A Five-Year War for Oil and Democracy

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1 6 INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS A Five-Year War for Oil and Democracy Ye. Satanovsky It is dangerous to be America's enemy. But it is twice as dangerous to be its friend. Modern Arabic proverb THE FIVE YEARS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE IRAQ WAR have changed the world. At first glance, there is nothing especially new to report. The UN is adopting resolutions which few are paying attention to, never mind executing, and spending the budget. Taking advantage of its status as the only superpower, the U.S. is exporting democracy to what remains of foreign empires. Russia is upholding the remnants of its sphere of influence, avoiding direct conflicts with rivals. China and India are developing their economies at accelerated rates. Japan and the Southeast Asian countries are maintaining the economic level they achieved in the past. The European Union and NATO are enlarging. The Latin American countries are defiantly "opposing the hegemony of Washington," which is still their main trade partner. Instability in the Near and Middle East has become the accepted norm. Afghanistan is now the world's top producer of heavy drugs, and the Taliban is regaining its lost ground. The radical al-qaeda Islamists are conquering new fronts. In nuclear Pakistan, the military, tribes, Islamists, separatists, and "democratic forces," which differ only in the names of their leaders and level of corruption, are fighting for power. Iran is developing a "peaceful nuclear program" and conducting an aggressive foreign policy. The army in Turkey is standing sentinel over a secular state, while the political establishment is trying to return the country to religious traditions. Israel is fighting the consequences of a "peace process" it initiated itself. The Palestinian leaders are demanding more and more money from the world around them, while waging a brutal internecine war. Lebanon's future continues to hang in the balance and depends more on Syria and Iran than on the Lebanese themselves. The monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula are opposing radical political opponents on their own territory and, while continuing their customary condemnation of Israel, are looking worriedly over their shoulders at Iran. The Yemen government is fighting the tribal sheikhs. Jordan is trying to strike a balance among its neighbors. Morocco and Algeria are vying for regional leadership, thus perpetuating the problem of the Western Sahara. Yevgeni Satanovsky, President of the Institute for Near East Policy

2 A Five-Year Old War for Oil and Democracy 7 Tunisia is adhering to an authoritative-progressive development path. Libya remains a mystery to everyone in the world apart from its own leader. Egypt is becoming islamicized, while its leadership is busy transferring supreme power. The Sudan and countries of the Horn of Africa are faced with internecine wars and millions of refugees. The League of Arab Nations is still less influential than the UN, while the Organization of the Islamic Conference remains a discussion club. However, the world has undoubtedly changed in the short time since the beginning of the Second Gulf War. These changes are not revolutionary, but they are having a perceptible impact on the future of the world economy, war-waging strategy, the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and international politics. The decision to start the Iraq war without the UN's consent, the formation of an anti- Iraqi coalition outside the framework of this organization, the occupation of Iraq, and Saddam Hussein's execution without a decision by the international tribunal weakened the world order that was established after World War II and designated a return to gunboat diplomacy. The UN's role in these processes was reduced to zero, and the system of checks and balances embodied by this organization ceased to work. The disputes that have been going on since the beginning of the war about whether oil or promoting democracy is the main reason for occupying Iraq don't make much sense. If the first is true, the world has returned to the era of colonial wars. If we go with the second, imposing an alien state administrative system on another country places the U.S. in the position of an "empire of evil," the name President Reagan coined for the Soviet Union in the 1980s. If those are right who believe that the personal-family factor played the decisive role in making the decision about beginning the war, this means the strategic decision-making mechanism in the U.S. is becoming, with respect to subjectivity, like the one customary in the late Roman empire. The experience of the Iraq war casts aspersions on the idea that democracy is an ideal system of state administration suitable for any country regardless of its historical experience. Elimination of Saddam's dictatorship in Iraq has opened the doors to crime, terrorism, separatism, and confessional and ethnic purges, which are even more pernicious in terms of their consequences than the overthrown regime. The results of the Iraq war have turned many genuine supporters of western-type democracy and the U.S. into their ill-wishers, and those who had a neutral attitude into their opponents. The level of anti-americanism in the world has risen, the U.S.'s security has decreased, and the image of democracy has deteriorated. The destruction of the Baathist regime in Iraq predictably led to Iran's stronger position in the region. Less predictable was the advent to power of the neo-conservative wing of the establishment headed by President Ahmadinejad in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the intensified efforts to acquire a complete nuclear cycle, which is only a step away from acquiring nuclear weapons. Information on the halt in the Iranian military nuclear program in 2003 promul-

3 8 INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS gated by the leadership of the U.S. intelligence community most likely shows the diversification of this program with the possibility of its restoration at the final stage of nuclear weapon assembly. The activity of the Iranian leadership aimed at possessing missile carriers, its threats to destroy Israel, and the greater activity on Israel's borders of Iran's allies - Hezbollah in South Lebanon and the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip - could lead in the short term to a large-scale war between Iran and Israel, possibly with the U.S.'s participation. If Iran acquires weapons of mass destruction before the beginning of the conflict, the war could become nuclear. At present there are no grounds for optimistic forecasts about this confrontation. The implementation of a military scenario will complicate the situation in the region, particularly since the coalition does not have enough troops to carry out a land-based operation in Iran, without which bombing nuclear facilities will only slow down the development of Iran's nuclear program. The consequences will primarily be felt in the Shiite regions of Iraq, but all of its neighbors, including Russia, are concerned about the possibility of a war with Iran. In turn, the Iranian leadership, while provoking a strike on its territory out of domestic political considerations, is also claiming membership in the SCO, thus drawing Russia and China into a potential confrontation with the U.S. Iraq did not enjoy the support of the Arab world after it occupied Kuwait, but all of the countries of this world, including Iraq's neighbors, in contrast to what happened during the Desert Storm operation of the 1990s, distanced themselves from participation in the operation to overthrow Saddam Hussein and from the subsequent peacekeeping activity, limiting themselves to offering the coalition troops transport corridors and hosting Iraqi refugees. The reinforcement of the Shiites and Kurds in Iraq, this country's transformation into a training camp for terrorists, and Iran's stronger position are posing a threat to the Arab monarchies and autocratic republics, including the U.S.'s allies. This also applies to Turkey, which has encountered the threat of Kurds appearing on its state borders, as well as to Israel, the danger to which posed by Saddam's Baghdad was nothing compared to the Iranian threat. The blow that the Iraq war dealt the non-proliferation regime should not be underestimated. It is not only a matter of questioning the IAEA and official Washington about how the inspections were going to reveal the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The destruction of Iraq and the elimination of its leader initiated a crisis around the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, showing that the existence of weapons of mass destruction or the ability to prove their existence is the only effective defense against replacement of the ruling regime in any country, in the event the U.S. leadership decides it wants to do this. Libya's rejection of a nuclear program after the fall of Baghdad came as an unexpected surprise to the world community. Stemming from Muammar Kaddafi's lack of desire to share Saddam Hussein's fate, this rejection is usually interpreted as a victory of the non-proliferation regime, although Tripoli's developed nuclear program, which the IAEA does not know about, and the accidental

4 A Five-Year Old War for Oil and Democracy 9 exposure of a Pakistani source of nuclear technology and equipment it was based on show the Agency's incompetence. Despite the colossal cost of the war, the American economy has borne these costs and will evidently continue to bear them for a long time to come, although the war is lowering its competitiveness. Contrary to all expectations, the increase in oil prices, which is a natural consequence of the Iraq war, did not cause a collapse in the world economy, which adjusted to the high prices for energy resources and their fluctuation. The oil consumer countries redistributed the load placed on them and it was largely paid for by the states importing their products and services. Oil exporters obtained super profits allowing them to adjust their domestic policy and achieve greater stability of their ruling regimes. The decrease in oil production at Iraqi fields has led to their operation being put on mandatory hold, which will extend their efficient operation in the future, like the oil embargo of the 1970s extended the operation of the Saudi Arabian fields. Monopolization by American business of large projects in Iraq was a predictable consequence of the war. The countries not participating in the coalition's military operations could count on obtaining separate contracts to restore infrastructure, but China, Russia, and a large number of EU countries can no longer count on Iraqi oil production for a long time to come. Nor should we forget that in present-day Iraq, foreign specialists are the same target for local resistance and foreign terrorists as foreign servicemen. The Iraq war provoked an increase in Islamist terrorist activity in Europe and in the West as a whole, particularly with respect to the coalition countries: Spain, Great Britain, Australia, and so on. The Islamists have stepped up their activity in Central Asia, which has become, along with the Southern Caucasus, an area where the EU, the U.S., Russia, and China are vying for access to the Caspian energy resources. The decline in Islamist terrorist activity in Russia and China can be explained not only by their effective state policy, but also by the reorientation of most of the international extremist organizations acting in this region toward Iraq and Afghanistan. During the war, approximately 2 million servicemen from the armies of the U.S., Great Britain, and several other coalition countries gained the experience of carrying out military combat and counter-terrorist operations under Mesopotamian conditions. On the other hand, the same war made it possible for Al Qaeda, the Shiite militia, and other radical Islamist organizations to train several tens of thousands of professional fighters with experience in waging war against contemporary armies, as well as a much larger number of less skilled "battle-hardened" fighters. In so doing, in contrast to the situation with Vietnam partisans and Afghan mujahids, not one country with combat acumen that could compare with that of the occupation country supported the Iraqi resistance. The first conclusion to be drawn from this is that the West can defeat a country whose armed forces are on the level of Saddam's Iraq quickly and with minimum fatalities, but cannot control it for a long time without serious losses. The second conclusion is that the armed forces of the West on

5 10 INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS the whole and the U.S. in particular are limited in terms of human resources which could be put into action in long-term land-based operations. Iraq needs less than 200,000 people for this, with a large occupation corps of approximately 500,000 people for the country's effective pacification, not counting the local army and police force, whose combat-readiness, as their operation against the Mahdi Army showed, is extremely limited. Iraq's neighbors are ready to carry out counter-terrorist operations in their own interests like Turkey, or control borders like the Arab countries and Iran, without coming into conflict with the Iraqi resistance. This makes it more important for the U.S. to draw new partners into the coalition, including Eastern European states and such post-soviet republics as Ukraine and Georgia, thus making Washington responsible for their leaders who become targets of confrontation with Moscow. Not only is it impossible to call Iraq's development after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's an example of democracy, it is its worst advertisement. The Iraq war has proven that only an authoritarian dictatorship, no matter what form it takes, can be the guarantor of the existence of the ethnic and confessional minorities in the Islamic Near East. The sub-confessional and ethnic groups of the Iraqi population repressed under the Baathist regime are taking advantage of the "freedom" to begin putting pressure on their former "repressors." The victory of justice in present-day Iraq lies in ethnic purging. The fight of the Iraqi Shiites against the Sunnis, of the Kurds against the Arabs and Turkomans, and of the Muslims against the Christians, Yazidis, Mandaens, and other confessional minorities is being supplemented by opposition between all the main Arab groups of the population and the occupation troops. Local wars between Sunni tribes and al-qaeda fighters, clashes between pro-iranian Shiite religious leaders and Shiite sheikhs, the fight for resources being divvied up by the government, and control over financial flows are all turning the domestic political situation in Iraq into a war of all against all (bellum omnium contra omnes). The corruption in postwar Iraq has broken all records, equally affecting the military and civil administration, U.S. representatives, and the local elite. This also applies to the level of violence against the civilian population, the number of victims among which has greatly exceeded the losses from the purges of Saddam Hussein's times. The crimes committed by the servicemen of the coalition countries are reminiscent of the war in Vietnam and only fade against the background of the actions of Iraqi servicemen and the police, some units of which are functioning as "death squads." This is one of the consequences of the more than four million refugees and migrants, whereby the UN has registered far fewer than their actual number. Iraqi refugees are still a problem for Syria and Jordan, the main countries where they are living at present but essentially deprived of the opportunity to leave for the U.S. The double standards in defining the status of refugees, which the UN and its specialized agencies are demonstrating toward Iraq, are making it doubtful that they can continue their efforts in this direction under the existing conditions. The data on the return of refugees to

6 A Five-Year Old War for Oil and Democracy 11 Iraq do not show that the situation in this country is returning to normal, rather that refugees are being effectively ousted from the host countries, including by means of introducing visas that must be obtained in Baghdad. There is no united Iraq at present. The coalition troops are controlling the main highways, airports, ports, oil production regions, oil refineries and pipelines, as well as the government institution and embassy district in Baghdad. The government is governing the country on a pro forma basis. Power in the provinces, including not only the population settlements in rural areas, but also in some urban districts, belongs to the leaders of tribes, clans, religious associations, criminal authorities, and field commanders. There is no integrated infrastructure in the country, and the current standard of living is low. Only a small part of the Iraqi population has access to medical services, normal nutrition, and clean water. The standard of living has dropped manifold compared with the prewar level. Kurdistan is a territory that is de facto independent of Baghdad, which could be declared a state at any time it sees fit. Separatism of the Shiites in the south of Iraq is less pronounced due to the large number of contenders for leadership among them, the absence of a single administration center, and the influence of Iran, which is not interested in an independent Arab Shiite state on its own borders, but in increasing its own influence on the Shiite periphery. At the same time, the strengthening of Iraq's Shiites is destabilizing the Sunni regimes of the Arab world in countries where there are large Shiite communities, primarily in the monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula. It will take decades for life in Iraq to return to normal. The path it follows will ultimately depend on a combination of factors in three main areas. First, will a strike be made on Iran and how will its opposition against its neighbors, the U.S. and Israel, end. Second, how long will American troops remain in Iraq and how efficiently will they operate. Third, will a new Saddam appear in Iraq, who will unite the country, will it ultimately split into separate enclaves or remain theoretically united, essentially in the state it is in today. Making any forecasts today is a thankless task. The Iraqi war is the center of the 2008 election battles in the U.S. The approach of the presidential candidates differs, from alarmist to promises to put an end to the war as soon as possible. In so doing, not one of the candidates is saying that America simply cannot afford to withdraw its troops from Iraq, thus losing control over this country: the withdrawal of troops will be perceived as a defeat by all of the U.S.'s opponents, from the Middle East to Latin America. In this event, repetition of the 9/11 terrorist acts is the least the U.S. can expect.

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