PARIS – A top Iraqi diplomat in Europe, recently arrived from Baghdad, assures Asia Times Online that the whole Iraqi population will rally behind Saddam Hussein if and when the country is attacked by the United States. This means, obviously, a new attack under the Bush “Axis of Evil” doctrine because Iraq is still being regularly bombed by US and British planes. These bombings – unlike those in Afghanistan – have simply vanished from the world media. Nobody knows who or what is being bombed, or who and where are the victims.
Iraq is subjected to a crippling embargo and UN sanctions (to be reviewed and possibly extended next May), and it has fallen victim to a humanitarian crisis that is largely forgotten by the international community. But the diplomat talks about a population that has refused to surrender, has found ways to dilute the terrible effects of the embargo and sanctions, and is not dying of hunger.
While Ariel Sharon’s tanks occupy Ramallah and reduce to dust any possible success of US special envoy Anthony Zinni’s mission in the Middle East, Vice President Dick Cheney has in fact already secured Tony Blair’s support in London for an attack against Iraq. Blair – refered to privately as “lapdog Tony” by cynical analysts – is extremely embarrassed to be the only European leader to be put in such a position by the Americans.
Intellectuals of the Iraqi diaspora offer a very plausible explanation for the boundless Anglo-American hatred. It inevitably has to do with oil. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was created in Baghdad in 1960. The first secretary general was an Iraqi. The great Iraqi ambitions in the ’60s were independence and economic development. To really achieve these goals, the country had to have full access to its main source of income.
When the Baath Party took power in 1968, its main thrust was to provide Iraq with the technical, managerial and human resources to accomplish a full process of the nationalization of the oil industry. This mission was to be carried out by the party’s number two, none other than Saddam Hussein. Years later, Saddam said that nobody believed in it. But in 1972, Iraq was an oil power – and 100 percent independent from the Western oil cartel.
Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves in the world. The US will never forgive Iraq for providing the example, and then leading OPEC in its 1973 dismantling of Western control of the world’s oil at the time. In doing so, OPEC destroyed the absolutely essential axis of American strategic control. And Britain will never forgive the Baath Party for ending more than half a century of British dominance in the region, and on top of that, opening the doors of Iraq and the Gulf to France in the form of contracts with Elf-Iraq, established in 1974.
Since December 1998, Iraq has refused to allow UN inspections related to its supposed arsenal of chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons. The US assumes – with no proof – that Iraq is dissimulating a vast modernization program of its military arsenal. The UN was insisting in 1998 that Iraq had at least 6,000 chemical weapons in stock. Iraqi sources reiterate that these do not exist, and that under the surveillance of the American intelligence apparatus the country has absolutely no way of rebuilding its nuclear capacity.
The Pentagon, on the other hand, is considering all options for an attack on Iraq, from internal rebellion to nuclear bombing. Ahmed Chalabi, the main leader of the Iraqi National Congress – the opposition in exile – is still making waves at the Pentagon, even though he is now banned by the CIA. Chalabi’s old Republican pals are none other than ultra-hawks Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, numbers one and two at the Pentagon. Chalabi’s latest political concoction is the building of an enclave in Nassiriya, southern Iraq, which would be a starting point for a Shi’ite rebellion against Baghdad. The Pentagon is apparently considering this latest plan as a viable option: it would be, in the minds of the ultra-hawks, an equivalent of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban in Kabul.
But, even after the coining of the “Axis of Evil,” close cooperation between the US and Islamist Iraqi Shi’ites seems far-fetched. According to Hamid al-Bayati, a representative of the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Tehran-based organization, “it’s unacceptable to put Iran and Iraq in the same bag.”
The Iraqi opposition – a myriad of groups with clashing agendas – is actually in shambles, the realm of gangsters only interested in personal profit. It desperately needs a unifying leader. There is only one possible candidate: Najib al-Salhi, a former general of the Republican Guard, Saddam Hussein’s elite corps.
Al-Salhi has been in exile since 1995, first in Jordan and then in the US. He actually leads a movement of so-called “free” officers, and claims to still have very good connections inside the Iraqi army. He is not in favor of a coup in Iraq, but is in favor of what could be described as a popular and military rebellion staged simultaneously with American intervention. From his comfortable position in exile, he believes the Iraqi population would rally behind the Americans.
But the top Iraqi diplomat, recently arrived from Baghdad, says it’s a matter of national unity: if Iraq is attacked, no one would even imagine being a traitor by being in cahoots with the aggressor.