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The Globalization of War: The “Military Roadmap” to World War III ONLINE INTERACTIVE E-READER

Posted by Admin on December 20, 2011

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28254

by Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham

Global Research, December 18, 2011

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GLOBAL RESEARCH ONLINE INTERACTIVE E-READER No.  2


The Globalization of War

The “Military Roadmap” to World War III 

Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham (Editors)

December 2011

INTRODUCTION

[scroll down for Reader’s Table of Contents]

The Pentagon’s global military design is one of world conquest.

The military deployment of US-NATO forces is occurring in several regions of the world simultaneously.

The concept of the “Long War” has characterized US military doctrine since the end of World War II. The broader objective of global military dominance in support of an imperial project was first formulated under the Truman administration in the late 1940s at the outset of the Cold War.

In September 1990, some five weeks after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, US President and Commander in Chief George Herbert Walker Bush delivered a historical address to a joint session of the US Congress and the Senate in which he proclaimed a New World Order emerging from the rubble of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union.

Bush Senior had envisaged a world of “peaceful international co-operation”, one which was no longer locked into the confrontation between competing super powers, under the shadow of the doctrine of  “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) which had characterized the Cold War era.

George H Walker Bush addressed a Joint Session
of the US Congress and the Senate, September 1990

Bush declared emphatically at the outset of what became known as “the post-Cold War era” that:

“a new partnership of nations has begun, and we stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times… a new world order can emerge: A new era freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, east and west, north and south, can prosper and live in harmony.”

Of course, speeches by American presidents are often occasions for cynical platitudes and contradictions that should not be taken at face value. After all, President Bush was holding forth on international law and justice only months after his country had invaded Panama in December 1989 causing the deaths of several thousand citizens – committing crimes comparable to what Saddam Hussein would be accused of and supposedly held to account for. Also in 1991, the US and its NATO allies went on to unleash, under a “humanitarian” mantle, a protracted war against Yugoslavia, leading to the destruction, fragmentation and impoverishment of an entire country.

Nevertheless, it is instructive to use Bush Senior’s slanted vision of a “New World Order” as a reference point for how dramatically the world has changed in the intervening 20 years of the so-called post-Cold War era, and in particular how unilaterally degenerate the contemporary international conduct of the US has become under the Clinton, G. W. Bush Junior and Obama administrations.

Bush Senior’s “promise” of world peace has opened up, in the wake of the Cold War, an age of continuous warfare accompanied by a process of economic dislocation, social devastation and environmental degradation.

In a bitter irony, this concept of peaceful international co-operation and partnership was used as a pretext to unleash The Gulf War, which consisted in  “defending the sovereignty” of Kuwait and “upholding international law” following the Iraqi 1990 invasion.

Global Warfare

We are dealing with a global military agenda, namely “Global Warfare”. Far from a world of peaceful cooperation, we are living in a dystopian world of permanent wars – wars that are being waged in flagrant contravention of international law and against public opinion and interest.

Far from a “new era more secure in the quest for peace” we may see a world more akin to George Orwell’s 1984, dominated by perpetual conflict, insecurity, authoritarian surveillance, doublethink and public mind control.

A problem for many citizens is that “doublethink and mind control” have become so deeply embedded and disseminated by the mass media, including the so-called quality free press, such as The New York Times and The Guardian.

The Post 9/11 Era: America’s Doctrine of Pre-emptive Warfare

Allegedly sponsored by Al Qaeda, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon played a central role in molding public opinion.  One of the main objectives of war propaganda is to “fabricate an enemy”. The “outside enemy” personified by Osama bin Laden is “threatening America”.

Pre-emptive war directed against “Islamic terrorists” is required to defend the Homeland. Realities are turned upside down: America is under attack.

In the wake of 9/11, the creation of this “outside enemy” served to obfuscate the real economic and strategic objectives behind the American-led wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. Waged on the grounds of self-defense, the pre-emptive war is upheld as a “just war” with a humanitarian mandate.

“The Outside Enemy” Osama bin Laden, portrayed by the mainstream
media

From the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in the early 1980s, the US intelligence apparatus has supported the formation of the “Islamic brigades”. Propaganda purports to erase the history of Al Qaeda, drown the truth and “kill the evidence” on how this “outside enemy” was fabricated and transformed into “Enemy Number One”.

The US intelligence apparatus has created it own terrorist organizations. And at the same time, it creates its own terrorist warnings concerning the terrorist organizations which it has itself created. Meanwhile, a cohesive multibillion dollar counterterrorism program “to go after” these terrorist organizations has been put in place.

Instead of “war” or “state terrorism”, we are told of “humanitarian intervention” directed against “terrorists”.

Instead of “offence”, we are told of “defense” or “protection”.

Instead of “mass murder” we are told of “collateral damage”.

A good versus evil dichotomy prevails. The perpetrators of war are presented as the victims. Public opinion is misled: “We must fight against evil in all its forms as a means to preserving the Western way of life.”

Breaking the “Big Lie” which presents war as a humanitarian undertaking, means breaking a criminal project of global destruction, in which the quest for profit is the overriding force. This profit-driven military agenda destroys human values and transforms people into unconscious zombies.

Spawning Militarism: “War is Normal”

In truth, as this new Interactive Reader from Global Research will demonstrate, we are living in an era hallmarked by “The Globalization of War” conducted by the very states that proclaim to be defenders of democratic rights and international law.

The chief protagonist of this globalized war is the United States of America. The US, along with its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Britain, France, Canada and Germany among others, as well as an array of proxies – such as the Persian Gulf Arab states – is now emboldened to strike militarily in any region of the world.

It should be noted that on a tour of the Asia-Pacific region in November 2011, US President Barack Obama’s rhetoric was laden with bellicose statements towards China, citing the latter as a military threat to the hemisphere that the United States was ready to confront. Obama’s aggressive rhetoric towards Beijing should have been widely seen as unprecedented and unacceptable. But from a reading of the Western mainstream media, the warmongering by the US president was somehow made into normal, reasonable discourse.

This spawning militarism is rationalized with a variety of seemingly palatable pretexts: securing the world against “Islamic terrorism”, as in Afghanistan; securing the world against “weapons of mass destruction”, as in Saddam’s Iraq and currently Iran; defending human rights, as in Libya; humanitarian intervention, as in Somalia; and protecting small nations, as in confronting China on behalf of Southeast Asian states, or constructing a Ballistic Missile Defense system along the Eastern European borders of Russia. And again, the Western mainstream media plays a huge role in rationalizing the irrational, normalizing the abnormal, justifying the unjustifiable – akin to the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984.

We may accept these pretexts at face value and attempt to “normalize” a world of seemingly chaotic conflicts, as the Western mainstream media would have us. Or we can choose to see the world as it really is, that is, one where such wars and war-making are correctly understood as abominations of international law and human relations.

It is our objective in this Interactive Reader to help citizens free themselves from the indoctrinated doublethink of “wars as normal”. In a global survey, we will show that the US and its allies are fulfilling an agenda of “full spectrum dominance” in which no nation deemed to be obstructing that agenda for domination by the US and its allies is tolerated, and is in fact made a target for war.

The dynamic for globalized war has deep historical roots in the imperialism of capitalist governments. Rivalry for the raw materials of capitalist economies and geopolitical control were at the root of World Wars I and II – See the essays by Jacques Pauwels on the role of corporate America in supporting both Britain  and Nazi Germany. The same impetus lay behind countless invasions and proxy wars in Latin America, Asia and Africa by the US since World War II under the guise of “defending the free world from the Evil Soviet empire”.

But with the collapse of the Soviet Union as a countervailing power, the US and its allies have become uninhibited over the past two decades to “go it alone” to assert imperial dominance. This dynamic has only been reinforced by the economic exhaustion of the capitalist powers since the onset of the financial crisis of 2008. Indeed, the rise of militarism can be seen as a compensatory corollary of their economic demise – a demise that is structural and deeply protracted beyond anything that may be deemed as the usual “end of business cycle”. We are perhaps witnessing an historic collapse in the capitalist system far greater in scope than the Great Depression. And with that, disturbingly, the rise of militarism takes on a much greater significance.

Crucial to the global control of resources are the raw materials of energy: oil and gas. Whether it is wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, or confrontation with Iran, China, Russia and Venezuela, the fundamental point of contention is control over this lifeblood of the capitalist economy. All other espoused pretexts are mere window dressing, regardless of what the mainstream media would have us believe.

World War III Scenario

The launching of an outright war using nuclear warheads against Iran – which has the world’s third largest known reserves of oil behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq – has been on the drawing board of the Pentagon since 2005.

If such a war were to be launched, the entire Middle East/Central Asia region would be drawn into a conflagration. Humanity would be precipitated into a World War III scenario.

Incredibly, the very real danger of World War III is not front-page news. The mainstream media has excluded in-depth analysis and debate on the implications of these war plans. The onslaught of World War III, were it to be carried out, would be casually described as a “no-fly zone”, an operation under NATO’s “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) with minimal “collateral damage” or as “surgical” punitive bombings against specific military targets, all of which purport to support “global security” as well as “democracy” and human rights in the targeted country.

NATO’s “Humanitarian Intervention”
Mandate defined in an ICISS report on R2P

Public opinion is largely unaware of the grave implications of these war plans, which contemplate the use of nuclear weapons, ironically in retaliation to Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program. Moreover, 21st Century military technology combines an array of sophisticated weapons systems whose destructive power would overshadow the nuclear holocausts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Lest we forget, the United States is the only country to have used nuclear weapons against civilians.

Militarization at the global level is instrumented through the US military’s Unified Command structure: the entire planet is divided up into geographic Combatant Commands under the control of the Pentagon. According to former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark, the Pentagon’s military road-map consists of a sequence of war theaters: “[The] five-year campaign plan [includes]… a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.” Like a cancer, the US war unleashed in 2003 on Iraq is mutating into a global disease.

While  The New York Times and other mainstream media outlets hailed 15 December 2011 as marking the “official” end of the nearly nine-year US war in Iraq, in reality that devastated country will remain an American war theater for the foreseeable future. Pentagon military advisers and contractors will continue to reside there and the people of Iraq will for generations be left with a legacy of US-imposed conflict and barbarity. The Pentagon’s “shock and awe” campaign in Iraq may have subsided, but its repercussions and criminal precedents are still very much extant, not only in Iraq but in the wider region and, increasingly, globally.

The 2000 Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which was the backbone of the NeoCon’s agenda, was predicated on “waging a war without borders”. The PNAC’s declared objectives were to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars” in different regions of the world as well as perform the so-called military “constabulary” duties “associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions”. Global constabulary implies a worldwide process of military policing and interventionism, including covert operations and “regime change”.

This diabolical military project formulated by the NeoCons was adopted and implemented from the very outset of the Obama administration. With a new team of military and foreign policy advisers, Obama has been far more effective in fostering military escalation than his White House predecessor, George Bush Junior, who has recently been condemned by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal for “Crimes against the Peace”.

This continuum of military agenda testifies to the fact that the two governing parties in the US, Democrat and Republican, are but two sides of a centrally planned military-industrial complex that is impregnable to the opinions, desires and interests of the American electorate.

Military Escalation and Preview of this Book

Contrary to the myth of “the good war”, we show in this Interactive Reader that the US entry into World War II was a deliberate strategy for self-serving imperialist gains. While the men and women who fought that war may have had moral convictions, the planners in Washington were operating on calculations of geopolitical control that had little to do with morals or legal principles – see the essays by Jacques Pauwels. The dropping of atomic bombs on Japan by the US in August 1945, obliterating hundreds of thousands of civilians, was an act of heinous barbarity that reflected the callousness of America’s imperial design. The nuclear holocaust also set the nefarious parameters of the subsequent Cold War that gripped the world for nearly five decades following World War II. Essays by Brian Willson, Alfred McCoy and Michel Chossudovsky illustrate how the Pentagon’s genocidal wars in Asia were a continuation of America’s imperialist design – albeit under the cover of the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

Hiroshima mushroom cloud. By executive order of President
Harry S. Truman, the U.S. dropped the nuclear bomb “Little Boy”
on Hiroshima, Monday, August 6, 1945

Nagasaki, August 9, 1945

Survivors: August 1945. In the wake of Hiroshima

The fall of the Soviet Union may have brought an end to the Cold War, but soon the US would find new pretexts for waging war on the world and asserting hegemony on behalf of its capitalist allies. These new pretexts included “upholding international law” as in the First Gulf War against Iraq that Bush Senior embarked on in 1990, presaging the Second Gulf War that Bush Junior would reprise in 2003. And the US planners innovated the “humanitarian” pretext for the invasion of Somalia in 1991 and NATO’s war on Yugoslavia – see the essay by Sean Gervasi among others. In many ways, the “humanitarian war” in Yugoslavia served as the prototype for NATO’s 2011 military attack on Libya and what appears to be an imminent onslaught against Syria – see essays by Rick Rozoff and Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya.

To the Pentagon’s silo of propaganda justifying “wars without borders” we have the additional pretexts of  the “global war on terrorism”  and “pre-emptive strikes against weapons of mass destruction”. Fittingly, as Washington’s wars multiply, so too it seems have the phony pretexts for these wars, as the essays on Iraq and Afghanistan by Felicity Arbuthnot and Jack Smith reveal.

Permanent Belligerence: The Globalization of War

In Part VII, which also serves as the title of this Online Interactive E-Reader, The Globalization of War, we show how American-led imperialism has evolved from bloody bouts of episodic militarism over several decades to the present day state of permanent belligerence, with wars or war-making stretching from North and East Africa into the Middle East and Central Asia and beyond to Eurasia (Russia), the Far East (China) and Arctic (Russia again) – See the essays by James Petras, Rick Rozoff,  Peter Dale Scott, F. William Engdahl, Finian Cunningham, the interview with Fidel Castro, Michel Chossudovsky and Jules Dufour.

Of most immediate concern are the ongoing American-led war plans within the broader Middle East/Central Asian region involving coordinated actions against Iran, Syria and Pakistan – see essays by Michel Chossudovsky, Tom Burghardt, Rick Rozoff and Mahdi Nazemroaya.

Were these war plans to be carried out, this would lead to an extended regional war theater. The three existing and distinct war theaters (Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine) would merge into a broad regional war extending from the Lebanese-Syrian East Mediterranean coastline to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with Western China. Israel, Lebanon and Turkey would be engulfed in a conflict that would herald World War III.   

Building an Effective Antiwar Movement

Meanwhile, the antiwar movement is in crisis: civil society organizations are misinformed, manipulated or co-opted. A large segment of “progressive” opinion is supportive of NATO’s R2P “humanitarian” mandate to the extent that these war plans are being carried out with the “rubber stamp” of civil society.

There is an urgent need to rebuild the antiwar movement on entirely new premises.

The holding of mass demonstrations and antiwar protests is not enough. What is required is the development of a broad and well-organized grassroots antiwar network, across the land, nationally and internationally, which challenges the structures of power and authority. People must mobilize not only against the military agenda – the authority of the state and its officials must also be challenged.

Challenging and defeating the US/NATO global war agenda is profoundly predicated on the mass of people in Western countries asserting democratic governance and the genuine “rule of the people”. It will involve the mass of people breaking out of the two-party charade that hitherto passes for “democracy” – not only in the US but also in other Western states ­– to form new political organizations that truly represent the needs and interests of the majority of people. War-making, as with servile abeyance to corporate and financial elites, is endemic to the dominant political parties. It must be realized that voting for these same parties has become futile as a means to effect democratic change.

One practical way forward is for citizens to empower themselves legally. It should be understood that whatever its justification, war is a “Crime against the Peace” under Nuremberg. George Walker Bush and former British Prime Minister Anthony L. Blair have been condemned by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal for waging a criminal war of aggression against Iraq. They are war criminals and citizens’ initiatives that are growing across the world for the arraignment of Bush and Blair are one practical step towards mobilizing a popular challenge to the war system.

War crimes, however, are not limited to the former US president and British prime minister. There are “New War Criminals on the Block“. They include the current president of the United States, Barack Obama, among others. The acting heads of state and heads of government who support US-NATO-Israel wars of aggression are also war criminals under international law. This proposition, which consists in unseating the war criminals in high office, is central to the waging of an effective antiwar movement.

It is also our intention to show citizens that the root cause of war lies in the prevailing, but failing, global capitalist economic system – the very system that is not only destroying lives in foreign countries but which is destroying the material and moral foundations of Western society.

We hope that this Interactive Reader, The Globalisation of War, will empower citizens to mount an all-encompassing social movement against this diabolical military agenda and for the establishment of real democracy.

Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham, December 2011

In the face of blatant media disinformation, a “Re-Learning Process” must be launched.

It is our hope that the Interactive Reader Series will become a useful tool for high school, college and university students.

=====================================================================================================================================================

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PART I.  THE HISTORY OF WAR: FROM WORLD WAR II TO THE COLD WAR ERA

– by Jacques R. Pauwels – 2011-12-11
65 years ago, August 6 and 9, 1945: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
– by Jacques R. Pauwels – 2010-08-06

The unspoken objective of the atomic bomb was US Hegemony in Asia and the Pacific

 

– by Brian S. Willson – 2006-10-12
“Over a period of three years or so we killed off – what – twenty percent of the population [of North Korea]” (General Curtis Lemay)

– by Prof. Alfred W. McCoy – 2010-04-18
– by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky – 2005-04-26

Vietnam never received war reparations payments from the U.S. for the massive loss of life and destruction, yet an agreement reached in Paris in 1993 required Hanoi to recognize the debts of the defunct Saigon regime. This agreement is in many regards tantamount to obliging Vietnam to compensate Washington for the costs of war.

 

PART II. NATO’S WAR IN THE BALKANS

– by Sean Gervasi – 2010-09-12
The late Sean Gervasi had tremendous foresight. He understood NATO enlargement several years before it actually unfolded into a formidable military force.
NATO’s Reign of Terror in Kosovo

– by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky – 2008-02-25
State Terrorism in Kosovo is an integral part of NATO’s design
NATO’s Kosovo War, 11 Years Later

– by James Bissett – 2010-03-24

PART III.  THE POST 9/11 ERA: AMERICA’S “WAR ON TERRORISM”

Al Qaeda and the “War on Terrorism”

– by Michel Chossudovsky – 2008-01-20
Ironically, Al Qaeda –the “outside enemy of America”– is a creation of the CIA.
The Central Role of Al Qaeda in Bush’s National Security Doctrine

“Revealing the Lies” on 9/11 Perpetuates the “Big Lie”
– by Michel Chossudovsky – 2007-07-12
9/11 Paved the Way for America’s Permanent Wars of Aggression

– by Finian Cunningham – 2011-09-11

PART IV. IRAQ AND THE AF-PAK WARS

America’s Endless Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

– by Jack A. Smith – 2011-10-25
The illusion of military success…
US Afghan Strategy: Senseless and Merciless

– by Rick Rozoff – 2011-07-22
U.S. And NATO Escalate World’s Deadliest War On Both Sides Of Afghan-Pakistani Border

– by Rick Rozoff – 2011-03-01
Drone missile attacks conducted by the CIA killed in the neighborhood of 1,000 people in Pakistan last year
The War on Iraq : Five US Presidents, Five British Prime Ministers, Thirty Years of Duplicity, and Counting….

– by Felicity Arbuthnot – 2010-08-06
Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He had walked into possibly the biggest trap in modern history
US-NATO Military Agenda: The Destabilization of Pakistan

– by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky – 2009-04-17

PART V. THE CONQUEST OF AFRICA

America’s War in the Horn of Africa: “Drone Alley” – a Harbinger of Western Power across the African Continent

US Military Confirms Washington’s Secret New War in Somalia Despite Official Denials
– by Finian Cunningham – 2011-10-29
US Military Confirms Washington’s Secret New War in Somalia Despite Official Denials
Israel and Libya: Preparing Africa for the “Clash of Civilizations”

Introduction by Cynthia McKinney
– by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2011-10-11
“An attempt to separate the merging point of an Arab and African identity is underway.”

PART VI. US NATO-ISRAELI THREATS: PRE-EMPTIVE WAR AGAINST IRAN AND SYRIA 

World War III: The Launching of a Preemptive Nuclear War against Iran

– by Michel Chossudovsky – 2011-12-04
World War III is not front-page news. The mainstream media has excluded in-depth analysis and debate on the implications of these war plans.
U.S. Arms Persian Gulf Allies For Conflict With Iran

– by Rick Rozoff – 2011-11-18
THE CLOCK IS TICKING: “Shadow War” Heating Up. War With Iran: A Provocation Away?

– by Tom Burghardt – 2011-12-05
Amid conflicting reports that a huge explosion at Iran’s uranium conversion facility in Isfahan occurred last week, speculation was rife that Israel and the US were stepping-up covert attacks against defense and nuclear installations
Using Fake Intelligence to Justify War on Iran

– by Michel Chossudovsky – 2011-11-09
Iran: “Regime Change” or All Out War?

– by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2011-06-
America’s Next War Theater: Syria and Lebanon?

– by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2011-06-10

PART VII. THE GLOBALIZATION OF WAR

Obama Raises the Military Stakes: Confrontation on the Borders with China and Russia

– by Prof. James Petras – 2011-12-10
Obama has embraced a policy of encirclement and provocations against China, the world’s second largest economy and the US’s most important creditor, and Russia, the European Union’s principle oil and gas provider and the world’s second most powerful nuclear weapons power.
Conversations with Fidel Castro: The Dangers of a Nuclear War

– by Fidel Castro Ruz, Michel Chossudovsky – 2010-11-13
If a war breaks out in Iran, it will inevitably become a nuclear war and a global war.
The Real Grand Chessboard and the Profiteers of War

– by Prof. Peter Dale Scott – 2009-08-11
The provision of private entrepreneurial violence and intelligence
Why Moscow does not Trust Washington on Missile Defense. Towards a Pre-emptive Nuclear War?

– by F. William Engdahl – 2011-12-02
Most in the civilized world are blissfully unaware that we are marching ineluctably towards an increasingly likely pre-emptive nuclear war…
“War Without Borders”: Washington Intensifies Push Into Central Asia

– by Rick Rozoff – 2011-01-30
The U.S. and NATO have over 150,000 troops planted directly south of three Central Asian nations.
Asia-Pacific: US Ramps Up Global War Agenda

– by Finian Cunningham – 2011-11-17
China’s “military advances” are prompting US concerns…Washington is the one beating the war drums.
North American Integration and the Militarization of the Arctic

– by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky – 2007-08-20
The Battle for the Arctic is part of a global military agenda of conquest and territorial control, a New Cold War between Russia and America.
Review Article: The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases

The Global Deployment of US Military Personnel
– by Prof. Jules Dufour – 2007-07-01
The Global Deployment of US Military Personnel

About the Editors

Michel Chossudovsky is an award-winning author, Professor of Economics (Emeritus) at the University of Ottawa. He is the Founder and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal and Editor of the globalresearch.ca  website. He is the author of The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003) and America’s “War on Terrorism”(2005). His most recent book is entitled Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War (2011). He has taught as Visiting Professor at universities in Western Europe, South East Asia and Latin America, acted as an adviser to governments of developing countries and as a consultant for the several international organizations. Prof. Chossudovsky is a signatory of the Kuala Lumpur declaration to criminalize war and recipient of the Human Rights Prize of the Society for the Protection of Civil Rights and Human Dignity (GBM), Berlin, Germany. He is also a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His writings have been published in more than twenty languages.

Finian Cunningham is currently Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent. He has written extensively on international affairs. Previously, he was based in Bahrain and witnessed the upheavals in the Persian Gulf kingdom during 2011 as well as the subsequent Saudi-led brutal crackdown against pro-democracy protests. He is now based in East Africa.


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HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY IN IRAN

Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

Table of contents:

1.      Introduction;

2.      Outline;

3.      Limitations of this study;

4.      The road to democracy;

5.      Democracy in Iran;

6.       Human rights in Iran;

7.      Conclusion.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

1. Introduction:

This paper looks at human rights and democracy in Iran in the wake of political reforms being implemented there since the late 1980’s/early 90’s. It proceeds on the important premise that before preparing a marks sheet on Iran’s progress in these two areas, it is necessary to bear in mind that these two concepts have a unique dimension shaped by a chain of events that ushered them in Iran. It would not make much sense to make sweeping and generalised statements about democracy and human rights, essentially Western concepts, when they are applied in one of the world’s oldest civilisations, in which an Islamic form of government is very much at the centre of power. “In Iran as in other Muslim countries, paths to human rights lie within Islam, to the extent that dialogue can grow between traditionalists and innovators” (Gustafson & Juviler, 1999, p. 9). Any discourse on democracy and human rights in Iran has to be understood in relation to the country’s circumstance, which is that the reform movement, which tried to infuse these ideas into the country, was basically a reaction to the failure of the Revolution to sustain the goal it sought to achieve in the face of the changing dynamics in international relations in the post-Gulf War and Iran –Iraq war. Thus, one has to understand that there exists a unique paradigm for democracy and human rights in Iran, which is at variance from what the West broadly perceives as universal values for all mankind. Keeping this consideration in mind, this paper looks at the progress made on these two fronts, guaranteeing and denying which is the leitmotif of the opposing camps, the reformists and the conservatives, respectively.

2. Outline:

This paper takes off by detailing how democracy has been introduced in stages. The most striking feature of this country’s process of democratisation has been the reluctance of the ruling establishment to give in to the moderates, who have sought to implement democracy. Thus, the study of the democratisation of Iran has been chiefly characterised by the tussles that have been taking place in the country’s political establishment between those who want to introduce democracy and those who want to abort it. Hence, a considerable portion of this paper is devoted to sketching the long series of battles in the war between the reformists and the conservatives. Human rights in Iran, an offshoot of attempts at launching democracy, and its corollary, are detailed here. Mention is made of the efforts at bettering human rights in the country by Nobel Peace laureate, Shirin Ebadi. Finally, this paper offers its conclusions, in which it tries to prognosticate prospects and pitfalls for democracy and human rights in the country.

3. Limitations of this study:

A complete study of the actual progress made in the transition of the political system in any country would be truly comprehensive and complete if one were to keep one’s ears to the ground; in the absence of this factor, this paper relies heavily on the writings of opinion-makers emanating from that country. This is not to doubt their authenticity, but most of these opinion makers have their own agendas to carry out, and as such, their objectivity is not indubitable. A thorough and objective study is best arrived at by measuring the impact of democracy and human rights at the grassroots level. In the absence of this exercise, this paper is prone to get swayed by the (at times) emotive nature of the sources from which it bases its study. In other words, the most objective and scholarly work on human rights and democracy in Iran would be one that is seen from Iranian, not Western or Western-oriented eyes, a requirement not met by this paper. Some attention is given to reports of human rights violations from Amnesty International, whose objectivity has never been proven.

Another important shortfall of this paper is that it looks at human rights in Iran only from the time the new regime has taken power, i.e., after the death of the Ayatollah, who led the Revolution. Although gross human rights violations took place during the time the Revolution installed an Islamic-type government and the Shah’s regime it overthrew, this paper does not look at those, and chooses the period from the start of the new regime, only because this is when democratisation started in the political system. Finally, since the two are closely interrelated, there may be some overlaps in describing the events pertaining to these two. Another very important aspect to be borne in mind is that this paper was written just a few weeks prior to the presidential election of 2005, when the tussles between the conservatives and moderates were at their peak. The result of this election has not been reflected in this paper.

4. The road to democracy:

The reform movement in Iran, which has been spearheading the implementation of democracy and human rights in the country, was born in the wake of the failure of the Revolution to spread benefits to the masses. (Kazemi, 2003) Although the Islamic Revolution of 1979 was an event whose importance has deeply impacted modern Iranian history, ironically, the country’s two earlier revolutions, those of 1906 and 1953, took place for the furtherance of democracy. (Momayesi, 2000, p. 41) They resulted in the establishment of monarchies. The latest revolution, the root of the current tussle for democratisation, at first was followed by major international political and economic problems. (Wright, 1996) The Revolution took place in very violent circumstances, whose culmination was the overthrow of the corrupt, unflinchingly pro-Western Shah. (Seliktar, 2000, p. 73-90) For all the tumult and convulsion that major event precipitated, the direct effect it produced, that of total Islamic rule, lasted no more than a little over a decade. The regime had to soon slowly either abandon or dilute some of its core ideals. This was due to the variety of unforeseen changes that unfurled on the international scene. One of the ideals that had to inevitably become a product of the changed situation was democracy. “In the 1990s, several factors contributed to the intensification of the debate over democracy and democratic institutions in Iranian society. These include the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, the disillusionment of a substantial portion of Iranian society with government policies, especially in the areas of liberty and individual rights, the imposition of more restrictions over freedom, and authoritarian infringement of people’s constitutional rights. The advocates of reformist Islam launched afresh a campaign to promote democratic values in government and society.” (Momayesi, 2000, p. 41) The first concrete step towards the latest round of democratisation was the elevation of the moderate reformist, Hashemi Rafsanjani from Speaker of the parliament, the Majlis, to the office of the president in 1989. Rafsanjani had assumed office at a time when “…the struggle to determine the true revolutionary path had entered a new phase, involving major policy reevaluation”. (Ayalon, 1995, p. 317)

5. Democracy in Iran:

To undo the highly ensconced politico- religious system in a matter of two presidential terms was no easy task. After the end of his two four- year terms, the mantle of presidency now passed on to his successor and like-minded reformist, Mohammed Khatami, who “…emphasized the country’s need for national unity, respect for the law and civil rights, the creation of a vibrant civil society, and the eradication of poverty.” (Amuzegar, 1998, p. 76) His efforts at reform of the political system, aimed at bringing about democracy were well received at first, as they were representative of the change the people were yearning for. (Yasin, 2002) Initially, Khatami seemed to have taken off from where his predecessor had left. He enjoyed massive support from the least thinkable constituencies in the earlier theocratic regime –youth and women. One of the most drastic changes he sought to implement was in the area of religious governance; he went about altering the structure of the clergy, something that was unimaginable earlier. Changes were implemented in some of the most important institutions, such as those of the supreme leader, the Faqih, the presidency, the judiciary and the Majlis. Khatami carried out amendments to the 1979 Islamic constitution, which had come into effect because of the Revolution. Dictated by the need of the hour, brought about by the death of the architect of the Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, one of the most tangible steps towards democratisation of the ruling clergy was “…a significant revision in the qualifications for the holder of this omnipotent office. The all-important and stringent religious qualifications were reduced.” (Kazemi, 2003)

After Khatami’s re-election in 2001 with a reduced majority, the pace of democratic reform lost some of its earlier tempo. The opposition to his democratisation process has been growing steadily, especially since the hardliner conservatives have enjoyed greater numerical superiority in the Majlis. The hardliners have stepped up the ante in opposition to the various reforms he has initiated. With a greater say in the Majlis, they have intensified their opposition to Khatami’s reforms. “Khatami’s victory ushered great hope for progress toward democratisation and reform of the rigid political system. This hope has been largely dashed as the conservative supporters of the Islamic Republic have prevented meaningful political reform…[t]he forces of opposition to Khatami are made up of a disparate but powerful set of institutions and actors with entrenched political, economic and ideological interests. While cognizant of Khatami’s massive electoral victories and popular support, they can find other means of thwarting his reform agenda, through the country’s major institutions” (Kazemi, 2003) Another area of discomfort for Khatami has been in the constituency on whose back he rode to power –students. Their earlier support for him dissipated when he tried to implement a major reform– privatisation of universities. Protests by student bodies at this proposal spilled on to the streets, in the form of massive demonstrations against the president as well as the clergy, on two occasions, once in July 1999, and on the fourth anniversary of this event.  (“Student Heroes Take on,” 2003, p. 23)

In another important round of their row, in February 2004, the conservatives gained an upper hand, disqualifying 2300 candidates belonging to the reformist camp from general elections later that year. With the conservatives gaining a comfortable majority in these elections, the process of democratisation has suffered a major setback, with the presidency, at that time being the only reformist position in the government. (Deccan Herald, 23rd Feb. 2004, p.8) In the words of US president Bush, “[s]uch measures undermine the rule of law and are clear attempts to deny the Iranian people’s desire to freely choose their leaders.” (The Washington Times, 25th Feb. 2004, p. A15.) Yet another major setback to democratisation has opened up as recently as on May 22, 2005, with barely a month to go for the presidential elections slated for June 17, 2005. The Council of Guardians barred from standing in the election the reformist camp’s candidate for president, Mostafa Moin. Additionally, in the same breath, it disqualified each and every of the 89 women candidates saying women are unfit to lead the country. Even as the reformists cried hoarse at the move, saying it has amounted to a coup d’ etat, and saying this move undermines the spirit of election to the presidency in that it would virtually amount to having an appointed president, one silver lining for the reformist camp is that of the six candidates allowed to contest the presidential election out of the 1014 who threw their hat in the ring, one is Hashemi Rafsanjani himself. The other consolation is that they have control over the Interior Ministry. (The Hindu, 24th May 2005, p.10)

6. Human rights in Iran:

Despite the avowed aim of the reformists in Iran to bring about democracy and respect for human rights, there are everyday occurrences of incidents in which amputations and floggings are commonplace, and pregnant women and children are routinely executed. (The Washington Post, 5th January 2005, p. A12)

If the reformists and the conservatives are united over one issue, it is their antipathy to any reference to human rights in the country. They are unanimous and vehement in their opinion that America is seeking to use international human rights organisations to criticise Iranian human rights. They believe that the US is trying to establish its hegemony by interfering with the internal affairs of strategically important countries such as Iran. They accuse the Americans of being selective in their criticism of human rights violations in different countries. (Karabell, 2000, pp. 212) The Iranian government allowed the Red Cross and the UN to inspect the country’s human rights situation in 1990 for the first time in its history. (Kamminga, 1992, p. 99) The Red Cross and the UN had reported that 113,000 women had been arrested in Teheran alone either for improperly wearing their headdress or for moral corruption; the UN had also reported an increase in executions, suppression of minorities and the press, and summary executions of anti-government demonstrators. (Mohaddessin, 1993, p. 142) The government reacted very angrily when America accused the Iranian government of expelling the members of the Red Cross on grounds of complicity with America. It came out heavily against the Human Rights Commission envoy. When the topic was reinvigorated in 1996, reflecting the general opinion in the country, an editorial in the Teheran Times said:

“Criteria for human rights are respected by everyone; however, any judgement on the situation of human rights in a country should be harmonious with the nation’s culture, religion and traditions. The special envoy should not surrender to direct and indirect pressures from the United States and other Western powers, whose aims are to use human rights as a leverage against Iran…”(Karabell, 2000, pp. 212, 213) Arguments and counter arguments between human rights organizations and the government continue with regularity.

The confrontation between the conservatives and reformists in the Majlis has also contributed to violations of human rights: Khatami’s reform of the clergy was based on the idea of undermining the six-member ‘Council of Guardians’, a powerful clerical body in the power structure of the ruling elite by exposing their corruption.  This earned him the scorn of those in power: this Council hit back by hounding his aides, who were seen as moderates. Hojjat-al-Islam Mohsin Kadivar, a well-known liberal writer, Gholam-Hussein Karbaschi, the then mayor of Teheran and Abdollah Nouri, the former interior minister, were among those in the reformist camp that the conservative clerics persecuted. The leftist, pro-Khatami newspaper, Salam, also suffered a similar fate, and was forced to close down. This brought students to the streets in support of Khatami on July 9, 1999. To quell this mob, the police had to open fire; Khatami thus unwittingly ended up antagonising the very constituency that took to the streets to support him. (Sardar, 1999)

Amnesty International, in its report on human rights violations in Iran came out with some scathing observations, which it attributes to the feud between the reformists and the conservatives. Its summary reads thus: “Scores of political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, continued to serve sentences imposed in previous years following unfair trials. Scores more were arrested in 2003, often arbitrarily and many following student demonstrations. At least a dozen political prisoners arrested during the year were detained without charge, trial or regular access to their families and lawyers. Judicial authorities curtailed freedoms of expression, opinion and association, including of ethnic minorities; scores of publications were closed, Internet sites were filtered and journalists were imprisoned. At least one detainee died in custody, reportedly after being beaten. During the year the pattern of harassment of political prisoners’ family members re-emerged. At least 108 executions were carried out, including of long-term political prisoners and frequently in public. At least four prisoners were sentenced to death by stoning while at least 197 people were sentenced to be flogged and 11 were sentenced to amputation of fingers and limbs. The true numbers may have been considerably higher.”(Amnesty International, Report 2004)

A look at the field of human rights in Iran would be incomplete without a mention of the efforts of the Nobel Peace laureate, Shirin Ebadi. Her efforts have been primarily focussed on the improvement of human rights in the areas concerning women and children in over the past three decades. Inspired to work for the improvement of human rights in her country following her demotion under the Revolution from the position as the country’s first woman judge, she believes that guaranteeing human rights in an Islamic society is not at all impossible. The two are never incompatible, she feels, saying that the important question is not the law of Islamic jurisprudence, the Shariat in itself, but its interpretation. Some of her major accomplishments have been the victories she has secured in getting important reforms done to the family law, the legal age at which girls can marry, and the rights of illegitimate children. Another significant victory of hers in improving human rights in Iran has been in pressurising the government to reveal the identities of the student demonstrators that were killed in the police violence of July 9, 1999. (Lancaster, 2003)

7.      Conclusion:

The road to democracy and human rights continues to be bumpy in Iran, so long as the tussle for supremacy continues within the Majlis between the conservatives and the moderates.  Seen in the overall sense, the speed of change towards democracy has been rather slow-paced.

This is perhaps understandable in an ancient country in which till recently, authoritarianism was so pervasive that most of the country’s resources were held by a thousand or so families. (Lytle, 1987, p. 1) Another major reason for democracy to take more than the expected time to gain ground in feudalistic societies such as Iran is that by its very nature, it cannot be planted violently in the system, in the way the Revolution of 1979 was. If it were to supplant the existing system and take its place by coercion, that would have to be done by adopting undemocratic means, thus defeating its very nature and ending up being an oxymoron!

Seen in this overall sense of the country’s difficult path to democratisation, despite the relative slowness being taken for democratisation to take root, there is still a lot of scope for optimism, as this observation by Momayesi (2000) best sums up the situation: “It is perhaps appropriate to view the current situation as an ongoing, step-by-step struggle and conflict over reform, rather than simply a stagnation under the grip of vested conservative clerical interests. It is evident that Iran shows some signs of movement toward a stable constitutional definition of governmental powers and processes. It seems more apt to see the glass of freedom in Iran as half full rather than half empty… [w]e must think in terms of a long march rather than a simple transition to democracy. Democracy and human rights must be adapted to suit countries with a distinctive culture and experiences, rather than simply being transplanted from existing democracies, East or West. The diversity and the range of democratization alongside persistent authoritarianism sometimes gets lost in the selective media coverage of Islamic Iran. But new freedoms pose difficult challenges to the most capable of leaders everywhere.” (Momayesi, 2000, p. 41) Thus, “…democracy, an element external or internal to Islam, was originally planted in the foundations of Islamism and is emerging, although extremely slowly, as a far more potent element of the Iranian revolution than it had been.” (Usman, 2002)

Having said this, the picture for human rights may not be as rosy: the crackdown on human rights is a major setback to the government, negating as it does important moves to draw foreign investment that the country can ill-afford to forego. For instance, prior to the moves by the conservatives in February 2004, some leading companies, such as the French car giant, Renault, the Turkish communications giant, Turkcell, and some Japanese companies, which would develop the country’s oil fields at an eventual cost of some $ 2 billion, were in the process of investing huge amounts in the economy, which was opened up for the first time since the Revolution. These actions by the government place the investors under pressure to withdraw, as they would not like to be seen to be investing in tyrannical governments. They also throw the intentions of the government in doubt, as they prompt the foreign investors to pack their baggage. (The Washington Times, 25th Feb. 2004, p. A15.)

Unfortunately, it often happens in Iran that for the hardened attitudes of the clergy, it is the moderates who take the blame. Their attempts to undo the years of reactionary policies are often frowned at. For instance, the Second of Khordad, a reformist party that is seen as Khatami’s most important aide, along with its close allies, has been all for “…economic liberalization and privatization, as well as increased personal freedoms, including those of women, and have criticized the corruption and arbitrary power of the ruling clerics. But the front has been unable to implement policies that would address the country’s high unemployment rate or the high poverty rate (40 percent). Reformers have been unable to improve the lot of most Iranians, either because they have been blocked by conservative clerics or because they do not make bread-and-butter issues their top priority.” (Cole, 2004, p. 7)

A major test of the triumph or defeat of democracy would be the presidential elections scheduled for June 17, 2005. Its victors would play a decisive role in shaping the democratic process in the country. A sustained effort at this would be necessary for further democratisation and furtherance of human rights if the moderates were to come to power. But if they have to continue the process Rafsanjani and Khatami have set in motion, there would have to be installed a new reformist president who has considerable freedom to implement the reforms; or else, he too, would go the Khatami way, forever fettered by a conservative parliament.

On the other hand, should the conservatives pull off another coup and get one of their own elected as president, that would almost certainly neutralise all the efforts at democratisation and furtherance of human rights that have been taking place till now. Whether Iran would emerge as a champion of democracy and human rights or go back to being an inheritor of a theocratic government brought about by violent revolution, only the upcoming presidential elections would say. If the upper hand the conservatives have been gaining till now in its tiff with the moderates is any indication, the second scenario seems to have a slightly higher chance of materialising.

Written By Ravindra G Rao

References

 

 

Amnesty International, Report 2004. Available: http://web.amnesty.org/report2004/Irn-summary-eng (Accessed 2005, May 25)

 

Amuzegar, J.,1998, Khatami’s Iran, One Year Later. Middle East Policy, Vol. 6, No.2, 76-94.

 

Ayalon, A. (Ed.), 1995, Middle East Contemporary Survey: 1993, Vol. 17, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.

 

Cole, J., Iran’s Tainted Elections. The Nation, Vol. 278, No. 7. (2004, March 1) Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Gustafson, C. & Juviler, P. (Eds.). 1999, Competing Claims? Competing Claims? M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY.

 

2004. “Hard-Liners Face Hurdles in New Iran; despite Poll Win, Options Limited” The Washington Times (Washington , USA) February 25, 2004, p. A15.

2004. “Conservative ‘coup’” Deccan Herald (Bangalore, India) February 23, 2004, p.8.

2005. “Guardian Council’s move a coup d’ etat: reformers” The Hindu (Bangalore, India) May 24, 2005, p.10.

2005,.”Risks of Appeasing Iran’s Mullahs”, The Washington Times (Washington, USA)2005,  January 5, p. A12. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Kamminga, M. T.,1992, Inter-State Accountability for Violations of Human Rights, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

 

Karabell, Z.,2000, 8 “Iran and Human Rights”. In Human Rights and Comparative Foreign Policy /, Forsythe, D. P. (Ed.) (pp. 206-221), United Nations University Press, New York.

 

Kazemi, F., 2003, The Precarious Revolution: Unchanging Institutions and the Fate of Reform in Iran Iranian Politics Is a System Made by the Clerics for the Clerics, and for Their Supporters Who Possess a near Monopoly on the Spoils of the Revolution and the Country’s Resources. Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 57, No.1, p. 81+. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Lancaster, P., “A Worthy Winner: The News That Iran’s Shirin Ebadi Was the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Came as a Surprise to Many, Not Least the Peace Laureate Herself”, The Middle East, , November 2003, p. 32+. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Lytle, M. H..1987, The Origins of the Iranian-American Alliance, 1941-1953, Holmes & Meier, New York.

 

Mohaddessin, M.,1993,  Islamic Fundamentalism: The New Global Threat, Seven Locks Press, Washington, DC.

 

Momayesi, N., 2000, “Iran’s Struggle for Democracy”, International Journal on World Peace, Vol. 17, No.4, p.41. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Sardar, Z., “Iranians Hold a Dress Rehearsal for Revolution”. New Statesman, 1999, July 26, Vol. 128, p.12+. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Seliktar, O.,2000, Failing the Crystal Ball Test: The Carter Administration and the Fundamentalist Revolution in Iran, Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT

 

“Student Heroes Take on Mullahs; the Pro-Democracy Movement in Iran Continues to Gather Momentum despite the Ruthless Tactics Employed by the Ruling Islamic Theocracy to Hold on to Power”,  July 22, 2003. Insight on the News, No. 23. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Usman, J., 2002, “The Evolution of Iranian Islamism from the Revolution through the Contemporary Reformers” Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol.35, No. 5, p. 1679+. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Wright, R., 1996 Summer, “Dateline Tehran: A Revolution Implodes”, Foreign Policy, p.161+. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Yasin, T.,2002, “Knocked off Axis? Iranian Reform Challenged” Harvard International Review, Vol. 24, No.2, p.12+. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

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US FOREIGN POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST SINCE 1991

Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

“Critically assess the impact of US foreign policy on the Middle East since 1991: how does the post-Cold War global order affect Middle East politics, and how does conflict in the Middle East affect the ‘New World Order’?”

Table of contents:

Part I: Summary;

Part II: Background to and nature of American policy in the Middle East since 1991;

Part III: Impact of American policy in the Middle East;

Part IV:  Conclusion.

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Part I:

Summary:

The Middle East has always been critical to American interests: it is a region in which all but one country, Israel, are autocratic. This country, the only non-Islamic country in the region, is the target of constant war with most other countries in the region. This makes it the most volatile region in the world. While American policy was aimed primarily at using some countries led by Israel as a bulwark against communism in the Cold War years, the end of a bipolar world saw a radical shift in American policy towards the Middle East. This was brought about by the threat it saw to its most vital interest –oil in the region as a result of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait; at the same time, with the sudden demise of the hitherto counterbalancing factor, the Soviet Union, the stage was now set for a decisive policy. One country in the region had attacked another and had set sights on America’s most precious interest in the region at a time when the latter was being anointed the sole superpower in the world. This presented the occasion for America to spell out its new policy, primarily aimed at the protection of its oil interests. Though spelt out in a jiffy, the guiding principle of the new policy was simple –with oil and the prevention of its usurpation by another state as the leitmotif of its Middle East policy, America spelt out its doctrine for the region, the ‘New World Order’, an imperious dictum according to which no state has the right to lay claim to what it considers its right to a scarce, exhaustible resource. Since all these happened at the confluence of the end of the Cold War and the potential threat to its interests, the Middle East turned out to be the stage on which America enacted its ‘New Global Order’. Since this is the arena in which America spelt out its policy after becoming the sole superpower, it is only natural that the post-Cold War world gets profoundly affected by whatever America does in this region.  Anything that America considers its interests in the region has a huge, marked bearing on the world. Its supplementary policies, such as the advancement of democracy and the destruction of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), impact the region greatly, as the ongoing example of a post- Saddam Hussein Iraq shows. However, in the process of safeguarding that interest, America has embarked on a dangerous endeavour. It is a policy fraught with dangers; for all the might it may use in pursuing its policy, it has to reckon with the local sentiment that would be a crucial element in guiding its policy. A sound example of the bottlenecks associated with this design is the daily dose of conflict it is facing in Iraq. In trying to aggrandise the country’s oil resources beneath the garb of promoting democracy, America may well be treading a potentially hazardous path. This paper argues that the American policy of planting democracy in societies that do not have the necessary preconditions and institutional frameworks to accepting and absorbing the system could mean risking a backlash. This could seriously undermine its ‘New World Order’ if other countries start emulating Iraq’s example.

Part II:

Background to and nature of American policy in the Middle East since 1991:

The importance of the Middle East to American foreign policy can never be overstated– it is this region that has the greatest say in America’s fuel-driven economy, being the biggest source of American energy supply. It is also the venue of major conflicts, both active and dormant. Situations in countries in the region such as the imminently explosive Lebanon, the ever-active struggle for existence in Israel, the resurgence of fundamentalist Islam, and the American perception that it is the epicentre of Islamic militancy make it a highly volatile region. (Amirahmadi, 1993, p. 3)

American foreign policy in the Middle East has undergone a dramatic transformation necessitated by the political, social and economic changes in the region in the years since 1991. The first major test of American foreign policy in the Middle East unfolded as the end of the Cold War was accompanied by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. As a result, the focus of American involvement in the Middle East shifted from a fear of interstate aggression, the last of which caused the Gulf War, to concerns brought about by issues such as terrorism, the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and social tensions exacerbated by a fall in oil prices. In the backdrop of these developments, American foreign policy is focussed on advancement of its interests in six areas: countering terrorism, countering WMD proliferation, the maintenance of stable oil prices, the support of regimes that are friendly and efforts at ensuring their stability, ensuring Israel’s security, and protection and promotion of America ‘s core values –human rights and democracy. (Bensahel & Byman, 2003, pp. 1 & 2) American post Cold War security objectives in the region can be summarised in the following: “[t]he interests of the United States in the Persian Gulf region have been very simple and consistent: first, to ensure access by the industrialized world to the vast oil resources of the region; and second, to prevent any hostile power from acquiring political or military control over those resources…[o]ther objectives, such as preserving the stability and independence of the Gulf states or containing the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, were derivative concerns and were implicit in the two grand themes of oil and containment. Preoccupation with the security of Israel (is) a driving factor in U.S. Middle East policy…” (Sick, 1999, p. 277) Israel has provided the pivot of the American strategy calculus. A militarily strong, democratic Israel situated in the heart of the Middle East, in the midst of hostile Arab neighbours served America’s geostrategic interests from the time of Israel’s existence. Added to this, the influence of a strong Israeli lobby in the US has created in the American foreign policy establishment a strong commitment to the existence and security of Israel. (Lesch, 1999, p. 354) The pursuit of these objectives came to be called the ‘New World Order’, and took shape when George Bush Sr. was president. He laid out his vision of a ‘New World Order’ in the backdrop of the Gulf War. Simply put, it is the articulation of “…a new world order defined not by the presence of peace and stability but by the fact that there is only one superpower; and that superpower must decide whether or not it is in its national interest to play an activist role in the effort to achieve peace and stability in many parts of the world.” (Zogby, 1993)

The New World Order was spelt out in response to a sudden event –the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The Soviet Union had just disintegrated, and just when the American administration was groping to find focus on what policy it could lay out, the rather unexpected invasion presented a chance for the then administration to spell out a policy that few had anticipated had such clarity. George Bush Sr. found in this event the perfect occasion to spell out his vision of a world order. “…[T]he American response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was ultimately justified in terms of a vision of world order and of the leading role America would play in the achievement of that order. A grand design that prior to the crisis had remained unarticulated and partially obscured even to its architects was now laid bare.” (Tucker & Hendrickson, 1992, p. 31) Thus, the Gulf War provided the ideal setting for America to “…crystallize positive feelings about a new era into a more palpable vision and approach while advancing its national interests and asserting its global primacy. “(Miller & Yetiv, 2001, p. 56)

Part III:

Impact of American policy in the Middle East:

On the whole, America’s policies towards the Middle East have been less than welcome in the major countries of the region. Since the primary focus of the ‘New World Order’ has been on the procurement of oil and the resolution of the Israel- Palestine problem, the impact of these two aspects is taken up:

A) In relation to oil: At the time of the conception of the ‘New World Order’, while America vowed to lay the countries of the Eastern Bloc on the road to democracy, in the Middle East, its policy was aimed at establishing its hegemony.  (Kuroda, 1994, p. 53) In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, there is a growing realisation in the American establishment that the promotion of democracy in the countries in which it plans to enact a policy of ‘twin containment’, Iran and Iraq, is a strategic imperative. Since then, the US administration has moved in to work on these areas with added thrust. In pursuit of these policies, the brute force that America is exhibiting has not gone down well in these countries. (Tucker et al., 2002) If the progress American policy in Iraq, which constitutes the prime example of American engagement, and the case in which America has invested considerable resources is any indication, the picture is far from pleasing –in the area of WMD, American efforts have come to a huge naught, for the administration has simply failed to find any, or to implicate Saddam Hussein of any involvement in the 9/11 attacks and to the Al Qaeda. The lone silver lining of this policy is that it is certain not to return the country to a dictatorial or theocratic government. American policy has not been any more effective in Iraq’s neighbour, Iran. A central player in the American scheme of things in the region, Iran has started using the nuclear threat to avert an Iraq-like situation in its country. With its presidential elections round the corner, it is difficult to predict whether the hardliners or the reformists are going to be returned to power. (Clark, 2004) America’s policy of coercive appropriation of the region’s only major resource has had another parallel, though highly profound impact. In order to break free from what is perceived as the American stranglehold over their resources, many countries have started cooperating with each other to exploit the oil-rich Caspian region. Based on the idea of excluding America from the pipeline grid, this brings several countries from even outside the periphery of the Middle East in close ties with each other. This could spell a total alteration of the geo-strategic dynamics of the region. This idea involves not only countries of the regions such as Iran, it also brings into its embrace some former Soviet republics and China, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. This has stimulated America into fostering friendly regimes in the Caucasus. (The Hindu, 10th April 2005, p.10) These events have been rooted in America’s policy in the Middle East.

B) In relation to the Arab-Palestine issue: In the absence of the Soviet factor, American policy in the Middle East has become more intrusive; American policy could have a positive impact if its moves towards establishing its policy are perceived as being salutary. A prime test case of this policy is the way its role is seen in the Israeli-Palestine issue. (Cantori, 1994, p. 452) The immediate years after the Gulf War led to a hyperactive engagement in the region under president Bill Clinton, for whom resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict was a principal goal. In his presidency, America assumed the role of an ‘honest broker’ in bringing about a peaceful settlement of issues bedevilling the region. However, before substantial headway was made, a new regime took guard under Bush Jr., under whom the same vigour was not enforced. American interventionism, which became low-key under the new dispensation, has led to suspicion in Arab quarters that America, with its uncompromising tilt towards Israel, has not been the ‘honest broker’ that it promised to be. This has led to a feeling that the American administration has no clear-cut, comprehensive policy towards resolving the Arab-Palestine conflict. (Lukacs, 2001, p. 32) “The problems of devising and implementing a coherent regional strategy were reflected in and exacerbated by the inherent tension generated by Washington’s goals…American diplomatic, economic, informational, and military efforts rarely, if ever, were simultaneously applauded by both Israelis and Arabs. Instead, the norm was that whatever the United States did to support one side was frequently denounced by the other” (1996, p. 122) Its obsession with obtaining fuel has generated a feeling that America is losing its leverage in the region by failing to go the distance in promoting one of its ideals in the region, peace between Israel and Palestine. One of the major impacts of this policy has been that most of the peace accords set to be implemented to end this dispute and those between the various countries in the region have gathered dust, with the result that the situation on the ground has hardly changed. (Lukacs, 2001, p. 32)

Part IV:

Conclusion: In this section, an analysis is made of how the cherished American policy in the region can go awry if tardily implemented, or in the event of an outbreak of war or a backlash against American policy, because there exist real and plausible causes for either or all of these in the region.

American policy in the Middle East, spelt out in its ‘New World Order’ axiom, is in the process of evolution; hence, at this stage, the events that have been unfolding in the region offer, at best, an indication of things to come. In the overall sense, even if the policy in the Middle East is clear, its result is still in an inchoate stage, and constitutes a mixed bag. Yet, a few patterns can be discerned:

A new urgency has been brought about by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of this event of seminal importance, the Bush administration has been looking at its foreign policy through an altogether different prism. The US has now adopted the aggressive stance by which it categorises countries as either its friends or abettors of terror. On account of this thinking, the world has been polarised more than during the Cold War. The US is finding that it is a lot easier to take on one country at a time and mould it to its will, than taking on amorphous, seamless terrorist groups that can carry out terror attacks on just about any part of the world at will. (Rahman, 2002) This is the foremost example of how the Middle East gets affected by the nuances of the ‘New World Order’.

Some of America’s staunchest allies (apart from Israel) and most bitter rivals in the region have had Islamic forms of governance. Examples of these two extremes could be Saudi Arabia and Iran. The establishment in America is inclined to think, as some in the media are, that terrorism is rooted in and is inextricably linked to Islam. (Esposito, 1993, p. 188) Any American policy towards the region that is seen as being antithetical to Islam, (which is a very likely outcome on account of American predisposition towards Israel) is sure to antagonise public opinion in the region against America, if it does not take the sensitivities of the local populace. Gawkily implemented policy in the region in the backdrop of the strong religious flavour could seriously dent America’s efforts at gaining a foothold in the region; in addition, it could unite the region against American hegemony.

In this setting, it is all the easier for the countries in the region to line up in defence of one of their brethren. With the battle lines, so to speak, clearly drawn, mostly the result of America’s own policy, oil, nuclear blackmail and Islam could easily prove to be the uniting factors against America. Emulation of the Iraqi example by other countries could very well lay the region on the road to total chaos. American policy at preventing interstate conflict may have succeeded as of now, but there is no guarantee it will endure if it goes overboard in implementing its policy. Thus, the potential for an all-out conflagration in the region against America is very real. If this materialises, American objectives spelt out in its ‘New World Order’ could go haywire.

In order to pre-empt this scenario, America needs to become more amiable and resort to less arm-twisting in the implementation of its policy: “[i]n the years to come, the liberation of U.S. foreign policy from the protracted political impasse of the post-cold war era will likely require the restoration of consensus regarding the country’s appropriate role in foreign affairs. In the absence of such a consensus, the likelihood remains that U.S. policy will continue to be driven by crises overseas, (as in) the Middle East.” (Hook, 1998, p. 326)

Written By Ravindra G Rao

References

 

 

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Bhadrakumar, M.K., 2005, ‘The great game for Caspian oil’, The Hindu, 20th April 2005, p.10. This article can be accessed online at http://www.hindu.com/2005/04/20/stories/2005042002371000.htm

 

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