It seems this broken region, and this broken world, are in for a further escalation of conflict in 2007.
The report of the US Congress-mandated Iraq Study Group recommended that US forces end direct participation in combat operations in Iraq and concentrate on training Iraqi troops instead. It also called for American dialogue with both Iran and Syria for the sake of stabilising Iraq. Although the report failed to recognise the gravity of the problems in Iraq (that there are no ‘Iraqi’ troops, for instance, only militiamen) or to propose serious political solutions, and although its authors still envisaged a long-term American controlling presence in the country, it nevertheless represented an acknowledgment that America is failing in Iraq, and an attempt to limit the damage.
Bush and his people are ignoring the report. Who are Bush’s people? On the one hand, there are traditional right-wing Republicans who are unable to countenance defeat, the kind of people who don’t understand that America was militarily defeated in Vietnam. If it hadn’t been for hippies and weak politicians at home, they think, we’d have smashed the Cong. We won’t be defeated again! And there are neo-con nihilists, believers in ‘creative chaos,’ ideologues often more loyal to Israel’s perceived interests than to America’s. Many commentators have claimed the neo-cons are in decline: I fear not. They have been repositioning, certainly – blaming Bush and Rumsfield for the conduct of the war in Iraq (but not the war itself), making themselves more attractive to the right-wing of the Democratic party. It is very important to remember that as far as large sections of the American ruling class are concerned the Iraq war has not been a failure.
When people examine the war from a human perspective, when they consider the 650, 000 Iraqi dead, the millions of internal and external refugees, the tens of millions suffering poverty, trauma and the effects of Depleted Uranium, when they consider too the 3, 000 American dead, it seems obvious that the war has been a disaster. When we examine the war according to its supposed aims, we see that it has failed on every one. To capture Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? There were no weapons of mass destruction. To establish democracy? Instead of democracy there is gang rule, civil war and sectarian hatred. To enshrine human rights? The United Nations says that torture is more prevalent in Iraq now than under Saddam, and the Americans themselves have done their bit for torture in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. To promote secularism at the expense of Islamism? One of the most secular Arab countries is now ruled by competing groups of fundamentalist clerics. To stop terrorism? The presence of violent Salafi groups in Iraq has risen from zero before the invasion to plague proportions now.
But look at the real reasons for the invasion and the picture becomes rosier. Corporations like (Cheney’s) Halliburton have made huge profits reconstructing Iraq despite the fact that nothing has been reconstructed. For these (overwhelmingly American) business interests, Iraq has been a risk-free investment. The American taxpayer foots the bill, whatever the result. The government (staffed by the same people who staff the corporations and the media) signed the contracts. Moreover, it looks like an oil law committing Iraq to long-term agreements with foreign corporations is about to be pushed through the parliament. It should be noted that many parliamentarians do not live in Iraq. The United States has seen drafts of the oil law, but the Iraqi public, and many Iraqi parliamentarians, haven’t. Another positive result: Iraq may be a danger to itself, but it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to be a danger again to the puppet monarchies of the Gulf, or to Israel. Plus this benefit: the Arab and Muslim masses, who only six years ago seemed increasingly united in opposition to Israel and American imperialism, increasingly aware and politically active, are now consumed with sectarian and petty-nationalist rivalries.
Yes, Americans are dying, but usually only blacks, Latinos, and poor whites. Plenty of mercenaries from South America, South Africa and Eastern Europe are being killed too, but they aren’t officially members of the American armed forces, so their deaths are not reported. The American tax payer is losing – but that’s the tax payer, and not the ruling class.
The novelist Thomas Pynchon offered two approaches for understanding the contemporary world: either as chaos, which he called entropy, or by paranoia, the assumption that everything is organised by hidden conspiracy. Most Westerners, being trusting folk, prefer the chaos explanation. That is, the Washington and London ‘experts’ really did expect to find nuclear missiles in Saddam’s bathroom; they really did think the Iraqi Muslim masses would welcome GIs with flowers; they thought Depleted Uranium was good for you; they believed radical Islamists would want only to disco dance in Tel Aviv once they’d tasted American candy. Me, I don’t think so. In the case of Iraq, I tend to paranoia. Bush may be a chimpanzee who hadn’t heard the word ‘shia’ until last Tuesday, but he is surrounded by professionals, men with PhDs, by intelligence men. These people guessed what would happen. It wasn’t difficult to foresee. I foresaw it, and I’m not paid to study the region. They understand Arab and Muslim weaknesses, Arab and Muslim backwardness, better than the Arabs and Muslims do themselves. It’s very depressing to watch the Muslims, particularly the Arabs, fall into the traps which have been laid for them.
The one failure of the war, from the point of view of the ruling classes, is that Iran has been inadvertantly strengthened by the fall of the Baathist regime. So 2007 is the year to destroy Iran.
Attempts are well underway to neutralise Iran’s allies. In Palestine, Abu Mazen’s Fatah goons are being armed by Israel, Jordan and Egypt to take on the elected Hamas government. In Lebanon, Sinyora’s government is being funded (and some say armed) by Saudi Arabia and America to strengthen it against the legitimate demands (for a representative government) of Hizbullah and its allies. It looks as if the American ‘surge’ in Iraq will be directed against as-Sadr’s Jaish al-Mahdi.
Meanwhile, patriot missiles are being sent to Gulf states which host large American military bases, and extra warships are being deployed in the Gulf. These weapons have nothing to do with Iraq, and everything to do with Iran. The recent arrest of the Iranian diplomats in Iraqi Kurdistan seems designed to provoke Iran into actions which can be used to justify war. We should expect further provocation.
America cannot sustain a ground invasion of Iran. From what I read it (or Israel) is more likely to launch intense air attacks on Iranian military and infrastructural targets. The campaign will be followed by efforts to incite rebellion among ethnic minorities in Iran – Balush, Arabs, Azeris and Kurds. The aim is to keep the Iranians so busy they won’t be able to project power beyond their borders. If the plan works (and I don’t think it will – Iran is more cohesive and less traumatised than Iraq), we can expect to see the kind of ‘busyness’ in Iran that we are seeing in Iraq.
Of course, I exaggerate when I say the War on Terror has been an unqualified victory for the empire. America’s imperialistic hubris is losing it influence and respect throughout the world. America’s essentially third world nature is becoming more and more apparent – hysterically nationalist, religiously fundamentalist, educationally backward, a country with vast divergences between classes and ethnic groups, with a propagandist media, whose government is controlled by vested interests. Empires are sustained by consensus as much as by coercion, and there is no longer anything resembling consensus that America is a serious candidate for global governance. The probable attack on Iran will be America’s Suez moment. America will win militarily, but lose, massively, politically. It’s all bad for America (remember America is not the same as the American ruling class), and worse for the Middle East.
Erm .. Happy New Year!