Back in 1999 after looking at the sanctions program against Iraq and the NATO war against Yugoslavia, I made a few predictions to my students which I have reiterated each subsequent year. Those predictions were as follows:
1. The U.S. would invade Iraq.
2. The U.S. would project military power into the Caspian – Central Asia region.
3. The European Union would seek to dissociate itself from U.S. foreign policy and chart its own course.
Why did I make these predictions and why have they come true?
Foretelling a U.S. war against Iraq was fairly easy to do. The explanation is that the U.S. backed sanctions program was designed to destroy the country economically and militarily; in effect, it was a form of siege warfare designed to degrade the target (Iraq) making it much easier to conquer. Added to the sanctions program was the imposition of northern and southern “no-fly” zones which not only effectively denied to the Iraqi military the airspace over the country’s northern and southern perimeters but also allowed the U.S. and UK air forces to bomb northern and southern Iraq to pieces on a regular basis. The U.S. thus softened up the invasion routes for the conquest of Iraq. In short, the coming war represents a continuation of the ongoing war against Iraq. It will be Phase III. Phase I was Desert Storm – kicking Iraq out of Kuwait. Not knowing how the Iraqi Army would perform on its home soil and not having a suitable replacement for Saddam Hussein, the U.S. began Phase II – siege warfare plus bombing to reduce Iraqi defenses while a replacement could be found for Hussein. This low intensity warfare has finally accomplished its task and now the “necessary” reasons for invasion have been trotted out to justify the war and occupation.
“But why invade Iraq?”, the students asked. Answer: The Baath regime (which the U.S. helped come to power in 1963 by assisting its coup against a previous Iraqi government) no longer served as the compliant vassal of U.S. political economic interests in the region. The Baath’s eventual leader, Saddam Hussein – like other U.S. prot?g?s before him (Ngo Dinh Diem in Viet Nam, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Manuel Noreiga in Panama) developed illusions of autonomy and began to pursue policies inimical to the visions of Washington. In seeking to expand his role as a grand Arab leader free of U.S. constraints, Hussein “crossed the line”. His crimes which heretofore had been ignored were given wide airplay to shift public opinion against him. (When he was seen as an agent of U.S. policy, those crimes were conveniently ignored. One of my favorite pictures on my desk is the 1983 photo of Ronald Reagan’s special Middle East envoy, Donald Rumsfeld – yes, that Rumsfeld! – shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad; soon thereafter, the U.S. began supplying biochem weapons to Iraq.) The occupation of Iraq will allow the U.S. to reassert control of the oil fields which had been contracted out to foreign competitors (France, Russia, and China) and also to position itself militarily on the western flank of Iran (the other part of the “axis of evil”). With this move, the U.S. will have Iran almost surrounded: American troops are on Iran’s eastern flank in Afghanistan, southern flank with the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf, and western border in Iraq. With the Iraq “threat” erased after the removal of Hussein, watch the White House and media develop the new “threat”: Iran.
This extension of U.S. military might throughout the Middle East/Persian Gulf region into Central Asia (the ‘stans) is a process that extends back to the fall of the old American ally, the Shah of Iran, and the subsequent loss of Persian oilfields to U.S. control. Since 1980 the U.S. has built up its airlift and sealift capabilities in the region and developed new bases to preposition itself for war. In 1997 the Army dropped 500 paratroopers into Kazakhstan to test its airlift capabilities for war in Central Asia and in 1999 took Central Asia out of the Pacific Command and put it into the Central Command which oversees the oil rich Middle East. This put the Central Asian countries (which abut the Caspian Sea and Iran) into the sphere of plans for Mideast warfare.
1. The Iraqi oilfields will not be put in the hands of the Iraqi people; they will be privatized and awarded to appropriate corporate investors.
2. The French, Russians, and Chinese will lose their existing contracts to develop the Iraqi oilfields and Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, and British Petroleum will become the major players in Iraq. The rebuilding of the damaged oilfields will go to Vice-President Dick Cheney’s old company, Halliburton.
3. None of the foregoing will constitute “proof” that the war was for oil profits.It will simply be “coincidence”.
4. Democracy will NOT come to Iraq. What will happen is that some very rich exiled Iraqi who has made it clear in the past several months to the State Department and CIA that he is and will be forever and ever in complete agreement with what ever the Americans want in Iraq shall become the new ruler. He will be labeled by the U.S. press as a democratic wonder and indeed may have the trappings of “elections” (just as Hussein had “elections”). But the people of Iraq will be no more “free” than the people of Kuwait are today (even though we “liberated” them 12 years ago).
5. Iraq will not be rebuilt into an affluent middle class nation. Oil profits will flow to a small upper class and the mass of people will be forgotten by the prowar crowd and the government that waged the war to save the Iraqi people from Hussein. Eventually the misery of the Iraqi people will be blamed on the Iraqis themselves.
6.The Kurdish problem will not go away because the Turks (the “allies” Bush tried to buy for 26 billion dollars) will not accept a Kurdish nation.
7. Bush will not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; on the contrary, it’s not unlikely that the Sharon government might use this war for some “population transfer” under the rationale of fighting terrorism.
8. The U.S. war against Iraq will further the efforts of the EU, Russia, and China to develop the political and military strength to check the U.S. This will be a longterm process but they will either do it or become vassals. Their main fear is not that ExxonMobil gets Iraqi oil profits but that the U.S. will have effective military control over the bulk of their oil supplies from Saudi Arabia though Iraq to the new fields of the Caspian. Such control will give the U.S. unprecedented leverage over these nations because the U.S. will dominate a region containing 70% of the world’s energy reserves.
9. Watch the White House and the media begin to increase the demonization of Iran. Pressure will be put on Tehran to submit to U.S. demands. If the leadership in Iran fails to comply with U.S. demands, then America will be “forced” to stand up to another threat to world peace.
That’s enough for now.
CHUCK O’CONNELL teaches sociology at the University of California Irvine. He can be reached at: COconnellm@aol.com