In March 2003 Iraq was invaded by military forces led by the United States, and including other military forces from a range of US allies, including Australia.
The ostensible reason for the invasion was the Iraqi government’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Possession of such weapons is not of itself a legitimate basis for invasion. The Allies therefore had to embellish the claim. Saddam Hussein was going to attack the United Kingdom, with only 45 minutes warning! He was using these weapons against his own people (a claim later repeated to justify the attack on Syria). He posed a threat to peace and stability in the Middle East (irony bypass required here).
It was even hinted, none too subtly, that Saddam was one of the persons responsible for the events of 11 September 2001 (“9/11”). There was not a shred of evidence to support any of these allegations. Absence of evidence has never been a deterrent where imperial ambitions are concerned. The invasion of Iraq was about many things, but Saddam Hussein’s alleged WMDs was not one of them.
One element, but far from the only one, were the ambitions of Israel as set out in the 1982 article published in the magazine Kivunim (Hebrew for ‘Directions’) and authored by Oded Yinon “the Yinon Plan”. Among other things he was a former adviser to the war criminal Ariel Sharon. This plan sought to exploit structural and cultural flaws in the surrounding States. If those flaws could result in the breakup of those States into smaller States, then they could be more easily ‘managed.’
Thanks to Russia’s 2015 intervention in Syria, Israel no longer has the freedom to violate Syrian air space and international law. Syria has both an effective air defence system and missiles capable of precision targeting of Israeli targets. This may prove to be one of the major game changers of 2019.
A second element was control of Iraq’s significant reserves of oil and gas. It was not by accident that then vice president Dick Cheney had plans drawn up for the division of Iraq’s oil riches between US oil companies well before the invasion.
A third element was to give the Americans a stronghold on Iran’s borders. The US never forgave the Iranians for having the temerity to stage their own revolution in 1979 and overthrow the puppet regime of the Pahlavi dynasty, itself installed in a 1953 coup that overthrew the relatively progressive Mossadegh Government. That coup, by the CIA and Britain’s MI6, was precipitated by Iran’s nationalization of the Anglo-Persian (now BP) oil company.
Today, nearly 40 years after the revolution, and nearly 16 years after the invasion of Iraq, the overthrow of the Iranian Government remains a prime objective of the Americans and the Israelis.
There were no WMDs in Iraq, as the United States and United Kingdom governments (and probably that of Australia) knew before the invasion. If WMDs had been a legitimate reason for invasion, their complete absence should have led to the withdrawal of the invading and occupying forces, profound apologies, and reparation paid to recompense the Iraqis for the enormous structural damage the invasion had caused.
None of this of course happened. Instead, Iraq’s civil society was devastated. By several authoritative assessments, more than 1 million people were killed and a further 4-6 million were made refugees, fleeing their homes and in many cases the country.
The tide of refugees, from Afghanistan to North Africa, currently a major political issue in Europe, is a direct consequence of the illegal wars of aggression waged by the United States and its allies, including “joined at the hip” ally Australia. There is a resolute refusal by the mainstream media to recognise the obvious relationship between having one’s country invaded and destroyed and the resulting outflow of refugees.
In 2011 General Wesley Clark disclosed the existence of a memo he had seen at the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11. The memo described how the United States was planning to “take out” seven countries in five years.
The starting point was Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finishing with Iran. Clark had seen the memorandum after the United States had commenced its bombing of Afghanistan (not included in the list).
The Afghanistan invasion, again with Australia as a willing party, was also commenced on the basis of multiple lies. The occupying troops, including Australia, are still there more than 17 years after the invasion.
As with Iraq, the real reasons for the invasion of Afghanistan had nothing to do with the events of 9/11. We now know that the decision to invade Afghanistan was made in July 2001 when the Taliban Government refused to give the contract for an oil pipeline from the Caspian Basin to American companies and instead awarded the contract to Argentine’s Bridas Corporation.
Again as with the later invasion of Iraq, there were multiple real reasons beyond the publicly claimed ostensible reason. Among those incentives to invade and occupy was Afghanistan’s prime location in proximity to the borders of China, the “stans” of the former USSR, and Iran. Another factor was Afghanistan’s possession of immensely valuable rare earths.
Further, and far from the least of the factors, was Afghanistan’s role as the world’s major source of heroin. The role of heroin and other major drugs as a key factor in financing clandestine operations on behalf of the United States is well documented.
As with Iraq, these significant geopolitical factors determining US foreign policy are rarely if ever considered worthy of examination by the western mainstream media.
If there are now some cautious grounds for hope in 2019, against this background of policies based on lies, illegal invasions of multiple countries, destruction of the infrastructure of those countries, the mass slaughter of civilians, and endless occupation for entirely self serving reasons, then those rays of hope may be seen in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
In November 2018, a Russian sponsored peace conference took place in Moscow, attended by Afghanistan government officials and Taliban representatives. Other countries represented at the conference were Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The United States was conspicuous by its absence. They are part of the problem and clearly not seen as part of the solution. It is significant that all of the representatives attending the conference came from countries that are part of or associated with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
Separate talks have taken place between the Taliban and Iranian officials in Tehran as recently as last month. Iran clearly sees instability in Afghanistan as detrimental to its own security, including but not limited to illegal drugs sourced in Afghanistan, and a major influx of refugees.
Even if the Taliban and Kabul ‘Government’ reach an agreement as to the future of the country, there is no guarantee that the Americans will either accept or abide by it. Korea is a classic illustration of how the Americans sabotage armistice talks, break the terms of any agreement reached, and prove almost impossible to dislodge (Pembroke, ‘Korea’ 2018).
This past Christmas, Australia’s interim Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, visited Australian troops in Iraq, but did not go to Afghanistan, as it was “too dangerous.” The irony of this reason, more than 17 years after the invasion and when Australia is allegedly performing a training role for Afghanistan government forces, was entirely lost upon the Australian mainstream media.
There are similarly some faint hopes that things are improving in Iraq. The actions of Donald Trump, probably unintentionally, are expediting those trends in Iraq. Trump’s announced intention of withdrawing US troops from Syria has already been qualified within days of the original announcement. It is difficult to identify a single country where American troops, once ensconced, voluntarily leave.
Those troops that have been withdrawn simply crossed the border into Iraq, where they established two new bases (on top of the 12 or so already there). The location of those new bases, situated where they can obstruct the land route from Iran to the Mediterranean via Iraq and Syria, is a better clue as to American intentions than the rhetoric surrounding the withdrawal announcement.
There is no evidence that the consent of the Iraqi Government to these new moves was either sought or given. Trump also made a visit to US troops in Iraq at Christmas time without bothering to advise the Iraqis.
This provoked a rare and angry response across the Iraqi political spectrum. Members of parliament from both sides denounced Trump’s visit as “arrogant” and “a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.” Both sides of Parliament also called for a vote to expel US troops.
Even if such a vote was passed, implementing it would prove difficult for all the reasons outlined above, even though there were on this occasion threats of using “all means” to enforce their departure; presumably a reference to military action.
The US has indicated it is in no hurry to leave, again displaying an indifference to the wishes of a sovereign government, let alone considerations of international law. The so-called “Green Zone” in Baghdad houses 10,000 personnel attached to the US embassy alone. There are also at least 10,000 declared US troops, contractors and Special Forces (plus contingents from tame allies such as Australia.
Powerful voices in the United States condemned Trump’s Syria initiative, and will undoubtedly try to sabotage it. Those same voices are unlikely to countenance any effort to remove American troops from Iraq. The continued retention of Bolton and Pompeo, both of whom are rabidly anti-Iran, on Trump’s National Security team will ensure that any attempts to remove American troops from Iraq (with its prime position on the Iranian border) will be bitterly resisted.
All of which gives an especially hollow ring to the endless propaganda about democracy, the rules based international order, and the sovereign rights of nations. One of the central questions for 2019 will be whether these tentative moves by Afghanistan and Iraq to re-establish their sovereignty can defeat the obvious American intentions for the status quo to be defended.
James O’Neill is a Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. He may be contacted at [email protected]
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