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Howard’s End: Global Situation Unstable

Another Iraq-US crisis is looming. Russia is moving 50,000 troops to the Turkish border. Iraq has cut oil production by 500,000 barrels per day. Intelligence agencies are forecasting a China/Taiwan blockade, and the US elections are just four months away. The global geo-political scene is becoming unstable. John Howard writes.

Last week, former UN weapons inspector Richard Butler and US Intelligence colonel, Scott Ritter, said the United Nations is about to make new weapons inspection demands upon Iraq sometime over the next six weeks.

Ritter, a former member of the UN inspection team that was ejected from Iraq in 1998 for alleged spying, said he expects the US to draft Britain into another round of intensified bombing, "to give the appearance of something multilateral," since the UN security council is unlikely to approve further military action against Iraq.

Bombing has been going on for years and has resulted in the senseless death of hundreds of innocent Iraqis, and has brought hatred against the West from the region.

So why is Clinton - outwardly the peace-maker of Camp David - in favour of this?

Simple, because it serves a political purpose. It's a handy escape valve for him - it worked during his impeachment trial - this time Democrat VP Al Gore, is languishing in the polls four months out from the November presidential election.

Republican presidential candidate, George Bush Jr., is also likely to pick the elite establishment's favourite, Chuck Hagel, as his VP running-mate which will have an effect on Gore's chances for victory.

Also. In a crisis, real or manufactured, would the American people allow Clinton to continue as president under a declared state of emergency?

They just might, and Clinton has already signalled he would have liked to have gone on.

Clinton knows that Americans instinctively rally round the flag whenever US troops are deployed or planes take off. And Americans have not been too discriminating in their support for wars or pushing their weight around.

And a strange thing happened on 7 April. Clinton's press secretary released a memorandum dated 6 April which said that the Attorney General, Janet Reno, would replace Secretary of Defence Cohen on 1 October 2000, as "the Lead Official for the Emergency Response Assistance Program."

Now that's a very strange thing to change people in vital positions just six weeks out from a presidential election, particularly when the incumbent president cannot stand due to the time-limit bar for re-election. But then, Janet Reno is a Bill and Hillary favourite.

The emergency response assistance program is charged with coordinating federal, state and local agencies in organising a response to " the threatened use of a weapon of mass destruction...."

Is it any wonder that many nations in the world simply don't trust the motives of any US administration leading up to a presidential election? Particularly when a US president can declare war.

Meanwhile the actions of Russia are another burning issue. Recently President Vladimir Putin has been flying a kite that he will replace Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, a financier, with Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov, a military expert, as the chief of Russia's government.

Last Friday Russia also announced it was to mass 50,000 additional troops on its southern border which looks down on the Middle East. The reasons given were that there have been a series of bombings which had devastated southern Russian cities.

Kremlin military leaders are also pointing to an increased threat from Afghan and Chechen rebels in the Caucasus and central Asia, although it is likely to be more than that.

Russia has also claimed that "a NATO country" was involved in terror bombing and that it was directing Chechen forces to launch attacks.

According to ITAR-Tass, the attacks were intended to facilitate the insertion of an additional 1,500 rebels into the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

The Russians also say they have intercepted communications between the Turkish military and Chechen rebels - and Turkey is a lynchpin in the Middle East.

Turkey serves as NATO's flank and, it so happens, it borders Iraq and Syria, while having friendly relations with Israel. Military or political pressure on Turkey could alter the political-military scenario in the Middle East.

With Russia beating the drums against a NATO country and making provocative accusations, many Russians are likely to believe that Turkey is responsible for the killing of Russian soldiers and civilians.

Years of propaganda has already taught Russians that Turkey is a puppet of the US.

With western economies now in an oil-vulnerable position and with European and US reserves running low because of the summer holidays, Iraq threw a spanner in the works by cutting oil output by a massive 500,000 barrels per day which lowered overall global oil production in June.

Although OPEC countries have been promising to increase production nothing substantial has happened yet.

Saddam Hussein has long held a grudge against the West, which he blames for "centuries of wrongs", and he is not a person known for letting go of his anger.

It is probably no accident that Iraq decreased its oil production. He would be well aware of the impending US presidential election and what a further energy crisis could mean to the West.

According to press reports, Hussein has also recently received jamming equipment from Russia which can hamper US missiles. Meanwhile while the US is critically short of its weapon of choice, the cruise missile.

With new UN demands for weapons inspections in Iraq, with Russia blaming a NATO country for coordinating the war in Chechnya, with Saddam Hussein playing his oil games, and with China hinting at implementing a blockade around Taiwan in September - all within the context of a US presidential election - the global scene doesn't look good for the next four months.


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