How the West seeded the Desert Storm clouds

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Modern Mideast history dates from the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, when hegemony over the region was consolidated by western European powers, primarily Britain and France.

The outbreak of the war sharpened European realization that oil was crucial as a strategic military commodity, essential for motorized ground and air transport and more powerful navies. Accordingly, control of oil became the West’s overriding political concern in the region.

Britain and France carved the Mideast into separate states, installing pliant rulerships in each. They aimed to protect their oil monopolies, throttle pan-Arab revolt and “contain” the USSR to the north.

The new configuration of states was only loosely based on the old Ottoman administrative divisions. Kuwait, for example, was ripped away from Basra province (southern Iraq today) by British Proconsul Sir Percy Cox in 1922. Britain wanted to deny Baghdad access to the Persian Gulf and forestall any Iraqi challenge to British dominance there.

Zionism provokes Arab revolt. Colonial subdivision of the Mideast into artificial nations and the installation of fragile, puppet Arab rulers still did not guarantee stability. So the British helped set up a Zionist “homeland” for the Jews in Palestine as a garrison against Arab nationalism.

Jewish immigration to Palestine, given the green light with the Balfour Declaration in 1917, remained at a trickle through the ’30s. However the trickle became a flood in the wake of the Holocaust and the refusal by Western “democracies”- primarily the U.S.-to admit Jewish refugees during World War II.

The creation of Israel in 1948 and the resulting expulsion of the Palestinians sparked a resurgence of the Arab revolution, which led to successful nationalist revolts in Egypt and Iraq in the ’50s. Added to the shifting political mix was the final displacement of the Europeans by the United States as the chief imperialist power.

Policy: divide, conquer, arm Israel. The U.S. plan for the region was simple. Shore up the Gulf oligarchies against nationalism, coopt the new nationalist regimes, and arm Israel against all the Arabs as the West’s proxy guarantor of “stability.”

Western oil corporations poured billions into the coffers of Gulf state ruling families, and the U.S. armed the Arab nationalist states, one against the other, to contain them within a web of interstate rivalries. In this way, the Arab rulers were each tied to the West against their own people. The U.S. also gave Israel all the military hardware it could possibly use and made it the region’s sole nuclear power.

But there remained Arab poverty, outrage and aspirations to freedom; the canker of Zionism; and the ambitions of strongmen such as Saddam—all guaranteed sooner or later to produce an explosion in this imperialist-armed camp.

The set-up of Saddam. Iraq, though oil-rich, has chafed continually over the injury done it by the British in 1922. It emerged from its 1980-88 war with Iran-in which it was armed and abetted by the U.S.-with a massive war debt, an equally massive military machine, and a whetted desire to become the reigning Mideast power.

Iraq needed top dollar for its oil. Then, tiny Kuwait began over-producing from its wells, driving world oil prices down, enraging Saddam, and setting the stage for war.

Kuwait as an oil producer is at the service of British Petroleum and Gulf Oil. It jacked up production at the behest of the imperialists. Can you imagine this mouse tweaking the tiger’s tail otherwise? Saddam’s ambitions threatened the imperialist status quo in the Mideast. He had to be maneuvered into a confrontation and destroyed.

Iraq threatened to invade Kuwait. U.S. ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie told Saddam the U.S. would stand aside. He likely didn’t believe that, but figured he could win a favorable compromise in an ensuing face-off. At any rate he went in-and George Bush drew that infamous line in the sand.

Remember all this when the final tally for this obscene slaughter strikes home.

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