Centre for Research on GlobalisationCentre de recherche sur la mondialisation
PRESIDENT GEORGE Bush's plan to initiate a covert campaign to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has already run into trouble. His scheme, leaked to the press last weekend, involves providing the exiled Iraqi opposition with funding, training, weapons and intelligence; expanding intelligence-gathering inside Iraq; and deploying of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Special Forces teams to kill the Iraqi leader on the pretext of acting in “self-defence”. Although CIA Director George Tenet warned Bush that covert action had only a 10-20 per cent chance of success, an examination of the following factors suggests that even Tenet's lower figure is highly optimistic.
First and foremost, both the CIA and Special Forces are seriously overstretched by Bush's “war on terror”. The CIA is operating against alleged terrorists in some 80 countries while the country's limited number of Special Forces units are deployed in Afghanistan, the Philippines and Yemen.
Second, the Kurds in northern Iraq have said they will not cooperate with the US action to topple the Iraqi government. In an interview published on June 18 in the Guardian, Massoud Barzani, the leader of one of the two major Kurdish factions, stated: “The Iraqi issue won't be solved by military action or covert action.” Barzani and the leader of the other faction, Jalal Talabani, have repeatedly stated their opposition to the external overthrow of the Iraqi leader and said they would reject his replacement by a military government, the most likely outcome of US action. The Kurds insist, Barzani said, that the solution for Iraq should be a “democratic, pluralistic, parliamentary Iraq”. Without Kurdish cooperation and collusion, CIA and Special Forces cadres will not be able to operate in the Kurdish-controlled zone in the north of the country.
Third, by placing Tehran in his “axis of evil” Bush alienated the Iran-based opposition group which could have influence amongst Iraq's southern Shiites, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The council has repeatedly stated its opposition to the US campaign to oust Saddam Hussein. Therefore, it is unlikely that US undercover and intelligence agents would be welcome in the south or receive help from local opponents of the Iraqi government.
Fourth, there is no evidence that the US has successfully penetrated the upper ranks of the Iraqi military, the only element capable of overthrowing the present government.
Fifth, providing money, training, weaponry and intelligence to the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the exiled opposition umbrella organisation, will not give the INC credibility with Iraqis living in the country. This grouping has never been anything more than a CIA front. It is not even an “asset” because it is led by corrupt and discredited individuals.
Finally, Iraq's Arab neighbours are strongly opposed to Bush's policy of “regime change” in Baghdad and are unlikely to provide facilities for secret operations.
Bush has adopted covert action to achieve his aim of overthrowing Saddam Hussein because his generals say they do not have the men, arms and aircraft to mount an all-out military offensive against the Iraqi government at the present time. It is unlikely that they will be in a position to do so for at least seven or eight months. This will be opposed by the Kurds, Iran and other Iraq's neighbours and elements in the US military who are reluctant to commit 200,000 to 250,000 troops to a new “adventure”.
While keeping his eye on Iraq as his initial target, Bush has, over the past few weeks, enunciated a doctrine of “preemption”. This involves taking preemptive action against states and groups his administration deems “terrorist” and claims that they are seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction. Last month, Bush told the graduating class at the US military academy at West Point: “If we wait for threats to fully materialise, we will have waited too long.” His remark was subsequently elaborated by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice who stated: “It means early action of some kind. It means forestalling certain destructive acts against you taken by an adversary ... you can't wait to be attacked to respond.”
Bush's doctrine of preemption is very dangerous and is likely to cause serious alarm in Western and Third World capitals. The doctrine is a throwback to the practices of Western imperialist nations towards Third World peoples and countries during the 19th and 20th centuries. The doctrine is also an aspect of sole-superpower arrogance and unilateralism. Bush clearly intends to decide who is a menace and take action regardless of the consequences to US allies and regions in conflict. Thus, Bush's accusations against individuals, groups or states will justify action. His word will become law.
If this happens, US preemptive unilateralism will undermine the emerging global order and the body of international law which has been painstakingly built up since World War II.
Other states which feel threatened by their neighbours could also take up the doctrine of preemption. India, for example, could attack Pakistan's nuclear facilities in order to preempt a possible attack. Pakistan could do likewise. China and Taiwan are candidates for preemption. And, of course, Israel could hit Iran, Syria and Iraq, which it claims are building arms of mass destruction.
By using covert means to achieve “regime change” under his doctrine of preemption, Bush also risks the sort of “blowback” or unanticipated negative repercussions of CIA operations undertaken over the past half century. The attacks on the US of Sept. 11, 2001, were a “blowback” from the US-led campaign against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s. There would have been no Al Qaeda without CIA funding, training and deployment of Mujahedeen in Afghanistan.
Over the past fifty years, the CIA masterminded successful coups in Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, Indonesia, Iraq, Greece, Chile, Cyprus and Guyana. These coups' “blowback” negated the usefulness of “regime change” and, in most instances, had devastating results both for the countries concerned and US interests. For instance, the CIA-backed coup against the nationalist government of Iran that brought the shah back to power led to the anti-US Islamic Revolution of 1978-79. The assassination of Congo's Patrice Lumumba in 1960 led to the 32-year dictatorship of Joseph Mobutu and the ongoing civil conflict in portions of the former Belgian colonial territory. The 1967 coup in Greece by the CIA-backed military junta produced seven years of bloody repression in that country, as well as the CIA-planned 1974 coup against President Makarios of Cyprus. This prompted Turkey to invade and occupy the north of the island republic. Today antagonism between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus continues to threaten the NATO alliance and the peace of the eastern Mediterranean and to jeopardise the European Union's enlargement process.
Unintended consequences — “blowbacks” — from a US-sponsored coup in Iraq are civil war, dismemberment of the core country of the eastern Arab world and the destabilisation of the entire region.
Copyright ©Jordan Times 2002. For fair use only
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