by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 31, No. 24, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1423)
George Bush senior, father of the US president, attacked Iraq in 1991 because Saddam Hussein had dared to disrupt the order imposed on the Middle East (by the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916) by invading and occupying Kuwait. Iraq was "bombed back into the Stone Age" and Saddam’s forces were incinerated on the "highway of death" as they fled north from Kuwait. Punishing economic sanctions, still in force, were imposed on Iraq, and have killed nearly 1.5 million people (at least half a million children among them), according to Save the Children a British charity. Bush junior is about to unleash another war on Iraq—not because Saddam has any weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but to impose an American order on the Middle East. Sykes-Picot is to be buried, having outlived its usefulness after almost 90 years. At hand to help the Americans are Britain (one of the two creators of the earlier order), France (the other), and Israel.
This time round, Paris is not on the scene, as Tony Blair (prime minister of Britain) has ingratiated himself to the Americans and earned the title of "American poodle". British-French rivalry is based on the struggle for supremacy in Europe, where Britain feels left out because it insists on maintaining its identity while keeping one foot in Europe.
The Sykes-Picot agreement was imposedby guile and intrigue; Pax Americana is being imposed by brute force, the Americans being too crude to indulge in the political and diplomatic niceties that were the hallmark of the British and French. Besides, the Americans feel there is no power that can challenge their military might directly or indirectly. They may be right, but such arrogance also arouses resentment, and provokes others to band together to undermine it. This is what is happening in Europe, the Muslim world being ruled by pygmies who cringe at the very thought of resisting American belligerence. Each ruler in the Middle East is trying to outdo the rest in obeisance to Uncle Sam. Sykes-Picot was plotted even as the British promised to make Sherif Husain, then Ottoman governor of Makkah, the ruler of the Arabs in return for his support in removing the Ottomans. The Arab revolt led to Turkey’s defeat but brought no freedom to the Arabs, who exchanged fellow Muslims, the Ottomans, for the non-Muslim British and French as colonial masters. Even more insulting was the creation of Israel in Palestine.
For his treachery, Sherif Husain’s dynasty got only the tiny kingdom of what was then called Trans-Jordan; one son was given Syria and a third one was planted in Iraq. Both Syria and Iraq slipped out of their grasp when republican regimes took over. The family of Sherif Husain is still hoping to pick up a few pieces after Saddam Husain is driven from power, or murdered. This is a forlorn quest; the Americans are not going to wage a war to install another cantankerous puppet, either in Baghdad or elsewhere. This time they going to rearrange the Middle East according to American designs, to seize and control the oil-fields, and to give the zionists a free hand. The regimes in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon may well also be replaced. The Americans’ real targets are two: Iran and Pakistan; Iran because of its Islamic Revolution and its potential to influence Muslims around the world, Pakistan because of its nuclear capability. The US and its allies (Britain and Israel) have made it clear that they will tolerate neither an ideological nor a military challenge to their hegemony in the region.
In a letter published in the conservative magazine Weekly Standard (owned by Rupert Murdoch) on the eve of Bush’s state of the union address (January 28), American rightwingers demanded that the US defence budget be increased by another US$100 billion annually, despite the fact that it already stands at $379 billion, which is more than the defence budgets of the next 15 countries combined. In the fiscal year 2004 it will go up to $442 billion. The object of the demand for even more money for ‘defence’ (in reality for offence) is a desire to be able to attack two or more countries simultaneously. Richard Perle, one of the most hawkish members of the Bush team, has floated the possibility of "total war" and the use of nuclear weapons. Perle has made no secret of being in favour of simultaneous attacks on Iran, North Korea and China. Targeting Iran is a longstanding ambition of the zionists, who feel threatened by Iran’s revolutionary fervour. America has its own axe to grind against Tehran; there is concern in the Muslim world that not everyone in Iran is fully aware of this growing danger.
The massive propaganda before US secretary of state Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council on February 5 turned out to be mostly a rehash of old information and misinformation, without any smoking gun. That will probably not deter the US from going to war, despite Bush’s statement on February 7 that he expects the Security Council to pass a "war resolution" or risk becoming irrelevant. The UN has in effect been turned into a branch of the US state department: if it endorses American demands, this is presented as "proof" of the will of the international community; if it does not, Washington dismisses it as irrelevant. The US threatens to defy the will of the international community, while it claims to be invading Iraq because Baghdad is allegedly in violation of Security Council resolution 1441. The US’s intent is to attack and occupy Iraq; all else is intended to distract the skeptics until a fait accompli can be presented to them.
No one believes that Iraq can mount a serious defence against any Anglo-American invasion. Would Saddam use chemical weapons; does he even have any? The Americans insist that he has, without offering any evidence in support of their claim. America is notorious for indulging in self-serving propaganda that is later exposed as completely false; there is no reason to believe it is not doing so now. Despite soothing words about "bringing democracy" to Iraq, America’s record suggests otherwise. The US is neither interested in democracy, even in the limited sense of the term, nor in the freedom of the Iraqi people; its interests are far more crude, based on greed for oil, though few in the US want to talk about that. Even so, most Americans are averse to seeing their country go to war without the support of allies; hence Washington’s frantic efforts to cobble together a "coalition of the willing."
US officials try to deflect criticism of their cowboy-style methods by citing the example of Afghanistan. There is no peace in Afghanistan, despite the presence of American and other foreign troops there; Americans are frequently attacked, although there is a conspiracy of silence to prevent the truth from coming out. Afghanistan can hardly be held up as a model for Iraq, where a handful of exiled groups, protected by foreign armies, is unlikely to form a government of any credibility. A credible government in Iraq, however, is not on America’s agenda; a pliant regime willing to pursue Washington’s agenda is what is really wanted. Beyond Iraq lies the much greater challenge of Iran, an ideologically committed state that the zionists want the US to attack and destroy. Should the US succeed in Iraq, the encirclement of Iran would be complete: US forces are already in Afghanistan (although they are not finding their stay easy or comfortable); they are in the Persian Gulf in huge numbers, and they are in Central Asia.
The "cold war" hawks need to be identified. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), and other so-called thinktanks are dominated by the most extreme and reckless elements in the American establishment. These bodies were set up in the nineties in order to impose America’s dominance on the world. US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, vice president Dick Cheney, and William Kristol are members of the PNAC, Kristol being its co-founder and chairman. This body has come to dominate US policy in ways that are not yet fully appreciated. Just nine days after the attack on the Pentagon and WTC, the PNAC issued an open letter calling on Bush to take his anti-terrorist war beyond Afghanistan by removing Saddam Husain of Iraq, severing ties with the Palestinian Authority, and preparing for action against Islamic Iran, Syria, and the Hizbullah in Lebanon. On September 12, 2001, Rumsfeld urged in a cabinet meeting that the US launch a war against Iraq. US secretary of state Colin Powell counselled caution, saying that there was no evidence to link Iraq to the attackers and that it would be best to go after al-Qa’ida and Afghanistan before Iraq. This is in fact what happened. No American has been able to prove the Afghans’ involvement in the events of September 2001, yet the country was attacked and is now under US military occupation.
Founded formally in 1997, the PNAC works mainly as a front group for a coalition of neo-conservatives, hardcore rightwing Republicans, and Christian Right activists behind what have come to be called Bush’s "neo-imperialist" policies. Besides Rumsfeld and Cheney, their principal deputies, Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby, are also members of this group and exercise considerable influence over policy and decision-making. A number of other top US government policy-makers are also members of the PNAC. During the presidential campaign of 2000, the PNAC produced a book-length blueprint for the incoming administration: Present Dangers, edited by Kristol and Robert Kagan, another prominent neo-conservative. The plan to attack Iraq was in that blue-print. The PNAC is closely linked with the American Enterprise Institute, from which it rents office space, and whose prominent members include Perle, former UN ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Lynne Cheney, the vice president’s spouse.
On February 6, Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that overthrowing the Iraqi regime could reshape the Middle East in ways that enhance US interests. While admitting that an attack on Iraq could cause "some difficulties" for the US in other areas in the Middle East "there is also the possibility that success could fundamentally reshape that region in a powerful, positive way that will enhance US interests, especially if in the aftermath of such a conflict, we are also able to achieve progress on the Middle East peace." This is a clear admission of the US’s real intentions in the region. Bush and other US officials have also said that after Iraq is dealt with, the Palestinians must be prepared to accept much less than what is "on offer" today. Similarly, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been warned that "they must modernize their forms of government and engage themselves clearly in the war against terrorism and Islamic extremism," or face the consequences. "It is understood that from now on only pro-American dictators, that ally themselves totally with the West and clamp down Islamist currents, will be tolerated," an Arab analyst said.
Pax Americana is about to dawn on the Middle East, with consequences even more horrendous than those wrought by the Sykes-Picot conspiracy a century earlier.