Was it possible to avoid of the Occupation and Destruction of Iraq?

In Salon Ibn Rushd by CIHRS

Several Egyptian intellectuals confirmed that a strong Arab stance, capable of lobbying on behalf of the Arabs, could have prevented the war on Iraq and deterred the United States from using military power in dealing with Iraq, and could have persuaded Saddam Hussein to step down from power while offering him the necessary guarantees.

This came as an answer to a query posed by the Cairo institute for Human Rights (CIHRS) in its seminar titled: “Was it possible to avoid of the Occupation and Destruction of Iraq?” Professor Hassan Nafa’a’s reply was that the catastrophe could have been evaded, had the Arabs had the sound capability of reading American strategic targets, not only with regards the Arab region, but worldwide. He added that had the Arabs had the ability to crystallize joint Arab action, not in terms of goals but in terms of style, Arab governments could have avoided the events that took place and the ones coming in the future.

Furthermore, the United States insisted on intervening in Iraq one way or another; nevertheless, the Arab side was requested to pressure the US to follow a policy different from that of war that had a destructive aftermath on the Iraqis and the Arabs as a whole. He reiterated that goals of the US are mainly focused on its desire to have the upper hand in rebuilding Iraq in the way it deems appropriate, which goals were clearly embodied in the arrival of the Extremist American Right to Power in the White House.

Nafa’a pointed to the fact that it was this American Right wing that had exploited the 9/11 events in 2001 to make a change in the American thinking in terms of accepting that the United States should have a free hand in its actions around the world under the pretext of self-defense. He also pointed to the fact that these events took place only few months after the accession of the current American administration to power, which coincided with the coming to power by the Extreme Right in Israel as well – hence, the quasi-agreement between the Rightists in both the US and Israel.

To Nafa’a had the Arabs read that prior to the recent events, they would have realized that they are about to enter a new stage of American attack on a given cultural and political reality that the US believed must change to suit its vision and Israel’s goals.

He asserted that Iraq in itself is not the target, but it is linked to the strategic concept of the US aiming at dominating the area. He maintained that Iraq would fulfill two goals for the American administration at the same time: first, Iraq is a rich country with an industrial base, and as such its oil will allow the US the chance to control cash flow; and second, Israeli interests would be served by settling the Palestinian question according to Israeli conditions.

He expressed his disappointment towards the Arab management of the Iraqi crisis. He stated that Arab governments must have pursued the policy of pressure, either on the United States to urge it to relinquish the use of the language of military power in dealing with Iraq, or on the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, to convince him to step down from power to protect the Iraqis. The Arab governments failed in both tasks. To him even the greater Arab countries lacked any pressuring tools, and the US was determined to deal with Saddam through an ideological perspective. The Arab countries, however, according to Nafa’a, could have used neither the logic of “the stick” to intimidate the US, nor “the carrot” to tame it or to stop the treatment of further Arab countries the way Iraq was treated.

He concluded by calling for the importance of joint Arab action to face any future events, particularly that the Arab countries are currently trapped between the axe of the war and the hammer of the American occupation.

Hussein Abdul Raziq, the journalist and the assistant secretary general of Al-Taggamu’ party, emphasized at the beginning that neither the international nor the Arab community, the Arab League, the political elites, or even Saddam himself, could have prevented or avoided the events. He based his opinion on a number of facts that turned the war into an inevitable event, one among which is the accession of the extremist American |Right to power through George Bush Jr.

Abdul Raziq stated that the policy of the extreme right is condensed in refraining from being bound by international law when it contradicts their interests. The second fact is the exploitation by the ruling American Right of the 9/11 events in foreign policy, particularly the intervention in the Arab region notorious for its weakness and the ease of penetrating its governments.

The third fact is the international domination solely by the US, after the decline of the Soviet Union, which led to an imbalance in the power in the world that used to restrict America. He illustrated his argument by the ultimatum given by the Soviets to the US in 1956 that had ended the war on Egypt and gave it the opportunity to nationalize the Suez Canal, in addition to the Soviet standpoint during the crisis of the Cuban missiles in 1962, as well as several other Soviet stances that maintained the balance of powers worldwide.

A fourth fact is that the world opinion, and the anti-globalization movement, despite the great role thereof currently, are unable to change dominant American policies. Moreover, the defeat of the Arab liberation movement, starting with the reconciliation agreement signed between Egypt and the Zionists and the neutralization of Egypt, followed by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, then the second Gulf War and the entailing presence of the American military in the area led to the absence of a unified Arab stance towards the Iraqi crisis. Moreover, the Iraqi regime had helped melt all of the aforementioned factors into one cauldron to sputter in the end Arab weakness and vulnerability in the face of any risks.

Abdul Razik asserted that the only possibility that could have either prevented or postponed war on Iraq would have been the use of power cards they refrain from using whether with Israel or the US. Among these cards is announcing the refusal of military maneuvers with the American forces, or the declaration by Gulf countries that they would cancel all bilateral agreement with the US should America wage any war against Iraq or any Arab country for that matter, and so on and so forth.

The journalist Mohammad Sayed Ahmad stated that the world has recently passed through circumstances that made military confrontation with the Iraqi regime inevitable. Among these circumstances was the fall of the bipolar world order after the decline of the Soviet Union, which made the US power increase by tenfold.

On the other hand, after the end of the bipolar order, a new motto appeared for international relations, i.e. resolving conflicts peacefully, particularly where the Palestinian question is concerned. At the same time, there appeared what came to be known as the double standards concerning similar cases. He illustrated this with the US belief that the Palestinian issued could be solved peacefully, whereas in the case of Iraq the use of military power was seen as the solution. In confrontation to this power-controlled problematic two political schools appeared: the first believes in dealing with the American Administration in a framework of reality and surrendering to the status quo; the second sees that confrontation is inevitable and must take the form of extremism and violence.

Mohammad Sayed Ahmad stated that the declared targets of the war on Iraq were summarized in possessing mass-destruction weapons, which was deemed a crime by the US. A war was waged on Iraq and despite the almost full occupation of the country this crime is not yet settled – in the meantime, owning mass-destruction weapons has become a feature of scientific and technological progress witnessed by the world.

Furthermore, the inability of the US to find any weapons in Iraq means that an American target to monopolize the weapons is the basis for the US to dictate its conditions to the world, as it pursues the eradication of the big five powers in the Security Council, and to weaken the other four. He asserted the importance of setting an Arab strategy to face any potential risks in the coming period based on the correct understanding of the true and not the announced motives of the American Administration.

Arab Powerlessness
Farid Zahran, the activist in the anti-globalization committees and the director of Al-Mahroosa publishing house, described the Arab status to have reached such a degree of powerlessness, that it had become a model thereof worldwide. The United States, on the other hand, needs to tell the world and its allies that ranks first in the world. In order to communicate this message, the US wanted to present an illustrating example through the Arab world, given that it is the most vulnerable worldwide. He added that Syria is the second candidate in this model, because it is more antagonistic to the US than Iran and Venezuela, while being the weakest.

He stated that there are three circles that had tried to preclude the war and to resist the aggressive intentions of the US: first the civil society represented in the anti-war regimes, governments, and peoples, clarifying that governments and regimes were divided over this war but this division did not affect at all the movement of peoples, that this circle has done its duty from Seattle and up to Durban, resulting in the creation of a new world pole represented in the anti-globalization and the anti-capitalism movement worldwide.

The second circle is that of the Arab world that is a prisoner of tyranny and poverty. He maintained that the Arab governments rule within a high degree of despotism and impoverishment, and deny their people the right to reject the American aggressive intentions, not only through coercion but through notorious alliances between the governments and the Islamic current. All of this is done in order to appropriate their peoples’ opinions and lock it in closed spaces, such as sports stadiums. Moreover, Arab governments did not take any actions, neither did they use the pressure cards they have, such as the Suez Canal and the oil to preclude the attack on Iraq.

The third circle, according to Zahran, is that had not Saddam Hussein been in power, he would have protected his people from this tragedy. In his opinion, Saddam Hussein had given the worst example and management by starving and impoverishing his people in addition to involving them in wars, whether against Iran or the invasion of Kuwait.

To him, war could have been evaded had Iraq been stronger, more just, and more democratic. Zahran believes that America had gone to the place where it would not have to make grave sacrifices, nor face a war, because it was sure that peoples will not fight under hunger and despotism. To him, had the Iraqi people supported its leadership to any extent, plus the existence of strong Arab governments that can take a strong stand, could have led to avoiding the aftermath of this war.

In his comment, Bahey El Din Hassan, CIHRS Director, expressed his belief that the catastrophe could have been avoided to some extent had there been serious interaction with Sheikh Zayed’s initiative that called upon the Iraqi President to step down from power. He stated that had this happened, at least the Iraqi people’s agenda would have changed to give priority to resist the occupation and the invasion, rather than to speculating on the fate of Saddam’s regime, and searching the vaults of prisons and mass graves for thousands of victims and those who disappeared.

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