The ‘peacenik’ President heeds a call to arms – but is it too little, too late?

THERE must be an awful lot of soap being used up in the White House and Whitehall, as ministers and their minions try to wash their hands of Iraq.

And I bet the label on each bar is stamped, ‘For ditherers only.’ If not, they should be.

Because the great brains of Western diplomacy haven’t a clue whether to stick, twist or chuck in their hand and allow violence to take its unnatural course in sorting out the latest Middle East imbroglio.

Various military acronyms rooted in WW2 slang – like FUBAR and SNAFU, whose meanings I won’t spell out for fear of upsetting those of a sensitive disposition – spring to mind as pertinent descriptions for the plight of those whose indecision may, or may not, be final.

And at the very top of the pile of confused, anguished hand-wringers is an American leader, whose default setting is to gaze at his navel, as if answers to the world’s ills miraculously lie within the lint of his belly button.

In 2008 Barack Obama was elected President on an anti-war ticket, redolent with slogans ranging from ‘Hope’ to ‘Yes We Can’ (whatever that meant). The following year he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize, based not on deeds, but the same windy promises that shoehorned him into office. Even the man himself was flabbergasted.

Over six years later his main achievements of note have been extricating his gung-ho predecessor, George W. Bush’s ‘Coalition of the Willing’ from Iraq and downsizing troops in Afghanistan, with the aim of every Crusader GI quitting by New Year.

But, given the daily evidence of mounting carnage afflicting both rudderless states, there’s little to embellish Obama’s legacy, except for taking Hillary Clinton’s advice on obliterating Osama bin Laden.

RUTHLESS & MURDEROUS: The Sunni fanatics of ISIS have ignited  the power-keg of Iraq

RUTHLESS & MURDEROUS: The Sunni fanatics of ISIS march on, having ignited the power-keg of Iraq

Meanwhile, even starry-eyed optimists recognise it’s only a matter of time before the untamed Taliban return to Kabul and fill the void created by the exit of NATO troops.

An even more alarming spectre haunts Western policy-makers over the future of Iraq, where a sectarian strife has erupted in all but civil war, as murderous Sunni fanatics of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, mop up the oil-rich hinterland and threaten Shia-dominated Baghdad.

It’s futile to rake over old coals, as former British leader Tony Blair recently did in justifying the 2003 invasion/liberation of Iraq, because history is already writ large, though it was always received wisdom the country would be a powder-keg for decades.

That it has exploded so ghoulishly is largely due to the ineptitude and arrogance of Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia Prime Minister, who ethnically cleansed Iraq’s government, army and civil service of virtually any Sunni and Kurdish influence.

Even if the nation’s religious demographics gave Shias a 65% majority, the vision for a democratic, post-conflict Iraq was intended to be an inclusive one, with a modicum of power-sharing.

Now, stability exists only in far-north, autonomous Kurdistan, while the rest of the country seems damned to imitate next-door Syria and descend into a sectarian bloodbath.

That the blinkered Maliki was stupid and overcome by megalomania is beyond doubt, despite having a democratic mandate.

But, as his paymaster and sponsor, Obama – for all his aversion to confrontation – should have had the wit to nip the shameless power-grab in the bud and read the riot act to the idiot of Baghdad much earlier.

Hence, now we see a battle-fatigued America being re-drawn into the conflict, after the President announced on Thursday 300 special operatives would go to Iraq and ‘provide technical support’ to help overcome ISIS, after Maliki pleaded for US intervention.

Talk about déjà vu all over again!

FAR APART: Obama is angry Prime Minister Maliki (right) has turned Iraq into a Shia-governed state

CLOSE TOGETHER, FAR APART: Obama is angry Prime Minister Maliki (right) has turned Iraq into a Shia-governed state

Meanwhile, how much difference 300 specialists can make – and whether they are too little, too late – is debatable, as is Obama’s vague threat of force, ‘if intelligence recommended it’.

But, at least, he took a sideswipe at the Iraqi leader, underlining the error of his ways.

Nevertheless, it bode ill for the 44th President, who’s hardly put a foot right dealing with crises on foreign fields since his election.

He and his diplomatic corps at the State Department – situated in aptly-named Foggy Bottom – utterly misread the runes of the Arab Spring, ignominiously backtracked over the ‘red lines’ warning to Syria’s butcher, Assad, tried and failed to arm-twist allies Israel into a one-sided peace deal with the deceitful Palestinians and contracted the ousting of Libya’s lunatic, Gaddafi, to France and the UK.

To add to his litany of follies, Obama has practically given Iran a free pass on its nuclear ambitions and allowed Vladimir Putin to run rings round him over Ukraine.

Rarely – if ever – has a US commander-in-chief commanded so little respect on the world stage, now a far more parlous place for his ineptitude and dithering.

The very real and present danger is that matters threaten to grow rapidly worse, because not only does ISIS make Al-Qaeda appear pussycats, their manifesto is to export terror worldwide, once they’ve established a Sharia caliphate across a swathe of Syria and Iraq.

The irony of all ironies is only one nation has sufficient military and diplomatic muscle to halt their charge and lift the West off the peg it’s impaled upon: Iran.

Through its religious ties, only it has the ears of Maliki and Assad, whose Alawite sect is a Shia offshoot.

However unedifying, the notion of Tehran’s terror-mongers and ‘The Great Satan’ of the USA finding common cause is increasing from possibility to probability, as back-channel chatter between the two is said to be buzzing.

The threat is not lost on Iran’s arch foe, Saudi Arabia, whose ambassador to Britain, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf al-Saud, warned last week, ‘There must be no meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs, not by us or by the US, the UK or any other government.’

If a US-Iran alliance does come to pass, though, any slender hope of Obama leaving a legacy of a peace-maker president will be forever tarnished.

No wonder they’re busy passing the soap in the White House and Whitehall.

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How Iran conned the trusting West into the great Geneva ‘giveaway’

AT around 5 a.m. a week last Saturday, when the various parties yawned their way through the obligatory photo-shoot after the night-long charade that passed as ‘nuclear peace talks’ in Geneva, who had the most to smile about?

It was a no-contest, because the jubilant grins, lit up like a torchlight procession of skiers descending a Swiss Alp, all belonged to the Iranians.

And the biggest winner wasn’t even there. The crafty, turbaned 74-year-old, Ali Khamenei, a religious fanatic who styles himself Supreme Leader, was sitting several thousand miles away in Tehran, no doubt stroking his beard, eyes agleam at how the UN-anointed delegation of pliant diplomats, the P5+1, could be so easily conned.

After a decade of deceit, deception and time-wasting, the world’s premier purveyor of terror had won the most decisive war of words with the West since Hitler convinced Neville Chamberlain back in 1938 his intentions towards Czechoslovakia were entirely honourable and pigs could fly.

So, following the shameful Munich Pact, say hello to the great Geneva ‘giveaway’. And, replacing the plucky Czechs, insert Israel, Saudi Arabia and most Sunni Muslim states, including Jordan and Egypt – in fact, all the West’s Middle East allies, who’ll be the first fall-guys in Obama’s gamble on appeasing a rogue state that doesn’t even bother to hide an ambition to extend its headbanging hegemony across the world’s powder keg.

No surprise, then, that the bunting also went up throughout the Islamic Republic’s vassal states: Iraq, where Shiite lackeys suppress Sunnis, Christians and Kurds; Syria, where Iranian arms and manpower underwrite the repellent Assad mafia; and Lebanon, indirectly ruled by Iran via its cutthroat proxies, Hezbollah.

NUCLEAR WINNER: Iran's Foreign Minister, Javid xxxxxx, has much to smile about after Iran again duped the P5+1

NUCLEAR WINNER: Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, has much to smile about after Iran again duped the UN-backed P5+1

Oh, and let’s not forget how it was hailed as a triumph by those woolly-minded bien pensants, the trusting Left-leaners, who’d give Beelzebub a free pass for inventing the Seven Deadly Sins. If they’re clapping, you know something’s gone badly pear-shaped.

So what precisely is the much-trumpeted deal that’ll prelude ‘peace in our time’ and had the Iranians believing they were floating on a Persian carpet to nuclear paradise, after a decade of biting sanctions?

From its narrow perspective, they insist it entitles them to continue developing dubious nuclear hardware it denied for years it ever had in defiance of six UN resolutions; au contraire, says the P5+1 – purblind America, a supine UK, the occasionally feisty French, scheming Russia and China, plus Germany – who claim they’ve rolled Iran back in exchange for easing financial manacles.

But, without digging deep into the nitty-gritty, here’s how one, independent US foreign policy analyst explained it, ‘Iran will get to pocket billions in [sanction] relief, use the funds to stabilize its economy, bolster its nuclear program and fund its global terror network.’

Indeed, that sentiment was echoed by Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, who said the deal – ‘cave-in’ is more apt – represented ‘a big success for Iran.’

Underlining victory, he told Iran’s parliament last week that work would even continue on the Arak heavy water, plutonium plant in direct contravention of the P5+1 agreement.

But was it ever going to be anything than thus?  Short answer: No.

Because President Obama’s skewered vision of Western foreign policy has tilted 180 degrees on its axis in favour of opponents, not proponents.

Admittedly, especially in the Cold War era, some ‘friends’ – Chinese nationalist warlord, Chiang Kai-shek, the Shah of Iran and, briefly, Saddam Hussein spring to mind – were not exactly paragons of democratic virtue.

However, this most naïve of US leaders’ belief that he can placate lunatic, Islamic extremists is the most deranged, fanciful gambit of modern times, because they represent a bloc that not only vilifies the West, but has the avowed intention of destroying it.

Simply put, there cannot be a happy accommodation with radical, repressive, expansionist theocrats, who want a new world order based on a 7th Century credo, which defines Western liberalism as decadent, inferior and ungodly.

So an interim deal that’s just a dab on the footbrake of Iran’s headlong rush to tool itself up with nuclear goodies is about as useful as putting a nappy on an elephant.

And the question that shrieks to be answered is: if tough sanctions were working, why shelve them just on the dodgy premise the maverick Iranians – who freely admit they’ve brazenly lied in the past – will keep to a deal they’re already unpicking at the seams?

Meanwhile, in leading the world down Appeasement Avenue, another facet of Obama’s flawed psyche has surfaced: he’s shown he’s not averse to a tad of skulduggery either.

It’s now emerged that his sidekicks held back-channel talks with the Iranians – and, apparently, Hezbollah – for 12 months to slick up the detail, while the perfidious president lied through his pearly teeth to erstwhile allies that all’s well and will end well. Only he neglected to say for whom.

REPEAT ROUTE: US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, failed to rein in the North Koreans and fails again with Iran

REPEAT DEFEAT: US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, failed to rein in the North Koreans and fails again with Iran

Students of diplomatic cock-ups will remember how President Bill Clinton once tried to stymie North Korea’s nuclear ambitions in 2001, only to end up being suckered.

Kim Jong Il, the Beloved Leader of the pariah state and, unsurprisingly, a playmate of Iran’s Supreme Leader – don’t these loony despots adore grandiose titles – promised not to produce, test or deploy missiles and halt the export of nuclear technology.

Clinton’s chief coordinator, Wendy Sherman, noted then that Kim ‘appears ready to make landmark commitments’.

Alas, appearances can be deceptive and, predictably, the North Koreans reneged on every promise they made.

Ironically, witless Wendy was tasked by the visionary Obama to reprise her stunning debacle, this time with the Iranians. So, small wonder they’re cock-a-hoop.

Meanwhile, the US President looks still more a busted flush, his credibility holed below the waterline over the humbling, bumbling Middle East shambles created under his watch, while his ratings at home plummet to near-record lows.

At a seminal moment in world history, clearly Obama and his appointees – especially Sherman – are ignorant of the wisdom of Spanish philosopher-poet, George Santayana.

Just for the record, a century ago he wrote, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

Q: Where’s the Arab League in the Middle East mess? A: Leading from the back, as usual

They gather in august conclave, preening princes in sumptuous, flowing robes seated beside elegantly-tailored tyrants and military strongmen, clad in uniforms so adorned with medals, they’re in danger of keeling over.

They pose, ponder and prevaricate – fudging issues appears to be their natural inclination – before ending the charade of unity with a sabre-rattling declaration that is as worthless as the paper it’s scrawled on.

This is the Arab League: 21 nations, covering 13 million square kilometres, ranging from Mauritania, on the Atlantic coast in the far west, to Oman, whose shores are lapped by the Arabian Sea in the extreme east.

Sandwiched in between are the ‘super powers’: Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and – until its suspension two years ago – the odious Al-Assad family fiefdom of Syria, a pariah state even by the Middle East’s appalling standards of disregard for basic human rights.

The League represents over 400 million people, although ‘represents’ is a misnomer, since the overwhelming majority of Arabs have not an iota of democratic influence on whatever their monarchs, dictators or military juntas discuss, decide or do.

The members’ authority within the organisation varies according to its wealth or size of populace. Oil-bejewelled Saudi and the Gulf emirates, for instance, wield enormous political muscle, while Egypt – whose 85 million inhabitants make it the region’s most populated nation – was the crucible of militarism, until the ructions of the Arab Spring/Islamic Winter.

Formed in 1945, the League’s stated aim was to ‘to safeguard members’ independence and sovereignty, to consider in, general ways, how to draw closer the relations between states and co-ordinate collaboration between the Arab countries.’

BELEAGUERED LEAGUE: Member states of the Arab League, though Syria is suspended

BELEAGUERED LEAGUE: Member states of the Arab League, though Syria is suspended

Until this day, these noble goals have achieved little to say the most. And, apart from the largesse heaped by the petroleum realms on their citizens to buy obedience, the League has demonstrated such manifest incompetence, it couldn’t douse a fire in a matchbox.

In short, the League is a travesty of self-interest. It is an exclusive club of despots, whose sole purpose is to retain power, exert disproportionate sway over the oil-buying West – especially in that chamber-pot of irrelevance, the United Nations – and disregard the just aspirations of their peoples.

And Europe, the USA and Russia are – and have been – complicit in helping this disassembly of autocrats to continue and prosper.

First, Britain and France carved up the Middle East into artificial states in the wake of World War One, the British imposing foreign monarchs – think Jordan and Iraq – on disparate clans and tribes, with nothing in common, except perhaps, timeless vendettas and religious animus.

Secondly, with American foreign policy designed to check the power of Russia, the West armed the Arabs to the teeth – as it continues to do, with abiding ignorance and negligence – propping up regimes, whose values are crudely medieval.

And, for all its pretentions to solidarity, the bickering, back-biting League can agree on only one topic: the annihilation of Israel and the legitimate Jewish state’s replacement by a Palestinian entity, with the iffiest historical claims to territory.

Three major wars – in 1948, 1967 and 1973 – ended in ignominy for the Arabs. But, instead of seeing the massive peace dividend from an accommodation with the ‘can-do’ Israelis, too many of the League’s tyrants remain obsessed with maligning it on the world stage, indulging in the crudest anti-Semitism, and funding extremist terror.

For decades, the counterproductive tactic of using the one nation in the neighbourhood, where Arabs enjoy freedoms that are non-existent in Arab countries, was a highly convenient sideshow that worked a treat.

GOING NOWHERE: Arab League members meet - and rarely come up with a solution to problems

LEAGUE OF SELF-INTEREST: Arab leaders meet – and rarely come up with a solution to the Arab world’s problems

The so-called Arab Street was hypnotised and propagandised into believing the Jews were the font of all their ills – poverty, lack of education, joblessness and general deprivation.

Not any longer. The advent of the internet, which even local tyrants can’t suppress, has opened up a window of enlightenment and a kernel of hope is taking root in a desert of human despair.

Repressed people everywhere can read Western opinions that don’t kow-tow to their governments, learn of liberties, of fundamental rights enshrined in laws, of progress and opportunity, not forgetting the benefits, responsibilities and challenges of democracy, warts and all.

So, regardless of whichever brand of Islam, Shia or Sunni, they subscribe to, awareness is growing – as demonstrated in Egypt, Syria and Tunisia – and it is becoming apparent to many Arabs that the reason for their third-class lot is not Israel.

This slither of land the size of the state of New Jersey being populated by a born-again nation with a biblical imperative to be there may be a thorn in Arab pride, but the rapacious lust for power and greed for riches of their masters is the true reason they inhabit a lesser world.

The genie is out of the bottle now and, as Syria’s Assad resorts to unimagined levels of barbarity in a civil war that began as a cri de coeur for democracy, the League’ impotency  is exposed again for its ineptitude and self-interest.

A half-hearted attempt at mediation in 2011 by Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir – himself an alleged war criminal – flopped. So the League resorted to its default setting of wanting the West to sort out the mess by military means, just as it did apropos Mad Dog Gaddafi in Libya.

A resolution passed at a meeting in Cairo last week urged the United Nations and international community to ‘take the deterrent and necessary measures against the culprits of this crime [the gassing of the innocents] that the Syrian regime bears responsibility for.’

The League – too timid and dysfunctional to allow its own forces to get their hands dirty – desperately needs some form of Western intervention, not merely to slap down Assad, but to send a blunt message to his puppet-masters in Iran, where the Armageddon-seeking ayatollahs continue their game-changing quest for nuclear weaponry.

So, as usual, once again the Arab League is doing what it does and does best: leading from the back.

Doing your bit now for Syria is too little, too late, Mr. President

As the weight of history leans ever more heavily on his shoulder – and no US President wants to leave office looking like a ‘wuss’ – Barack Obama is about to shed his conflict aversion.

‘Stop leading from behind,’ his friends chorus apropos Syria’s civil war, while ex-President Bill Clinton is even more critical, describing his Democratic Party successor as a ‘fool’ and that word, ‘wuss’ (a term I’m unfamiliar with, but can’t help thinking it’s not a compliment).

Obama’s problem is two-fold: firstly, his default setting is that of a liberal conciliator, who, for all his silver-tongued oratory, would rather shut up than put up; secondly, he slavishly follows opinion polls, which Slick Willy says isn’t the hallmark of a true leader.

Because, of all US Commanders in Chief, Clinton knows there are limits to navel-gazing, as he admitted – with teary regret – after shutting his eyes to the Rwanda genocide. That was why he finally ignored the people’s voice, took up military cudgels and sorted out the Bosnia-Kosovo mess, after Europe and the UN had lamentably failed.

The Syrian bloodbath, however, is riddled by complexities that threaten the worst of worse-case scenarios. Plus, coming as it does when the West is untangling itself from controversial engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq – after an Arab Spring that has transited into an Islamic Winter – no-one wants a Cold War-style stand-off.

But, while Obama’s policy of wait and berate may have seemed laudable after G ‘Dubya’ Bush’s gung-ho era, sitting on the sidelines, manicured fingers crossed that Syria’s goody rebels – not those nasty Al-Qaeda types – would topple the detestable Bashar Assad, is growing a remoter possibility by the day.

STAYING GLUM: Obama ponders over arming the Syrian rebels

STAYING GLUM: Obama ponders over arming the Syrian rebels

And now the President has fallen into a trap of his own making. When, last August, he threatened ‘red lines’ would be crossed if the Demon of Damascus ever resorted to chemical weapons, Obama should have realised it would only be a matter of time before that likelihood happened and the snare was triggered.

It has been, even if Bashar’s Russian buddies claim evidence is flimsy.

In reality, so far perhaps only a few hundred Syrians have been victims of gassing, probably by sarin. And while I don’t denigrate that appalling statistic, Obama’s stress on bio-warfare being a game-changer somehow diminishes the other 93,000 fatalities, whose deaths by conventional weapons were mostly far grislier than from anything concocted in a laboratory.

To be fair, the off-the-cuff , ‘red lines’ remark to journalists was made when the rebels – under the banner of the secularly moderate Syrian National Council (SNC) – looked short-odds favourites to win and fears were growing the maverick regime would break open its biological arsenal and stage a gory last stand.

Less than a year on, however, the tables are turning dramatically in Assad’s favour, after worse dangers than the sporadic use of nerve agents have exploded onto the bloodletting.

On one side, thousands of Shiite fanatics from Hezbollah have streamed over the Lebanese border to prop up the despot and they are being joined by an estimated 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards, all tooled up with increasingly sophisticated Russian weaponry.

In the rebel corner, provisioned by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, countless, rabidly Sunni jihadis from every corner of the globe, including Britain, have flooded into Syria, itching to take a swipe at Assad and his foreign legion.

FIGHTING BACK: But anti-Assad rebels are looking to the West to arm them

FIGHTING BACK: But anti-Assad rebels are looking to the West to arm them

It is these combined alien elements, not gas, that have proved the real game-changer. And, far from being internecine strife, Syria has become the battleground for a proxy war between Islam’s opposing ideologies.

Now – after Obama’s failure at last week’s G8 confab to talk Vladimir Putin into halting Russia’s ‘arms-lift’ to Assad – thanks to his ‘red lines’ warning, the US President is faced with a humiliating volte face or putting his munitions where his mouth is.

The nightmare fear is that US weaponry will fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates and eventually be used against the West. Certainly, nobody with a modicum of marbles has forgotten Afghanistan, where the CIA equipped the mujahedeen against the Soviets and Osama bin Laden was regarded as a ‘good guy’, a fact chillingly underlined by Putin.

So the talk is of supplying limited battlefield technology, maybe light arms plus anti-tank missiles, and pray a diplomatic miracle – one of the magnitude of Obama walking on the nearby lake – will somehow happen if a Geneva peace conference slated for later this month takes place.

Should it do, the likelihood is everyone will turn up, with the possible exception of the adversaries. Having clawed back the initiative, Assad has nothing to gain by making an appearance. And the SNC, who certainly don’t speak for all the rebel factions, insist on the tyrant retreating into ignominious exile before they’ll come for a natter.

Far from a ushering in a breakthrough, the meeting’s chances of success can best be summarised by an expression incorporating the words ‘snowball’, ‘chance’ and ‘Hell’.

Meanwhile, with an eye to his legacy, Obama won’t want to be remembered as a Jimmy Carter Mark II, though there’s every danger he will.

Imitating probably the most inept, post-WW2 occupant of the White House – who blundered monumentally in the Iran Hostages Crisis with a botched rescue mission and was serially incompetent in handling the US economy – Obama missed a real window of opportunity to halt the Syrian carnage more than a year ago.

Urged on by his then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Pentagon top brass to outfit the rebels when their fortunes were soaring and they weren’t infested by Islamist headbangers, he dithered, dallied and did nothing.

Today, then, it’s nigh on impossible for the President to make a moral, humanitarian case for intervention, because that time has elapsed.

The best Obama can hope for is to claim, ‘Well, I did my bit.’

But whatever that bit is, it’s a bit too little and a lot too late.

A siren voice in the Middle East madness signals a glimmer of hope and sanity

Incredible as it may seem at this critical juncture, could I have detected a tiny glimmer of hope amid the chaos and lunacy of the carnage-strewn Middle East?

Not that Shiite and Sunni, Palestinian and Israeli, Arab and Jew are all suddenly going to embrace each other warmly, cooing ‘Salaam’ and ‘Shalom’. On the contrary: tragically, there’s no denying much more blood will be spilt before the pipe dream of peace comes true, if ever fully.

No, the script will continue apace, after disparate anti-Assad fighters forged an iffy alliance in Doha early this month, the fragmented opposition agreeing to combine under the Soviet-sounding nom de guerre of The National Coalition Forces of the Syrian Revolution. With Al Qaeda extremist and raving Salafists in its ranks, skeptics aren’t betting it’ll enjoy a long life.

In the meantime – having already overflowed into Turkey and Jordan, where thousands of Syrian refugees have fled their odious regime’s killing machine – the conflict is engulfing Lebanon, where Iranian-backed proxies of the terrorist franchise, Hizbollah, hold the country by its throat.

Israel has done its best to stay above the fray, despite Syrian army tank rounds, mortar shells and stray bullets landing in its territory. But now they, too, have been shanghaied into taking defensive action on their southern flank.

With nearly 800 rocket attacks targeted at its civilians so far this year up to the beginning of November from Hamas’s terror enclave in Gaza – missiles smuggled in from Libya, Iran and Sudan and seriously lethal ordnance – it’s small wonder Israel felt compelled to take out the terror-monger-in-chief, Ahmed Jaabari, on Wednesday.

READY TO FIRE: Hamas terrorists prepare another rocket fussilade to further provoke Israel

But what did Hamas expect by deliberately provoking an Israeli defensive retaliation with a rocket blitz?

As usual, they escalated the violence for PR gain, but the real reason is they want to test the new-found power of their sponsors and armourers, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, who swept to control after Egypt’s overthrow of the Mubarak mob.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the Palestine Authority’s inept boss and arch foe of Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas, is ignoring all sage advice by preparing a second bid for fig-leaf statehood at the UN, knowing it will kybosh any hopes of reigniting talks with Jerusalem.

Chuck into the mix maniacal Iran’s obsession with developing a nuclear weapon that will guarantee them bully-boy status over the Middle East if only they can only annihilate Israel – in your dreams, Ahmadinejad – and the perfect storm continues to foment.

So the status quo is worsened and – unlike their creative, medieval predecessors – today’s Arabs can appear guilty of seeming unable to organise a fondu party in a funfair, so factionalised and fractious are they over ancient tribal and religious enmities among themselves.

Hence, with an Arab Spring now turned Islamic Winter, where’s this glimmer of hope I mentioned? So, consider the following carefully:-

The Arab world wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of innocent lives fighting Israel, which they considered is their sworn enemy, an enemy whose existence they never recognized.

‘The Arab world has many enemies and Israel should have been at the bottom of the list.

‘The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives and finally, the Arab world had many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people.

‘These dictators’ atrocities against their own people are far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars.’

These aren’t my words, though I fully endorse the sentiments. No, they emanate from Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, who goes on to state tellingly, ‘If many of the Arab states are in such disarray, we should contrast them with Israel.

‘It now has the most advanced research facilities, top universities and infrastructure. Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of Palestinians living in Israel is far greater than in many Arab states and they enjoy far greater political and social freedom than many of their Arab brothers.

‘Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank enjoy more political and social rights than in some parts of the Arab world.’

VOICE OF REASON: Saudi journalist Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

So who is this Abdulateef Al-Mulhim and is his a siren voice of reason in the Arab wilderness, where hatred is common currency and unyielding Islamo-fascists are increasingly calling the shots?

Strangely, he is a retired commodore of the Saudi navy, now a columnist in Arab News, the oil-rich desert kingdom’s first English-language newspaper.

Given the implacably Sunni Muslim House of Saud isn’t a renowned advocate of a free Press or human rights, it is bizarre Al-Mulhim was permitted to express such heretical opinions. So they must have passed muster with a censor high up the Saudi bling chain.

Al-Mulhim’s comments – and their obvious official sanction – represent a glimmer of blue-sky thinking by the ultra-conservative Saudi establishment. And it’s a sign, too, they are getting a tad hotter under their kaffiyehs about what’s long been brewing on the Iranian Shiite side of the Persian Gulf.

As small acorns become imposing oaks, many Middle East watchers are intrigued by what they perceive may be an ever-so-slight thaw between the Saudis and the Israelis, since Al-Mulhim has called into doubt the one, abiding distraction uniting Arabs: eradicating Israel.

The three wars they instigated against the Jewish state – in 1948, 1967 and 1973 – all resulted in ignominious loss, along with large tranches of territory that Israel negotiated back to Egypt and Jordan in exchange for ‘cold’ peace deals.

Abbas, however, hasn’t shown he’s serious about such accommodations, much to the satisfaction of his glee club of purblind, Left-liberal luvvies, whose credo is echoed daily by the anti-Zionist cheerleaders at The Guardian, BBC and New York Times.

The luvvies, of course, will continue to pretend that Israel is still the nub of all Middle East woes and 250 million Arabs will make love, not war when those five million stubborn Jews disappear in a second Holocaust and the Palestinians reclaim a ‘homeland’ that was never their birthright in the first place.

Al-Mulhim has shot that proposition down in flames, as if to say ‘It’s not Israel, stupid’; that’s just been a convenient sideshow, camouflaging the real problem of tyrants suppressing their people.

While I’m not naive enough to imagine such ideological foes as Saudi Arabia and Israel can kiss and make up, a chink of light has broken through the gloom, even if it is largely based on the premise that my enemy’s enemy is my friend.

It might never guarantee total peace, but if back-channel diplomacy can unite Saudi influence with Israeli can-do, it could put the brakes on an unfolding calamity exploding into an apocalypse.