by Kim Petersen
March 14, 2003
The reigning heads of the Middle East are antithetical to the dogma of Osama bin Laden, none more so than the secular head of Iraq, President Saddam Hussein. Yet Mr. bin Laden is opposed to any US-led attack on Iraq. Mr. bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network, most likely the perpetrators of 9-11, ignited the events that see Washington and London poised for another bout of aggression against Iraq. The recalcitrant Arab leaders have been cajoled to provide assistance to President Bush and his superhawks in their scheme to impose a new kind of hegemony in the Middle East.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denounced Arab governments that give succor to the “planned aggression and mischief” of the US. (1) Most Arab leaders dissembled that they would never provide the US forces any assistance without UN approbation. This is thoroughly pathetic in that they will all be affected by the war, in large part or small, and should be remonstrating in most forceful language against the war. The venal governments of Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia are all in overt support of the US.
The elected Bahraini government did speak against the war, citing solidarity with Iraqis, opposition to US hypocrisy in the Occupied Territories, and post-war security concerns. (2) Despite the palpable public antipathy to the US and war, the fledgling Bahraini parliament wields no real power and the monarch has acceded to the presence of western forces in the realm.
Saudi Arabia, which was hoodwinked into the initial hostilities in 1991 by fake satellite photos purporting to show an impending Iraqi invasion of the Saudi kingdom (3), has confessed to admitting US troops on its territory near the Iraqi border. (4) A lot of bellicose rhetoric about Saudi Arabia being a sponsor of terrorism has been emanating from Washington and it seems to have unsettled the Saudi monarchs. Saudi concerns over the US redrawing of the Middle Eastern map obviously played a role as well.
Qatar has been generously playing home-away-from home to the US forces as well as home to war games scenarios for the upcoming reconflagration. In fact Qatar openly courted the Americans with the billion dollar al-Udeid air base and its 4.5 km long runway. After Riyadh initially refused to allow Saudi soil to be a base for non UN-sanctioned war, the Americans switched to Camp al-Saliyah in Qatar. Camp al-Saliyah is now the nerve center monitoring all traffic in the Persian Gulf theatre of operations. (5)
Jordan has been a big waffler. Early on there were reports of US military in eastern Jordan but the government averred that never would the kingdom be involved in the war. The populace is massively opposed to an attack and Jordanian authorities still mendaciously play down any role in the impending onslaught, despite evidence to the contrary. Jordan appears to have been bought off. (6) The population seems to be aware of the deceit of their burger-loving king but speak only sotto voce to trusted friends, as the intelligence service in Jordan is widespread.
Turkey, a non-Arab Muslim nation, with newly elected Recep Tayyip Erdogan assuming the Prime Ministership might now approve the last key in the US military stratagem against Iraq. Mr. Erdogan is seen as a strong backer of US troop deployment and a new vote in the parliament to that effect may take place following a vote on a second UN Security Council Resolution. (7)
Much of the American support has come from the Gulf Emirate states. Increased US-ties have diminished the Saudi influence and given the smaller Gulf states the boldness to exert their seemingly more independent views. These states have called for the regime of Mr. Saddam Hussein to go into exile. (8)
Kuwait is understandably one of the tiny countries that wish to see Mr. Hussein go. Kuwait’s oil sheikhs are still indebted to the US for their restoration. The US saw to the reinstallation of Kuwaiti dictator Sheikh Jaber. So much for pushing democracy.
So now the bully nations of the US and UK are going to go another round with Iraq -- still reeling from genocidal UN sanctions, cancer epidemics from living in a country littered with depleted uranium, irradiated crops, water and health systems in shambles, and children at massive risk from further violence. (9) These two morally-challenged regimes spuriously claim the integrity to enact regime change in Iraq: the UK, which carved out a authoritarian Kuwaiti sheikhdom in such a way as to deliberately impede Iraqi access to the Persian Gulf; the US, which schemed with their brutal puppet, the Shah, to regain control of the Shatt al-Arab waterway. If Iraq had been granted an opening to the Persian Gulf much warring and bloodshed might have been avoided.
Indeed while the Europeans exert massive pressure on their politicians to avert war, the Arabs are cowing abjectly to their western-imposed dictators even though the violence is about to be unleashed against Arab brethren. Arabs are about to be slaughtered, their oil resources plundered, and the geo-political map of the Middle East redrawn by imperialists again. All this while the US-aided and abetted Israeli pogrom against Palestinians is being ramped up in the Occupied Territories. Does Arab cowardice know no bounds? The rodent-like scurrying and pervasive Arab malaise induced Lebanon-based writer Robert Fisk to lament: “What on earth is it with the Arabs?” (10)
Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) CBC Online Staff, “Syria criticizes Arab states for supporting U.S.,” CBC News, Monday 10 Mar 2003: http://cbc.ca/stories/2003/03/10/syria030310
(2) Agence France-Presse, “Bahraini parliament warns of devastating fallout from any Iraq war,” ClariNews, Tuesday, 31 December 2002:
(3) Maggie O'Kane, “No casus belli? Invent one!” The Guardian, Wednesday 5 February 2003: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4599302,00.html
News, Monday 10 Mar 2003: http://cbc.ca/stories/2003/03/10/jordan030310
(5) Derwin Pereira, “Glf War II's nerve center,” The Straits Times, 14 March 2003: http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/storyprintfriendly/0,1887,176927,00.html
(7) CBC Online Staff, “Erdogan takes Turkish PM's post,” Tuesday 11 March 2003: http://cbc.ca/stories/2003/03/10/erdogan030309
(9) Carolyne Culver, “Give Iraq’s children a chance!”, Reuters Foundation: Alert Net, 3 February 2003: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/fromthefield/586609