By Eric Margolis (December 8, 2002 Toronto Sun)
Arms inspections are a "hoax," said Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister, in a forthright and chilling interview with ABC News last week. "War is inevitable."
Aziz is the smartest, most credible member of President Saddam Hussein's otherwise sinister regime - my view after covering Iraq since 1976.
What the U.S. wants is not "regime change" in Iraq but rather "region change," charged Aziz. He tersely summed up the Bush administration's reasons for war against Iraq: "Oil and Israel."
Aziz's undiplomatic language underlines growing fears across the Mideast that U.S. President George Bush intends to use a manufactured war against Iraq to redraw the political map of the region, put it under permanent U.S. military control, and seize its vast oil resources.
These are not idle alarms.
Senior administration officials openly speak of invading Iran, Syria, Libya and Lebanon. Influential neo-conservative think-tanks in Washington have deployed a small army of "experts" on TV, urging the U.S. to remove governments deemed unfriendly to the U.S. and Israel.
Washington's most powerful lobbies - for oil and Israel - are urging the U.S. to seize Mideast oil and crush any regional states that might one day challenge Israel's nuclear monopoly or regional dominance.
The radical transformation of the Mideast being considered by the Bush administration is potentially the biggest political change since the notorious 1916 Sykes-Picot Treaty in which victorious Britain and France carved up the Ottoman-ruled region.
Possible scenarios under review at the highest levels:
* Iraq is to be placed under U.S. military rule. Iraq's leadership, notably Saddam Hussein and Aziz, will face U.S. drumhead courts martial and firing squads.
Iraq will be broken up into three semi-autonomous regions: Kurdish north; Sunni centre; Shia south. Iraq's oil will be exploited by U.S. and British firms. Iraq will become a major customer for U.S. arms. Turkey may get a slice of northern Iraq around the Kirkuk and Mosul oil fields. U.S. forces will repress any attempts by Kurds to set up an independent state. A military dictatorship or kingdom will eventually be created.
The swift, ruthless crushing of Iraq is expected to terrify Arab states, Palestinians and Iran into obeying U.S. political dictates.
* Independent-minded Syria will be ordered to cease support for Lebanon's Hezbollah, and allow Israel to dominate Jordan and Lebanon, or face invasion and "regime change." The U.S. will anyway undermine the ruling Ba'ath regime and young leader, Bashir Assad, replacing him with a French-based exile regime. France will get renewed influence in Syria as a consolation prize for losing out in Iraq to the Americans and Brits. Historical note: in 1949, the U.S. staged its first coup in Syria, using Gen. Husni Zai'im to overthrow a civilian government.
Iran a principal foe
* Iran will be severely pressured to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs or face attack by U.S. forces. Israel's rightist Likud party, which guides much of the Bush administration's Mideast thinking, sees Iran, not demolished Iraq, as its principal foe and threat, and is pressing Washington to attack Iran once Iraq is finished off. At minimum, the U.S. will encourage an uprising against Iran's Islamic regime, replacing it with either a royalist government or one drawn from U.S.-based Iranian exiles.
* Saudi Arabia will be allowed to keep the royal family in power, but compelled to become more responsive to U.S. demands and to clamp down on its increasingly anti-American population. If this fails, the CIA is reportedly cultivating senior Saudi air force officers who could overthrow the royal family and bring in a compliant military regime like that of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. Or, partition Saudi Arabia, making the oil-rich eastern portion an American protectorate.
* The most important Arab nation, Egypt - with 40% of all Arabs - will remain a bastion of U.S. influence. The U.S. controls 50% of Egypt's food supply, 85% of its arms and spare parts, and keeps the military regime of Gen. Hosni Mubarak in power. Once leader of the Arab world, Egypt is keeping a very low profile in the Iraq crisis, meekly co-operating with American war plans.
* Jordan is a U.S.-Israeli protectorate and its royal family, the Hashemites, are being considered as possible figurehead rulers of U.S.-occupied "liberated" Iraq; more remotely, for Saudi Arabia and/or Syria.
* The Gulf Emirates and Oman, former British protectorates and now American protectorates, are already, in effect, tiny colonies.
* In Libya, madcap Col. Moammar Khadafy remains on Washington's black list and is marked for extinction once bigger game is bagged. The U.S. wants Libya's high-quality oil. Britain may reassert its former influence here.
* Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, short of revolution, will remain loyal western satraps under highly repressive, French-backed royalist and military regimes.
* Yemen's former British imperial base at Aden and former French base at Djibouti will become important permanent U.S. bases.
* The White House hopes Palestinians will be cowed by Iraq's destruction, and forced to accept U.S.-Israeli plans to become a self-governing, but isolated, native reservation surrounded by Israeli forces.
The lines drawn in the Mideast by old European imperial powers are now to be redrawn by the world's newest imperial power, the United States. But as veteran soldiers know, even the best strategic plans become worthless once real fighting begins.