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The Bush bottomline on Iraq—still topple Saddam
By Karamatullah K. Ghori

The latest UN Security Council resolution on Iraq — number 1441—adopted by a unanimous vote on November 8 is being hailed by a supine establishment press in US as proof of George W Bush’s ‘morally correct’ Iraq stance. The truth is just the opposite.

The arm-twisting of UN and its principal agency, the Security Council, began with Bush’s belligerent General Assembly address of September 12 in which he dared the Council to prove its relevance by getting on board his bandwagon of aggression against Iraq. The pressure on the Council mounted by the day with Bush and his hawks ratcheting up the ante of war and boasting their intent to attack Iraq with or without UN on board.

Two months of relentless pressure, strong-arming , coaxing and cajoling of Security Council’s permanent and non-permanent members has produced a resolution which was not needed, is unwarranted, and reads like a death warrant to Iraq.

Of the four other permanent members of the Council, besides itself, US had problem with only two, France and Russia. 

The French had a moral argument with the Bush game-plan that Washington had authority under the old resolutions on Iraq to impose war on it because Baghdad was in "material breach" of them. France also insisted that any new resolution must not carry an automatic trigger for Washington to unleash aggression against Iraq at its own whim and discretion. Resolution 1441, France feels, validates its stand that if Iraq again fails to comply with its terms a fresh reference to the Council will still be necessary to authorise the use of force. The Bush hawks, on the other hand, are adamant that the resolution does not handcuff Bush and his freedom to act, militarily, against Iraq remains uncompromised.

Russia procrastinated and dragged its feet to succumb to Bush’s blandishments for two reasons. One, it sought assurances that it will have a share in the huge oil stakes that a post-Saddam Iraq would offer. Secondly, it wanted a free hand in Chechnya to unleash more terror on a land its brutality has already heavily scorched. It got a promise on the first, and a carte blanche on the second.

China never posed a problem. The Chinese have their hands full with their own Turkoman problem in Xinjiang where the restive Muslim majority has repeatedly manifested its unhappiness with Beijing. Washington has lent its full approbation to the Chines combating their own ‘terrorism.’ Besides, China in its current capitalist economic mode grudgingly guards its 70 billion dollar plus balance of trade advantage over US and would be loath to barter it for the sake of Iraq. Beijing has long given up its erstwhile sponsorship of the third world causes and campaigns.

Britain of Tony Blair is, of course, as loyal and faithful to Washington in matters of war as a lapdog is to its master. A recent independent survey found 38 % of Britons actually saying so: "Tony Blair is George W Bush’s poodle."

Of the ten non-permanent members of the Council, Ireland and Norway were in Washington’s bag from the word ‘go’. Singapore, rich in its own right and not receiving any assistance from US, is, nevertheless, a major buyer of American arms. It shopped for $ 656.3 million in 2001 and in the current year had bought $ 370 million worth of weapons by the first half. Singapore, along with Australia, is being buttressed as an American fortress to deal with ‘troublesome’ Muslim neighbours, like Indonesia and Malaysia. 

Six other non-permanent members —Cameroon, Guinea, Colombia, Mexico, Bulgaria and Mauritius — are recipients of US economic and military largesse in various forms. Colombia, for instance, was given $ 380 million last year to combat the narcotics ‘terror.’ Cameroon is entitled to receive, gratis, surplus U.S. military weapons. Bulgaria has been receiving a lot of attention under the ‘Support for East-European Democracies’( SEED ) programme and was given $ 69 million last year. It has been promised much more, and is soon to become a member of NATO.

The most blatant arm-twisting witnessed was that of Mauritius. The island nation has been on notice since September 11 because some of its Muslim leaders are suspected by Washington for being sympathetic to Al-Qaeda. The Mauritian ambassador to UN, Jagdish Koonju, was considered by the US as being soft on Iraq. So the Mauritius government was bamboozled to recall him home, temporarily, to pave the way for a unanimous ‘yes’ vote. 

Syria, a terrorist state in US reckoning, was the only Arab and Muslim member of the Council and was expected to abstain from the vote, at the very least, if not vote against the resolution. But Syria too was cornered by threats of Israeli retaliations and promises that Washington will not use the resolution to launch aggression, automatically, against Iraq. The Syrians defended their stand by insisting that Colin Powell himself had given that assurance to Foreign Minister Farooq Al-Shara. 

The Syrians should know better than others the value of such ‘assurances.’ There were assurances given to them and other Arabs who were prompted, by the notorious Col. Lawrence (of Arabia fame), to rise in revolt against the Ottomans in World War I. But no sooner the war was over than the British and the French carved up the entire Levant and the Fertile Crescent between themselves.

Many suspect that Damascus has stabbed Baghdad in the back because the two estranged Baathist twins have not quite been able to bury the hatchet that divided them for decades, despite a cosmetic rapprochement between them. The bottom line is that the Arabs, so much at the receiving- end of American and Jewish wrath, have still not learned a lesson and seem ill-prepared to mend their archaic and arcane ways.

So George W Bush has bludgeoned the UN Security Council to fall in line behind his war-mongering and come up with a resolution that puts Iraq on the knife’s edge.

Resolution 1441 is one of those resolutions that a future historian of UN will not be proud of. It is much more than a resolution from a world body dedicated to peace and tranquillity among mankind and on planet earth. It is, in actual fact, an ultimatum of war served on Iraq in the name of peace.

The resolution puts Iraq in a strait jacket. 7 days to accept it ( Iraq has already given its concurrence ); 30 days to come up with full lists and inventories of all its suspected weapons of mass destructions (WMDs); inspections to resume within 45 days, i.e. by December 22. Thereafter, the inspectors will have 60 days to complete their task and report back to the Security Council on progress of their work, or otherwise.

There are several trap doors built into the resolution. Iraq is mandated to provide full, unconditional, unobstructed access to UN arms inspectors to any sites, anywhere in Iraq at anytime. Every inch of Iraqi territory will be on the chopping bloc of UN inspectors. This will include, in addition to military or other sensitive sites, all of Saddam Hussein’s presidential places sprinkled across Iraq. 

The 1998 confrontation between UN inspectors of UNSCOM and the Iraqi government had been precipitated over access to presidential sites. It was, temporarily, defused in the Spring of 1998 by Kofi Annan’s personal intervention and a special protocol was signed for the inspection of presidential sites. Ultimately, Clinton used Iraq’s defaulting on that protocol as the excuse to unleash his fury against Iraq in December of that year when he was up to his neck into the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Now that deal on presidential sites is also off and nothing will be off- limits to the inspectors of the new arms inspection and monitoring agency, UNMOVIC.

It is not only that nothing will be off-limits to UN inspectors but they, in turn, could declare any site off-limits to the Iraqis by "freezing’ it. This, in effect, brings into replay the colonial practice of extra-territoriality enjoyed by colonisers and adventurers on foreign soils. China of the first-half of the 20th century was the worst case example of it where its territory had been parceled out among various western colonisers. Now the UN, under US subjugation, is bringing that hated practice once again in vogue.

Theoretically, therefore, it will be quite possible for a presidential palace to be ‘frozen’ and Saddam barred from entering it. This would be just one of umpteen number of possibilities and imponderables to trigger a crisis between Iraq and the inspectors, thus paving the way for US to unleash its terror against Iraq.

George W Bush’s strategy is single-mindedly focused on provoking Saddam Hussain to do something rash or irrational. Therefore, all these insulting and provocative conditionalities have been deliberately woven into the matrix of the resolution that carries an unmistakable imprimatur of American imperialism. Bush was forced to take his case against Iraq to the UN because his preferred option of going alone had run into a quagmire. But he does not feel hamstrung or constrained by this purely tactical detour. In fact, this interregnum gives him time to assemble a huge and lethal armada in the waters of the Gulf to be hair-trigger- ready to pounce on Iraq at a short notice. 

Emboldened by a fig-leaf Security Council resolution, piddling Arab potentates and ‘Sheikhs’ of the Gulf are falling over backwards to offer their lands and services to Washington’s war ambitions. Kuwait, hopelessly marooned in the American cage, has removed all stops for the US army to use its land, air bases and ports in whatever way it wants to gear up against Iraq. But Bahrain, Qatar and Oman do not want to be found wanting, either. Qatar, indeed, has the largest depot of U.S. military supplies in the Gulf. Oman’s air bases are seen as offering an ideal substitute to the Saudi air bases now off-limits to America’s war plans.

Buoyed by the sense that he has UN at his beck and call, and heartened by his Republican Party’s impressive success at the mid-term elections which now give him complete control of Congress, Bush has been heaping scorn on Saddam Hussain and playing cat-and-mouse with him in rhetorical belligerence. Saddam is being warned, almost daily, of Washington’s "zero tolerance" with his ‘tricks’. A spectre of swift and terrible consequences is being held for Iraq if Saddam dared to repeat his erstwhile ‘cheat and retreat’ with the UN inspectors. 

The Bush rhetoric is turning a deaf ear to the rising crescendo of anti-war slogan within the US itself, as well as in Europe and Asia. Florence was the scene of the largest anti-war rally, to date, on November 8, the very day the UN Security Council was bribed and brow-beaten into signing on Bush’s dotted lines. A million people, young and old alike, took to the streets of the famous Renaissance city in a remarkably peaceful rally. Earlier, on October 26, Washington itself had witnessed a huge peace rally, of nearly a quarter million people, denouncing Bush’s jingoism as the " weapon of mass distraction" ( from US economic woes and corporate (scandals). Rallies in San Francisco, London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Manila, Jakarta, Tokyo and several other cities echoed the popular sentiment of utter disgust with the war-phobia of Bush and company.

But the Bush hawks remain undeterred by the peaceniks. They have, they think, a mission to fulfil in Iraq. The Jewish lobby, wielding enormous pressure over every sinew of US politics, wants it. They think the UN time- table suits them ideally. The inspectors will be due with their score sheet against Iraq by the middle of February. Israel, too, will be through with its planned election by the end of January. And Ariel Sharon is spoiling to get into the act against Iraq. In fact, he has already called for opening the next theatre of war in Iran on the day after getting done with Iraq. Which US President could dare defy an Israeli Prime Minister? Sharon prides on George W Bush being the best friend Israel has ever had. No doubt. Bush and Sharon are chips off the same block.
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