An interview with Dr. Franklin Lamb
Dr. Franklin Lamb is Director of the Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, Beirut-Washington DC, Board Member of The Sabra Shatila Foundation, and a volunteer with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign, Lebanon. He is the author of “The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon” and is doing research in Lebanon for his next book.
Lamb has been a Professor of International Law at Northwestern College of Law in Oregon. He earned his Law Degree at Boston University and his LLM, M.Phil, and PhD degrees at the London School of Economics.
As a Middle East expert and commentator, Dr. Lamb has appeared on Press TV, Al-Manar and several other media outlets. His articles and analyses have been published by Counter Punch, Veterans Today, Intifada Palestine, Electronic Intifada, Opinion Maker, Dissident Voice, Daily Star and Al Ahram.
Dr. Lamb generously accepted my interview requested and joined me to discuss the recent developments in the Middle East including the Libya civil war, Bahrain massacre and Egypt’s revolution.
What follows is the complete text of my interview with Dr. Franklin Lamb, political commentator, university professor and Middle East expert.
Kourosh Ziabari: Frequent and unstoppable revolutions are taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. Popular movements of the Muslim nations of Tunisia and Egypt brought to an end the longstanding tyranny of Zine El Abedine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak. Sooner or later, the same destiny awaits the dictators of Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia who were all once the stalwart allies of the United States and its European cronies. What’s your estimation of the recent developments in the region and how do you forecast the future of chained revolutions of the Middle East?
Franklin Lamb: I believe the uprisings will continue during this historic Islamic and Arab Awakening and will not cease until those who are sacrificing their blood in these countries—and some you did not mention-achieve their common goals of dignity, human rights, and much more control over their lives and their country’s natural resources. This truly historic regional uprising will, in my view, also contribute critically to the liberation of Palestine and the end of the 19th Century Zionist colonial project. Resent reactions by Israeli leaders and some in Washington make plain that the Muslim and Arab world will not allow their regimes to continue to undermine the Palestinian cause by accepting Western aid and various American bribes to collaborate with the Zionist occupation in their midst. Eventually the current uprising will replace perhaps as many as ten regimes and to its great credit, will count the implementation of UN Resolution 194 and the full and long overdue return of the Palestinian Refugees to their homeland.
KZ: The Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is relentlessly massacring his own people and has remained defiant in the face of growing international pressure and anger at his atrocious and inhumane actions. The international community has so far failed to tackle the Gaddafi problem and Libya is already engulfed in a civil war. The NATO forces are opening fires on the unarmed civilians and nobody has made any decision to capture Gaddafi and hold him accountable for the crimes he has committed. What’s your analysis of the situation in Libya? Given the immense investment of the American and European companies in the oil sector of Libya, can we foresee a future in which Gaddafi is removed from power and tried for his criminal policies?
FL: I agree that what is going on in Libya is a civil war and that the so-called “Obama Doctrine” has become farcical with respect to Libya. NATO should stop its bombing which has killed many of those they were tasked to protect and the international community must insist on a ceasefire and sending humanitarian aid. Enforcing a ceasefire would be a legitimate international role but taking sides in a civil war has only very rarely led to the desired outcome and violates Art. 2 (7) of the UN Charter which prohibits unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of Member States.
Yes, the West will insist on a replacement for Gaddafi and one who is more reliable that he has been recently with respect to the three American hegemonistic requirements or pillars. These include the demand that the next leader must continue to supply the West with cheap oil, and unlike Gaddafi recently, the new regime must insure internal stability and not become an embarrassment for its partners. Also the US will demand that Libya’s new government must not confront Israel seriously and it must be friendly toward US military projects and bases.
KZ: What’s your viewpoint regarding the reaction of international community in general, and the United Nations in particular, to the developments in Libya? The UNSC authorized the use of a no-fly zone over Libya in its resolution 1973 and imposed some sanctions on the Gaddafi regime in the resolution 1970. Are these measures adequate to draw to an end the atrocities which are taking place in Libya? Overall, do you agree with a military option with regards to the Libyan question?
FL: No the military option, while “legal” in the sense that it was passed by the UN Security Council was not legitimate nor are they effective in terms of achieving the claimed objective of UNSC Resolution 1973. Other measures such UN sponsored dialogue and enforcement of a ceasefire were available and should have been employed. Daily the military option is being shown to be ineffective and is in fact deepening the tragedy. It is not too late for the UN to revise its resolution and insist on a ceasefire and dialogue among the factions and making use of the good offices of the Arab League and African Union. On 4/18/11, one month after UNSCR 1973 was adopted, UN Secretary-General Key Ban Moon called for an immediate UN enforced ceasefire. This should be implemented without further delay.
KZ: As you may admit, Bahrain has one of the blackest human rights records in the Persian Gulf region and its longstanding tradition of suppressing the Shiite majority is almost known to everyone. The Bahraini officials have accused Iran of interfering in their internal affairs and turned a blind eye to the wave of protests which is encompassing the whole country. What’s your idea about the situation in Bahrain? Will the oppressed Shiite majority of Bahrain gain enough power to claim their rights and prosper in their uprising against the dictatorial regime?
FL: I think the people of Bahrain will absolutely succeed in their legitimate quest for dignity and freedom. It is apparent that the majority population in Bahrain is determined to succeed and the international community is, albeit too slowly, supporting their struggle. A recent University of Maryland poll shows that nearly 70% of the American public is supporting the Middle Eastern uprisings even if it means weakening Israel.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration hypocrisy toward the unarmed civilians being killed in Bahrain is flagrant and runs deeply counter to American values.
Speaking on 4/13/11 at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum, a gathering sponsored by Qatar and the Brookings Institution, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured the World that “America’s core interests and values have not changed, including our commitment to promote human rights equally in every country.”
Clinton’s remarks prompted some groans from the audience, and one Georgetown University student impolitely blurted out “Tell that to the people of Bahrain and prove it lady!”
What the exasperated student, and others in the audience apparently found outrageous was Clinton’s comment that, “We know that a one-size-fits-all approach to American values doesn’t make sense in such a diverse region at such a fluid time” as she hailed Bahrain for what she called a “decades-long friendship which we expect to continue long into the future.” Referring to the government crackdown, she added that “violence is not and cannot be the answer.”
Clinton explained that the Obama administration will neither recall its ambassador to Manama nor threaten sanctions — a striking disparity that is fueling anti-U.S. sentiment among Bahraini opposition groups. The Obama Doctrine words are all about freedom and democracy and change, but in Bahrain, the reality is that the Obama Doctrine amounts to a protection for the dictatorship.
By contrast, Obama has repeatedly justified military attacks in Libya, saying: “Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested. These acts are against core American values.” But while the same human rights abuses noted by Obama are happening in Bahrain, the Obama Doctrine is not on the Presidents teleprompter.
It appears that core American values aren’t so important when the regime being reformed houses the Fifth Fleet and has Saudi neighbors, themselves afraid of potential protests, according to the Wall Street Journal. What the rude Georgetown student at Clinton’s speech this week understood, is that as Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch noted a couple of days ago concerning yet another brutal Khalifa government killing of unarmed civilians, “Four detainee deaths in nine days is a crime, not a coincidence. The government tells families of detainees nothing about their whereabouts or well-being while they are alive, or about the circumstances of their deaths. “Emergency laws should not be used as a cover for brutality,” Stork reminded the Obama administration that torture and killing of the peaceful protesters in Bahrain at the hands of both the Bahraini armed forces and the additional forces provided by Saudi Arabia are not supported by the American public.
Obama administration officials, like most of the US media, have been playing a game of criminal silence about the situation in Bahrain. Political institutions have been trying to stoke the fire of Shiite-Sunni sectarianism instead of trying to resolve the real issues – the barbaric actions and unfair political and economic policies of the ruling family in Bahrain, a state of forceful repression.
KZ: What will be the impacts of Egyptian revolution on the future of Israel-Egypt relations? It’s quite evident that the Zionist regime is immensely afraid of the establishment of an Islamic government led by a democratically-elected president in Egypt. They have clearly voiced their concern over the developments taking place in Cairo and are desperately trying to preserve the heritage of the Camp David Accords which they achieved painstakingly in 1987. Will a new Egyptian government threaten the interests of the Israeli regime in the Middle East? Will the United State intervene to preclude the destruction of relations between Israel and Egypt?
FL: Yes, I think both processes will occur. During the Tahrir Square uprising we heard much about the need for dignity of the Egyptian people and dignity for Arabs and Muslims. What captured the world’s attention were the demands for jobs, democracy, freedom from fear of arbitrary arrest, torture and detention by the myriad security services and much more control of the economy by the Egyptian people.
Now were are hearing more about fundamental issues, such as the Camp David Accords, which have been festering among Egyptians and most Arabs for three decades. This treaty with Israel was nothing more than the Western bought Egyptian leadership accepting an American bribe in the amount of more than USD $3 billion per year to concede Palestine to the Zionists and abdicate Egypt’s historic role.
The intense humiliation, not just inflicted on Egyptians, Arabs and Muslims everywhere, but felt by fair minded people around the World who value human rights and support the liberation of Palestine, was endured by never accepted.
History is in the process of correction the injustice caused by the 19th Century Zionist colonial enterprise and I believe the Egyptian people will eventually abrogate Camp David which in its essence is a Western imposed Capitulation Treaty we used to see two centuries ago in Asia, and of course in China as well as in Africa. Camp David will not stand and nor will the giveaway of Egyptian natural gas, or the siege of Gaza from the Egyptian side.
The United States and her allies and certainty Israel will use all their resources to prevent the scrapping of Camp David. But the fact of the matter is that there is a new Middle East rising and they are her people not hegemonic foreign powers who will decide its future.
KZ: Can we foresee the formation of a new Middle East in which the intolerable presence of the Zionist regime is eliminated? Do the Arab world uprisings imply the isolation of Israel and increase the chances of its being dissolved? Reports associated with the CIA imply that Israel cannot survive for longer than 20 years. Do you agree with this prediction?
FL: Absolutely I do. The 19th Century Zionist colonial enterprise was grafted onto Palestine under a series of truly bizarre coincidences that could never be sustained. Of course the Zionist movement was well funded and well-armed and the colonial powers, particularly Britain was in no position to fulfill even their League of Nations mandate. Their occupation was co-opted by Zionist forces while at the same time the exhausted post-World War II international community was simply not interested in being an honest broker in the struggle between the indigenous Palestinian population and the arriving foreign European colonists.
Both the CIA and the politicians in Israel see the historical handwriting on the wall. Israel will not collapse peacefully but it will dissolve. Hopefully the colonists who came from Europe and America will return whence they came or will agree to live as equals with the native population of Palestinians in a democratic, secular state governed by one person one vote and without discrimination based on any religion.
Another process we are witnessing is the increasingly universal rejection of the illegitimate State in Palestine by the Western, including the American, public who are becoming more educated about what really happened during the 1948 Nakba and ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Previously many blindly accepted the continuous recitation by the international Zionist Hasbara distributors that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people with a land.” Not many people believe this anymore as the growing BDS (boycott/divestment/sanctions (BDS) movement) and other human rights campaigns aimed at delegitimizing Israel are illustrating.
Six decades of serial crimes by Israel has educated the World that establishing an apartheid State on stolen Arab land was an historic and moral mistake and in not sustainable. Sooner perhaps rather than later the CIA predictions will likely come to pass.
KZ: What’s your idea about the destiny of the revolutions in the Middle East? What are the implications of this wave of uprisings for the United States and its European allies? Iranian authorities say that the Middle East revolutions are modeled on Iran’s 1979 revolution. Do you agree with them?
FL: To comment of the last part of your question first, I would not go as far as to say that the 1979 Iranian Revolution provided an exact template for what is occurring now, 32 years later. But I strongly believe that the Iranian revolution is a fundamental cause of the 2011 uprisings. Firstly, we often hear some argue that the current rebellions are all about bread and butter issues and are not motivated by religion. I don’t agree. While the issues expressed on the streets have been largely those we discussed above, I think a fundamental factor that initiated what we are witnessing is Islam. Islam is all about justice and sacrifice for the commonwealth of the community, the Ummah. Islam is about the dignity of the individual. I believe that Islam provided the inspiration and the strength of the populations involved in each of these historic uprisings to preserve in the fact of brutal repression and to develop a resistance culture to preserve until victory.
Consider how each Friday the prayers in the Mosques and Husaynieh’s [religious buildings constructed for the congregation of worshippers] in the region provided the opportunity to gather, to mutually inspire, to rededicate, to plan and to support the rebellions. Every Friday became a day of renewed resistance to oppression. From my point of view this is what Islam is all about; dignity of the individual, the quest for justice in the face of oppression, individual freedom and resistance to injustice and oppression until victory. Without the power of Islam I do not think these rebellions would have ignited as we have witnessed them, nor would they be succeeding as they are.
I think it is very difficult to exaggerate the positive consequences for scores of million of freedom seeking people in the region resulting from the great Islamic and Arab Awakening of 2011.
While those who are freeing themselves from dictators correctly realize that counter-revolutions have begun to hijack their rebellions ad turn back their achievements, so much work and perseverance is required, the region will never return to the hegemonic repression of the past 100 years.
The United States, in large measure due to its installment of dictators, now finally being toppled by their repressed peoples, its theft and exploitation of natural resources in the region, and its wars against the civilian populations in the region, is being expelled along with its allies.
It remains to be seen if in the future the United States can reengage with Iran and the new order in the Middle East. If it does, it will have to be on the basis of mutual respect and fair dealing with each of the countries in the region.
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