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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 41, September 28, 2013

Uphill to Peace

Tuesday 1 October 2013, by Nikhil Chakravartty

From N.C.’s Writings

The initial sense of relief at the announcement of the peace initiative in the Gulf has now given way to premonitions because of the US camp’s reluctance to respond. Whatever may be the final outcome of these peace negotiations, this makes a distinct watershed in the protracted Gulf crisis. The terrifying air blitz that was unleashed on January 17 by the US-led coalition forces—particularly by the American and the British—brought death and destruction on a scale unknown in History.

That place of uninterrupted air strikes—thousands everyday for fouir long weeks—had reached the peak: whatever the official US version, whatever the ravings and rantings of President Bush, that momentum has been halted by Iraq’s offer to talk on withdrawal from Kuwait, followed promptly by the brisk negotia-tions at Teheran and Moscow. In a war situation, once the momentum slows down, it becomes difficult to recharge it. And it is precisely in that slot, the relative lull, that is being taken advan-tage of by various international forces to bring about the end of actual hostilities so that the negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the dispute could be resumed.

One need have no illusion about the formidable obstacles to peace that lie ahead. From the beginning, President Bush has taken a now-or-never posture. It would, however, be a mistake to treat President Bush’s intemperate outbursts as specimen of purely personal dementia. One has to take into account the tremendous pressure that the President of the United States has to encounter from what President Eisenhower had called the “military-industrial complex” in the United States. In the present phase of techno-logical advance, the decisive influence within this military-industrial complex is exercised by the hi-tech section. For this lobby, it was urgent to test out their new products. And in the four weeks of “Operation Desert Storm” they have successfully tried out at least three, if not more, of these hi-tech weapons—the Patriot missile (which represents the ‘Star Wars’ programme), the Cruise missile and the Stealth bomber which escapes the radar. Incidentally, these three are bound to turn out to be conentious items in any future US-Soviet strategic arms control talks.

Secondly, Washington has to establish its military foothold in the oil-rich Gulf area, and this can be possible only by overthrowing Saddam and ousting Iraq from the position of pre-eminence in the Arab world. As the Secretary of State, James Baker, has reminded the US House Committee on February 6, the American naval force has been posted in the Gulf since 1949, followed by a military alliance with Saudi Arabia. With the British withdrawal from this so-called Arc of Crisis, the US presence has been most conspicuous in the region. Iran under the Shah was built up as the keystone of this Arc, but with the collapse of the Shah, the US strategy became more forthright as could be seen in the setting up of the Centcom and the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). The need for this forward policy is to be traced to the American perception of keeping a grip on the oil flow from the Middle East. A former US Defence Secretary had once said that those who controlled the oil tap of the Middle East would have sufficient lever for controlling the globe. This is the region which controls two-thirds of the entire oil stock of the world.

The White House estimate of the war cost has been one billion dollar per day and the operation, to be over in three months, would roughly come therefore to the total of 100 billion dollars. As Secretary Baker’s testimony of February 6 amply makes out, the US Administration has already been planning out the post-war set-up for the region. Obviously, the calculation is that the cost of the restoration and rehabilitation of the war damages—inflicted mainly by the US armed operation—would be borne by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE. The job of reconstruction, by this calculation, would be taken up by the giant US multinationals like the Bechtels. They are expected to go in for close collaboration with the Zionist, Israel-based companies. Through the military operation and by raising oil prices in 1991 by 20-30 dollars per barrel the oil giants—like the ESSO, Chevron, Mobile and Texaco—expect handsome profit which may be of the order of 650 to 700 million dollars. And through the war, if the US could manage to grab 50 per cent control over the oil- fields in Kuwait and Iraq, this will fetch for the US oil giants about three trillion dollars—which comes to 30 times more than the possible cost of the war for the US.

By such victory, the US authorities expect to strengthen America’s position in the world economy and thereby dictate the conditions for the New World Order that President Bush has in mind. And by such physical control over the Gulf oil, it expects to control the flow of oil to Europe and Japan, both of whom depend heavily on the Persian Gulf supply fare more than the US does. Thus through this war, the USA expects to put the curb on the power of two of its potential rivals in the race for world domination.

The road to peace in the Gulf crisis is, there-fore, not going to be easy. Gorbachev has certainly wrest back the initiative which Moscow had lost in the UN when the American bulldozing was hardly understood by the Soviet side, going along with the US on the misplaced understanding that they were strengthening the authority of the UN. What was amazing in that tailist approach on the part of the Soviet side was that it ignored its own previous stand for the reinforcement of the Military Staff Committee of the Security Council. However, as the hideous US-led military operation unfolded, Moscow has come out openly against the ravages of the war—calling it “Desert Slaughter”—and there is no doubt the Primakov mission to Baghdad played a pivotal role in the ongoing peace process.

It is to be kept in mind that the present Soviet strategy would be based on the principle of interdependence, that is, to get the USA involved in it and not bypassing it. Significance therefore lies in the constant exchanges taking place between Moscow and Washington wherein open diplomacy is not pursued. What is equally significant is the positive stance taken by the Israeli Government, showing thereby a touch of realism on its part that the strength of Iraqi resistance coupled with the pro-Saddam upsurge in the entire Arab world can hardly be ignored by depending solely on US fire-power.

All this brings out the complicated nature of the present balance of forces; and at the same time the direction of developments negates the all-out campaign of total destruction that President George Bush has pursued in the first month of the nightmare war that he unleashed in mid-January.

Has Chandra Shekhar the time, the inclination or the capacity to understand these realities of the present international situation? If he had, he would not have allowed his government to be identified with the US’ total war drive as he did when he permitted the US Air Force refuelling facilities even after the outbreak of actual hostilities on January 17.

(Mainstream, February 23, 1991)

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