Beware: 'Master dealmaker' is back

Baker's failed record shows that false assumptions lead to wrong conclusions

The failed diplomatic record of James Baker, who submitted his recommendations regarding the war in Iraq to top Bush Administration officials, stands in contradiction to his impressive record in Washington's business and political arenas.


Therefore, the adoption of his recommendations would serve anti-American terror elements and undermine pro-American moderate elements.


The writers of the report call on all countries of the region – including Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt - to join forces in order to resolve the Iraqi problem.


A reexamination of Baker's history shows that in 1990, following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the "master dealmaker" from Texas decided to convince late Syrian President Hafez Assad to join the coalition against Iraq.


Therefore, he ignored the Syrian dictator's terror activity, showered him with international legitimacy, hinted to American aid to Syria, and granted him a free hand in Lebanon.


In response to Baker's "pragmatism," Assad did nothing against Iraq, yet completed the takeover of Lebanon, killed thousands of Lebanese, crushed a Christian anti-Syrian government, and brought to power a pro-Syria puppet regime in Beirut. The Baker legacy has a significant role in Lebanon's breakdown.


Starting in the 1980s and up until Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, Baker viewed him as a "constructive leader" worthy of American support, and referred to him by saying that "the enemy of my enemy (Iran) is an ally."


Therefore, Baker ignored the belligerence displayed by the butcher of Baghdad towards Iran (the 1980 invasion) and towards the Shiites in Iraq, granted it loan guarantees worth USD five billion and Export-Import Bank credit, approved the transfer of sensitive technologies and classified intelligence information to Baghdad, and made it clear to Saddam in April 1990 that an invasion of Kuwait would be an internal Arab affair.


In response to Baker's "green light," Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and threatened to take over Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Gulf states. Under the auspices of Baker's "realism," Saddam brutally suppressed a Shiite uprising and rehabilitated the capabilities that were destroyed in 1991.


Baker failed to understand that "my enemy's enemy" could also be "my enemy." The bitter results of his misunderstanding are being felt in the region to this day.


From the end of the 1980s and up until the invasion of Kuwait, Baker focused on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and viewed Yasser Arafat as a vital partner in the peace process.


Therefore, he ignored Arafat's and the PLO's treacherous terror record, nurtured ties with them, attempted to break former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, and prevented loan guarantees to the tune of USD 10 billion meant for absorbing Soviet Jews.


In addition, he convinced President Bush to threaten a veto of any pro-Israel bill, pressed for freezing settlement activity and an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 borders, and blamed Israel for the absence of peace with its neighbors.


In response to Baker's gestures, the PLO provided Saddam with vital information for the Kuwait invasion, PLO units in Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the organization remained loyal to Saddam, Bin Laden, and other anti-American groups active to this day.


In 2006, Baker views the two terror states, Syria and particularly Iran, as countries that may calm the situation in Iraq. In order to advance this objective, he is willing to enhance their strategic maneuvering space.


The adoption of his recommendations would advance the Iranian nuclear effort, turn Saudi Arabia and Gulf states to Teheran's hostages, free Assad from the noose of international pressure tightening around his neck, endanger the regimes in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, and force Israel to act unilaterally in order to remove the lethal Iranian threat.


Baker's failures stem from, among other things, baseless assumptions that terror leaders also prefer a "deal" over ideology, that the Palestinian issue is at the heart of Middle Eastern violence and the root of anti-American terror, that peaceful coexistence can be reached with determined terrorists, that the Israeli conflict is over the size of Israel rather than its very existence, and that the US can pay with Israeli concessions for improving its relations with the Muslim and Arab world.


Yet as Baker's record shows, false assumptions lead to wrong conclusions, which only fan the flames of terror while gravely undermining American interests and the national security of regional countries.


Baker's determination to strike a "deal" at any price leads to the sacrifice of long-term interests on the altar of short-term illusions. Yet James Baker is determined to learn from history by repeating strategic mistakes rather than avoiding them.


Will American and Israeli leaders adopt Baker's "pragmatism" and "realism," or would they be wise enough to learn from his failures?


Yoram Ettinger, an expert on Middle Easern and American affairs, is a former Israeli consul general in Texas and worked in the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C.


פרסום ראשון: 12.09.06, 13:16
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