed in the streets. The operation was successful, and Mossadegh was arrested on August 19, 1953.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi returned to power and his rule became increasingly autocratic. With American support, the Shah was able to rapidly modernize Iranian infastructure, but he simultaneously crushed all forms of political opposition with his intelligence agency, SAVAK. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became an active critic of the Shah's White Revolution and publicly denounced the government. Khomeini, who was popular in religious circles, was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. After his release in 1964, Khomeini publicly criticized the United States government. The Shah was persuaded to send him into exile by General Hassan Pakravan. Khomeini was sent first to Turkey, then to Iraq and finally to France. While in exile, he continued to denounce the Shah.
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Last edited by Rubber Duck; 13th January 2008 at 07:08 PM..
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