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Opinion: Can Bush Build His Global Coalition?


Muqtedar Khan, Ph.D.

The kind of alliance needed to fight the global war against invisible enemies that the US plans, needs close and sustained cooperation from several key players. Can the US build and sustain such an alliance?

The formative challenges will entail the aligning of interests of diverse nations with those of the United States. This is not an easy task since some of the key players whose cooperation is imperative, such as Pakistan, Iran and Syria have had adversarial relations with the US in the recent past. All these states currently have US sanctions imposed against them for pursuing what they perceive as their legitimate national interests.

US sanctions against Iran punish it for eliminating the enemies of Iran overseas. Now the US seeks Iranian cooperation to do the same. US sanctions against Syria are for its support for Hezbollah that Syria saw as essential for driving Israel out of Lebanon and Golan Heights. US sanctions against Pakistan were imposed due to its pursuit of nuclear and ballistic technology, which for Pakistan is crucial to balance India. The US has actively undermined the national interests of these states, in some cases for decades, and now hopes that overnight these states will align their interests with those of the US.

This seems a bit unlikely, unless the US makes it worth their while. This raises the question -- how far will the US accommodate the needs of other states to ensure their consistent cooperation?

Will US drop the sanctions against Pakistan? Will Iran and Syria be dropped from the list of rogue states? After all how can US allies against terror also be on US list of state sponsors of terrorism? How will Israel and the powerful Israeli lobby in the US respond to these changes in US policy?.

Demanding the full support of Pakistan, which includes access to intelligence, surrogate diplomacy, and permission to use its air space and bases to launch an attack against Afghanistan if necessary, will require more than loan guarantees and lifting of sanctions. Pakistan risks widespread discontent, split in the military establishment, a refugee crisis and even an Islamist uprising by meeting US demands. The US will have to convince Pakistan that they will neither abandon it nor ignore its legitimate national interests.

Is the US ready to make such a promise to Pakistan? More importantly can it fulfill such a promise? Will the US look the other way if in future Pakistan acquires advanced military technology from China? Or will the US now guarantee Pakistan’s technological balance of power with India? Pakistan will surely seek an increased US participation in their dispute with India over Kashmir. So far the US has maintained a safe distance from this potentially Palestine like scenario. This may change given the criticality of Pakistan’s cooperation in the initial US response and its future assault on anti-US elements in the region.

The second phase of the US war on terror entails the systematic identification and elimination of the so-called terror infrastructure. The project to begin with seems very dubious. The US is taking the word of its intelligence community and Israeli authorities about the existence of this invisible empire. We must be cautious. These same sources were clueless about the horrific attacks that took place on Sept. 11th. Now these same sources wax ad nauseum about the extent, depth and scope of the perpetrators’ assets.

Nevertheless, to be successful in the second phase, the US will have to enjoy a great deal of confidence and cooperation from “moderate” Arab regimes. If the second phase follows a massive attack on Afghanistan including deaths of many innocent civilians, then Arab support may not be forthcoming. Cooperation with the US will put these regimes at risk and contribute to their instability further complicating the conditions in the Middle East.

One thing is for sure. If the US continues to support, arm and finance the terror that Israeli military frequently unleashes against Palestinians, the Arab regimes will not cooperate. It was only a month ago that they chose to scuttle the UN conference on racism rather than defer to US demands to compromise their stance on Israel. This leads us to the most fundamental question – is the US willing to reconsider its uncritical support for Israel to ensure the realization of its own national interests and national security?

Bush’s global war on terrorism requires a global alliance. It will entail the restructuring of many existing geopolitical equations. Can this administration muster the diplomatic finesse and the domestic political consensus it will take?

- Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Director of International Studies at Adrian College in Michigan., http://www.glocaleye

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