In November, months before President Bush announced the troop escalation, Jordan’s King Abdullah predicted that three civil wars could erupt in the Middle East in 2007. “We’re juggling with the strong potential of three civil wars in the region, whether it’s the Palestinians, that of Lebanon or of Iraq,” he said.
With the eruption of violence recently in Lebanon and Gaza, Abdullah’s prediction has manifested into a bloody reality.
During today’s press briefing, CNN correspondent Ed Henry asked White House spokesman Tony Snow whether the “war in Iraq has helped push the peace process forward in any way.” Snow’s response: “Don’t know. … Hard to say.” Echoing his claim last week attacks in Iraq were “signs of success,” Snow suggested that the increased violence in the region is a by-product of “pro-democracy movements…making some progress.” Watch it:
But the White House’s uncertainty marks a stark departure from Bush’s confidence in the early stages of the war. In July 2003, Bush stated:
A free Iraq will not destabilize the Middle East. A free Iraq can set a hopeful example to the entire region and lead other nations to choose freedom. And as the pursuits of freedom replace hatred and resentment and terror in the Middle East, the American people will be more secure.
Yesterday on CBS’ Face the Nation, Iraq Study Group co-chair Lee Hamilton offered a very different take than Snow. “The Middle East is in flames,” Hamilton said. “Everywhere you look, there’s deep trouble — Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinians, the peace process, Iran.” Asked whether the instability was linked to the war, Hamilton replied, “Of course they’re linked.”
QUESTION: The war in Iraq has helped push the peace process forward in any way…
SNOW: Don’t know. I mean, what I don’t think is — quite often people say, Well, you can’t — you’re not focusing on the Middle East because you’re focusing on Iraq. These are all related.
As the president has pointed out before, when pro-democracy movements seem to be making some progress — Lebanon, for instance — there are actions that are designed to derail it. This is part of the larger war on terror, and we, in fact, remain fully engaged on all fronts.
QUESTION: But before the war the president said that taking out Saddam Hussein would help stabilize the Mideast. Do you think that’s turned out to be true?
SNOW: Hard to say. I mean, what you saw, for instance, was very — some very swift change of behavior on the part of Libya. Certainly we continue to work closely with our other allies in the region. But it is also clear that Al Qaida’s doing whatever it can to try to destabilize, and it is our commitment not only to fight back against Al Qaida, but to strengthen the forces of democracy.
We continue to support the Siniora government, which at the beginning of this administration was not in place.
So, you know, I think it’s very difficult to come up with a sort of — whoa, careful back there — a sort of glib one-line description of what’s going on in the region.
SNOW: But it is pretty clearly that a lot of people are putting their lives on the line for the cause of democracy in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and we support them.