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Firas Al-Atraqch: The Rush to War

The Rush to War


By Firas Al-Atraqchi

There is a maddening rush to war that is unparalleled in recent human history.

There are many reasons why the phrase 'rush to war' is apt in describing the current socio-political environment. However, the rush has little to nothing to do with the fact that Iraq has allegedly not disarmed in 12 years, or that Iraq has allegedly flaunted 17 United Nations Security Council resolutions. War pundits and the cabal behind the war machine continue to argue that 'Saddam has had plenty of time to disarm'. We hear phrases from U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice that 'enough is enough', that 'Saddam is toying with the inspectors as he routinely has done in the past decade'.

However, while the Bush administration persistently refers to the past 12 years, there is no mention of the next 12 years. Who will run Iraq? What will Iran do about a U.S. military force in Iraq? What happens to the world economy if Saddam destroy's Iraq's oil fields? How much will the war cost? Who will clean up the mess? What of the irradiated uranium shells and casings littering the battlefied in Gulf War I? If 80,000 U.S. military personnel have 'mysterious ailments' as a result of the first Gulf war, what does that imply about the impending conflict? Will Iraqi Shiites rebel? Will the Kurds declare an independent state? Will Turkey invade the north while Iran invades the south? How does this play into Osama bin Laden's 'conspiracy against Islam' theory? What role does the opposition Iraqi National Congress play in a new Iraq?

None of these questions have been answered. All we hear from the likes of Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz et al, is that once Iraq becomes a democracy, the rest will follow.

To the informed Middle East analyst, the above sounds like a comic scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

In recent day's several 'events' may paint a picture of how impractical this drive to war really is.

1. Tension builds in Northern Iraq:

On February 18, an Iranian-backed Iraqi heavy mechanized division of Iraqi troops under the guidance of Iraqi Shiite Cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir Al-Hakim crossed into northern Iraq, near the village of Darbandikhan. "The Badr brigade has been trained and equipped by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and could be regarded as a proxy force of the Iranian government. Analysts close to the administration of President George W. Bush said the US was concerned about the intentions of this new element in an increasingly complicated patchwork of forces in northern Iraq," the Financial Times reports. (http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1045510848273&p=1012571727172)

Most readers have never heard of Al-Hakim, nor are they aware that he is very influential among Iraqi Shiite opposition groups. The fact that he is fervently supported by Iran indicates that Iran is indirectly telling the world that it wants a role to play in the future of Iraq.

Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul announced on February 19 that Turksih military units will occupy northern Iraq to prevent Iraqi Kurds from declaring an independent state. According to Reuters news agency, "Turkish generals want broad freedom to act in northern Iraq to protect a Turkish-speaking minority and prevent any moves by Kurds to form an independent state out of the chaos of a war." ( http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/593583).

The Kurds, however, have protested to the Turkish presence in northern Iraq and have vowed to resist it. According to Arabnews.com "the chairman of the Kurdistani Democratic Party, Masoud al-Barazani, has expressed total rejection of any Turkish military interference in northern Iraq."

Northern Iraq also hosts the Mujahideen Khalq (MKO), a heavily-armed Iranian military opposition group fighting to overthrow the Muslim clerics in Iran. Al-Hakim's forces have vowed to pursue the MKO throughout Iraq. Ansar-al-Islam, an Islamic militant group ideologically tied to Al-Qaeda also have an organized military unit in the North of Iraq. Other Kurdish factions in northern Iraq include the PKK, a militant group bitterly opposed to Turkish control of Turkish Kurdistan; 34,000 Turks and Kurds have died in the ensuing conflict since 1984. PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan is currently incarcerated in a Turkish jail.

The Iraqi army has mobilised 11 divisions to northern Iraq and has heavily fortified the ancient city of Mosul. Possible U.S. military scenarios include launching an attack from Turkey using 40,000 troops.

With so many forces, all bitter enemies of one another, fortifying positions in northern Iraq, the situation is akin to a lit powder keg.

The U.S. has apparently also dispensed with the once-friendly Iraqi opposition. Stark differences remain between the INC vision of a future Iraq and current plans to install a U.S. military governor in Iraq (likely General Thomas Franks).

"Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, complained that Washington was planning to stay in control of Iraq after President Saddam Hussein had been driven from power and was even considering keeping in place parts of the existing regime." ( http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-584166,00.html)

2. The financial equation:

February 21: Reserve Bank of Australia board member Warwick McKibbin and Center for International Economics executive director Andrew Stoeckel conducted a study outlining the cost of conflict in Iraq. "A short war with Iraq could cost the world one percent of its economic output over the next few years and more than $1 trillion by 2010, Australian researchers said in a report Thursday." ( http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030220/ts_nm/economy_iraq_dc_2)

Another Australian research outfit had more depressing news: "A protracted war with Iraq could cut 2 percent from global growth by 2005 and cost major economies up to US$3.6 trillion by 2010, almost half coming at the expense of the United States," says the Center for International Economics in Canberra, Australia.

And that's the good news. If Iraqi forces carry out a plan to blow up Iraqi oil fields and refineries, rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure could rocket to 300 billion dollars. In the interim, oil markets would be void of Iraqi oil, and Iraq would not be generating any revenue to feed its people. Sixty-five percent of the Iraqi people currently depend on handouts and rationing from the Iraqi army. Although rationing has kept food and oil prices very low, ordinary Iraqis have no other source of sustenance.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently estimated that an invasion of Iraq will likely knock out vital water filtration plants and re-introduce typhoid and cholera. Sewage would clog up the streets of Baghdad and Iraqis would be left without water until the plants are refitted or rebuilt. However, if Iraqi oil fields have been blown up, there will be no revenue to fund such initiatives.

Where will the money come from? The U.S. is already facing a record deficit, the stock markets are in decline, U.S. taxpayers have to cough up a 26 billion dollar buyout of Turkish 'alliance and support', and oil prices are nearing the 40-dollars-a-barrel mark.

3. The humanitarian equation:

The WHO ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/world/middle_east/2636835.stm) estimates that 500,000 Iraqis will be killed, wounded, and/or be inflicted with disease and harm as a direct result of a war in Iraq. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has also informed the Security Council that "Nearly half of the Iraqi population may be left without food or water in the aftermath of a war against the country." The U.N. has estimated that it is in an 80 million dollar shortfall in meeting an Iraqi crisis.

The U.N. has also called on countries bordering Iraq to keep their borders open for an expected flood of at least one million Iraqi civilians.

Let's not forget the psychological trauma ordinary Iraqis are currently facing, both as a result of 12 years of U.N. sanctions and the fear of imminent war.

The Independent reported last week that "A team of international investigators -- including two of the world's foremost psychologists -- have conducted the first pre-conflict field research with children and concluded that Iraqi children are already suffering "significant psychological harm" from the threat of war. The team was welcomed into the homes of more than 100 Iraqi families where they found the overwhelming message to be one of fear and the thought of being killed. Many live in a news void, with little information concerning the heightened threat of war." (February 12, 2003).

Trafficking in women, also known as white slavery, will also be introduced into Iraq as a result of a war. "Without a doubt you will find women who will be brought in to service the warriors as well as the peacekeepers in these operations," Michele Clark, co-director of the Protection Project of Johns Hopkins Foreign Policy Institute, recently reported.

Meanwhile, CBS recently reported that UNMOVIC inspectors in Iraq had found U.S. intelligence on suspected Iraqi efforts to hide illicit weapons and research worthless. "So frustrated have the inspectors become that one source has referred to the U.S. intelligence they've been getting as "garbage after garbage after garbage." In fact, Phillips says the source used another cruder word. The inspectors find themselves caught between the Iraqis, who are masters at the weapons-hiding shell game, and the United States, whose intelligence they've found to be circumstantial, outdated or just plain wrong," said the CBS report. ( http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/01/18/iraq/main537096.shtml)


ENDS

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