The US twists arms in the Middle East

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 5 Apr 2002 06:04:45 +0100

In return for supporting a new Gulf war, Turkey could get Iraqi

Many countries have spoken out against the Bush administration's plans
to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but it would be a mistake to suppose that
they will in fact cause trouble if the bombs start to fall. Washington
has a long record of bringing its allies into line. 

Take Turkey. Its prime minister, Bulent Ecevit, continues to oppose
publicly the idea of attacking Iraq. But there is every reason to
believe that the US has already offered control of Iraq's northern
oilfields to Turkey in return for its support in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This is what informed sources in Washington tell me; and it is confirmed
by press reports of what Richard Perle, an influential adviser in the
Bush administration, said while he was in Ankara with the
vice-president, Dick Cheney. 

The oil-rich Mosul area has been disputed since the collapse of the
Ottoman empire at the end of the First World War. The British drew the
maps and invented the states that exist today. Turkey disputed the
British decision to give the Mosul province to the new Kingdom of Iraq,
but finally accepted it in a treaty signed in 1926. 

The issue remained dormant until Iraq, under Saddam, attacked Iran in
the mid- 1980s. Weakened by the war, Saddam invited Turkey to crush
Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. At this time, a total collapse of the
Iraqi state seemed entirely possible and Turkish interest in the
oilfields revived, particularly in the Turkish media. Yet when George
Bush Snr raised the "Mosul option" in the wake of Saddam's invasion of
Kuwait, the government in Ankara declined the "invitation". It feared an
Arab backlash against redrawing the borders and it was not anxious to
acquire more territory populated by Kurds. 

In 1995, however, 35,000 Turkish troops attacked the Kurds in northern
Iraq, an act ignored by the British and US governments who had made much
of their protection of the Kurds from Saddam Hussein. As the Turkish
troops withdrew, President Suleyman Demirel said: "The border on those
heights is wrong. Actually, that is the boundary of the oil region.
Turkey begins where that boundary ends. Geologists drew that line. It is
not Turkey's national border." 

He retracted these statements after Arab protests. But Turkish interest
has continued, and today the Turkish national oil company is drilling
new wells in the Khumala field as part of a UN-sanctioned oil-for-food
programme. Turning this commercial presence into a guaranteed supply of
cheap oil, courtesy of a new puppet regime in Baghdad, may be the carrot
that the US is offering Turkey. It would go some way to compensating for
the decade-long loss of trade with Iraq that has damaged the Turkish

But oil is not the only, or even the biggest, lever that the US has over
Turkey. It also funds half its IMF and World Bank loans. 

As it happens, the US is now less reliant than it was on Turkish
airbases, as it is taking over huge former Soviet airbases in Bulgaria
and Romania. But Turkey's army has a reputation for brutal
effectiveness, and the US would like to make use of it. Turkish forces
are already serving in Kabul, and are set to take on a greater role.
Such power-projection fits into the nationalist objectives that Turkey
has pursued in the Caucasus and Central Asia since the collapse of the
Soviet Union. 

One US option in Iraq - an alternative to the more commonly mentioned
options, including an invasion through the Gulf and support for internal
uprisings - is to seize one or more airbases in the country and use
these to launch commando and larger ground-force raids. Such
"in-country" bases are essential for special forces operations, as
proved to be the case in Afghanistan - you cannot perform effective
missions on day trips. And this is where the Turks come in: their forces
could help to secure a main operating base inside Iraq. If, in the
process, they crush Kurdish "terrorists", Washington will not complain. 

The real objective of the US in Iraq is to destroy the idea that anyone
can fight America and get away with it. For US conservative strategists,
this was Bush Snr's strategic failure in the Gulf war. Once the US has
bases in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan, military operations against
Iran, next on the list of "axis of evil" countries, become more viable.
This approach to the axis of evil may seem too reckless to take
seriously, and there is no certainty that the Americans will pursue it,
but we should not underestimate the White House's determination to
destroy its enemies. 

So what should Britain and Europe do? In the short term, if Europe
offered more economic support, Turkey could afford to be more flexible
and independent in handling Washington's demands. In the longer term,
Europe should remove its dependency on Gulf oil, which leaves it reliant
on the US military's ability to control supplies. 

Wind, solar and fuel-cell technology could provide our energy and
transportation needs. If we developed them, we would have freedom of
action in the Middle East and be able to form a policy more independent
of the US. As we plan for 2010 and 2020, energy independence offers a
far more practical and - to use a fashionable phrase - "asymmetric"
strategy for reducing the sources of conflict and increasing our power
than an attempt to compete with the Pentagon by creating a European

Source:  newstatesman

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