North Africa in Flames wheat diplomacy to curb the sharp rise in the price of bread ~ is the strongest card we have to play
Let there be no doubt, that the prospect of three Iranian-style regimes emerging in North Africa and the destabilising effect such a development would foster is untenable Eric LaMont Gregory
Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Yemen and Syria are each in the mist of potentially regime-toppling destabilising internal upheaval that could engulf three continents. Long established internal tensions have been exasperated within these southern Mediterranean and Near East nations as a result of rising food prices. Soaring food costs, especially the price of bread, is now a problem that is engulfing Africa from north to south, the Middle East, Central, South as well as South East Asia, and is spreading.
Our concern is foremost an interest in stability and therefore, the situation in Albania, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Malaysia, Indonesia Zimbabwe, South Africa and Haiti each with the momentum to tip the balance of power in those nations, will require our attention. Although outwardly and superficially the tensions in these nations may appear different, they have in common the desire amongst their populations for change.
The tendency of peoples who want change to be inspired by those actively seeking change is why the Chinese government is trying to cut-off access to news about these developing events from their own people.
And, in part, and with awareness of certain recently leaked diplomatic chatter, and the knowledge that the North African regimes under threat have held their own populations in check, in part, by asserting that their existence was necessary to fulfil the dream of a violent end to the Palestinian question, the so-called driving Israel into the sea.
The drought, heat wave and brush fires of August destroyed the 2010 wheat crop in Russia and the Ukraine. The wheat crop was also devastated in Canada, albeit as a result of too much rain, rather than too little.
The massive shortfall in world wheat supplies and on-going devaluation of the US Dollar has resulted in the price of wheat rising faster than at anytime since 1973, with a 50% price increase in many places since June 2010. Those North African, and Middle Eastern nations who depend on Russia and Canada for wheat are the same nations that felt the wheat crisis first, and as other nations also dependent on wheat from the same sources experience soaring bread prices they too have experienced domestic unrest.
Food shortages have brought other grievances to the surface in these countries.
In northern Africa, with the vast majority of the population coming to the realisation that the dream of an Israel-free Middle East was a tool of internal control, and the veil of that lie having been lifted, frustrations with these regimes and the knowledge that the decades of going without was without purpose, have and are uncompromisingly challenging their respective leaders. Hunger has a way of clarifying relationships.
These popular uprisings are just that, largely unorganised and highly spontaneous out-pourings of pent up frustrations, sparked by the sharp increase in the price of food and other commodities.
In these days of instant worldwide communications, an increasingly information exchange not under the exclusive control of governments, the people of Tunisia who experienced the wheat shortage earlier than other nations, were acutely aware that in spite of the call for an airlift to Haiti by Sarah Palin, America appeared unwilling to come to the aid of a country on their own doorstep, so there was little chance of the USA coming to the aid of more distant people in distress.
People outside the USA are more acutely aware of the relationship between wheat price supports and the mechanisms that trigger the release of wheat and other food aid, than most Americans. The hostility to Palin, in many nations suffering food shortages and rising food prices was seen as hostility to Palin's call for emergency aid to Haiti. To those experiencing ruinously high food prices this was a sign that no aid in their own crisis was forthcoming from the United States. Kissinger understood that crises have a tendency to draw otherwise disparate relationships into rather clear associations - linkage. And, putting these disparate factors together has resulted in hostility to regimes friendly or even neutral to the United States.
How did we get here?
In 1981, a land for peace deal was concluded between Israel and Egypt which called for Israel to return the Sinai, which it had captured from Egypt in the Six-day War in June 1967. There was a city of some twenty thousand people in the Sinai approximately half Israelis and half Palestinian. The people who lived there wanted to continue to do so. An example of peaceful coexistence between Arab and Jew.
The land for peace deal had begun in the Carter Administration, Sadat in Egypt, and Begin in Israel. It was concluded by Reagan, Mubarak and Begin. Sadat was gunned down and Carter lost the election to Reagan because of his inability to get the American hostages out of Iran. George Mitchell played a role from the beginning but as a Democrat would have little influence in the Republican Administration of Reagan.
I saw the city in the Sinai as a example one of the ingredients that had to come about if peace was, is, ever to come to the Middle East, and that is, that some Israelis will have to live under Palestinian civil administrative authority, and some Palestinians will have to live under Israeli civil administrative authority. And, this city stood as an example of Israelis wanting to live under Egyptian rule, as the Egyptians who lived there from 1967 to 1981 had lived under Israeli rule.
In democracies, and republics who protect the rights of minorities, neither ethnicity nor religion are incompatible with peaceful coexistence.
I contacted all concerned with this basic argument: If we look forward and imagine the result of pouring the billions and billions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on war into developing the Sinai, the Sinai in a decade or so would rival southern California in productivity and prosperity and would then make a fitting homeland for the Palestinians.
Begin had security concerns, to Reagan and Thatcher this was a matter for Begin and Mubarak, and Mitchell played no significant role in the Reagan administration. Mubarak who answered me through the Egyptian delegation in Geneva, stated that "Egypt was for Egyptians." Begin forcibly removed all Israeli citizens, Mubarak evacuted all the Egyptians and Palestinians who had come to live in this small village from Gaza and the West Bank; and this singularly unique symbol of peaceful coexistence was bulldozed to the ground.
I wrote then Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss with him a development on the West Bank. A series of TV programmes were being aired on British, French and other European TV stations of interviews with Palestinian parents openly criticising the leaders of Hamas, El Fatah, and Hezbollah. The basic message in these interviews was that the leaders of the terrorist groups were not so dedicated to the cause to blow themselves up, but were willing to use their sons and increasingly daughters to do their bidding for them. Such open criticism of these groups and their leaders was unprecedented. The response from foggy bottom was profound silence.
Here was an opportunity for us to engage with voices of reason on the West Bank and in Gaza and begin to counter with low intensity operations the dogma of conflict and enforced non-development the militant leaders use to further their aims.
The West Bank Palestinian Authority announces plans to begin a series of housing developments on the West Bank. Our response should have been; yes!, what can we do to help. Yet another chance for us to engage in a positive developments. And, in an area where the lack of development, critical housing shortages, educational opportunities, and employment prospects feeds the notion of the impossibility of peace in the region.
While the Congress and the Senate sit in directionless malaise anticipating obstruction as a goal and not as a means, and as the State Department grapples to come up with the slightest inkling of an intelligent response to grave occurences; organised militants taking advantage of the spontaneous food shortage protests who are bent upon establishing Iran-style, terror sponsoring, strict Islamic regimes in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt plan their takeovers as the current regimes falter and fall. The sudden release of and escape of numerous Islamic militants imprisoned by the Mubarak government is worrisome.
And, as the armies of the USA, Israel, Iran, Russia, and China continue to increase their levels of readiness and alert; all eyes are on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. US monetary policies are driving food and other commodity prices higher and higher, and as they climb so will the degree of instability in the affected nations.
We cannot, we must not allow an insensitive press to guide American foreign policy. The world sees an America, a divisive America, that has turned its back to the suffering of peoples in its own hemisphere. Palin was; is, a hero to the people of Haiti, and now we need her as a representative of the goodwill of the people of the United States of America. A bipartisan effort in this rapidly expanding crisis is now unavoidable.
It is time for all Americans to rally around the flag, and for us as a nation to show that we are not going to let the price of bread undo decades of development and billions of dollars in investment.
It will come as no surprise to the President or our Secretary of State that a little wheat diplomacy to curb the sharp rise in the price of bread in North Africa and elsewhere is the strongest card they have to play, and has been for some time now.
The US Congress can act and curb the monetary inflation strategy of the Federal Reserve, otherwise this crisis will spread to Asia, Europe and then inevitably to the United States of America itself. Where the poorest and most vulnerable will feel the pinch of skyrocketing prices first.
Let there be no doubt, that the prospect of three Iranian-style regimes emerging in North Africa and the destabilising effect such a development would foster, is untenable.