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Shed no tears for Saddam
March 17, 2003
The occupation of Iraq, either peacefully or with force, will take place sooner or later. US preparations for taking action against Iraq are at such a level that not taking action is no longer an option. The US has moved huge forces over a distance of 7,000 kms, spending close to $9 billion. Backing down now would mean political suicide for President Bush.
Even if Saddam Hussein is to comply with all that the US wants the US will make sure he is ousted and a regime change affected in Iraq. The issue of possession or detection of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is irrelevant for the Americans.
It appears the planned operations have two main aims:
1.To secure control of Iraqi oil, that is close to 17 per cent of the world's oil reserves. This is of special urgency since the US-Saudi agreement of February 14, 1945 expires in 2005. This 60-year arrangement signed on board the USS Quincy by President Franklin D Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud gives Americans monopoly rights over Saudi oil. In combination with the complete control over Kuwaiti oil, established after the 1991 war, the US will be in a position to control even the European and Japanese economies that depend heavily on Middle Eastern oil.
2.Secondly, by taking action against Iraq, the Americans are sending a clear signal to the Muslim world and Islamists that the US is prepared to go to any length in its fight against terrorism. The strong message the Iraq episode conveys is aimed at the Islamic world. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 General Wesley Clark, former commander of NATO forces, stated that Muslims countries have to choose between an Islam that is tolerant or one that is militant. The Americans seem to have calculated and accepted the risk of alienation in the Islamic world. The recent softening of Iran towards the US shows that the divisions within the Islamic world seems to be working to the advantage of the Americans.
This year's Strategic Review, nicknamed the 'Bush Manifesto,' makes it clear that the US will pre-empt all threats to its security. Significantly, President Bush talked of 'American justice,' not mere justice. It is a misnomer to say the US intends to become a global cop! The US has no such intention; what the US is telling the world is it will become global sheriff -- and Saddam Hussein is the first guy in its crosshairs.
Other than Turkey and maybe Egypt, Iraq is the most developed country in the Islamic world. Literacy is close to 80 per cent, women have great deal of freedom and the sway of religion is far less. It is only after the first Gulf War of 1991 that Saddam flirted with Islamic fundamentalism to shore up support. Iraq is closest to a 'secular' model in the Arab world. Ironically, it is the very success of Saddam Hussein and the Baathist party that has become a liability.
Iraq is the right place to begin the American war on Islamic fundamentalism. Success here will be easier to achieve than other countries like Saudi Arabia. In addition, Iraqi oil will compensate for the loss of Saudi oil.
Even economically it is a good bargain for the Americans. It is estimated the war will cost close to $40 billion and the reconstruction of Iraq another $90 billion. Once Iraqi oil exports begin, these amounts are not so huge and can easily be earned over a 10-year period.
The US wants to establish a new world order. The creation of a political climate which supports US global economic interests is crucial for this purpose. The elimination of threats to US assets, in the homeland and overseas, from non-State actors committed to violence, and the States that support them is therefore on top of the US agenda at present.
A war in Iraq seems unavoidable unless Saddam leaves before the strikes begin. The war is likely to take the form of a siege by American and its allies' ground forces. The air strikes on vital targets will commence and continue till the accumulating pressures cause capitulation by Iraq. Water supply and electricity may be targeted so that the civil population is directly affected and clamours for the end of war.
Impact on India
With America taking radical Islam head on the pressure on India in Kashmir may ease. Disruption in oil supply is a temporary phenomenon and India can cope with it. As a first step in the war against Islamic fundamentalism the Iraq conflict is in Indian interests.
Through its agent provocateurs Pakistan is likely to incite Indian Muslims into street protests to queer the pitch between India and the US. The defeat or humiliation of Iraq is a forgone conclusion. This is likely to have a deep impact on the Muslims of the subcontinent. This presents India with a great opportunity to wean away Kashmiris from militancy and Indian Muslims who sympathise with the jihadis and Pakistan.
China has been concerned with the Indo-US partnership and has been taking active measures to pose a threat to India. In July 2002 it is reported to have carried out the test of an India-specific medium range ballistic missile, the Dongeng 21. According to published reports China also tested MIRVs (multiple warheads on single missile) in the Shanxi province in December. Post Iraq, Chinese and Pakistani insecurity will increase, and Indian nuclear deterrence will be increasingly tested.
There will be beneficial economic effects as far as India is concerned. India may play a major role in the reconstruction of Iraq as well as in peace keeping. Indians are well liked in Iraq and our companies have been working there on various projects. This suits the Americans since they can accomplish the job at one tenth of the cost. Indian labour is skilled and much less expensive. As long as the US looks after Indian investments and oil interests, India should be quite happy to contribute. There is no need to shed tears for Saddam.
Wily dictator that he is Saddam may well spring a surprise by abdicating. Remember how General Franco of Spain made a very smooth transition from being Hitler's ally to an anti-Communist crusader after 1945! Or he [Saddam] may well become another Colonel Gaddafi [of Libya] -- the fireeater revolutionary of yesteryears who is neither seen nor heard these days ever since the Americans bombed him in 1987.
Such is the stuff that durable dictators are made of. Even in our neighbourhood we have Pervez Musharraf with his famous 'u-turns.' War or peace will depend on Saddam's survival instincts, and not the peace marchers in Europe.
The Americans are pursuing a long term agenda in the Middle East. Those who think the Americans will not act in Iraq are underestimating the impact 9/11 has had on the US.