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Fwd: good lord, just go ahead and declare apocalypse already
by Threehegemons
12 November 2002 21:46 UTC
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Here is the article I was trying to forward with my last post.

Steven Sherman

ZNet | Iraq 
A New Age of Empire     
by Sasha Lilley; November 10, 2002 
British Member of Parliament George Galloway says that a plan for the
division of the Middle East is circulating in the corridors of power
on both sides of the Atlantic. In a recent interview, Galloway
asserted that ministers and eminent figures in the British government
are deliberating the partition of the Middle East, harking back to
the colonial map-making in the first quarter of the 20th century that
established the modern nation-states of the region. An Anglo-American
war against Iraq, he tells me, could be the opening salvo in the
break up of the region. Galloway, who met with Saddam Hussein in
Baghdad this August, states that the war aims of the US and Britain
go well beyond replacing the Iraqi leader. "They include a recasting
of the entire Middle East, the better to ensure the hegemony of the
big powers over the natural resources of the Middle East and the
safety and security of the vanguard of imperialist interests in the
area - the state of Israel. And part of that is actually redrawing

Galloway is privy to such information as he is the Vice-Chairman of
the Parliamentary Labour Party Foreign Affairs Committee with close
relations to Britain's Ministry of Defense. Galloway says that
British ministers and former ministers are primarily focused on the
break-up of Saudi Arabia and Iraq in the wake of an attack against
Saddam Hussein, but are also discussing the possible partition of
Egypt, the Sudan, Syria and Lebanon. These officials have become
taken with the realization that the borders of the Middle East are
recent creations, dating back only to World War I when Britain and
France divided the region between themselves. Galloway adds, "There
are many ways in which a new Sykes-Picot dispensation could be drawn
up in the Middle East to guarantee another few decades of big power
hegemony over the area." 

The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, codified by the League of Nations
in 1920, parceled out the crumbling Ottoman Empire extending over
much of the Middle East between Britain and France. By the early
1920s Britain, which as the reigning imperial power already
effectively ruled Egypt, the Sudan, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar, made off
with the lion's share. This divvying up of the region by imperial
powers led to the creation of the states of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon
and Iraq among others. Under the aegis of Britain, the modern state
of Saudi Arabia emerged in the late 1920s, absorbing the hitherto
separate eastern, central and western regions - including the holy
sites of Mecca and Medina - of what constitutes the country today. 
The partition of the Middle East was partially driven by the oil
conglomerates of the time. Britain pushed through the interests of
the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (British Petroleum's predecessor) and
Royal Dutch Shell, over American oil companies Exxon and Mobil by
means of the colonial mandate it had established following WWI. 

Jockeying over oil resulted in an Anglo-French agreement giving
Britain the northern Iraqi province of Mosul. This lead to in Iraq's
modern boundaries, formed in 1921 when Britain combined the three
Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, which were
predominantly Kurdish, Sunni and Shi'a Muslim respectively. 

Today British and American petroleum interests dominate the scene
once more, although Britain is reduced to the role of junior partner.
The United States and Britain are home to the four biggest petroleum
producers in the world - Exxon-Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, British
Petroleum-Amoco and Royal Dutch-Shell - with the French-Italian
TotalElfFina following in fifth place. While a massive upheaval in
the Middle East would hurt oil revenues initially, a new
constellation of power there could in the long run safeguard the
interests of the petroleum conglomerates from the present instability
of the region. While the US government has been considering alternate
sources of oil in the Caspian Sea area, Russia and Africa, analysts
admit that none of these compare to the known riches of the Persian

Not surprisingly then, if hawks on both sides of the Atlantic have
their way, Saudi Arabia would be at the core of a hegemonically
reshaped Middle East. Saudi Arabia alone contains a quarter of the
world's petroleum reserves and is one of the only countries able to
increase production to meet rising demand for oil, expected to grow
by fifty percent in the next two decades. Yet Saudi Arabia is no
longer seen by the US and UK governments as a trustworthy ally, and
certainly not one on which they can afford to be so dependent, given
the kingdom's internal vulnerability and its sponsorship of Islamic
fundamentalist insurgents (Saudi nationals comprising fifteen of the
nineteen September 11th hijackers) - even though such patronage had
been coordinated by the United States in earlier, happier times. 

"I think the United States in particular has lost confidence in the
ruling family in Saudi Arabia, so far as their interests are
concerned," Galloway maintains. "They realize that the radicalization
of the Saudi Arabian population has proceeded at very great pace, has
reached very great depths, particularly amongst young people." The
United States and Britain are fearful that the unreliable House of
Saud will be overthrown and that the new anti-American rulers will
shut off the flow of oil. "The United States is afraid that one day
they'll wake up and a Khomeini type - or be it Wahhabi Sunni Khomeini
- revolution would have occurred, and they would have lost everything
in the country." The British Foreign Office has warned that dissent,
bubbling up from a dissatisfied population that sympathizes with
Osama bin Laden and seethes at the pro-American stance of the ruling
elite, has reached the point where the country risks being taken over
by al-Qaeda. 

"Saudi Arabia could easily be two if not three countries," Galloway
says, summarizing the neo-imperialist position discussed in British
government circles, "which would have the helpful bonus of avoiding
foreign forces having to occupy the holiest places in Islam, when
they're only interested really in oil wells in the eastern part of
the country." According to him, the US troops based throughout Saudi
Arabia could be withdrawn from the areas containing Mecca and Medina,
the most hallowed sites in the Islamic world, where US military
presence is a source of great resentment for many Saudis. 

Instead the soldiers would occupy only the Eastern Province of the
country, which borders on the Persian Gulf and is inhabited by Saudi
Arabia's Shi'a minority. This area contains the major oilfields,
including the largest oilfield in the world, Ghawar, as well as the
industrial centers of the kingdom. "The theorists of this idea have
fastened on to the fact that a very substantial proportion of the
population in the Eastern Province, where the oil is, are Shi'ite
Muslims with no particular affection for the ruling Wahhabi clique
who form the House of Saud." Galloway adds that for the first time,
leaders in the West are becoming concerned with the human rights of
the Shi'a population, which "now that they coincide with Western
interests, are moving up the agenda." 

In the United States, those in interlocking circles around the Bush
administration have been calling for the dismemberment of Saudi
Arabia. This past July, an analyst from the US government-funded Rand
Corporation presented a briefing in Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's
private conference room titled "Taking Saudi Out of Arabia," which
advised the assembled luminaries of the Pentagon's Defense Policy
Board that the US government should demand Saudi Arabia stop
supporting hostile fundamentalist movements and curtail the airing of
anti-US and anti-Israel statements, or its oilfields and financial
assets would be seized. A month later Max Singer, co-founder of the
rightwing US think tank the Hudson Institute, gave a presentation to
the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, in which he counseled the US
government to forge a "Muslim Republic of East Arabia" out of the
Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. A war against Iraq, following the
pronouncements of neo-conservatives closely affiliated with the
American and British governments, could start the process of
remolding the region and end in the replacement of Saddam Hussein
with a Hashemite king in Iraq, extending eastward the reign of the
monarchy of longtime US ally Jordan. The cousin of late King Hussein
of Jordan ruled Iraq until 1958 when he was killed in a military
coup. Hawks such as Michael Rubin, who in October joined the Pentagon
as their expert on Iraq and Iran, have encouraged the reinstatement
of the monarchy. Writing in the London Daily Telegraph, Rubin
applauded the attendance of Prince Hassan of Jordan, the brother of
the King Hussein, at a meeting of the motley Iraqi opposition in
London - along with Pentagon and members of Vice President Cheney's
staff - this past July, where Hassan indicated that he could head the
new regime. 

The hawks believe, furthermore, that the overthrow of the Iraqi
government would lead to a "domino effect" in the rest of the region.
A war against Iraq could provide the opportunity for excising the
presumed sources of malignancy in the region: the Syrian and Lebanese
governments, the Palestinian Authority, the Iranian theocracy, and
pro-American but unstable regimes like Mubarak's Egypt. A
reformulated Middle East would oust the troublemakers - regardless of
whether or not they were originally created and supported by the West
- and leave the region turning on the axis of US client states
Israel, Turkey, Jordan and a recolonized Iraq. 

Britain's preeminent conservative magazine, The Spectator, succinctly
puts the newly found virtues of instability. "When Amr Moussa,
secretary-general of the Arab League, warns the BBC that a US
invasion of Iraq would 'threaten the whole stability of the Middle
East', he's missing the point: that's the reason it's such a great
idea. Suppose we buy into Moussa's pitch and place stability over all
other considerations. We get another 25 years of the Ayatollahs,
another 35 years of the PLO and Hamas, another 40 years of the
Ba'athists in Syria and Iraq, another 80 years of Saudi
Wahhabism..It's the stability of the cesspit." 

The populations of Iran, Syria, Egypt and beyond presumably would be
so emboldened by the example of a "democratic Iraq" that they would
rise against their own despotic rulers, leading to pro-American
regimes throughout the Middle East. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul
Wolfowitz has made apparent his hopes for sweeping changes in the
Middle East resulting from a war against Iraq, stating that an
American-imposed regime in Iraq would, "cast a very large shadow,
starting with Syria and Iran, but across the whole Arab world."
However, another sort of domino effect would probably be more likely,
in which radical anti-American protesters move to overthrow their
governments and the US intervenes to prevent the emergence of such
hostile regimes. The US long ago granted itself permission to
intervene in Saudi Arabia if the House of Saud were threatened by
internal revolt, and this could be extended elsewhere under the
license of the "war on terrorism". 

If the United States and Britain mounted a war against Iraq, Syria,
which the US accuses of sponsoring terrorism, might not last the
tumult. The Pentagon's Rubin wrote in March in a publication of the
Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "The Bashir al-Assad government
in Syria should interpret the US decision not only to attack
al-Qaeda, but also to target their Taliban hosts as an indication
that Washington will hold Damascus responsible for the deaths of any
American citizens at the hands of groups hosted by the Syrian

Current Undersecretary of Policy at the Department of Defense Douglas
Feith, preceding his appointment to the Pentagon's number three
position, along with other hawks including Richard Perle, wrote "A
Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," which laid out a
broad neo-conservative agenda for the Middle East. In it he advised
the Israeli government to "work closely with Turkey and Jordan to
contain, destabilize, and roll-back some of its most dangerous
threats," including attacking Lebanon and Syria. 

An attack on Iraq could give the Israeli Right an opportunity it
would welcome to settle scores with its neighboring - and domestic -
opponents. "Israel can shape its strategic environment, in
cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and
even rolling back Syria," wrote Feith, Perle, et al. "[If Saddam's
Iraq were overthrown] Damascus fears that the 'natural axis' with
Israel on one side, central Iraq and Turkey on the other, and Jordan,
in the center would squeeze and detach Syria from the Saudi
Peninsula. For Syria, this could be the prelude to a redrawing of the
map of the Middle East which would threaten Syria's territorial
integrity." Syria's client state Lebanon, long the battleground for
external conflicts, could again face a military assault by Israel.
Most ominously, under the cover of a war on Iraq, Israel could once
and for all settle the "Palestinian question" by expelling the
Palestinian population to Jordan as many in Israel have been

Lastly, a potential consequence of a US ouster of the Iraqi
government could be that it would leave the Shi'a theocracy in Iran
with too much regional weight in the eyes of the neo-conservatives -
setting the stage for a replacement of that regime. Iran is paired
with Iraq in constituting two prongs of the State Department's
Manichean "axis of evil," and stands accused of sponsoring terrorism
throughout the Middle East. In keeping with the royalist thrust of
neo-con thinking, the Iranian clerics could be replaced by the
monarchial rule of the son of the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, who has
been waiting in the wings in suburban Virginia. 

The threat of partition or region-wide "regime change" accompanying a
war against Iraq has not been lost on the governments and peoples of
the Middle East. Syrian officials are concerned not only that a war
could provide the pretext for an invasion of Syria and Lebanon, but
also that if an attack results in the breakup of Iraq along Kurdish,
Shi'a and Sunni lines, the threat of secessionist movements could
imperil Syria's own territorial unity, given the similarity of its
ethnic composition to Iraq. Likewise, the Iranian government is
concerned about larger US hegemonic designs beyond Saddam Hussein's
Iraq. Many in the Middle East see the United State's role in the
partition settlement of Sudan - the US has bankrolled the Christian
rebels in the oil-rich south against the Islamic government based in
Sudan's north - as foreshadowing a larger remapping of the region. 

Whether the imperialist strategem of the neo-conservatives comes to
pass remains to be seen. What is apparent, however, is that the
potential for such a cynical adventure to go wrong would be quite
high. Colonial undertakings have a tendency to not work out as
expected, even if the fantasies of draughtsman in the Pentagon and
Britain's Whitehall are implement through "native" proxies such as
the Iraqi National Congress or an expanded Hashemite monarchy. This
is especially the case when the populations of the areas to be
shaped, rather than viewing the US as deliverers of a pipedream of
"democracy," are intensely hostile to the imperial designs of the

Sasha Lilley is an independent producer and correspondent for Free
Speech Radio News.

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