US motives for invading Iraq: oil, Israel — or both

Developing Just Leadership

Perwez Shafi

Dhu al-Hijjah 27, 1423 2003-03-01

Special Reports

by Perwez Shafi (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 32, No. 1, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1423)

DR PERWEZ SHAFI, director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought in Pakistan, examines the regional and geo-strategic thinking behind the US’s plans to attack Iraq, in the context of both its drive for oil and its commitment to zionism

It is now widely believed that the US’s main motive for invading Iraq is to control oil-resources and their access routes. This is certainly true to considerable extent, given that oil is essential for the maintenance and survival of the western industrial-technological base and high material standard of living. That assumption is further reinforced by the fact that Iraq is sitting on top of the world’s second-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia’s. In almost all the rallies and speeches in the US, Europe and the rest of the world, the most common slogans are "no blood for oil" and "no war for oil" .

However, there is also another motive, more important from the US’s and especially the zionists’ perspective. It is the maintenance and survival of Israel, which is at present destabilised by the second intifada. Because of the Palestinian resistance to persecution and occupation, the traditional means of Israel’s survival (continuous infusion of political, economic, financial and military aid by the US) can no longer be relied upon to stave off the impending collapse. For the first time the very existence of Israel is seriously threatened. The Israeli government seems to have run out of options, despite using the full fury of state terrorism against the Palestinians. Most seriously, Israel’s economy is approaching the edge of collapse.

The radical solution to this problem is to reshape the entire Middle East by force, as did the colonial empires of France and Britain through the secret Sykes-Picot agreement (1916). However, Israel cannot do this alone. Instead it is to be done by the military muscle of the US, paid for by ordinary American taxpayers, pretending to wage a ‘war against terrorism’. The US invasion will dismember Iraq, creating vast spaces in deserts where the Palestinians can be expelled en masse so that their occupied homeland is out of their reach. In short, the zionists are planning another al-Nakhba ("the catastrophe") to save Israel.

Failure of state terrorism

The world’s zionists have found that decades of illegal and inhumane treatment have failed to break the will of Palestinians. Their methods include political persecution, indefinite curfews, economic deprivation, demolition of houses and entire neighbourhoods, expulsions, buffer zones, massacres, collective punishments, harassment at checkpoints and so on. Even the pro-Israeli UN secretary general Kofi Annan, in a letter dated March 12 to Ariel Sharon’s government, has been forced to admit the non-stop atrocities committed by the Israeli military forces (IDF): "Judging by the means and methods employed by the IDF–F-16 fighter bombers, helicopter and naval gunships, missiles and bombs of heavy tonnage–the fighting has come to resemble all-out conventional warfare," Annan wrote to Sharon. "In the process, hundreds of innocent noncombatant civilians–men, women and children–have been injured or killed, and many buildings and homes have been damaged or destroyed."

These barbaric acts are also occasionally supplemented with diplomacy. What is interesting is the political technique used to wriggle out of the promises, commitments and agreements made by successive Israeli governments, such as the Oslo accords, Wye accord and so forth. When these commitments start becoming liabilities, the fall of a government is engineered: any pretext will do; scandals, artificial or superficial political crises, for instance, withdrawal of a member or two from a very small party in a coalition government, and so on. After another manipulated election, the next government reneges on the promises made by the earlier one. The average age of an Israeli government is now about two years. Thus all negotiations, promises and agreements are subjected to engineered political instability. Yet the Palestinians are held to the commitments made by the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian leaders who believe in a "negotiated solution" not only have nothing to show for their efforts, but are giving away their people’s rights. In short, for Israel, state terrorism and endless bad-faith negotiations are two sides of the same coin, designed for only one goal: the expropriation of land and the Palestinians’ forced acquiescence in the theft.

Palestinians becoming battle-hardened

By the prolonged Israeli-imposed war and their own intifada in response, the Palestinians are becoming battle-hardened. Despite the heavy odds against them they are developing new techniques of war; they are using martyrdom bombings more effectively and inflicting more and more losses on the enemy. For the first time, for instance, the Palestinians have developed tank-destroying capability. In February 2002 the first Israeli tank was destroyed by a Palestinian anti-tank mine that punched through its belly, killing three soldiers out of the four inside it. That was a shock for the Israeli army, as the Merkava tank was its pride. "This is really warfare, in the conventional sense," said Jacob Dallal, an Israeli Army spokesman. "This is something we’ve never seen before from the Palestinians." Since then several tanks have been destroyed, forcing the Israeli military to rethink its tactics. Israeli soldiers–who had previously felt safe as they moved through Palestinian territory inside their tanks–suddenly seem vulnerable and scared.

In fact, precisely because the Palestinians are becoming battle-hardened, ‘liberal Zionists’ such as Thomas Friedman, columnist of the New York Times, are concerned. They are urging Israel to stop fighting, instead separating Israelis and Palestinians on either side of walls and barriers manned by joint Palestinian-US military forces. Another desirable result of this would be to deny the Palestinians the opportunity to carry on improving their fighting skills.

Israeli losses mounting

These improvements in Palestinian tactics are exacting a heavy toll. Comparing Israeli and Palestinian losses in the first intifada (from late 1987 to 1993) and the current intifada (since September 2000) clearly shows that Israel’s losses have increased significantly. During the first intifada roughly one Israeli died for every 25 Palestinians killed; in the current intifada, with many more dead on both sides, the overall ratio has narrowed steadily to about one to three. In the first 17 months of the first intifada, 17 Israelis died and 424 Palestinians were martyred. In the first 17 months of the new intifada (ie by March 2002) more than 340 Israelis died, and more than 1,000 Palestinians were martyred.

This year more than 600 Israelis have died, and more than 1,800 Palestinians have been martyred. The ratio of one to three is being maintained. The mounting deathtoll is putting tremendous pressure on prime minister Sharon.

Disastrous economy

Another demoralizing factor is the collapsing economy, which is proving unable to support the military campaign against the Palestinians. There is a snow-balling effect: the intifada buckles the economy, which is unable to support the Israeli repression, which further undermines global confidence in the Israeli economy. Last September Major-General Uzi Dayan, a senior Israeli commander, resigned as head of the National Security Council. In a report he estimated that the intifada is costing Israel about $3 billion a year. Dayan told the Knesset foreign and defence committee in the first week of September that the economy could not be revived and welfare requirements met unless security improved. Low-income families will be the main victims of lowered welfare-payments, which will increase pressure to obtain more US subsidies. Avraham Shochat, a finance minister in the government before Sharon’s, had an even blunter assessment. "Without a peace process, the economy will continue to collapse," he said. "Our fate is intertwined with the Palestinians."

Until now US aid has kept Israel afloat, but that is no longer possible. The current annual aid, more than $6 billion in cash-grants, and the US government’s cancelling billions of dollars’ worth of loans every few years, are no longer enough by themselves to keep Israel’s economy afloat. This is partly because many demoralized immigrants are now returning to their original countries. So Israel’s population is declining fast as more skilled and educated people leave Israel to go back to the west, leaving behind unskilled or semi-skilled Israelis with no or little education. This puts further pressure on Israel’s welfare system. Because of a critical shortage of manpower, the Israeli government on February 16 authorized the accelerated immigration of 20,000 more Ethiopian Jews (Falashas), whose 19th-century ancestors were Christian, not Jewish.

Zionists to reshape Middle East

The zionists of the world, especially those in high positions in the US government, are very worried. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, they have had a broad imperial ambition: for the US to gain "global colonization" or achieve "world government", maintained and controlled by them. Despite signs that this course will lead to America’s decline, they have no qualms about using American power for their own nefarious purposes. The primary motive for "global colonization" is to be able to reshape the Middle East to save Israel by neutralizing all its real and imagined adversaries.

This ambition for global hegemony is the brainchild of a coalition of three major political forces. These are mainly Jewish neo-conservatives closely tied to the Likud Party in Israel (they are also the main authors of this hegemonistic plan); rightwing power players, some of whom, like US defence secretary Rumsfeld and vice-president Dick Cheney, played key roles in the Nixon and Ford administrations, who are implementing this plan; and leaders of the Christian and Catholic right, who are providing religious justification for this plan and also acting as its cheerleaders.

Apart from a strong belief in US military power and a simplistic worldview of good vs. evil, with nothing in between, that assumes that the US is fundamentally good, the three components of this coalition also share several key perceptions that have guided Bush’s policy decisions. These include strong backing for Ariel Sharon, contempt for (if not outright rejection of) the cold-war paradigm and its facade-concepts (such as sovereignty) and organizations (the UN) which have served them so well during the cold-war era and now constrain the US’s unilateral behaviour, and efforts to sabotage several international mechanisms, including the international criminal court (ICC) and arms-control accords that are approved by most governments.

At the head of the Jewish neo-conservatives is Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary, and I. Lewis Libby, vice-president Cheney’s chief of staff and his national security advisor. They are the main architects of the new design, which they first presented in 1992. Wolfowitz, 58, was a professor of political science and the son of a Polish Jew who immigrated to America in 1920. He was born in an era when Jews had to run for their lives from authoritarian regimes; Jews like that feel that they have a special responsibility for the survival of Israel, regardless of how oppressive, unjust and illegitimate it is, especially in Palestine.

Wolfowitz has been obsessed with Iraq at least since 1977, when Saddam was not yet president and the Islamic Revolution in Iran was unthought of. In a secret assessment of threats posed by Iraq at that time he suggested that its power be curtailed, and recommended that US forces be reinforced to provide "a credible and visible balance to Iraq’s local power.’’ According to the thinking of these zionists, Iraq can now be dismembered. One third or more of its territory, mostly desert, would be given into the control of king Abdullah of Jordan, where Palestinians would be expelled to en masse.

The US has unveiled a new strategy for the Muslim world, and only referred obliquely to the Israeli problem. In a 30-page National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism the document lays out a "4D" strategy for dealing with Islamic resistance groups: defeat them; deny them support or sanctuary; diminish the underlying causes that benefit them; and defend the US. On the problem of Israel the document says: "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is critical because of the toll of human suffering, because of America’s close relationship with the state of Israel and key Arab states, and because of that region’s importance to other global priorities of the United States," according to the strategy.

Can Saddam avert the invasion?

For the zionists the primary motive for invading Iraq is to reshape the Middle East and avert Israel’s collapse. If all that can be paid for later by Iraqi oil, so much the better.

There will be no justification for invasion if Saddam keeps accepting all of the demands made by the US and Europe through the UN inspectors, declares and destroys all weapons of mass-destruction (WMD), etc.; or, even worse, if Saddam breaks up the Ba’ath Party, steps down from power and goes into exile, while the pro-US opposition takes power (as suggested by the Saudis). But the key problem in that case is that, if even the theoretical pretext for invasion no longer exists, how is Israel to be saved? The US invasion and occupation of Iraq are necessary for the security and survival of Israel.

The cost of the preparations for war is in the hundreds of billions of dollars already. The cost and deployment have created a momentum towards war which, if ignored, will plunge the US from recession into depression, exacerbating the "crises in capitalism". That is why the European solution of allowing UN weapons-inspectors even a few months’ extra time is not acceptable to the US. The cost of deploying US forces around the whole Middle East and having them sit in the desert until next winter will be unacceptable.

The US invasion of Iraq has other medium- and long-term motives as well. After Palestine the US will challenge Syria and Lebanon to abandon their resistance to Israel and to disarm all groups against Israel, such as Hizbullah. If WMD are the pretext for the invasion, the same pretext can also be used later against Pakistan and Iran. The invasion would also complete the encirclement of Iran. A so-called "moderate" Islam of the Saudi dynasty, much-needed during the cold war period to neutralize the "godless communists", is no longer necessary and an alternative is being discussed.

These are the plans of zionists bent upon achieving hegemony over the whole world. The success of these plans is not inevitable, but much depends upon the response of the Muslims. We certainly need a paradigm shift, away from dependence on and naive trust in Yahud and Nasara [the Jews and the Christians] to exclusive dependence on Allah in individual practice and in political systems. Only then will we Muslims be able to exploit the numerous weaknesses in the zionists’ plans. In the end, however, Allah ta’ala is the best of all planners.

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