America’s voracious appetite for energy resources and an itch born of its self-appointed role as the world’s policeman has led it into adopting strange postures. Washington considers Central and Latin America as its backyards and bristles at encroachments therein but wanders far from its shores to declare other regions also as part of its domain.
The Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea Basin and Central Asia have been or are being declared, with increasing assertiveness, the exclusive preserve of the self-styled ‘sole superpower’. US defence secretary William Cohen, doing the rounds of the Persian Gulf shaikhdoms, reiterated in Bahrain on June 16 the American mantra about Iran and Iraq being ‘threats’ to the region. He also whined about Iran’s successful testing of an anti-ship missile. Since the two countries cannot be wished away, the US maintains a huge naval fleet allegedly to keep them in check.
The American armada, currently consisting of some 50 warships including two aircraft carriers, has prowled the Persian Gulf for nearly three decades advancing the most ludicrous reasons for its presence. Unimpeded access to the region’s oil which accounts for 40 percent of the world’s consumption; security and stability of its client regimes; and preventing the emergence of a single hegemon are some of the reasons advanced by Uncle Sam.
The so-called Middle East peace process, which the Israelis are busy shredding to pieces, is also cited as reason for America’s flexing its muscles to keep the ‘rogue States’ - Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya etc - from disrupting it. Notwithstanding the western monopoly on information and news, America’s reasons do not stand scrutiny.
None of the producers has ever even hinted about disrupting the flow of oil. Throughout the Iraqi-imposed war on Iran (1980-1988), it was not the Islamic Republic but Iraq, backed and armed by the west and its client Arab regimes, that tried to disrupt oil flows. America’s claims to preventing the monopoly of any single country on oil is also belied by facts.
US client Saudi Arabia has monopoly by dint of its massive production capacity, nearly a third of total OPEC quota of some 25 million barrels per day (b/d). Saudi Arabia keeps the price of oil artificially low by over-production. This results in a net transfer of tens of billions of dollars annually from the producing States to the west. For every one dollar drop in price, the oil producers lose US$9 billion annually in revenues.
Currently priced at $18 per barrel, oil prices are kept artificially low to the detriment of the producers and to subsidise the economies of the west. In real terms, the price of a barrel of oil today is lower than what it was in 1973. Over the 24-year period, there has been a net transfer of some $2.4 trillion (assuming a realistic price of $40/barrel) from the producers to the consumers, mainly in the west. This is theft of the highest order.
Security and stability in the Persian Gulf have also been parroted as America’s concerns since the time of Richard Nixon, the disgraced former US president. While the Soviet Union existed, this fiction could arguably be justified. With the demise of the erstwhile evil empire, even this argument has evaporated. Now America wants to save the region from ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, ie, from itself, since the overwhelming majority of the population is Muslim. There is no such notion as fundamentalism in Islam but who should explain this to the ‘experts’ in the US!
Far from providing stability, the presence of American forces is the single most important source of destabilisation in the region. Its client regimes are hated by their own people. One only has to look at the level of anger directed at the House of Saud. The presence of tens of thousands of Americans - whether in military or civilian garb - in the Arabian Peninsula is deeply offensive to the vast majority of Muslims around the world. The Arabian Peninsula is sacred territory and the presence of non-Muslims is considered sacrilegious.
The other western client regimes are no less unpopular. There are stirrings of revolt in tiny Bahrain; Egypt is perpetually on the verge of eruption; Jordan is not far behind while Algeria is gripped by a full-scale civil war. And then there are inter-Arab rivalries. Kuwait-Iraq rivalry is the most visible, if only because the west is directly involved in it. Saudi Arabia has border disputes with both Qatar and Yemen while Algeria and Morocco are at loggerheads over the Western Sahara. These have the potential to explode at any time.
More serious than land disputes is the anger among the masses about the corruption and incompetence of their rulers. All tyrannies, not a single Arab regime reflects the aspirations of their people. US/western involvement in propping up such regimes only adds to the resentment of people against Uncle Sam. Incidents like the ones in Riyadh (November 1995) and Dhahran (June 1996) are likely to be repeated in other places as more people are driven to react against continued American presence.
The US, of course, brands this as terrorism. Other peoples’ basic rights are dispensible so long as Uncle Sam’s rapacious appetite is satiated. This applies even more blatantly in the case of the Palestinians. Under the rubric of the ‘peace process’, the Palestinians are being brutalised both by the zionists as well as by Yasir Arafat’s thugs. America’s financial, diplomatic, political and military support to Israel has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people in Palestine, Lebanon and beyond.
The present configuration in the Middle East is not likely to last. Not only are the regimes unpopular but even their geographical boundaries are artificial and destined for rearrangement. Even some American experts now agree that regimes like those in Saudi Arabia may not be around much longer than 10 years.
Major changes will occur with the fall of anyone of them to the Islamic Movement. If the people of Iran detest the American government, Washington only has to look at its own policies during the time of the shah to understand why. His despotic regime was supported by such crude methods as training the hated SAVAK, the secret service, that was responsible for the torture and murder of tens of thousands of innocent people. The US also supplied military hardware to the shah.
A few days before the Islamic Republic was proclaimed, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor to then president Jimmy Carter, had phoned ambassador William Sullivan in Tehran to arrange a coup! Perhaps the crime of 1953 was not enough when a popular, albeit nationalist government was overthrown through a CIA-engineered plot.
For far too long, the US has simply walked away from its crimes by dismissing them as ‘history’. This has happened with the Native Indians, the African-Americans and with the Vietnamese. Now the Muslims are being given the brush off.
American crimes around the world are real. They affect the lives of millions of innocent people. While the American people are largely kept in the dark or take an attitude of indifference, for the victims this amounts to acquiescence in Washington’s crimes.
If Americans are despised universally, perhaps they ought to consider the policies of their own government a little more closely. They might discover some very unpleasant truths about the habits of their rulers.
Muslimedia - July 1-15, 1997