Thu, 03 Apr 2003

JP/7/RIZA World waits for U.S. pledge after the war

Riza Sihbudi Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Jakarta

The United Nations (UN) Security Council finally held its emergency meeting on March 27, following strong pressure from the Arab League and the Non-Aligned Movement. Indonesia was among those UN member countries which actively pushed for an open emergency meeting, one in which all UN members could participate, to debate the U.S.-led aggression against Iraq.

Still, the fact that the UN finally decided to convene this meeting shows increasing pressure from most nations, urging that the UN should not just sit on the fence in the face of barbarity in Iraq -- quite unlike its prompt reaction against Iraqi aggression against Kuwait in 1991. What the U.S. and the UK are doing to Iraq today is not very different from what Iraq did to Kuwait then.

Therefore, it is understandable that people in many countries have been urging that the UN be disbanded, as it has proven itself incapable of protecting a weak country against the atrocities of a strong country. There is more to this, of course.

Iraq has even accused UN Secretary General Kofi Annan of complicity in smoothing the way for the aggression. Just a day before the deadline of the ultimatum that Bush had given to Saddam Hussein, Annan decided to withdraw the UN inspection team from Iraq. Annan may thus go down in world history as the weakest and most timid UN Secretary-General.

If theoretical and mathematical calculations are correct, the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq is only a matter of time. Anyway, the military might of the U.S. and the UK is far superior to Iraq's military strength. This is indeed a very unjust "war" -- or to be more apt, aggression or invasion -- that lacks parity.

In the aftermath of the 1991 Kuwait war, the UN -- by order of the U.S. -- exacted economic, political and military penalties on Iraq. Embargoes and other kinds of sanctions in virtually every sector of life were imposed on Iraq, which was allowed only to purchase food and medicine supplies. Besides which, the UN, again by "order" of the U.S., also disarmed Iraq.

Saddam is undeniably a "monster" for his neighbors and his own people -- and, perhaps, he is also a hoodlum, as he is fond of extorting the wealth of the rich emirs around him.

Innumerable people have died as a result of his cruel political machine since he took power in 1979. However, most Iraqis -- including 60 percent of the marginalized Shiites -- hate the American and British aggressors more than Saddam. This is why the hope of the U.S. and the UK that their soldiers would receive a warm welcome from the Iraqis has remained a dream.

Besides, where is the morality of the U.S. and the UK? In the 1980s, both clearly had their share in Iraq's military build-up under Saddam. Both have pocketed millions, or even billions, of U.S. dollars from this Iraqi strongman. Then, they fully supported Saddam when he felt the urge to attack Iran to prevent the spread of the Islamic revolution.

After blocking Ayatollah Khomeini's influence, it is now Saddam's turn to be destroyed. Iraq had thus first been weakened before finally it was subjected to a massive attack, which has led to grave doubts as to how Iraq could possibly win the war.

The end of Saddam's power -- if this comes about -- would have a great impact on the Middle Eastern region. First of all, the impact would be favorable if the U.S. and the UK, plus the UN, are able to encourage the establishment of a new, democratic- inclined regime in Iraq.

This would be in line with the earlier commitment of the big powers to "liberate" the Iraqi people and restore their rights over their oil wealth potential.

Secondly, if and when Saddam loses the war, the U.S. must immediately fulfill is pledge to establish a free Palestinian state. The root cause of acute conflicts in the Middle East is the Palestinian question, in the sense that the Palestinians may enjoy their legitimate rights to establish and own a free and sovereign state that is recognized and protected by international institutions.

U.S. support for the establishment of a Palestinian state will minimize the anti-U.S. sentiment prevailing among the Arab nations. As a consequence, terrorist acts will also be reduced.

Thirdly, after a democratic government is installed in Iraq and a free Palestinian state is established, the U.S. must also encourage democratization in those Arab countries that have become its main allies. The emergence of new "monsters" in the Arab world would thus be prevented. This condition may also usher in a new era for the Middle East, if it can serve as a zone of peace and democracy.

However, if the U.S. fails to realize these three aims after the end of Saddam's power in Iraq, political instability will intensify in the region, especially if the U.S. is only concerned with controlling the oil of Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries and eliminating a military threat to Israel. The impact that the end of Saddam's rule might would be highly unfavorable.

The invasion of Iraq will likely be followed by an invasion of Iran on the same pretext: The destruction of weapons of mass destruction. Even Libya and Saudi Arabia could be next, as the main objective of the U.S. is to control 80 percent of the world's oil deposits.

That Iran will be another target is obvious from the U.S.'s attempt to raise an issue on Iran's nuclear capability. The Palestinian question will soon be forgotten, as George W. Bush needs support from Jewish-American lobbyists to ensure his re- election in 2004. If that is the case, then violence would almost certainly escalate in the Middle East.

We can only hope that Bush will rely on his common sense more than has up until now, and refrain from going against the wishes of the international community for the second time.

The writer also chairs the Indonesian Society for Middle East Studies (ISMES).