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PORTSIDE  January 2012, Week 1

PORTSIDE January 2012, Week 1

Subject:

Obama's Ominous Arming of Despots in the Gulf

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Thu, 5 Jan 2012 23:06:56 -0500

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Obama's Ominous Arming of Despots in the Gulf

Left Margin

Obama's Ominous Arming of Despots in the Gulf

By Carl Bloice
BlackCommentator.com
Editorial Board

The Black Commentator
January 4, 2011

http://www.blackcommentator.com/453/453_cover_lm_obama_arming_gulf_despots.php

Just as the year was coming to a close, three prominent
Iraqi political figures declared their country "stands on
the brink of disaster."  Rather than becoming a "a
functioning democratic and nonsectarian state," Iraq is on
the path to becoming" a sectarian autocracy that carries
with it the threat of devastating civil war," asserted Ayad
Allawi, named Prime Minister of the Iraqi Interim Government
after the U.S. Invasion, Osama Al- Nujaifi, Speaker of
Council of Representatives of Iraq, and the country's
finance minister, Rafe Al-Essawi, on the opinion page of the
New York Times. The country "has become a battleground of
sects, in which identity politics have crippled democratic
development."

The three men, leaders of the large political non- sectarian
coalition Iraqiya that won the most seats in the 2010
election and represents more than a quarter of all Iraqis,
said they are now " being hounded and threatened" by Prime
Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki "who is attempting to drive us
out of Iraqi political life and create an authoritarian one-
party state." Maliki, the three said, issues directives to
military units, makes unilateral military appointments,
interferes with the courts, has complete control over Iraqi
intelligence and national security agencies, and serves the
interest of Maliki's Dawa party that controls the Green Zone
and intimidates political opponents.

Their country, the three politicians said, has become "the
Iraq of our nightmares" in which "the nation's wealth is
captured by a corrupt elite rather than invested in the
development of the nation."

It would be hard to be more dismal that the picture Ali A.
Allawi who previously served at different times has Iraq's
minister of trade, defense and finance in succession between
2003 and 2006 drew for Time's readers this week:

"Agriculture has effectively collapsed; the great river
systems of Mesopotamia have shriveled; trade routes based on
Iraq's unique geography have vanished; and transport links
have atrophied. Merchants and entrepreneurs are merely
recyclers of state-owned and state-generated wealth and a
previously open and culturally and religiously accommodating
society has been replaced by beleaguered communities locked
in laagers."

For this over one hundred thousand Iraqis have lost their
lives since the United States, under a phony pretext,
invaded Iraq, overthrew its government, killed its head of
state, and occupied the country for over nine years.

The U.S. - led coalition forces have lost 4,805 lives in
battle, 4,487 of them young women and men from the United
States. The number of U.S. military personnel wounded during
the conflict is officially 32,226. However, Dan Froomkin,
senior Washington Correspondent for the Huffington Post, has
written, "The true number of military personnel injured over
the course of our nine-year-long fiasco in Iraq is in the
hundreds of thousands - maybe even more than half a million
- if you take into account all the men and women who
returned from their deployments with traumatic brain
injuries, post-traumatic stress, depression, hearing loss,
breathing disorders, diseases, and other long- term health
problems."

Iraq has come a long way in nine years, from a time when the
promoters of the U.S. invasion promised that the country's
oil production would cover the cost of the war, to the day
the country - unable to keep the lights on all day and with
an unstable and near prostrate government in Baghdad-can now
purchase over $6 billion in arms, including 36 U.S. F-16
fighters.

The planes are said to be necessary to protect Iraq's
airspace. From whom? Iran? Kuwait?  (The U.S. recently sold
209 Patriot missiles to Kuwait for about $900 million).

Similar question can be asked about our dealings with the
tyrannical regime - women can't drive, thieves get their
hands chopped off, etc - in Saudi Arabia. Last week the
White House unveiled an arms deal with Riyadh of close to
$30 billion, an agreement that will send 84 F-15 fighter
jets and other military hardware to the kingdom. The deal
includes spare parts, training and maintenance of the 70
advanced U.S. military aircraft Saudi Arabia already has on
hand.

Significant pro-democracy protests have occurred and been
repressed in Saudi Arabia's largely Shiites in Eastern
Province all last year.

The only military operation that country has engaged in
recently was an invasion, along with United Arab Emirates
forces, of neighboring Bahrain to help the autocrats there
brutally put down the local version of the Arab Spring.

Oh, Bahrain.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has stoutly defended the
administration's plan to sell $53 million worth of armored
Humvees and missiles to the tyrants there. The argument is
that the sale is necessary to protect the country's
security. But from whence comes the threat to the tiny
nation that would require armored personnel carriers? Nearby
Qatar?

There is a threat to the repressive Bahraini regime. Last
Friday and Saturday, young people blocked highways
throughout the country in protests against the country's
royal family. Activists say a 15-year-old boy died after
being hit by a tear gas canister at close range. The weekend
clashes were the latest in pro- democracy protests that have
occurred regularly since early last year.

Saudi Arabia has also intervened militarily in neighboring
Yemen to suppress popular protests against autocratic rule.
In November 2009 it staged artillery attacks and sent
fighter jets into northern Yemen Thursday in a military
incursion apparently aimed at helping its troubled southern
neighbor control an escalating local rebellion. "The Saudis
- owners of a sophisticated air force they rarely use - have
been increasingly worried that extremism and instability in
Yemen could spill over to their country, the world's largest
oil exporter," said the Associated Press.

Of Saudi Arabia, last Friday the Jerusalem Post reported:
"In a statement released in Honolulu, where Obama is
vacationing, White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest
said the kingdom had an important role to play in keeping
watch over the region, which has also seen protests and
political turmoil in Yemen."

A White House spokesman boasted last week that the Saudi
arms sales would give the US economy a $3.5 billion annual
boost and help bolster exports and jobs. Needless to say,
that's not the kind of cynical message many people expected
from the Administration they helped elect three years ago.
However, it sweet music in the ears of the U.S. armaments s
industry.

As if the pot had not been sweetened enough, last week the
U.S. sold the United Arab Emirates an advanced antimissile
interception system for $3.5 billion as part of what Reuters
described as "an accelerating military buildup of its
friends and allies near Iran." The deal includes a contract
with Lockheed Martin to produce the highly sophisticated
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, weapon
system. The White House has also formally proposed to sell
600 "bunker buster" bombs and other munitions to UAE for
$304.

Lockheed Martin issued a statement saying the company is
happy with the U.S.-UAE agreement on the first foreign sale
of the THAAD system, Tom McGrath, a company vice president
and program manager, said in a release. "We look forward to
working with our customers to deliver this important
capability," it said.

Needless to say, the official explanation for this rash of
arms sales in the Gulf region is, in the words of the
Associated Press, "part of a larger U.S. effort to realign
its defense policies in the Persian Gulf to keep Iran in
check." The problem here is that Iran is threatening none of
its neighbors.  If the concern is Teheran's nuclear program,
fighter jets are unlikely to deter it. That is unless, the
sudden accelerated transfer of military hardware is in
preparation for the attack on Iran being promoted by hawks
in Tel Aviv and Washington.

The aim of this military buildup is to secure the allied
regimes in the Middle East, no matter how odious. In the
process, matches are being strewn amid a tinderbox.

Jason Ukman of AFP reported that, "the Obama administration
has sought to bolster its security relationship with Riyadh,
despite their differences over the response to the Arab
Spring."  Whatever those difference might have been, this
new level of strategic coordination is really aimed at
keeping the popular uprisings in the Arab world from
bleeding over into the oil-rich Gulf.

"This sale will send a strong message to countries in the
region that the United States is committed to stability in
the Gulf and broader Middle East," said Andrew Shapiro,
assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.
However, critics of U.S. policy toward the Gulf nations
maintain that the arm sales only strengthen the forces of
reaction, and that the "increased tensions" cited to justify
the closer ties is actually an expression of the popular
revolt in the region. And that the arms shipments are
intended to prevent its successful spread to the Gulf
monarchies.

Evidently, the Obama Administration's commitment to the
notion of "Arab Spring" and promoting "democracy" in the
Middle East is quite selective. While acting boldly to shore
up the autocracies in the Gulf region, "senior U.S.
officials are reported to be quietly preparing options to
help dissident groups seeking to topple the reactionary
government of Syrian President Bashar Assad," according to
UPI. There are also reports of "a 2,500-person Arab
intervention force" - mainly Libyan and Iraqis-on tap in
Qatar, ready to invade Syria.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq was all about oil, and
the current effort to militarily shore up some of the most
reactionary regimes in the Middle East is all about oil. The
amazing thing is that even after it became obvious that the
Iraq war had nothing to do with mythical "weapons of mass
destruction," the U.S. political establishment and the major
mass media wouldn't say it. It's not that they don't realize
it; they just wouldn't say it. They won't connect the
trillions of dollars worth of arms now being flooded into
the region with petroleum. They still portray the Bush
Administration's invasion of Iraq as an effort to plant
democracy and the current jet fighter sales as an effort to
promote "stability in the Gulf and broader Middle East."

As the new year gets underway, it is quite obvious that U.S.
policy and actions, under either the Bush or Obama
Administration, has brought anything but "democracy" to
Iraq, and the military buildup now underway is hardly going
to bring "stability" to that devastated country or to the
region.

[BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is
a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National
Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence
for Democracy and Socialism and formerly worked for a
healthcare union. Mr. Bloice is one of the moderators of
Portside.]

___________________________________________

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on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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