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Rice sees 'opportunity' for a 'New Middle East' in the Lebanon crisis

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U.S Secretary of State Condi Rice, when questioned on MTP yesterday, expanded on the president's assertion that the Middle East conflict presented a "moment of opportunity." Rice told Russert that she sees "opportunity in crisis."

"I would think that if people look back on the history of how things have changed," she said, "they will recognize that opportunity very often comes out of crisis."

Rice said at the beginning of the conflict that she wants to shape a 'new Middle East' out of the Lebanon disaster. The call for a "New Middle East" only confirms the fears of those in the region that the U.S. goal all along was to weaken Arab influence and expand Israel's. Together with this notion of an opportunity to be had out of the suffering and devastation, the U.S. seems to be positioning itself to take advantage of Israel's assault and invasion of Lebanon in which they were seen as giving their ally a 'green light' to continue their bloody airstrikes by their refusal to call for an immediate cease-fire, and by waiting so long to travel to the region as Israel's reprisals slaughtered hundreds of innocent Lebanese civilians.

Rather than just focusing on the prosecution of Hizbollah, Rice (and the U.S.) will now be seen as muckraking for regime change with their support of Israel's devastating assault on Lebanese territory and infrastructure. This, I predict will cause more in Lebanon to view the routing of Hizbollah as a pretext to Israeli expansion backed by the U.S.

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For all of those who maintain that there's no linkage between Israel's actions and the U.S., Rice's proclamation of a "New Middle East" will eliminate any argument they may have used to mollify the other Arab interests in the region who have expressed alarm at the scope and breadth of the military campaign. Clearly, the U.S. will now be seen as an integral part of any action Israel undertakes. That's not going to make them any more amenable to any agreement to dismantle the militarized organization. It will drive the Lebanese and others to favor or tolerate those who would stand up to Israel and the U.S., like these splinter groups are doing; like Syria has the capacity to do.

As the Bush regime calls for a "New Middle East", while, at the same time, encouraging and supporting Israel's invasion of Lebanon, they provoke the 'old' Mideast to new and more pernicious means of defense against U.S. imperialism.

"Anyone who wants to argue that the Middle East that has been left behind was one that was stable . . ." Rice argued on MTP, ". . . I think they'll have to make an argument that that was a good Middle East that should have been left untouched."

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Yet, one of our partners in the region, Saudi Arabia, countered Rice's call for a "new Mideast" with a call for the restoration of the old. Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said, "We would like to return to the old Middle East as we did not see anything in the new Middle East apart from more problems." Saud cited the Qana massacre that claimed the lives of 62 people, mostly women and children, as an tragedy which should have compelled the world to call for an immediate cease-fire.

"The Middle East is not an uninhabited area," he argued, "it has people, governments and our destiny is determined after God's will by its people."

"Yes," Rice told Russert, "it is a time of tremendous turbulence in the Middle East, it's a time of change in the Middle East, and the United States has an obligation to-now to try and, on the basis of the work that has been done, construct and help those in the Middle East construct a better Middle East, there's no doubt about that . . . The notion that there is not opportunity within crisis is ahistorical."

Ahistorical? I don't know about that. But, I do know that folks should feel mighty suspicious when the US comes to give a hand when they're down, with the Bush regime looking to make a U.S. conceived 'opportunity' out of their misfortune.

Russert confronted Rice with the criticism of former Bush administration official, Richard Haass, who he said, laughed at the president's public optimism. "An opportunity?" Russert quoted Haass as saying, "If this is an opportunity, what's Iraq? A once-in-a-lifetime chance?'"

"You know, Tim," Rice countered, "the Chinese have a character for crisis. It's weiji-danger and opportunity. I think they have it right. Every crisis has within it danger, but every crisis also has within it opportunity. And this president is determined to seize opportunities, to bring about a different kind of Middle East"

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The Chinese do have such a character, but Rice misinterprets the meaning of the blended Chinese 'letters'. The word, 'weiji' is made up of two characters, "wei" and "ji." Although "wei" does mean danger, "ji" doesn't necessarily mean "opportunity. The 'ji' of 'weiji,' is translated as an incipient moment; a moment of change. Simply put, weiji describes a moment of danger; something which doesn't seem to be fully appreciated by Rice and the rest of the Bush regime. All they see is an opportunity to exploit the crisis to fit their mold and ambition to expand America's influence in the Mideast; now an 'opportunity' made possible by Israel's violent progression toward the territory of their nemesis Syria.

"The administration has an irrational fear that talking is a sign of weakness," Russert told Rice. "Why not go to Syria and talk directly to the Syrians?"

Rice countered that there was an embassy in Syria, but failed to mention that the U.S. had withdrawn our ambassador there over the Hariri assassination months ago. "The problem isn't talking to Syria," Rice answered, "The problem is that Syria doesn't act when people talk to them."

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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price

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