Rarely has the world seen such a one-sided war. In the first two weeks of the campaign, coalition forces had fired more than 725 Tomahawk missiles and dropped more than 14,000 precision-guided bombs on Iraq. About half of these munitions, estimated to weigh about 7 million tons, fell on Republican Guard units. Even if none of them exploded, the sheer weight of the falling objects would be enough to fell an army.
The military outcome of the war was never in doubt. How could a third-world country that had been under 12 years of sanctions take on the world’s mightiest nation? Iraq had no operational navy or air force and its army’s T-72 tank was no rival for the American M-1 tank. Most of the T-72s were taken out by A-10 aircraft before they even got close to an M-1. Those that survived were taken out by the M-1 tanks before they got within the T-72’s gun range. The most successful Iraqi weapon proved to pickup-mounted machine guns being fired by paramilitary units and infantrymen firing rocket-propelled grenades. It was a case of Mogadishu redux.
The performance of the Republican Guard during the First Gulf War had been much reviled in the media. But Stephen Bourque found that “They did not run away and fought with extreme bravery.” Indeed, after enduring weeks of air strikes from a vastly stronger enemy, they fought with extraordinary tenacity. He says that their Tawakalna Division, facing a massive attack from several directions, “had little opportunity to do anything but surrender or fight and die in place. They chose the latter.”
After being mauled in the first Persian Gulf War, and fully aware that their tanks were still out-ranged and outgunned by US armor, the Republican Guard must have foreseen the outcome when this war began. But, in contrast to 1991, they never had a chance to fight this time around. According to Paul Koring, their predicament was similar to that of the Light Brigade: “Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die.” The Iraqi Republican Guard has set a new standard for courage and bravery that will that will inspire armies for decades to come.
The war is almost over now, and an American victory is at hand. But events will show that it was a hollow victory. To quote Quentin Peel of the Financial Times, “The danger for Mr. Bush is that he will win the war, eventually and unpleasantly, but he will never be seen as a liberator. If he had understood that, he might never have gone to war.”
But let us grant Mr. Bush his right to fight Saddam, since he claims that the latter has not complied with the terms of the cease-fire that came at the end of the First Gulf War and that in a post 9/11-world, Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction pose a threat to the national security of this country.
But what can one say about the Arab and Muslim leaders whose countries border Iraq. History will record that while Iraq was attacked and run over, they were wallowing in hypocrisy.
Abu Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, warned several months ago that a war against Iraq would “open the gates of hell.” His warnings, like Cassandra’s in mythology, were ignored. Amid rising anger in Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak has implored the US to end the war, saying it would create a hundred bin Ladens. When asked why Egypt had not closed the Suez Canal to British and American naval vessels journeying to the Gulf, he replied that that Cairo could not deny other countries the use of the Suez Canal under the terms of a 19th century treaty unless Egypt was at war with them. Mubarak has in public urged an immediate end to the conflict while in secret he opened Egyptian airspace to the coalition forces.
In a similar vein, after meeting the French president Jacques Chirac in Paris in January, Saudi foreign minister Saud al Faisal said that a US attack on Iraq would result in “a calamity of immense proportions.” As war became imminent, he noted that, “Saudi Arabia will not join the conflict and will not [allow its territory] to be used to attack Iraq.” Saudi Arabia has secretly allowed its airspace to be used by cruise missiles, and made a northern airbase available to coalition forces. The prince has now asked Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq, but not even dropped a hint of imposing an oil embargo. This comes as no surprise to Saudi watchers.
Many people expected the Saudis to impose an oil embargo in support of their March 2002 peace plan, once it became clear that the Israelis had responded to it by stepping up their reprisals in the West Bank and Gaza. However, the Saudis flatly rejected the use of oil as a weapon, disowning completely the policy King Faisal had used in 1973. Walid Jumblatt of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon reminded the prince about his father’s conduct, who gave his life by daring to say that he would stop oil supplies to the West and that he wanted to liberate Jerusalem and pray there.
King Abdullah of Jordan, whose heavily accented Arabic betrays his western upbringing, said he had contacted other countries before the war started in an attempt to prevent the conflict. Claiming that he was “a Muslim, an Arab and a Hashemite,” he asserted, “Nobody can outbid my concern for my people and my (Arab) nation.” He said that coalition forces had asked Jordan for use of its airspace, a request he “adamantly rejected” because a war with Iraq would breed “extremism.” Yet he has allowed Patriot batteries to be placed on Jordanian soil, and permitted Special Operations Forces to launch operations into Iraq.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, which had fought a long and punishing war with Saddam’s Iraq a decade and a half ago, was more than happy to stay neutral in the course of this conflict. It had adopted the same posture during the First Gulf War, and had accommodated 100 front-line aircraft of the Iraqi Air Force that sought sanctuary in its airbases. Having lost a million of its fighters during the eight-year old war with Iraq, the Ayatollahs in Iran must find Saddam’s departure at the hands of his erstwhile sponsors a truly sweet form of poetic justice. But they cannot ignore the ticking of the clock. Saddam’s departure will soon reduce the membership of the axis of evil to just North Korea and Iran. Since the former does not support any Middle Eastern terror groups, and since it could very easily carry out a first-strike against Seoul, it is not likely to be attacked any time soon. Thus, Iran may soon find itself standing on the front lines of regime change.
Syria, the only Arab country on the UN Security Council, claims all it could to stop the war at the UN. It has already received a warning from Secretary Rumsfeld, for having provided lethal weaponry in the form of night-vision goggles to Iraq. Israel continues to occupy its Golan Heights, and continues to allege that Syria is fighting a proxy war with Israel through the Hizbollah of Lebanon. The storm cannot be too far away.
Perhaps the strongest support for Iraq came from the new Muslim but secular government in Turkey. It found a clever parliamentary way to deny land access to the heavily-armed US Fourth Infantry Division, and delay the opening of a northern front in the Iraq war. Even Paul Wolfowitz, the guru of regime change, was left speechless. All he could on Sunday’s Meet the Press program was that Turkey is a democracy, and the US had to respect its wishes.
Somewhat further removed physically but very close ideologically, the government of Pakistan found itself in a very awkward position. In December 2001, General Musharraf had cautioned the US against going after Iraq. His military-appointed democratic government deplored the US decision to attack Iraq, but was truly frightened at the prospect of voting against the US in the UN Security Council, where with Syria it was only one of two members from the Muslim world. The best they could do was put off the Prime Minister’s trip to the US. Yet that was not enough to prevent the foreign m inister of India from inviting the US to carry out a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan. He said that Pakistan satisfied all three conditions for regime change even more than Iraq: it had nuclear weapons, it supported terrorist groups, and it was not a real democracy. It remains to be seen how long Pakistan’s military rulers can carry on with this juggler’s act of supporting the US fight global terrorism of the al-Qaeda ilk on the one hand while supporting freedom fighters of the local variety in Kashmir.
Singling out Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, former CIA director James Woolsey said recently in a speech at the University of California, Los Angeles, “We want you [to be] nervous. We want you to realize now, for the fourth time in a hundred years, this country and its allies are on the march and that we are on the side of those whom you-the Mubaraks, the Saudi Royal family-most fear: We’re on the side of your own people.” Woolsey noted proudly that the US was engaged in fighting World War IV. That term was introduced by Elliot Cohen to describe the global war against terrorism, but it has now been expanded to include changes of tyrannical regimes that have access to weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The import of his remarks will not be lost on Muslim and Arab leaders. A fundamental change has occurred in the tactics of implementing regime change. What was formerly accomplished through covert “black” operations is now being accomplished through overt military operations by the world’s most powerful military whose budget exceeds that of the next ten nations combined.
In the near future, regime change may be expanded to include not just those un-elected despots with access to WMDs but any rulers who stand in the way of the neo-conservative agenda of global domination. Then the hypocrites of today will come to taste their just desserts.
 Paul Koring, “Analysis: A tenacious stand, doomed from the start,” The Globe and Mail, April 3, 2003.
 Quentin Peel, “The perils of wartime wishful thinking,” Financial Times, April 1, 2003.
 James Drummond, “Mubarak fears war may increase terrorism,” Financial Times, April 1, 2003.