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Interests

10 March 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

The upcoming war between the US and Iraq has exposed as well as covered up many interests.  A short (partial) list of the following:

The USA – Until September 11th Saddam Hussein was no big deal, even if he tried to assassinate George Bush Sr. in the early 1990’s. Although supporting Israel, Washington was pushing for restraint in responses to terror, not only to show themselves as an ‘even handed’ broker with the Palestinians but to appease such moderate Arab regimes such as Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar.  In the aftermath of the attacks, American priorities changed with the war on terror taking the number one slot.  The high tech failure of early 2000 was accelerated and coupled with sky rocketing oil prices (much of it having to do with the Venezuelan general strike) intensifying the US economic slump.

Ditching Saddam begins to solve two problems.  Support for terrorism is undercut as many regimes are put on notice not to host terror groups and are even forced into battling against them.  Secondly, Iraqi oil is being pumped at a slow rate because of the sanctions and once Saddam is out the black gold can be furiously produced, forcing world prices downwards, possibly below $20.  This could be a serious catalyst for the American economy and US oilmen do not have to invest in new drilling.

The Arab World – They want Saddam out as well.  He is popular with the man in the street and thereby a destabilizing factor for leaders like Egypt’s Husni Mubarak whose pro-American policies are not respected by the average person.  The ‘moderates’ could find their regimes facing a fair amount of turmoil should the Americans back down.  A war will be destabilizing, but if Saddam is toppled quickly, that could be the end of it.  Most moderates are standing silently behind President Bush, realizing the American actions will save their regimes and they will be paid off.

Here the Gulf oil producing states are in a quandary, prices will drop but they will stay in power.  They will take the deal, the alternative is not worth considering.  On the inter-Arab front, the moderates get a boost, and the radicals lose a player.  In particular Mubarak gains.

The Russians – The collapsed economy of the late 1990’s is beginning to recover especially as Russian oil is selling at a premium.  A drop in prices is a loss but President Putin will not go head to head with Bush on this, there are too many interests.  Much of the Russian foreign ministry is traditionally pro-Arab and demands an independent line from the US not wanting to be seen as lackeys, but reality can be expected to sink in Russia will determine its policies based on the conflict outcome.

Russia has two major interests, to defeat Islamic militancy, since the country has long borders with the new central Asian Moslem republics (and the continuing Chechnian problem) and the need to bring moderates into power in those areas while maintaining correct relations with the US once the Persian Gulf dust has settled.  Despite the expected drop in oil prices, the Russians can be expected to gain from a quick American victory.

The Germans – They want to be seen as peace-makers (they have a bad record on this line from 1870 – 1945) but that is not the whole story.  Apparently the Germans have aided in much of Saddam’s non-conventional military development, and the last thing they need is for the Americans to discover companies like IG Farben who developed Zyklon B gas pellets for exterminating Jews in WWII as major partners in the Iraqi war effort.

Germany has a fairly large Moslem population (mostly Turkish) it does not want to antagonize.  The left wing government and anti-war demonstrators are quite hypocritical when discussing the future violation of the human rights of Iraq’s civilian population as a result of the war.  This is all a bluff since they know Saddam has forcibly transferred millions and brought about the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not more.

On the political – diplomatic front Berlin along with Paris see themselves as the resurgent western answer to American hegemony to the post-Cold War world.  They hope a future EEC economy will be able to challenge the US.  But in any case they are in a fix, not wanting to alienate Washington.

The French – Paris, like Berlin, wants a reoriented European west and has to consider the influence of a large Moslem North African population.  During their colonial rule France brutally repressed indigenous independence movements especially in Syria and Algeria, killing thousands.  Today President Chirac is seeking a way back to the Arab world, especially since he needs oil.  Lower prices would certainly help, but more importantly he does not want to alienate the Arab people.

Furthermore and similar to Germany, they too have apparently been involved in building Saddam’s non-conventional warfare stocks.  Let’s not forget, the French build the atomic reactor destroyed by Israel at Osirik in 1981.  They do not want the Americans to discover their involvement with Baghdad.

The Israelis – Any war to dump Saddam is a blessing as he is still considered a non-conventional warfare threat and is a fervent supporter of Palestinian terrorism, especially suicide bombers.   The change in regime is expected to undermine PA Chairman Arafat, the Fatah Al Aksa Brigades radicals, Hamas and the Jihad while strengthening moderate forces calling for dialogue and a two state solution.

The Left and Center have much to gain in the aftermath as a peace arrangement is sought out.  The far Right is a different story as pressures will build for a two state solution and they will be forced to abandon quite a few Jewish developments in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli economy should be able to recover in part with the elimination of the short and medium term Iraqi threat and the liquidation of Saddam’s source of funding for Palestinian terrorism.

In the end there should be more pluses than minuses, but the unexpected is always just around the corner and no one can predict the future, especially if it is a prolonged conflict.