Monday, April 21, 2003

How to stop Iraq becoming the new Saudi Arabia?

I am possibly going to be the very last person in the world to switch from a pro- to an anti-Iraq war stance. Not because of anything specific and horrendous that has happened, or might still (at least in the mid-east, sans Saudi), but because of a general sense that things are not quite right for the rebuilding of a democratic Iraq, and probably never will be.

Clearly, since 11 September 2001, the US has had little choice but to withdraw militarily and economically (i.e. as a major oil buyer) from Saudi Arabia. The latter withdrawal may be academic anyway – after the US bases go, and without a common enemy for the Saudis to spuriously hate (the presence of US “islands” on Saudi soil has in no way interfered with domestic religion or politics), the red-hot hatred can only turn inward.

With Iraq now being openly mooted as a site for future US bases, the American post-war game plan is becoming clear. If a democratic Iraq cannot be successfully established, then the US will presumably tweak the country’s internal divisions enough for it to become Saudi Arabia II – a totalitarian kleptocracy, feeding its people a diet of anti-American rage, a rage that the US long silently endured (up until September 11 – or, now, its possible Iraqi-lead sequel) for reasons of simple economic expediency: a cheap and reliable oil supply.

Saudi resentment took decades to build up to the September 11 payback day. It is unlikely that the Iraqis, should they similarly become caught in, and between, a fascist state, pseudo-religious atavism, and American see-no-evil-ism will be as patient when it comes to similarly redressing their perceived wrongs.

For the US then, the only sustainable solution is to properly democraticise Iraq, however long this may take, and however much it may cost. Anything less, and its fuck-up in this war to end terrorism will be total.

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