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Iraq: the next US target

by Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad

The Nation (Pakistan) 14 March  2002

Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG),  globalresearch.ca ,  18 March 2002


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Vice President Dick Cheney's tour of eleven European and Middle Eastern countries is aimed at evolving a consensus on extending America's war against terrorism to Iraq. This time the task to create an alliance is not going to be as easy as it was in 1991. Many Arab governments had supported the attack on Iraq while the opinion in the Arab world was divided.

Again, it was much easier to evolve a world wide consensus against the Taliban. The regime had harboured terrorists from numerous countries and had allowed them to use Afghan territory as a spring board to destabilize the whole of Central Asia and to aid and abet secessionist movements in China and Russia. The United Nations had refused to recognize the regime and the Security Council had unanimously imposed sanctions on it.

There is no convincing charge against Iraq this time to justify aggression. The country is, in fact, seen to have been a victim of sanctions which have caused the deaths of thousands of children besides inflicting innumerable sufferings on the innocent population. Further, there is no proof to link Iraq with the Al-Qaeda or establish that it is arming any terrorist group. Many people in the world may be critical of Saddam's repressive policies, as they are of those pursued by the Algerian or Egyptian leaderships but it is for the people of these countries and not for foreign powers to remove their rulers.

Voices of dissent have begun to be raised against the proposed extension of war to Iraq. Two of the countries which Dick Cheney is about to visit have already expressed concern over American intentions. Jordan's King Abdullah has rejected the use of force. As he put it on Sunday, "Striking Iraq would be a catastrophe for that country and the region in general and would threaten the latter's security and stability". Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has called the threat of attack "a nightmare for Turkey" and said it would have serious consequences for economy. He promised to take up Ankara's concerns with Dick Cheney. The Arab League and the OIC have already opposed the move.

Except for Tony Blair, no other European leader has supported the idea of extending the war against terrorism. In Britain itself the Prime Minister will have to bend himself backward to take the cabinet and the electorate with him as they are sharply divided over the issue. The European countries are increasingly demanding change-over to non-violent methods to deal with terrorism. Similarly, both China and Russia are opposed to take the war to other countries and demand that the UN should be made to play central role in whatever action needed to be taken against a country accused of supporting terrorism. Saddam Hussain has disallowed international inspectors to operate in Iraq. There is therefore little hope of the UN supporting the US move. There are bound to be wide repercussions in the Third World in general and the Muslim countries in particular in case America was to invade Iraq. This could destabilize moderate regimes which are seen to be cooperating with the US. The impact would be the gravest in the Middle East but other Muslim countries too would be affected.

Would all this deter Bush from going ahead with his plans? The Pentagon is convinced that with its state-of-the-art weapons systems and precision ammunition it needs no military support from NATO allies. Have the American forces not won the Afghan war single-handedly and with insignificant casualties? Has the Pentagon not disproved the predictions of Russian and British Afghan experts wrong? The Bush administration has no patience with voices of dissent rising from Europe, dismissed by Rumsfeld as "isolated pockets of international hyperventilation." President Bush may not wait for the Security Council to pass a resolution to authorize the attack. He is a unilateralist par excellence who has so far cared little for the UN. To him the US is no mere international citizen but a dominant power which is in a position to reshape the world according to its needs without meeting serious challenge from any quarter. The opposition from China and Russia may not matter much either. Washington knows that while these countries might protest, being highly pragmatic they would not stick out their neck in support of abstract principles like non-interference in other countries affairs.

The arrogance of power may thus lead the Bush administration to launch strikes against Baghdad. The price of victory however may be much higher this time. US forces will not be fighting a ragtag military force armed with little more than empty slogans. Pentagon would prefer to eliminate Saddam Hussain and his loyalists within a short period. If the experience in Afghanistan is any guide, the task may take much longer than he might desire. The longer the American forces fight the war, the greater will be the scale of civilian casualties. This would generate a world wide sentiment against America. In the Muslim world the action would be interpreted as a new crusade against Islam.

China and Russia will keep silent till militants in Afghanistan and within their own geographical boundaries have been eliminated. They have however reasons to worry about the Bush administration's intentions. Since September 11, the US has considerably expanded its military presence abroad. Currently 50,000 servicemen are supposed to man a network of bases stretching from Middle East across the whole length of Asia, from the Red Sea to the Pacific. Some of the countries providing bases share boundaries with China and Russia.

The worries are bound to increase with the leak of the secret nuclear policy review prepared by the Bush administration that discusses a contingency plan for the use of nuclear weapons against China and Russia along with five other countries. Both China and Russia have expressed shock over the US intentions and have sought explanation. Any prolongation of war and increasing civilian casualties will provide the two countries opportunity to rally other states against America's aggressive designs. What remains to be seen is whether the imminent attack on Iraq would give birth to the resolve to effectively oppose the American role as a self-appointed world policeman.


Copyright  The Nation, Pakistan, 2002. Reprinted for Fair use only.

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