Israel and the US War on Iraq
The U.S. War on Iraq: Yet Another Battle To Protect Israeli Interests?
By Delinda C. Hanley
Why did President George W. Bush invade Iraq? Some very curious developments in the U.S.-occupied nation are making Iraqis and their Arab neighbors very uneasy as they question Bush’s motives. These amazing tales should also infuriate Americans who are beginning to suspect they’ve been hoodwinked into fighting yet another battle on behalf of Israel.
On the eve of war, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair told their people that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction posed a real and present danger to Americans, their British cousins, indeed the entire planet. If Saddam Hussain didn’t use his weapons himself, the Anglo-American leaders argued, he might pass them on to terrorist groups. U.S. and British citizens believed their leaders were looking out for their safety and that they had evidence of Saddam Hussain’s evil intentions which they could not yet divulge.
Some 1,500 American investigators are now searching Iraq for evidence to back up those controversial claims. Former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter doubts the investigators, known as the Iraq Survey Group, will have much luck. For one thing, he points out, every Iraqi government record relating to the weapons program was stored in metal containers at a complex in downtown Baghdad’s Jadariya. This archive was the basis for the 12,500-page declaration Iraq compiled for the U.N. in 2002.
On April 8 U.S. troops took possession of the complex. They never interviewed the scientists who continued to report for work or tried to examine the archives. Instead the U.S. soldiers simply withdrew after two weeks, leaving all the evidence: computers, disks, video records of U.N. interviews with Iraqi scientists throughout the 1990s, and the carefully organized documents. Looters ransacked the facility and destroyed any evidence of a weapons program.
Anyone who watches TV knows that, in investigating a crime, it first is necessary to secure the crime scene. One has to wonder why U.S. forces never bothered to do this—or to guard from looters the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, or six other nuclear sites in Iraq. Did coalition leaders know all along there were no weapons of mass destruction?
It’s beginning to look like anti-war protesters were on the right track when they declared: “No War For Oil!” Iraq, one of the world’s largest oil producers, has a potential output of 2.5 million barrels a day. Would the U.S. really attack a nation for its oil? Perish the thought! The coalition promised that Iraq’s oil would finally benefit its own people, instead of lining its leader’s pockets. Today Iraqis are beginning to doubt that message as well, as fuel shortages and gas lines at petrol stations make them wonder if they’ll ever be able to return to normal.
And now another horrible suspicion is crossing their minds. Did Bush’s Israel-first advisers invade Iraq in order to assure that Israel would have easy access to oil?
A March 31 Ha’aretz article reported upcoming plans to reopen a long-unused pipeline from Iraq’s Kirkuk oil fields to the Israeli port of Haifa. Israel’s National Infrastructure Minister Joseph Paritzky suggested that after Saddam Hussain’s departure Iraqi oil could flow to the Jewish state, to be consumed or marketed from there.
The pipeline [of Iraqi oil] to Haifa is considered a ‘bonus’ the U.S. will give to Israel.
According to John Cooley’s April 23 article in The Christian Science Monitor, “The idea is economically tempting for Israel and some of its friends, especially those whose firms might profit from such a project. Oil-poor Israel, MEES [Middle East Economic Survey] reports, wants high-quality Kirkuk crude oil for its Haifa refinery. Israeli refineries currently use Russian, West African, Egyptian, and other crude oils.
Politically, the scheme is a potential bomb, Cooley warned, because Israel and Iraq have been implacable foes since 1948. “Its implementation could ignite a new explosion in the chain of reactions to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, now beginning to reverberate throughout the troubled Middle East.”
Nevertheless, according to a Ha’aretz article the following day, “a senior Pentagon official” sent a telegram to a “top Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem” to check the logistics of pumping oil from Iraq to the oil refineries in Haifa and rebuilding the Kirkuk-Mosul-Haifa pipeline. According to the telegram, “The pipeline to Haifa is considered a ‘bonus’ the U.S. will give to Israel in return for its support for the American-led campaign in Iraq.”
In early September, Paritzky will travel to Washington, DC to present Israel’s pipeline plans, along with a cost estimate, to U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. Israel’s National Infrastructure Ministry estimates a 42-inch pipeline between Kirkuk and Haifa would cost about $400,000 per kilometer.
The plan requires Jordanian consent, but Amman would receive a transit fee for allowing the oil to traverse its territory. Jordan’s neighbors may have something to say about this—but will the Iraqis have any voice at all in the decision regarding their oil?
Responding to the rumors, Turkey has warned Israel that it would regard this scheme as a serious blow to Turkish-Israeli relations. Iraqi oil currently is transported through Turkey to a port near Syria. Ankara depends on the transit fees collected on this oil.
MEMRI Gains a Foothold
Still another shocking development, first reported by IslamOnline.net, is causing consternation in Iraq. Israel opened a “center for Middle Eastern studies” in a heavily guarded building on Baghdad’s Abu Nawaas Street. The center is affiliated with the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Some of MEMRI’s cofounders have worked in Israeli military intelligence.
MEMRI translates inflammatory newspaper articles it finds in the Arab press into Hebrew, English, German, French and Italian and circulates them to subscribers. According to Brian Whitaker in his Guardian article “Selective MEMRI” (reprinted in the Nov. 2002 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, p. 22), “The stories selected by MEMRI for translation follow a familiar pattern: either they reflect badly on the character of Arabs or they in some way further the political agenda of Israel.”
MEMRI received the necessary work permits from the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq and from the Pentagon, and on July 15 published its first “reports” from the Iraqi press and translations of Friday sermons at Iraqi mosques. MEMRI’s actions speak for themselves: one can view the articles they’ve selected to distribute on their Web site (www.memri.org). Just don’t expect any translations of Israeli rants in its Hebrew-language press.
Iraqis are furious that the U.S. occupation forces have allowed MEMRI to set up shop in their country. Baghdad University professor Dr. Anwar Abdul Aziz told IslamOnline that MEMRI and its offshoots have sinister purposes. “Israel’s underground goals in the Middle East are not a secret,” he said. “The center is, in effect, a fa?ade for intelligence and security bodies orchestrated by the Mossad (Israel’s intelligence service).”
Who would have imagined that Baghdad would someday host a center serving Israeli plots and schemes? asked Dr. Soad Bahudin al-Mousli of Al-Rafeden University. The opening of this center has convinced her that the U.S.-led war on Iraq was waged on behalf of Israel: “This is the product of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and reaffirms our conviction that Israel and the United States are two sides of the same coin.”
Another startling report, in the Aug. 27 Jerusalem Post, provides the last piece in the puzzle of why American Israel-firsters pushed Washington into waging war on Iraq. Iraqi National Congress head Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon’s discredited candidate to lead Iraq, has placed a peace treaty with Israel at the “top of the agenda” for a new Iraqi government. In the absence of a just Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, this could never have happened without an Israel-friendly regime change in Iraq.
The belief that U.S. soldiers are doing Israel’s dirty work may be why Iraqis are killing their “liberators.” Indeed, these feelings are expressed over and over again in the editorials MEMRI has translated from Baghdad in recent weeks. Every Iraqi knows that Israel once feared Iraq’s powerful army, as well as its economic, political and educational strengths. Israel, and its supporters in the U.S., worked hard over the years to isolate the advanced Arab nation and keep it from fulfilling its potential.
If Iraqi suspicions are justified, Americans went to war to help Israel’s position in the Middle East. It’s beginning to look more and more like the people we “liberated” just might be right.
Delinda C. Hanley is news editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, on Middle East Affairs.