Jim Baker’s abysmal track record in diplomacy – in contrast to his impressive business and political track record – suggests that the implementation of his “Iraq Study Group” recommendations would benefit anti-US rogue regimes and harm pro-US moderate elements, while undermining vital US interests.
In 1990, the Texan Deal Maker lured Assad into the anti-Saddam Coalition, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. He overlooked Assad’s leadership role in international terrorism, showered the Butcher of Hama with international legitimacy, alluded to potential US assistance to Syria, and gave Assad a free hand in Lebanon. In response to Baker’s “Pragmatism”, Assad refrained from assisting the US war on Saddam, but completed Syrian occupation of Lebanon, massacred thousands of Lebanese and violently replaced an anti-Syrian Christian Administration with a pro-Syrian puppet Administration in Beirut. The ripple effects of Baker’s “Pragmatism” still reverberate in crumbling Lebanon.
During the 1980s and until the 1990 Kuwait’s invasion by Saddam, Baker referred to the latter as a “constructive leader,” worthy of US cooperation: “The enemy of my enemy (Iran) is my friend (Iraq).” Consequently, Baker downplayed Saddam’s well-documented horrific belligerency against Iran (1980 invasion) and against Iraq’s own Shiites and Kurds, extended to him $5BN in loan guarantees and EXIM Bank credits, authorized the release of sensitive dual-use technologies to Baghdad, encouraged intelligence-sharing with Iraq, and signaled to Saddam – in April 1990 – that a potential invasion to Kuwait would be considered, by the USA, “an inter-Arab issue.”
Energized by Baker’s “Green Light”, Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990, threatening to sweep Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Jordan. Taking advantage of Baker’s “Realism”, Saddam brutally suppressed a 1991 Shiite uprising (which was let down by the US Administration), and rebuilt its capabilities, which were devastated during the 1991 war. The “Realist” did not realize that – in the unpredictable, violent Mideast – “the enemy of my enemy (Iran) could be my enemy (Iraq).” The aftershocks of Baker’s non-realization are still pounding the region.
During the late 1980s and until the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Baker was preoccupied with the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He considered Arafat (before the 1993 Oslo Accord!) an essential partner to a peace process. Hence, he turned a blind eye toward Arafat’s record of (mostly inter-Arab) treachery and terrorism, pandered to the PLO, attempted to break the back of Israel’s Prime Minister Shamir, denied Shamir $10BN loan guarantees (not cash!) for the absorption of Soviet Jewry, convinced President Bush to threaten to veto (or avoid implementation of) any pro-Israeli legislation proposed on Capitol Hill, pressured Israel to freeze Jewish settlements and to roll back to the 1949 Lines, and accused Israel in obstructing the prospects of peace. Responding to Baker’s policy of appeasement, the PLO supplied Saddam with vital intelligence which facilitated the invasion of Kuwait. PLO units in Iraq participated in the invasion and plunder of Kuwait, and the PLO/PA has remained – until today – loyal to Saddam, Ben-Laden and other anti-US rogue regimes.
In 2006, Jim Baker perceives Iran (especially) and Syria – two leading terrorist states – to be a potential asset in moderating the Iraqi Street. In order to realize the Iran/Syria potential, he is willing to enhance their maneuverability. The implementation of Baker’s recommendations would accelerate Iran’s nuclearization process, which would transform Saudi Arabia and the Gulf State into Iranian hostages, would relief Assad off a growing international pressure and isolation, would threaten the survival of the regimes in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, and would force Israel into a unilateral military action, in order to avert the existential Iranian nuclear threat.
Baker’s failures have been the result of a series of refuted assumptions: That rogue regimes prefer a tempting deal over their own ideology, that the Palestinian issue is the crux of Mideast violence and anti-US terrorism, that one can achieve peaceful-coexistence with determined rogue regimes, that the Arab-Israeli conflict evolve around Israel’s size rather than Israel’s existence, and that the US could pay with an “Israeli Currency” (of sweeping concessions) for improved ties with the Arab and Muslim world.
As evidenced by Baker’s track record, wrong assumptions produce wrong policy conclusions, which add fuel to the fire of terrorism, undermining vital US interests and eroding the national security of pro-US regimes in the Mideast.
Baker’s determination to achieve deal-at-any-price has caused him to sacrifice long-term vital concerns on the altar of short-term tenuous illusions.
However, Jim Baker is determined to learn from history by repeating – rather than avoiding – past critical strategic errors.
Will US and Israel adopt Baker’s “Pragmatism”, “Realism”, Even-Handedness and Moral Equivalence, or will the leader of the Free World and its sole soul ally in the Mideast stick to a long-term conviction-driven vision, paved by moral and strategic clarity, making a clear distinction between enemies and allies?!