Friday, February 06, 2004 - US plans for a "greater Middle Eastern settlement" / World / Arab-Israel

"The Bush administration is trying to enlist European support for a grand plan to reform the Arab and Islamic world and integrate it within a western security umbrella.

American and European Union officials held a meeting in Washington last week on the so-called "greater Middle East" initiative, an evolving project that could involve countries from Morocco to as far east as Pakistan and is being billed as a priority for US foreign policy this year"

Sounds interesting if true. Wouldn't it be weird if the neocons were to take a leaf out of the European Union book on the Middle East? After all, after the second world war, Harry S. Truman was very concerned about re-establishing a rational pattern of economic relations through Europe. That led to his support for the pre-ECSC institutions like Benelux, the OEEC and the European Payments Union. The later push on to the ECSC, the EEC and beyond was motivated by the same principle. Now - and here comes a much belated Part II to my post on the Turkish-Israeli "water for guns" agreement - we have to consider the nature of these relations. The key materials of European industrial life in 1949 were coal and steel. Get the industrial bit right, and you got the strategic bit right, and the agricultural bit followed. What is the key economic resource in the Levant? You're probably there already - water.

Perhaps that final status agreement, when it happens, should include a Water Community? I can imagine something influenced by the Bretton Woods exchange rate system in part - each state would declare a portion of its annual water availability to a central control, and the surplus states would be obliged to sell their surplus. Equally, deficit states would have to have an incentive to economise and specialise - but the crucial point is that a surplus, that is to say not using the scarce resource or hoarding virtual-water goods, would be treated as seriously as a deficit. Therefore, the drier states would have access to water or virtual-water imports and the increased supply to the Middle Eastern water market would lower the price.

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