Alexandre Adler is a 56-year-old French historian and commentator who specializes in geopolitical matters and who currently writes for the center-right Paris daily Le Figaro, where the piece translated below appeared this weekend.  --  On Saturday he analyzed the present conjuncture of the widening Middle Eastern crisis.[1]  --  Like many American neoconservatives, Adler once occupied the far-left side of the political spectrum, then moved right and embraced Zionism.  --  He is a graduate of France's élite École normale supérieure, and has been an editorialist for Libération, Le Monde, L'Express, and Le Point as he moved to the right of the political spectrum.  --  Adler has taught at the Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale (IHEDN) and for many years at France's national defense college.  --  His detailed knowledge of the international scene combined with his taste for Braudel-style longue durée history makes his pieces interesting even for those who do not share his views.  --  He is a supporter of globalization and among the most pro-American of French political commentators, but opposes the "clash of civilizations" thesis and supports Turkey's entry into the European Union.  --  Also attached:  a translation of a French account of the arrest of five Iranians by the U.S. military in Iraq published Monday in Le Monde (Paris).[2] ...

1.

[Translated from Le Figaro (Paris)]

News

Op-ed

Chronicle

CAN BUSH SUCCEED IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
By Alexandre Adler

Le Figaro (Paris)
January 13, 2007

Original source: Le Figaro (Paris)

As 2007 begins, you won't find many who will bet on George Bush's success in the Middle East. Like every accused person, he has the right to a defense. I'm going to try to show how America could in extremis get out of the present quagmire. Before getting into details, we must recall two contradictory facts: the first is that the proclaimed ambition to transform Iraq into a democratic showcase for the Middle East made in any case no sense; the second is that the explosion of the Sunni-Shiite conflict in Iraq is not in itself a defeat for the United States, or even for George Bush. No one predicted the size and barbarism of this religiously based civil war, and few actors in the region really wanted it. It's a process and not a plot, one that is good neither for extremists nor for moderates, in Iran or in Saudi Arabia.

Having stated these two preliminaries, we can envisage how American can still get out of the trap closing little by little on its Middle Eastern policies. America obviously retains only one card in its hand, but it's a powerful one: the Shiite government in Baghdad. The fact is that the maintenance of this government in power depends on the American presence in Baghdad. Without that American factor, the civil war may turn into a bloodbath, given the Sunnis who used to make up the country's only military and police élite. Despite an obvious numerical superiority, it is possible that the Shiites be beaten and the bloodbath spread. Now, none of Iraq's neighbors can gain from such a situation.

Certainly not Iran, which would then have to intervene militarily in support of threatened Iraqi Shiites and which would on that day lose the carefully built-up sympathies that exist in the Arab world on account of its firmness on the nuclear question, which the anti-American street likes. Still worse, there is a good chance that an Iranian invasion army would get bogged down even more badly than the American army today, leading to the definitive isolation and weakening of the regime in Tehran. It goes without saying that Turkey, which still wants to be part of Europe, cannot for a moment contemplate more than police operations that are very limited in time and space on Iraqi territory. Syria is actively supporting the Sunni jihad in Iraq, mostly for the sake of its own security vis-à-vis its own Sunni Islamists, but it is obvious that the emergence of a fundamentalist Sunni proto-state on its eastern border could only lead in the long run to a dramatic strengthening of the fundamentalist Sunni faction in Damascus. As for Saudi Arabia, its present moderate direction would have everything to lose if it got involved in a direct intervention for the benefit of Iraqi Sunnis that could do nothing but radicalize public opinion in that country.

Given these conditions there is not, as everyone will have noticed, a single state in the region that is speaking up against George Bush's decision to send 20,000 additional soldiers, truly sincere protests being limited at present to American opinion. What then can President Bush do with a mandate to manage that is so conditional and so short-term? At best, he can save the unity of the Iraqi state, and achieving this, gain the gratitude of two quite distinct kinds of forces that both have the same interest he does in maintaining this unity.

The first, and the most obvious of these forces, is the moderate Sunni bloc that is grouped around the Saudi king and includes the Jordanian monarchy, Hariri's heirs in Lebanon, Fatah in Palestine, and above all the substantial minority of Iraq's Sunni Arabs of the Hanafi school, which does not want to be represented politically by the bloc of Saddam Hussein's heirs and the supporters of Osama bin Laden. Among them, the powerful Shammar tribe is established in all three great states of the region, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and King Abdullah himself through his mother, just as for the provisional first president of the new Iraq, Ghazi Yawar. All these moderate Sunnis could, with suitable guarantees, accept the new Kurdish and Shiite hegemony in Baghdad, so long as the Shiite extremists of Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army cutthroats be definitively brought to heel. Now it so happens that it will still be possible, for some time to come, for Iranian moderates, who are proceeding calmly and systematically to hem in their loose-cannon president Ahmadinejad, to be able tacitly to accept the crushing of Sadr's men, whose only relationship to Tehran is through the shaky extreme right of the hodjatieh [i.e. those who believe that an apocalyptic end time is at hand --M.K.J.].

If, by availing themselves of a restorative violence against those who are most violent, the Americans are at present acting not as inspired missionaries of a non-existent democracy but as honest brokers for the long-term interests of Saudi and Iranian moderates, then they can still leave Iraq with their head held high. It would be a pleasure to see the astonished faces of the pacifist critics who, today, along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, think that they have Bush's and Rice's scalps within reach of their tomahawks.

--
Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Phone: 253-535-7219
Home page: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2.

[Translated from Le Monde (Paris)]

TEHRAN AND BAGHDAD CALL FOR THE IRANIANS ARRESTED BY THE AMERICAN ARMY TO BE FREED
With AFP and Reuters

Le Monde (Paris)
January 15, 2007

http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3218,36-855276,0.html?xtor=RSS-3210

On Sun., Jan. 14, the Iranian government demanded that its five nationals, arrested by the American army at Iran's consulate in Erbil, in northern Iraq, be freed immediately. According to the American military, the five Iranians are linked to a group of Revolutionary Guards that delivers arms to Iraqi insurgents.

"The Americans should release the five Iranians immediately and pay compensation for the damage done to our office in Erbil," said Mohammad Ali Hosseini, spokesman of the ministry of foreign affairs, who said that they were "consular officials."

"Their activities were entirely legal," said the Iranian spokesman interviewed by journalists on the question of whether the five were *pasdaran* (members of the Revolutionary Guard, a powerful paramilitary militia that makes up the spearhead of the Islamic revolution).

The five men were arrested Thursday during an American operation against an office representing the Iranian government in Erbil, the second such intervention in the past month. "The Americans want to radicalize the climate prevailing in Iraq in order to justify their occupation, but we are staying cool," said the spokesman.

"TO DEAL WITH THE SERIOUS PROBLEMS THAT IRAN IS CAUSING"

The Iraqi minister of foreign affairs, Hoshyar Zebari, also later asked the United States to free the five Iranians arrested by American forces in Iraq. "We have communicated with the American embassy in Iraq and with the commanders of the multinational force to ask that they be freed if they are innocent," Mr. Zebari told CNN. But the ministry also told the American television channel that Iraq was not "involved" in the investigation of the five detainees.

According to Washington, the Revolutionary Guard is furnishing "funds, arms, technical know-how . . . and training to groups that are trying to destabilize the Iraqi government and attack coalition forces." "We have had a strategy toward Iran, I think, that has been evolving to deal with the serious problems that Iran is causing," the American secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, explained in an interview published Saturday.

Mme Rice, who has begun a visit to the Middle East aimed particularly at obtaining the support of Arab countries in fighting Iran's influence, defended Thursday's raid. "We have already done this once or twice. We are going to continue to do it," she said Saturday, referring to the arrest, by the American army toward the end of December 2006 in central Baghdad, of two Iranian diplomats, who were freed several hours later.

--
Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Phone: 253-535-7219
Home page: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.