By GERRY FOLEY
In the face of mass opposition to war with Iraq throughout the world and even broader fears among both U.S. politicians and the public, the Bush administration is continuing to flaunt its preparations for a devastating assault on the Middle East’s second largest oil producer.
Whatever the outcome of the UN Security Council debate on the U.S.-sponsored resolution, designed to give international cover for a U.S. attack, Bush and his advisors are claiming that the congressional resolution passed in mid-October gives him sufficient authority to occupy Iraq. This is even though the Pew poll released a few days before this writing shows that only 27 percent of the American public are prepared to support a go-it-alone war against Iraq.
There are continued reports of U.S. troops training in simulations of Iraqi targets, including Baghdad, and of U.S. military equipment and personnel being moved into the Middle East. Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of U.S. central command, has announced that he will be moving his headquarters in December from Tampa, Fla., to al Udeid base in the oil sheikdom of Qatar.
The British Guardian reported in its Nov. 3 issue, “According to defense sources and independent analysts, all the evidence points to U.S. forces being readied for war by mid-December at the latest.”
The New York Times published a lengthy report in its Nov. 3 issue about U.S. airplanes carrying out practice runs in southern Iraq. What Pentagon officials have termed the best time of the year for launching an attack on Iraq, December to February, is now very close.
Up until now, the refusal of most U.S. allies to go along with its war plans has been the major obstacle for Bush, not so much because Bush needs them but because the U.S. public is opposed to a war in Iraq without them.
Three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council-France, Russia, and China-have been opposed to the U.S. resolution as long it gives automatic authorization to Washington to invade. All three countries have their own good reasons for opposing the Bush’s war plans. China is facing U.S. military encirclement. And France and Russia could lose important financial stakes if the U.S. gained exclusive control of the Iraqi oil business.
But neither singly or together are these countries prepared for a confrontation with the United States. Thus, they have not threatened to use their veto power to stop the U.S.-sponsored resolution. So, their opposition remains hollow.
France, as the strategically weakest of the great powers, has traditionally tried to undercut its rivals by maintaining more friendly relations with the Arab oil-producing countries. But while it has been leading the opposition in the Security Council to the U.S. resolution, its position is beginning to look more like a hypocritical ploy to try to save some face and maybe some room for bargaining.
The French president opposed the aspect of the U.S. resolution that gives Washington the right to automatically claim the authorization to attack Iraq without a second resolution specifically for that. But recent reports indicate that the U.S. government thinks it can get France to approve a compromise resolution that will essentially accede to its demands. The question may only be how big a bone Chirac thinks he can get Bush to leave him when the U.S. devours Iraq.
In its Oct. 22 issue, the Italian daily Il Manifesto cited a report by the Energy Information Agency (EIA) in Washington that there are vast unexplored oil resources in the western desert of Iraq.
At present, Iraq has a confirmed capacity of 112 billion barrels as opposed to 262 for Saudi Arabia. But the EIA thinks that Iraq’s real capacity is 220 billion barrels, and with the new resources likely to be discovered in the Western desert, at least 331 billion barrels, which would make Iraq by far the world’s biggest oil producer. From a prey as fat as that, the U.S. ought to be able to spare a few tidbits for even for so ornery an ally as France.
An excuse for occupying the oil-rich western desert of Iraq could be that this is the area from which missile attacks could be launched against Israel. If, according to the rumors that Il Manifesto cited, the U.S. is prepared to accept a joint operation with Israel in western Iraq, it means that Washington is not very much concerned about the reaction of the Arab governments.
If the United States can successfully carry out its war against Iraq, it is going to have even less reason for conciliating the Arab regimes. An attack on Iraq will be part of a general assault on Arab nationalism intended to change the relationship of forces in the Middle East in favor of imperialism.
What the U.S. rulers and their willing or unwilling accomplices have to fear is the reaction of their own populations and the populations of the countries they dominate to the attempt by the United States to take major steps to restoring colonialism in the Middle East and instituting U.S. overlordship over the world.
The popular opposition to such an adventure by Bush is already impressive in the imperialist countries themselves, as well as the Arab states and the colonial world.
The October demonstrations in Europe and in this country have already raised the political risk level very high for the U.S. ruling class. Moreover, as the polls indicate, mass opposition is growing. The fact that the U.S. moves against Iraq have been coupled with statements indicating that the U.S. intends to claim the right of peremptory strikes against any development that threatens its interests has deepened the opposition.
In a world that is more and more unstable because of the crisis of world capitalism and its magnified effects on the Third World countries, it is unlikely that even a smashing military victory for the United States in Iraq will end this opposition. The effects can only give more impetus to it in the long run, and maybe even in the short run.