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#15 - JRL 7189
NG Dipkuryer
No. 8
May 2003
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
By Yevgeny SATANOVSKY, candidate of sciences (Economics)

Those, who think that the operation "Shock and Awe" hurt Sadam Hussein's regime the most, are wrong, as are those, who cry over the freedom allegedly lost by Iraqi people. The majority of cadres that used to be the bulwark of the recently fallen regime - the army, the police, special services, Baath party functionaries - have not disappeared. Keeping their weapons and infrastructure, they have easily merged with the masses.

In general, the freed population of Iraq doesn't care who will establish order in the ruined country and who will eventually rule it.

Those who are really suffering because of the Iraqi crisis are political experts. Their predictions, isolated from reality, are extremely interesting. However, there is one bad thing about them - they never come true. The system that had maintained the global balance for 50 years all of a sudden started showing signs of failure. The fundamental notions, as sacred for diplomats as invocations of rain for African shamans - "national sovereignty", "world community," "the will of the United Nations" - are in danger of becoming historical rarities. Meanwhile, everything that's happening in the Middle and Near East was quite predictable. It seems logical today not only to follow the development of events in the region, but also to consider its future trends.

New Old Times

It seems that we are reliving the times of old. The era of empires is returning to old fronts in a new guise, using high technologies instead of horses and arming itself with new theories.

The establishment of a democratic state on the territory of modern Iraq, which would maintain friendly relations with its neighbours and conduct an internal policy based on Western values, is hardly possible. Depending on the tactics chosen by the coalition leadership (and with the least de facto influence on the part of the UN, despite the declarations to the contrary), two scenarios are possible.

The first scenario is the occupation of Iraqi territory according to the colonial model ("mandate" variant) with the possible division of the country into "zones of responsibility." The occupying regime could acquire legitimate status by creating a federal government based on the existing opposition. For example, in the form of the Hashimite monarchy. At present, the Iraqi population would prefer any form of authority, including direct military rule by the coalition, over anarchy that might easily lead to civil war.

The only colonial power that used to govern Iraq for a long time was Ottoman Turkey. Turkish rule was considered legitimate by the local population as a part of the Islamic world, and the Turkish authorities used traditionally, for its effective methods of authoritative dictatorship. In contrast, Great Britain, which liberated Iraq from Turkish control at the beginning of the 20th century, soon became the major target of attacks launched by Arab nationalists, and it had to leave Iraqi territory after the Second World War. The more democratic the form of government in Iraq will be, the sooner the country will get involved in the struggle for new decolonization. Napoleon, having occupied Europe, put an end to Inquisition and serfdom. However, his actions didn't bring him the sympathy of the native population oppressed by the local nobility, and didn't stop the "bludgeon of popular resistance."

The second scenario is the establishment of a new "strong hand" regime as a result of a fierce internal struggle - a Saddam-type dictatorship or something of the sort, which would be headed by some officer or Baath party functionary, who would have successfully made a deal with the West. Most probably, such a leader might emerge from the lower or middle ranks and come to power with the backing of a certain Sunnite clan.

A representative of Kurdish clans or Shiite Arabs can hardly become the leader of a unified Iraq because of local and all-Arab traditions (Turkish pressure) and because of a variety of external political factors (indirect strengthening of Iran). In any case, such a leader would face the task of regaining total control over Iraq (large-scale bloodshed during the change of regimes in this region is inevitable) and acquiring a nominal status for the federation.

The Region Will Be Closed for Renovation Logic tells us that at present Iraq might become a suitable platform for a large-scale renovation of the entire region. Syria, which has recently become the focus of the news in Washington, is the weak link in the chain of local regimes. It keeps its troops in Lebanon; it is the only ally of Iran in the Arab world; it is at odds with Turkey and Israel; it has a history of strained relations with Jordan; it is much weaker than Iraq militarily and much more vulnerable than Iraq in geopolitical terms.

We could speculate forever about the seriousness of the White House's intentions with regard to Syria, clearly reflected in U.S. accusations addressed to its leadership, but we certainly cannot ignore them. The fate of Saddam's regime shows that we cannot forget about it. That Moscow and Paris are main allies of Damascus could only add to the U.S. president's resolve to build up the momentum of the American success. Al-Assad Junior can escape the fate of his eastern neighbour only if he decides to embrace openly the Big American Father. In a way, it would not only help him to part with some chunk of sovereignty with as little pain as possible, but also to get rid of the old generation of the Syrian elite.

The Israeli-Palestinian problem is another subject of Washington's concern. While the Palestinians are experiencing labour pains in creating a new power structure, which will not be fully controlled by Yasser Arafat, the Israelis are working on the implementation of three separate projects aimed at settling the conflict - the "road map" proposed by Bush, the division on canton-like zones" proposed by Lieberman and the construction of a "security wall."

However, the U.S. president's active involvement in the peace process with regard to the conflict in the Holy Land, through achieving overwhelming military-technological superiority, creates a kind of deja-vu situation reminiscent of Roman times. This is despite the fact that the United States is obviously not Rome, either imperial or papal, and the legions are not marching, and the American approach hardly resembles the Crusades.

In any case, it seems that the United States is planning to conduct a showcase settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict, awarding the laurels before the upcoming presidential elections. It certainly wouldn't please either the Israelis or Palestinians, but not everybody can be always pleased with everything, after all. How stable such settlement will be, where the new Palestinian economy will come from, who and how will stop the suicide bombers, and what can be done with the Israeli economic crisis - is an entirely different matter.

The controversy over the Islamic nuclear bomb also is still unsettled. And the questions remain the same: whether Pakistan - the present happy owner of nuclear weapons - will continue to be stable, or it will eventually end up being a guarantee of security for Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. or it will become a weapon of vengeance for terrorists from the "Green International." Will the United States and its allies be capable of conducting operations against the contenders for the nuclear power status, and how far will they have to stretch their supply and communication lines to do so? Won't military-technical superiority in the long run become a factor unable to prevent the massive use of "human weapons" on the territory of the United States and its allies, thus nullifying the gains achieved by military operations in the Middle and Near East? The predictions in that regard are most pessimistic.

Is It Necessary to Compete with the United States?

Let's consider the outcome of the "Shock and Awe" operation for Russia. The major thing that Russia can gain from the Iraqi campaign is certainty. Certainty in its foreign and domestic policy, and in the direction of its military reforms. Whether we are able to discern, evaluate and use the situation correctly is a completely different matter.

It is obvious that in terms of its domestic situation, Russia is a stable country ruled by the authorities, which has already gone through the pains of revolution and is not infected by anti-American attitudes, despite the claims of some politicians and mass media to the contrary.

In the sphere of foreign policy, it is as pointless competing with the United States during this historical stage of the development of global civilization, as crying over lost illusions of the youth. Reasonable and composed cooperation with the United States, a partnership, even as a minor partner so far, gaining as much as possible from every situation was the path eagerly chosen by Japan and China. And this is the only way, offering the possibility of protecting our own interests, and making others notice those interests.

Today, as never before, it is imperative to create an effective system of lobbying for specific Russian interests within influential circles in the United States. The U.S. authorities can be influenced effectively only from within, through the American power elite. This is the same for Russia as it is for Taiwan, Saudi Arabia or Israel.

Finally, an impressive display of sheer superiority of high-precision weapons over conventional weapons demonstrated by the U.S. and Great Britain during Iraqi war might play a significant role in terms of defining the direction of military reform in Russia. The wide use of mobile special forces units specialised in urban and harsh climate warfare, the modernization of air defence forces and the air force, provision of better personal protection and armament for military personnel - all these items must be included in the agenda of the upcoming reform. It is obvious what kind of Armed Forces our country should have, and we did not even have to send our troops to Iraq to know it.

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