Condoleezza Rice's Neo-colonial Manifesto
by Patrick Seale
In the teeth of much local and regional opposition, Washington is
pressuring Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to conclude
a "strategic alliance" with the United States, which would allow it
to keep substantial military forces in Iraq for the foreseeable
Even at the cost of 4,100 of its soldiers killed, another 30,000 or
more seriously wounded, its reputation sorely tarnished, and a
trillion dollar hole in its public accounts, the United States has
clearly not yet learned the lesson that occupation breeds
The invasion of Iraq in 2003 -- the smashing and near-dismemberment
of the country, the killing and displacement of millions of its
people -- must surely be judged one of the great crimes of our time.
To seek to stay on after this unmitigated catastrophe -- making
nonsense of Iraq's independence and sovereignty -- not only
perpetuates the crime, but is a grave strategic mistake for which
both the United States and its Iraqi vassals are likely to pay
As had long been suspected, it looks as if the Bush administration
is seeking to tie its successor to its own failed policies, and make
it difficult, if not impossible, for a candidate like Barack Obama,
if he is elected President, to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, as he
The United States wants Iraq to sign a so-called Status of Forces
Agreement (SOFA) by 31 July, to replace the United Nations mandate,
which expires on 31 December, and which has so far provided the
legal cover for the presence of coalition forces in Iraq.
The obvious and far better alternative would be for the United
States to seek a new and brief UN mandate -- say of six months -- to
allow the next American President to assess the situation next year
and make his own decisions.
Although U.S.-Iraqi negotiations are being held in secret, the terms
of the proposed SOFA have been widely leaked to the British
newspaper, The Independent. They include the long-term U.S. use of
50 bases in Iraq; U.S. freedom to conduct military operations and
arrest anyone it wants in pursuit of the `war on terror', without
consulting the Baghdad government; immunity from Iraqi law for U.S.
troops and contractors; and control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000
feet. This is nothing less than a neo-colonial strait-jacket, which
has already mobilized strong political and religious opposition in
A striking example of the Bush administration's divorce from reality
may be seen in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's 9,000 word
article in the current issue of the U.S. journal Foreign Affairs.
"The democratization of Iraq and the democratization of the Middle
East [are] linked," she writes. "As Iraq emerges from its
difficulties, the impact of this transformation is being felt in the
rest of the region
Our long-term partnership with Afghanistan and
Iraq, to which we must remain deeply committed, our new
relationships in Central Asia, and our long-standing partnerships in
the Persian Gulf provide a solid geostrategic foundation for the
generational work ahead in helping to bring about a better, more
democratic, and more prosperous Middle East."
It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry when one reads this
manifesto. The Iraqis don't want to be `democratized' by American
military power; the Afghans don't want a Western model of society
forced upon them; the impact of Iraq's `transformation' -- that is
to say its destruction -- has been highly destabilizing for the
whole region; some Gulf rulers may misguidedly feel the need for
U.S. military protection, but most of their subjects emphatically do
not. Arab prosperity, such as it is, owes nothing to the American
military presence and everything to oil and to Arab trading skills.
Ms. Rice appears to have no inkling of the long struggle of the
local people to rid themselves of foreign occupiers. The Iraqis
fought the British occupation in 1920, and were crushed. They tried
to expel British military bases in 1941, and were put down and the
generals involved were hanged. They rebelled against a treaty which
Britain tried to force on them in 1948; and they finally overthrew
the British-backed monarchy in a 1958 bloodbath. Disguised as a
woman, Britain's man in Iraq, Nuri al-Said, tried to flee Baghdad
but was recognized and lynched.
In Egypt, Gamal Abd al-Nasser became a hero -- whose name resonates
among Arab nationalists to this day -- because he managed to expel
British troops and nationalize the Suez Canal. The British and
French, in shameful collusion with Israel, then tried to overthrow
him and reverse the situation by their Suez expedition of 1956, but
they failed, thus putting an end to their colonial ambitions.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Riad el-Solh managed to wrest his country's
independence from the French in 1943, and expel French troops in
1946, winning a lasting reputation as the architect of his country's
In our own time, Hizbullah won a region-wide reputation for
expelling Israeli troops from Lebanon in 2000, after a 22 year
occupation. Israel's Lebanese puppet, General Antoine Lahad, fled
with the remnants of his treacherous Israeli-backed South Lebanese
Army, and now runs a restaurant in Tel Aviv.
Someone should teach Ms. Rice some elementary history. Men like Nuri
al-Maliki in Iraq, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora in Lebanon, or Mahmud
Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, are not strengthened
by American or -- in the case of Abbas -- Israeli backing, but are,
on the contrary, greatly weakened. They are nervous and insecure
because robbed of the support of much of their own people.
By destroying Iraq, the United States overturned the balance in the
Gulf and made Iran a major regional power. This situation cannot
easily be reversed -- however much Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney,
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the pro-Israeli neo-cons may
long to do so. Like it or not, the Islamic Republic is now an
unavoidable actor on the scene.
What does Tehran want? It wants to protect itself against a
U.S./Israel attack, the explicit threat of which it faces almost
daily. This, no doubt, explains its attempt to acquire a deterrent
capability. It has painful memories of the eight year Iran-Iraq war -
- when the whole Arab world (with the exception of Syria) backed
Iraq's aggression against it. It, therefore, wants to keep Iraq
under Shia governance and in close coordination with itself. It
wants a united Iraq, but not one so strong as again to threaten it
Iran wants to ensure that Iraq and the Gulf States will not allow
the United States to use their territory for an attack on it. In a
word, it wants U.S. troops to go home.
Instead of pursuing the will o' the wisp of Ms. Rice's "solid
geopolitical foundations," Washington would be far better advised to
withdraw from Iraq, engage diplomatically with Iran, and devote
itself -- with will, fairness and consistency -- to resolving the
Arab-Israeli conflict before that suppurating sore, which has
poisoned every relationship in the region, explodes in its face.
Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and
the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The
Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.
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