Monday, September 23, 1996
Is Saddam Hussein Our Secret Protector?
The Kurds must be the most suicidal non-fulfilled non-autonomous five million people in the world. Bunched up in the Iraq/Iran/Turkey triangle, these ethnic Sunni Muslim Persians want independence and territory, but cannot unite, and have given, by asking for Iraqi help, Saddam Hussein a chance to destroy the leadership of their more rebellious, Iran-oriented faction. The help was requested by Massoud Barzani's Kurdish Democratic Party, battling the Iran-oriented Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. It was incredible that Barzani asked for Hussein's help, despite the Iraqis' history of destruction of Kurds over the recent decades.
Saddam Hussein, since his assumption of power in Iraq in 1979, has been at the root of continuous death and suffering, both abroad and in his country, through purges. In 1980 he caused a bloody eight-year war with Shiite Iran, heirs of the 2,500-year empire and hated sometime ovelords, resulting in over 2 million deaths in both countries. In 1988 he dropped mustard gas and cyanide on rebellious Kurds, killing thousands. In August 1990 he invaded and looted Kuwait, threatening Saudi Arabia and forcing the US, under the umbrella of the UN, to form an unusual alliance that included such countries as Israel, Syria and Egypt, for the purpose of liberating Kuwait. The coalition, with airplane and missile attacks, caused the Iraqis to withdraw, with a loss of 85,000 Iraqui lives. But the coalition did not invade Iraq, and Hussein remained in power. Not daunted, he attacked and killed thousands of rebellious Iraqi Kurds, forcing the UN and the coalition to establish a protected no-flight zone over the Kurdish triangle in north Iraq, which borders on Turkey and Iran and now houses 3 million refugees. The US has had to spend some $1 billion in Kurdish refugee relief to date. And now Hussein has reestablished his authority in north Iraq by marching in troops and destroying the Iran-supported Kurd opposition.
The US has responded by bombing Hussein's air defense sites in south Iraq and increasing its military presence in Kuwait to 5,000 troops, as a deterrent to any other Iraqi military threat to its southern neighbors. Remember, as recently as August 1994 Iraq assembled 70,000 soldiers in a show of force at the Kuwait border, forcing the US to fly in several thousand troops from Ft. Hood.
Hussein has always had major conquests in mind. While leading the bloody and costly war with Iran, he used much of Iraq's oil revenue (Iraq has 1/10 of the world's oil reserves) to finance the building of atomic weapons. In June 1981 Israel launched an unexpected preemptive air strike, bombing Hussein's atomic plant near Baghdad out of existence; but the clandestine research and attempts to buy bomb materials in the world market appear to continue.
Yet, a total evil though he may be, destroying Sadam Hussein is not in the best interests of the USA and the industrial nations. That this is US policy became perfectly evident at the end of the Gulf War in 1991, when President George Bush and his advisor Colin Powell left him in power, and is equally so in 1996, when the US is weakly retaliating against Hussein's attack on the Kurds by minimally strafing his air intelligence stations in South Iraq. Why is it so?
Well, in 1991 as well as now, Saddam Hussein and his 17 million Iraqis are the only military bastion against the powerful 65 million Muslim fundamentalist wave from Iran that could engulf and unify the Middle East against Israel and the West. If it were not for Saddam, the autocratic rulers of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Kuwait and even Jordan might be overrun by the restive masses of nationalistic militant Muslims, fed by the aggressive fundamentalist Iranian regime. The devil has to be used to keep the terrorists in check. Saddam had to be kept subdued enough not to engage in new conquests, and powerful enough to hold off a wave of Iran-backed fundamentalists. And if Saddam were to be overthrown, a democratic Iraq would go through its own "Yugoslavia phase" and probably divide into a Shiite middle, Sunni south and a Kurdistan north. Divided Iraq would certainly be no defense against the Iranian militants, and the royal rulers in our client states - the Saudis, Bahrein, Kuwait and the emirates, and even Jordan - would topple one by one. Egypt, Algeria and Morocco, already under a considerable pressure by the militant religionists, would follow suit. The Middle East, under more uniform anti-Western Muslim fundamentalist rule, would be a destructive threat to Israel, and to the world powers that have kept it afloat with the aid of some of our client nations. World economy would be endangered because the 350 billion barrels of oil in the ground of the threatened monarchies constitute 1/2 of the world's oil reserve (260 in Saudi, 100 each in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirate) and with the 200 bb in in Iran and Iraq combined, a Middle East consortium can dictate energy prices and supply for the entire world. In 1973 the same countries did just that, utilizing their 1960 OPEC (Organization of Oil Producing Countries) structure, when irked by a monopolistic cut in oil royalties promulgated by the muscle-flexing Big Seven oil companies. The resultant OPEC embargo of oil exports to the West and the eight-fold increase in oil prices disrupted the world economy, resulting in a commendable but short-lived international effort to curb oil consumption. If it had not been for the needy OPEC members, such as Nigeria, dumping oil at reduced prices and breaking the cartel, OPEC might still be controlling the international fuel supply.
Presently, the US, as the protector of Saudi Arabia and the other monarchs, can regulate oil supply and keep the flow uniform and reasonably priced. A successful revolution in Saudi Arabia alone, today the most internally threatened of the Mideast coutries, could shift the world's economic picture. If a fundamentalist-driven OPEC were to be resuscitated and prices were to go up, in a 1973 pattern, the West and the Pacific Rim countries would go into a major depression.
The threat that Saddam Hussein presented to the Arab nations and the economy of the world in 1990 was recognized by the rulers, hence the ease with which President George Bush in 1990 was able to organize the alliance of Mideastern and Western powers. It could easily have resulted in the destruction of Hussein's empire. But Bush and his military advisor Colin Powell were aware of the dangers that would ensue, and let Hussein continue in power, albeit under severe restrictions of his economic power. His conventional military power was left intact. An embargo on his sales of oil assured the West that he would have no money for military conquests and no price manipulations from Iraq would upset the marketplace.
Likewise, Hussein's access to the rebellious Kurds in the corner where Iraq, Turkey and Iran meet was restricted by the no-fly zone. This area presented a direct threat to Hussein's rule. Fortunately for him, Kurds are unable to unite, and when one faction looked to him for help, he took the opportunity to invade - in his own country - to destroy the leadership of the hostile Kurd faction that had allied itself with Iran, the age old enemies.
One dilemma - what was the CIA doing in Kurd country, fostering attempts on Hussein's life? The answer may well be that a half-hearted effort (they worked with a puny $20 million budget) satisfied the anti-Hussein US public opinion
as well as warning him not to overstep the boundaries and start new external military adventures. A more serious effort would have been to use the full US economic aid to unite the warring Kurd factions. But now Hussein has managed to remove the threat of Kurd revolt coming from north Iraq. The US has to amass forces in Kuwait and bring an extra fleet to the Persian Gulf to show our retailiatory preparedness, in case he should once more try to attack the monarchies.
Why did President Clinton take the weak unilateral action against Hussein, destroying $60,000 worth of radar equipment in the south of Iraq, at the cost of 44 million-dollar cruise missiles, as charged by Speaker Gingrich? Why were all the Arab nations against this action, with evenn Kuwait, the most vulnerable nation, dragging its feet in accepting President Clinton's request to accomodate 5,000 American soldiers who presumably would defend Kuwait from an invasion? The answer would seem that a weakened, UN-controlled Hussein in power is more to their advantage than out of power, that they do not see him engaging in external conquests, and their concern is that the headstrong Americans with their military power will upset the balance. But doesn't Clinton know all this? Yes, he does, but the election is near, and he could not leave himself vulnerable to the Republicans' accusations of ineptitude and inactivity in the face of Hussein's attack. What about the Republicans, heirs of the Bush and Powell policy? Yes, they know, but in a life-and-death election campaign anything is permissible, including accusing the opposition party of inept policy to which they actually subscribe. That's election year politics, not a source of pride for either party. I wish it were over.