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There are some factual errors in what follows (i. the claim that the no-fly zones have UN support; they are never even mentioned in Security Council Resolutions; and ii. the claim that December's bombings were triggered by Iraq's refusal to let UN inspectors "in": the inspectors were in the country; their report, available on the UN website, mentions a few incidents of non-cooperation, the significance of which depends on the opinion solicited). Nevertheless, there is some thinking on US motivation. Colin Rowat Coordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/casi *********************************************** * Support the: * * NATIONAL PETITION AGAINST SANCTIONS ON IRAQ * * http://go.to/iraqpetition * * or: 12 Trinity Road, London N2 8JJ * *********************************************** King's College Cambridge CB2 1ST tel: +44 (0)468 056 984 England fax: +44 (0)1223 335 219 __________________________________ STRATFOR.COM Global Intelligence Update Weekly GIU August 30, 1999 The War That Time Forgot Summary: The war in Iraq, the war that time has forgotten, appears to be shifting into a mildly higher gear. The policy put into place after the December bombing has generated constant sorties and frequent air strikes, the reasoning behind them forgotten in the mists of time. This makes the apparent shift in focus over the past week difficult to understand. In order to understand things, it is necessary to think through the foundations of U.S. policy in the region. Analysis: More than nine years after Operation Desert Storm, U.S. aircraft continue to patrol the skies over Iraq, carrying out regular air strikes against targets within the northern and southern no-fly zones. Last December, U.S. aircraft conducted several days of intense bombing, called Operation Desert Fox. Since the end of that series of strikes, we estimate that U.S. aircraft have flown over 10,000 sorties in Iraqi air space, including strikes at about 400 targets. The air strikes are carried out from Prince Sultan air base in Saudi Arabia, Incirlik in Turkey, and from U.S. aircraft carriers rotating through the Persian Gulf. Officially, the strikes are in response to attempts by Iraqi anti-air systems to lock on to U.S. aircraft, in preparation for attempts at bringing down U.S. aircraft. Since not a single aircraft has been shot down, one would think that the Iraqis would have learned not to turn on their radar by now. They are either extraordinarily dense or U.S. air strikes are not actually being triggered by aggressive Iraqi actions. Under U.N. resolutions, Iraq contains two no-fly zones in the north and south of the country. Iraqi aircraft are not permitted to operate in these zones. U.S. aircraft are permitted to operate there in order to make sure that the Iraqis are in compliance. It follows that U.S. aircraft on patrol in these areas are permitted to defend themselves against the Iraqis. Thus, if Iraqi anti-air systems try to shoot them down, the U.S. is permitted to protect the aircraft by attacking the systems. This has been the explanation for the ongoing air campaign. It was, at least, an explanation. However, this sleepy little war has had a significant character change in the past few weeks. On August 19, U.S. aircraft bombed a target outside of the no-fly zones, inside the central region where Iraq retains clear sovereignty. At about the same time, the U.S. openly shifted its targeting from responsive attacks against aggressive Iraqi moves, to attacks on fuel and ammunition dumps. So, about 10 days ago, the war shifted. About a week after that, an Agence France-Presse report out of Amman claimed that an unnamed Western diplomat had stated that the U.S. and U.K. were preparing a "large-scale" operation against Iraq. Simultaneously, Arab leaders started to condemn Saddam Hussein ostentatiously. The Jordanians, after an opening to Saddam following the death of King Hussein, cooled their relations with Saddam. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was reported to have "washed his hands" of Iraq. Bashar al-Assad, son of the Syrian president, called Saddam a "human beast." All told, it appears that the war is shifting from its sleepy phase. The question, of course, is what it is shifting to and why it is shifting now. To figure that out, we need to understand what U.S. policy was from December 1999 until now, a topic which is itself confusing. When immediate policies don't make sense, we find it useful to go back to first principles and try to understand what the underlying American interests are. That takes us back to oil and the British. The U.S., like Britain before it, has had two interests in the Persian Gulf. The first has been to make certain that no global rival could take control of the region and deny the U.S. and its allies access to the oil. The second interest has been to make certain that no power native to the Persian Gulf could impose hegemony on the region, control all of the oil and be in a position to manipulate the supplies and prices of petroleum on a global basis. A huge amount of the region's oil is on the western shore of the Persian Gulf. Aside from petroleum, this is inhospitable country that is relatively under-populated. Britain worked very hard to transform the existing tribes and clans into administrative units that could claim control of oil deposits as nation-states. The largest of these entities was, of course, Saudi Arabia, but they included smaller principalities like Kuwait, the emirs of the United Arab Emirates, Oman and so on. Each of these had vast amounts of oil under their control. They were also too small and weak to defend their wealth. There was therefore a natural affinity between these states and Britain and then America. The latter were interested in seeing the oil producers divided, competitive and dependent on them for security. The former were interested in maximizing returns on oil production within the framework of a foreign guarantor of their security. The British task was to keep German influence out of the region - and to keep the Wehrmacht far away as well. The region was later subject to the same policy, with different actors: the U.S. wanted to keep Soviet influence out of the region and the Red Army far away. There was a secondary policy derived from this: no regional power could conquer the western shore of the Persian Gulf. Now, none of the western Persian Gulf powers, Saudi Arabia included, was in a position to act militarily. But the two northern powers, Iraq and Iran, were each alone capable of invading and occupying the western shore. Fortunately, from the American point of view, the two were mortal enemies since the days of Babylon and Persia. This relieved the U.S. of the need to insert massive forces into the region to protect the western shore. Instead, the United States engaged in a balance-of-power strategy, playing Iraq against Iran, fostering conflicts that forced each to focus on the other, leaving no forces remaining to invade the western shore. This policy neatly intersected the U.S. policy of containing the Soviet Union. By allying with Iran, the U.S. simultaneously tied down the Iraqis while blocking the Soviet Union's aspirations in the Gulf. When the shah fell, the U.S. was forced to shift policy. On the one hand, it was forced to settle for an Iran neutral to the U.S. and Soviet Union. But the real U.S. concern was the security of the western shore of the Persian Gulf. Therefore, the U.S. quietly encouraged Saddam Hussein to invade Iran. This served two purposes. First, it gave the U.S. leverage with Iran, which now needed access to spare parts and material (remember Iran-Contra). It also kept the Iraqis occupied, which secured the western shore of the Persian Gulf while opening channels to Iraq and limiting Soviet influence to some extent. Now, it is important to understand why Iraq agreed to play this role. It was not for Saddam's health nor was it because Saddam coveted Iran. Rather, Saddam wanted to dominate the Persian Gulf's western shore and he understood, rightly or wrongly, that if Iraq were willing to invade and defeat Iran, it would be permitted to take its place as the dominant power in the Persian Gulf. This, of course, was not something that the U.S. wanted to see, but the U.S. did want to motivate Saddam. The U.S. expectation was that the war would go on interminably and that the U.S. would be in a position to prevent any clear victor. The war did go on for nearly a decade with countless casualties, but it was not inconclusive. Iraq won. If not an absolute victory, there was still no question that Iraq could act for a time without concerning itself with Iran. Iraq turned fairly quickly to gather the fruits of its victory- fruits that it believed were its rights under implicit agreement with the U.S. Indeed, Saddam informed the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq that he was about to invade Kuwait as if it were understood that this was a logical and necessary evolution. Indeed, with the effective neutralization of the Soviet Union, one of the dimensions of U.S. policy in the region no longer existed. Saddam thought that he had not only an understanding, but that events had evolved to ease U.S. concern. When the U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad was informed of the impending invasion, she didn't even protest. It was an expected evolution of policy. But obviously, given the underlying U.S. interests in the region, any promises made to induce Iraq to bear the burden of the war were not actually made with the intention of allowing Iraq to collect the fruits. The U.S. did not intend that Iraq dominate the western shore of the Persian Gulf. The U.S. reacted by re-invading Kuwait and securing the western shore of the Persian Gulf. However, the U.S. did not invade Iraq, nor did it topple Saddam. There were three reasons for this. First, the U.S. did not have the military resources to reach all the way to Baghdad without a massive buildup, which would take several more months. Taking a major city would mean substantial casualties and the U.S. was casualty-averse. Second, the U.S. did not want to destroy Iraq. It needed Iraq to counterbalance Iran, which was still a long-term threat. Finally, the United States expected Saddam to fall because of his failure. Therefore, the U.S. instituted a policy that was designed to preserve the Iraqi nation-state and simultaneously bring down Saddam. It succeeded in the first and failed in the second. The U.S. simply underestimated Saddam's ability to maintain his position. Saddam's intelligence services detected and blocked every coup attempt. Saddam combined terror and politics to maintain a degree of control over the Kurds and the Shiites. Saddam manipulated the military so that any potential threat - and several non-existent threats - were destroyed. >From a strategic standpoint, this was not an unsatisfactory outcome. The western shore remained fragmented and dependent on the U.S. for its security. Iran remained hemmed in on its western flank, unable to expand, unable to drop its guard. Iraq remained unable to move south. At low cost relative to the prize, the U.S. achieved what it wanted strategically. Politically, however, the survival of Saddam posed a challenge. The inability to destroy Saddam represented a severe limit on U.S. power. As with Milosevic, Saddam's survival communicates that the personal risk involved in challenging the U.S. may not be so great. This increases the willingness of others to take risks. The survival of Saddam is also a major problem domestically. Having worked to convince Americans that Saddam is the reincarnation of Hitler, the U.S. has a great deal of trouble negotiating with him. Since strategic interests dictate that the U.S. maintain relations with Iraq, it is politically necessary to remove Saddam. Now, it is important to understand that the sanctions against Saddam have collapsed. Since neither Russia nor China is likely to honor them, Saddam can get what he wants when he wants it. He can also sell his oil, especially at recent prices. Moreover, with a Sino-Russian alliance in the offing, the security of the Persian Gulf from outside forces - a non-issue since 1989 - might once more be on the table. Getting rid of Saddam so that the U.S. can create a working policy in Iraq is a strategic imperative. More precisely, politics is getting in the way of strategy. This was the point of Desert Fox and its aftermath. The U.S. bombed Saddam after he refused to let UN inspectors in, on the grounds that they were spying for the CIA. Since then, it has been revealed that Saddam was pretty much right. This information left the U.S./UN fig leaf in tatters. The second phase of the bombing, from the beginning of the year until August 19, seemed to have been driven by some strange theory that Saddam was utterly insane and that bombing him would push him over the edge. He may be bonkers, but it is a stable insanity. He did not collapse under the strain. The bombing continued without any apparent effect or purpose. We are now in a new stage, of which the purpose is clear: to deal once and for all with the Saddam question so that we can move on to more important strategic issues in the region. But there is a problem: why should a strategy that has failed to unseat Saddam since 1991 succeed today? There is no reason to believe it will, and U.S. policy makers are fully aware of that. It appears to us that the U.S. has a two-tier policy. Tier one is a final attempt to crack his regime, followed by the much more important tier two- positioning the U.S. to be reconciled not so much to Saddam himself, but as to Saddam being a feature of the Middle East. The U.S. and UK are going to be submitting proposals to the UN next month on renewing inspections of Iraqi facilities for weapons of mass destruction. Since the last round ended in a complete and utterly embarrassing foul up, getting approval will not be easy. Indeed, since the proposal needs Security Council approval, passage is more than a little doubtful with China and Russia in the mood they are in. If that resolution fails, the post-1991 regime will have collapsed. But if it collapses because of the UN, the U.S. will have the political cover needed to deal with Iraq. In other words, if the U.S. hangs tough and the policy collapses anyway, the politics might shift a bit. There is a lesson in the U.S. Iraq strategy: do not personalize strategic interests. The U.S. must drive strategy in Iraq according to its interests on the western shore of the Persian Gulf. These interests should not be held hostage by the survival of a particular personality. The constant identification of U.S. enemies as the reincarnation of Hitler's absolute evil may help solidify public opinion during war, but it makes the conduct of foreign policy in the post-war world extremely difficult when the personality in question refuses to go quietly. This is a lesson for U.S. dealings with Milosevic as well as Saddam Hussein. Demonizing the enemy is fine, if you can crush him. If not, you are left negotiating with the devil, which is not only politically embarrassing but reveals underlying strategic weaknesses for all to see. Dear GIU Subscriber: The August 27th GIU on the Czech Senate elections contained a significant error, incorrectly saying that 27 seats are being decided and that Communist representation could double; only one seat is up for grabs. As the article stated, communists are rising in public opinion polls. While we stand by our analysis, Stratfor profoundly regrets this error and strives to prevent such mistakes in the future. __________________________________________________ SUBSCRIBE to FREE, DAILY GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE UPDATES (GIU) http://www.stratfor.com/services/giu/subscribe.asp or send your name, organization, position, mailing address, phone number, and e-mail address to email@example.com UNSUBSCRIBE FROM THE GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE UPDATES (GIU) http://www.stratfor.com/services/giu/subscribe.asp ___________________________________________________ STRATFOR.COM 504 Lavaca, Suite 1100 Austin, TX 78701 Phone: 512-583-5000 Fax: 512-583-5025 Internet: http://www.stratfor.com/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ___________________________________________________ (c) 1999, Stratfor, Inc. -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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