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Asunto:[CeHuNews] 24/03 - Baghdad, the Second Pillar
Fecha:Martes, 1 de Abril, 2003  22:43:04 (-0300)
Autor:Humboldt <humboldt>

¿ Mabel

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Baghdad, the Second Pillar

29 March 2003

When, between World War I and the early 1950s, the British were the dominant power in the Middle East, they used the twin pillars of Cairo and Baghdad to control and cajole the region. Both were firmly under London’s thumb until the rise of modern Arab nationalism consigned Britain’s imperial pretensions in the region to oblivion, first with the Egyptian revolution of 1952 and then the Iraqi revolution of 1958.

Today it is the US that exercises a domineering influence over so much of the Middle East — but since Sept. 11, that has not been enough for the Bush administration. It wants to reshape the Middle East to suit its own interests. It already has a Western pillar in Israel. This war is about raising a second pillar, an Iraqi pillar, on which to establish American power in the region.

Officials in Washington are open about it. They talk about this being a war that starts to make the Middle East “safe for America”. They imagine that by introducing democracy to Iraq, it will turn it into a Middle Eastern version of the US, and that from there Western-style democracy will spread through the region and transform it.

They are blind. The US may see this as a step forward; Arabs see it as rank imperialism. And so do the Iraqis. Little things like the Iraqi flag ripped down in places in southern Iraq and replaced with the Stars and Strips only convince them that once the war is over, they will be even less free than at present.

Democracy can indeed sometimes be imposed through the barrel of a gun and take root; Germany and Japan are testimony to that. But in 1945, Germany and Japan were completely crushed after years of war in which almost everything was destroyed. Not in anyone’s worst nightmare is the Iraqi war going to last four of five years or every one of its cities reduced to dust. A few weeks of struggle, a couple of months at most, are not going to significantly change the Iraqis’ perception of things.

They may be thankful afterward that Saddam Hussein’s regime has gone, but Baghdad is not willingly going to become the second pillar on which to base a Pax Americana in the region. Nonetheless, the foundations of a second pillar are being laid not in Iraq, but elsewhere. Yesterday’s joint Peshmerga-USAF attack on bases in northern Iraq belonging to Ansar Al-Islam, which Washington accuses of being linked to Al-Qaeda, heralds a new, potentially decisive US strategic relationship in the Middle East to balance the one with the Israelis — that with the Kurds.

US special services have been operating with Kurdish forces in their northern autonomous region for several months and there can be no doubting the warmth of the reception Kurds gave the 1,000 American troops who parachuted into the region two days ago to secure the airbase at Harir, not least because the US presence there effectively prevents the Turks from moving in.

It is not difficult to envisage Harir being developed into a massive, permanent US airbase in the region. A future Baghdad government may not like it, but the decision will not be its; it will be Kurds’ — and they will want to keep the Americans there as protectors, both from any future Iraqi government and from Turkey. And for Washington, the Kurds, with independence in everything but name, and the oil wealth of Kirkuk to boot, could provide a very useful ally, in addition to the Israelis, to dominate the Middle East.

Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.