Slow Motion Holocaust

US designs on Iraq

by Stephanie Reich

CovertAction Quarterly, Spring 2002


The George Bush II administration is implementing war preparations for an all-out attack on Iraq. In his January 2002 "Axis of Evil" speech, Mr. Bush accused Iraq of having plotted to "develop anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons," fulminating against "...a regime that agreed to international inspections then kicked out the inspectors...a regime that has something to hide..." This despite that fact that in January 2001, outgoing Secretary of Defense William Cohen advised the incoming administration that "Saddam Hussein's forces are in a state where he cannot pose a threat to his neighbors... Scott Ritter, the outspoken former US Marine and UN weapons inspector, has reiterated this assessment.

Immediately after Iraqi troops entered Kuwait on August 2, 1990, George Bush I implemented war preparations, bypassing both UN procedures for conflict resolution and inter-Arab efforts at resolving the dispute. This happened despite the fact that during the previous decade, the Iraqi government had adopted policies designed to improve its relations with the US. For example, Iraq substituted France for the Soviet Union as its leading trading partner and arms supplier, and condemned the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.

These Iraqi moves did not alter the basic thrust of US policy in the Persian Gulf region, which was to maintain the Arabian Peninsula monarchies as Washington's chief strategic allies, and to marginalize both Iraq and Iran. During the Iran-lraq war, the US carried out this policy by assisting one belligerent and then the other. Henry Kissinger said at the time: "The ultimate American interest in the war is that both should lose."

Despite its propaganda regarding the Iranian government, the US did not take any action against Israeli arms sales to Teheran, since they served the US objective of keeping Iran and Iraq in combat. Israel reconstructed its Iranian arms market impressively during the Iran-lraq war, accounting for as much as 50 per cent of Iran's war needs from the outbreak of hostilities to March 1982. During the war, Israel supplied Iran with at least $500 million worth of arms per year. The Reagan administration got involved in arms sales to Iran after receiving reports from Israeli intelligence about Tel Aviv's contacts with what Israel called "anti-Khomeini and proWestern elements" (the debut of the so-called "Moderates") within the Iranian government. Thinking to keep the conflict going, President Reagan authorized Israel to sell TOW antitank missiles to Iran, in July 1985, and in January 1986, approved direct US arms sales to the Khomeini government. These two directives contravened "Operation Staunch," a US-led arms embargo on Iran.

While the war brought Iraq severe economic problems, the country seemed to have emerged from the conflict with increased military strength in 1988. This apparent development set the stage for US and Israeli moves to contain Iraq. For the US, such moves were to ensure that Iraq would not become strong enough to interfere with US warships patrolling the Gulf. Between 1988 and 1990, Gulf oil had become more important to the US than ever because the global demand for oil had increased. In January 1990, Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) William Webster speculated that the share of Gulf oil would increase from 10 to 25 per cent of all US imports over the next few years. Furthermore, Soviet oil production was declining, and this made it likely that Moscow would become a competitor with the US for Gulf oil.

Israel, for its part, aimed to maintain its position as paramount military power in the region by portraying the strengthening of any Arab state's armed forces as a major security threat. Israel included in this category the growth and battle experience of Iraq's armed forces, Iraqi and Syrian moves toward reconciliation, and the formation, in March 1990, of a joint Iraqi-Jordanian squadron armed with Mirage aircraft. Israel considered all of these developments precursors to the emergence of a new, anti-lsraeli eastern front. The following month, US intelligence claimed that Iraq had completed the installation of fixed launching sites for modified versions of its Scud-B missile, as preparation for attacks on Israel. The seizure in Greece of steel pipes slated to be components of Iraq's 1,000 mm supergun provoked speculation that this gun was to be used to lob large chemical or nuclear warheads into Israel. Israel further alleged that both Iraq and Syria possessed waterborne biological agents capable of poisoning Lake Tiberia, Israel's chief source of water.

In sounding these alarms, the US and Israel were attempting to conceal three realities. The first was that Iraq was developing these weapons as a defense against Israel, which had a massive arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. By 1988, Israel possessed nearly 200 nuclear weapons of various types, and a fleet of fighter aircraft designed for nuclear payloads. Israel's tactical nuclear arsenal at the time included land mines planted along the Golan Heights. Currently, Tel Aviv's Nes Tziyona Biological Institute produces chemical and biological weapons, and its arsenal features ballistic and cruise missiles designed for nuclear warheads, at least 200 neutron bombs, and F-16 fighter jets designed to carry chemical and biological payloads.

The second reality was that as late as 1990, Iraq's arsenal of superguns, and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons was still at a rudimentary stage of development. The third reality was that it had been US, British and other Western firms and agencies that sold much of the technology for these weapons to Iraq. The Reagan administration's removal of Iraq from the list of states "sponsoring terrorism" granted Iraq the eligibility that every other "free world" state enjoyed to purchase high technology equipment from the US. Between January 1, 1985 and August 2, 1990, the US Commerce Department approved hundreds of license applications for exports of US products to Iraq. Many of these products had potential military applications. A 1989 US Commerce Department report highlighting areas of the Iraqi economy that were likely to prove lucrative to US businesses pointed out that military hardware, and specifically state of the art weaponry and logistical supplies, were items that Iraq would require for replenishing its defense forces.

The British firm of Walter Sommers, Ltd., had supplied the steel tubes for the one operational long-range cannon that Iraq possessed, a 356mm gun with a range of 150 to 180 kilometers. (Israel is 825 kilometers distant from Iraq.) Other parts for the cannon had come from West Germany, Spain and France. Iraq had not yet assembled by 1991, much less tested, its two highly-publicized 1,000 mm supergun. Walter Sommers, Ltd, and Sheffield Forgemasters held the contracts for the guns' steel tubes, and a Belgian firm was to supply the propellants. Despite allegations that Iraq was planning to use these guns to deliver biological payloads to Israel, there is no evidence that Iraq had such a capability.

As late as 1985, Iraq possessed only one operative mustard gas plant, a small complex that the West German firm of Karl Kolb had built. More significantly, by the end of the 1980s, Iraq was still importing the precursors for mustard gas, thiodiglycol and ethylene oxide. Iraq imported its thiodiglycol from the US throughout that decade, as well as from Western European firms. In the late 1980s, Iraq still lacked facilities for the production of ethylene, a basic precursor for many petrochemical products, as well as for thiodiglycol and ethylene oxide. Although Iraq had completed the construction of its first ethylene plant early in the decade, the Iran-lraq war had postponed startup until 1989. Not until 1988 did Iraq let contracts for the construction of a second plant for the production of ethylene oxide. The construction manager was Bechtel Corporation, to which former Secretary of State George Schultz had returned as a top executive at the end of Reagan's second term. Another US company working on this plant was Lummus Crest, of Bloomfield, New Jersey.

As of 1988, Iraq's production capacity for the nerve agents Sarin and Tabun was small. The country's two West German built pilot plants at Samarra were each capable of producing only 48 tons per year of these agents. (By comparison, the best data available on US production of chemical weapons suggests production levels of around 1,000 tons per year as of early 1970s. -Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 53, no. 5, 1997) Furthermore, Iraq had to import the precursors for these nerve agents, and until 1985, an important source of these imports had been Western Europe and the US. Because many precursors of nerve agents have few non-military uses, Iraq had also to contend with the export restrictions that many potential source countries had imposed. It was not until 1987 that Iraq obtained the equipment for a production plant for the nerve gas precursors phosphorous oxychloride and phosphorous trichloride from West German firms. However, Iraq remained unable to produce elemental phosphorus, a basic component of all nerve agents.

US and other Western firms and agencies were extending considerable assistance to Iraqi research on infectious diseases, irrespective of whether or not this research was being conducted for military purposes. One such agency was the American Type Culture Collection, which supplied Iraq with the cultures for Tularemia and West Nile Fever, and no fewer than seventeen shipments of cultures of various toxins and bacteria between 1985 and 1991. By the outbreak of the 1991 war, other US centers had transferred the strains for a number of viruses to Iraq for research, and the US firm Sigma Chemie had provided Iraq with precursor viruses. In addition, this firm transferred mycotoxins to its two West German subsidiaries, Joseph Kuhn and Plato-Kuhn. These firms, in turn, delivered the toxins to Iraq.

Despite the Bush I administration's hair-raising alarms about Iraq's alleged nuclear capabilities during the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War, the reality was that Iraq's nuclear achievements by that year were dismal, and many were traceable to US equipment. For example, US companies played a significant role in the development of Saad 16, a complex for designing missiles and conducting nuclear weapons research. Iraq had imported fully 40 per cent of the equipment used at this ~' complex from the US, including computers manufactured by Hewlett Packard Co., oscilloscopes manufactured by Tektronix, Inc, and microwave measuring devices purchased from Wiltron Co.

Back in 1981, Israel had destroyed Iraq's French-built Osirak reactor before it became operational, due in part to US-provided high-resolution satellite photographs. France did not rebuild the Osirak reactor, nor did Italy conclude the 1981 agreement that Iraq had tried to initiate for a new reactor, since it was clear that Israel would destroy it. During the 1980s, Iraq obtained 93% enriched uranium from France, conducted research on the various techniques for uranium enrichment and plutonium production, and was able to obtain components for these techniques from German and US companies such as Maxwell Laboratories of San Diego. Yet even by the end of the decade, Iraq possessed insufficient quantities of highly enriched uranium for building the most rudimentary nuclear device. Producing a smaller weapon with the limited amount of enriched uranium that Iraq possessed would have required complex implosion technology that Iraq lacked. As for plutonium, Iraq had been able to extract slightly over 5 grams by the onset of the Gulf War, whereas the simplest plutonium weapon requires 8 to 10 kilograms. Nor does any evidence exist indicating that Iraq was designing plutonium weapons. Finally, by the end of the 1980s, Iraq still lacked an effective delivery system for nuclear weapons. At the time of Israel's attack on Osirak, Iraq was a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as it remains today. Israel has yet to sign.

In February 1990, Saddam Hussein condemned US military presence in the Persian Gulf, and warned that growing US power in the region might eventually allow it to dictate the price, production and distribution of the region's oil, solely according to its own interests. In April of that year, President Hussein advocated a panArab troop and materiel buildup, and declared that as long as the Arab states remained economically and militarily weak, they would be unable to dislodge Israel from the occupied territories and establish a Palestinian state. President Hussein's speech emphasized that economic strengthening of the Arab states required the investment of oil revenues at home rather than abroad, and that wealthy Arab governments should assist poor ones. He advocated special pan-Arab funds to assist the Palestinian intifada, and stated that Iraq would answer any Israeli nuclear attack, and would come to the military aid of any Arab nation facing external aggression. He also pointed out that Israel, and not Iraq, had introduced nuclear and chemical weapons into the region, and advocated an alternative: the transformation of the entire Middle East into a nuclear, chemical and biological weapons-free zone.

While the US and Israel were trumpeting allegations about the "Iraqi menace," Kuwait was engaging in a series of damaging maneuvers against Iraq. In 1989 Kuwait hindered Iraq's access to the Gulf by refusing to lease two islands, Bubyan and Warbah, for shipping purposes. In 1990 Kuwait resumed direct flights to Iran while prohibiting Iraqi aircraft from crossing Kuwaiti airspace, thereby preventing Basra from functioning as an international airport. Iraq's industrialization and debt repayment plan of 1989 was based upon the presumption that in 1990, the price of oil would rise above the OPEC-set price of $18 per barrel. Instead, the price of oil fell markedly during that year, and both Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) dallied on agreeing to adhere to their OPEC production quotas until they received warnings from Iraq in July. Nor would Kuwait agree to cancel the $17 billion debt that Iraq had contracted during the war with Iran. A related Iraqi grievance against Kuwait concerned the Rumailah oil field, ninety per cent of which lies in Iraq. Iraq charged Kuwait with taking advantage of the war situation and stealing Iraqi resources by slant-drilling $10-14 billion worth of oil from the field during the 1980s.

All along, Kuwaiti officials were confident of US support. This confidence is revealed in a document the Iraqis discovered in a Kuwaiti intelligence file at the time of the invasion. The document was a memo from the head of Kuwaiti State Security summarizing a November 1989 meeting with CIA Director Webster. Webster and the Kuwaiti security chief agreed that it was important to take advantage of Iraq's deteriorating economic situation in order to pressure Iraq on the border dispute, and that Kuwait could rely on US cooperation at the highest levels. The Kuwaiti Foreign Minister fainted when his Iraqi counterpart confronted him with this document at an Arab summit meeting in mid-August, 199. According to Jordan's King Hussein, prior to the Gulf War the Kuwaiti Foreign Minster had stated "We are not going to respond to [Iraq]. If they don't like it, let them occupy our territory...We are going to bring in the Americans.'

Privately, the US had made its intentions clear to Kuwaiti officials, but Washington's public statements and communications to Iraq about troop deployments along the Kuwaiti border in July 1990 were very ambiguous. While both Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz (both now in the Bush II administration) stated that the US was committed to defending Kuwait if it were attacked, the White House later stated that Cheney had spoken with "some liberty." State Department spokesperson Margaret Tutweiler stated that the US had concluded neither defense treaties nor special security agreements with Kuwait, but then asserted that the US "remained strongly committed to supporting the individual and collective self-defense of our friends in the Gulf..." On July 25, 1990, US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie uttered her infamous statement to the Iraqi president that the US had no opinion about inter-Arab conflicts. On the same day, Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly killed a VOA broadcast reiterating Tutweiler's warning. Days before Iraq actually entered Kuwait, Kelly told Congress that the US had no defense treaty with any Gulf country, and had historically avoided taking positions on border disputes or inter-OPEC deliberations.

Once Iraq entered Kuwait, the US moved swiftly and decisively toward war, foiling regional attempts to resolve the conflict, dismissing Iraqi proposals for withdrawal, and contravening standard UN procedures for such situations. President Bush brusquely gave King Hussein of Jordan a mere forty-eight hours to convene a summit in Saudi Arabia for negotiating a settlement. Believing that he had persuaded Egypt to refrain from condemning Iraq, King Hussein then obtained Iraq's agreement to begin troop withdrawals on August 5, the first day of the summit. On August 3, possibly under Egyptian pressure, fourteen out of twenty-one Arab foreign ministers voted to condemn the invasion, and so the mini-summit collapsed. On August 6, the Bush administration secured Turkey's pledge to boycott Iraq and shut down Iraq's oil pipeline, in exchange for US promises of military and economic favors.

Next came Saudi Arabia's "invitation" for US military intervention on August 7, after Secretary of Defense Cheney had convinced King Fahad that the Kingdom was in danger of an Iraqi invasion. Reports subsequently surfaced that British Prime Minister Thatcher had revealed to King Hussein that US troops were actually en route to Saudi Arabia before King Fahad had requested them. Both CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency officials expressed skepticism about the existence of such Iraqi invasion plans. General Colin Powell also concurred with this assessment by conceding that Baghdad could have invaded Saudi Arabia without going through Kuwait, and that Iraq had curiously refrained from carrying out such an invasion within the three weeks immediately following the takeover of Kuwait.

Between August 10 and 19, Iraq issued three proposals for resolving the Gulf crisis. The first proposal offered Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait in exchange for Syrian pullout from Lebanon, and Israeli evacuation of the West Bank and Gaza. The second proposal called for the replacement of US troops assembling in Saudi Arabia by UN forces, and the handling of the Iraq-Kuwait situation within a regional context. The third proposal, delivered to US National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, offered Iraq's complete withdrawal from Kuwait in exchange for Iraqi control of the Rumailah oilfield, and for Baghdad's guaranteed access to the Gulf. The US responded to these three Iraqi offerings by continuing its troop buildup in Saudi Arabia.

The US gained its November 29 UN vote authorizing war against Iraq from the other Security Council member states by offering them handsome economic assistance packages. The Soviet Union, for instance, obtained a US pledge of $6 billion in financial aid as payment for its "yes" vote. Colombia, Ethiopia and Zaire were also offered new aid packages, and access to World Bank credits and IMF loans. China's abstention was purchased by ending China's post-Tenanmen Square isolation through a high-level White House meeting with the Chinese ambassador, and by promising to push for the release of China's withheld World Bank credits. Yemen was punished for voting against the resolution with a cutoff of $70 million in US aid.

The Gulf War concluded at the end of February 1991 with the Highway of Death massacre, in which the US Air Force, in violation of international law, strafed and killed tens of thousands of Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait. The sanctions imposed in August 1990 remained, now tied to Iraqi compliance with Security Council Resolution 687, directing the demolition of its weapons of mass destruction, and compliance inspections at 60-day intervals. It was a moving goalpost that never stopped moving. Lifting the sanctions requires unanimity among the Security Council's permanent members. The US and Britain remain the only holdouts to this day.

Iraq subsisted on UN humanitarian aid and the donations of NGOs until 1996 when Iraq was permitted to resume oil exports under the Oil for Food Program. The sanctions continue to wreak devastation on the country and its people. Sanctions have caused massive migrations to Baghdad from the impoverished south, inflation, unemployment, a huge rise in childhood mortality, and an increase in crime. The Clinton administration consistently blamed all the sufferings of the Iraqi people on Saddam Hussein. The documentary evidence tells a different tale.


A series of recently revealed Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) reports show that the US attack on Iraq's civilian population was deliberate and calculated. A DIA report of January 1991 stated that sanctions would prevent the import of chemicals and equipment required for the provision of safe drinking water, resulting in epidemics. A second DIA report listed as likely causes of epidemics in urban areas the fact that US bombing had destroyed water, electrical and waste disposal systems, and had largely ended distribution of preventive medicines. The report itemized the predicted disease outbreaks, highlighting those that strike children. A third DIA report dated March 1991 explicitly connected outbreaks of gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases to the war, stated that children in particular were affected, and noted that potable water had been reduced to 5% of prewar supplies.

Even in the face of these and subsequent reports, many prepared by the UN, US-backed Iraqi opposition groups continue to support sanctions. The Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan all support sanctions. Iran's proxy, the Shi'a group Supreme Islamic Council for Revolution in Iraq, supports them as well

The Oil for Food program, adopted by the UN in 1996 as an ostensibly humanitarian gesture, was actually another instrument of punishment aimed at the Iraqi people. By the UN's own admission, the funds generated from the beginning have been woefully inadequate. In 1998, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Dennis Halliday publicly announced his resignation, citing failure by design as his reason for doing so. In February 2000, Hans von Sponeck resigned the same post on similar grounds. Von Sponeck points out that Oil For Food revenue never exceeded $180 per person per year, a tiny fraction of the cost of mere existence.

Since the end of the Gulf War, the US has justified sanctions on various grounds, usually blaming all Iraq's ills on Saddam Hussein, and alleging rapid rebuilding of Iraq's military capabilities. Scott Ritter exposed such rationales by pointing out that the Clinton administration was consistently intent on removing Saddam. This meant continued sanctions regardless of Iraq's behavior. Few statements illustrate the policy as clearly as that of Madeleine Albright, then US Ambassador to the UN, on May 12, 1996. Asked on the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes about reports citing more than half a million Iraqi children killed by the sanctions she replied: "...we think the price is worth it."

Despite the fact that fellow UN Security Council members Russia, France and China are convinced that Iraq has disarmed, the US continues to insist on one inspection after another, without any commitment regarding lifting of sanctions. In 1998, UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter revealed that the US had successfully inserted intelligence agents in the UN inspection teams. The Iraqis refused the final UNSCOM inspection in reply, and this refusal was used to justify another round of US bombing in Operation Desert Fox. Compounding the hypocrisy of Washington's stance is the well-publicized fact that US corporations, including Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, are profiting from the strangulation of Iraq by purchasing Iraqi oil from third parties involved in the "humanitarian" Oil For Food program.

As early as the first half of the Clinton administration, US was resorting to proxy war in its campaign against Iraq. In 1994, Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) launched an insurrection from a base in Iraqi Kurdistan with US backing, intent on overthrowing the Ba'athist government before it could resume exporting oil. The insurrection was a dismal failure, but that didn't stop Chalabi from co-signing, with Caspar Weinberger, Frank Carlucci, and Donald Rumsfeld, an open letter to President Clinton in 1998, urging a second try. Toward the end of his term, President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, allocating $97 million for training and military equipment for Iraqi opposition groups. Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and many other signers of the letter now hold positions in the Bush II administration, where they are counseling an all-out war under the handy pretext of the "War on Terrorism. "

After September 11, 2001, Chalabi presented a new battle plan, featuring a firebase inside Iraq, declaration of a provisional government (with quick US recognition, no doubt), and recruitment among Iraq's Shi'a Muslims. Chalabi's new plan also calls for heavy US bombing and plenty of US Special Forces. Chalabi's plan anticipates multiple threats paralyzing the Iraqi military. General Wayne Downing, a former ad hoc advisor to the INC now (appropriately) serving as the National Security Council's expert on terrorism, apparently believes a few hundred Americans could train a small Iraqi force sufficient to seize an airfield near Iraq's oilfields, and neutralize the Republican Guards. Like Chalabi, Downing claims to believe that modest military successes by the Iraqi opposition will ignite wholesale insurrection. Scott Ritter's assessment lacks such cheerful arrogance. He predicts the Iraqi army would disperse to villages and towns throughout the countryside, and logically asks: "What will we do? Flatten the towns?"

It now appears that the CIA and State Department wish to bypass the I NC, focusing instead on the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the pro-lran Supreme Islamic Council for Revolution in Iraq, and the Iraqi National Accord. Ayad Allawi, who heads the Iraqi National Accord, and a number of former Iraqi military officers, including Nizar Khazraji, a Sunni and a former combat general and Chief of Staff, have been meeting with CIA officials.

The Bush II administration's current obsession with overthrowing Saddam Hussein might seem hard to understand at first blush. The Gulf War devastated Iraq's military and civilian infrastructure. According to several UN inspectors, Iraq no longer has any weapons of mass destruction, and as discussed earlier, had developed only limited quantities of them by 1990. Nor could Iraq purchase the components of these weapons under the present sanctions. The obsession may relate to unintended consequences of the sanctions. Under the Oil for Food program, Russian, French, and Chinese companies, have benefited most. These countries have pursued policies less hostile to Baghdad. They are poised to benefit most from exploration and investment in Iraqi oil once the sanctions are lifted. This is likely to prove an excellent investment, since there are more than seventy known oilfields in Iraq, only fifteen of which have been developed. Chalabi has stated that should the INC lead a new Iraqi government, it would be US oil companies that would get the contracts. Russian and French companies would be junior partners at best.

Attacking Iraq directly might also benefit the US further by diverting international attention from the Palestinian Intifada, which shows no sign of abating. The chaos that might ensue from a US attack on Iraq, or Iraqi blows directed at Israel in response, could facilitate even deadlier Israeli repression of the Palestinians, possibly including mass expulsions. It could also provide a cover for greater direct assistance to Israel, including massive arms transfers.

Noam Chomsky has recently outlined the motives of US regional policy planning, and in his view, they are even more criminal in intent. According to Chomsky's analysis, the real target of US hostility is not the Ba'athist government of Saddam Hussein, but the Iraqi population as a labor force. Given the obvious erosion of international support for sanctions, and the presumed immediate benefits to Iraq of re-admission to the international community, Chomsky now believes that the US would prefer to reduce Iraq to a sparsely populated, politically compliant, oil-pumping state, similar to the Gulf monarchies. To achieve this before full restoration of Iraq's oil income, the US must resort to further attacks on the civilian infrastructure (scarcely possible without all-out war) and continuation of sanctions for as long as possible.

One of the major problems facing opponents of the US war against Iraq has been a tendency to focus solely on sanctions and their enormous human cost. The humanitarian crisis must be alleviated. Yet only by carefully examining the full range of geostrategic, economic and political issues in the Gulf region, can we understand how and why Iraq stepped into the Gulf War trap, and why the US has insisted on a deadly regime of sanctions and bombing ever since. Making sense of US policies in the Middle East requires, at a minimum:

* Recognition of the magnitude of the prize that Gulf energy reserves and markets represent, and the bottomless depths of US determination to maintain control over them regardless of the cost.

* Recognition of the importance of Israel as the key US client in the region. The $6 billion annually sent to Israel is not charity. In exchange for this income, Israel, the last European settler-colonial state, has both accepted a role as lightning rod for anti-US sentiments in the Arab world, and assumed anti-democratic counter-insurgency responsibilities in defense of US interests in many other parts of the globe, especially Turkey and Latin America.

* Recognition of the Palestinian struggle as central to the entire political future of the Middle East, and even the world. The question of Palestine is the question of whether Middle Eastern peoples will be allowed to join the international community as equals, or whether they remain brutalized under the humiliating subjection of medieval religious and monarchical regimes suitable to Washington's aims. Iraq has consistently supported Palestinian struggle and aspirations financially, politically and militarily, and this is one of the reasons it has been the target of 12 years of unstinting brutality.

To understand these realities, and to make the case forcefully and relentlessly for an end to US hostility toward Iraq, is the minimum required for anyone seriously interested in putting an end to the suffering of the Iraqi people.


Stephanie Reich is a longtime activist on issues of the Arab world. She is with the Alliance for Global Justice in Washington, D.C.

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