Some months ago, when I thought Ariel Sharon was close to death, I wrote in praise of him. It's typical of the man that he still stubbornly clings to life. Now, his thoughts on the Iraq invasion have been revealed in the liberal American-Jewish magazine "Forward".
... Olmert’s predecessor, by contrast, was anything but an amateur in Israeli-American relations, and more broadly in dealing with America’s policies in the region. When it came to Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq and to democratize the Arab Middle East from within, Ariel Sharon took a far more sophisticated position.
Publicly, Sharon played the silent ally; he neither criticized nor supported the Iraq adventure. One reason for his relative silence was Washington’s explicit request that Israel refrain from openly backing its invasion of an Arab country or in any way intervening, lest its blessing damn the United States in Arab eyes.
But sometime prior to March 2003, Sharon told Bush privately in no uncertain terms what he thought about the Iraq plan. Sharon’s words — revealed here for the first time — constituted a friendly but pointed warning to Bush. Sharon acknowledged that Saddam Hussein was an “acute threat” to the Middle East and that he believed Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Yet according to one knowledgeable source, Sharon nevertheless advised Bush not to occupy Iraq. According to another source — Danny Ayalon, who was Israel’s ambassador to the United States at the time of the Iraq invasion, and who sat in on the Bush-Sharon meetings — Sharon told Bush that Israel would not “push one way or another” regarding the Iraq scheme.
According to both sources, Sharon warned Bush that if he insisted on occupying Iraq, he should at least abandon his plan to implant democracy in this part of the world. “In terms of culture and tradition, the Arab world is not built for democratization,” Ayalon recalls Sharon advising.
Be sure, Sharon added, not to go into Iraq without a viable exit strategy. And ready a counter-insurgency strategy if you expect to rule Iraq, which will eventually have to be partitioned into its component parts. Finally, Sharon told Bush, please remember that you will conquer, occupy and leave, but we have to remain in this part of the world. Israel, he reminded the American president, does not wish to see its vital interests hurt by regional radicalization and the spillover of violence beyond Iraq’s borders... [Forward]
Given that, in Bushworld, you're either with them or against them, Arik Sharon was clearly an evil-doer. Luckily for the Americans, in December '95 Sharon suffered a minor stroke and, unluckily for the then most important man in Israel, he was prescribed the wrong drugs, which caused him to have a massive brain haemorrhage in January '06, which put the more US-pliant Olmert in the PM's chair. Poor Arik - he had been able to diagnose the weaknesses of US 'plans' for Iraq, but his own doctors were unable to diagnose that he, like many people of his age, suffered from cerebral amyloid angiopathy. Some irony there, I think.