by Eric Margolis © 1997 Eric Margolis
Let's peek into the hands of the players of Mideast high-current, favorite, high-stakes poker game, Baghdad Bluff:
UNITED STATES - We've got zero policy towards Iraq and don't have a clue what to do except keep that awful, but useful genii, Saddam, bunged up in his bottle.
We do this by insisting Iraq has hidden weapons, true or not. This allows us to maintain crushing sanctions on Iraq that keeps it feeble, and prevents oil exports. Whenever Saddam appears too cooperative, we rattle his chain by imposing new sanctions and petty humiliations.
Constant, deep proctoscopic examination of Iraq may not be grand strategy, but voters love sticking it to that rag-head who dared challenge America's God-given right to cheap Mideast oil. Arab and Iranian troublemakers must be taught not to question America's Mideast Raj.
Goading Saddam really pays off: the Beast of Baghdad gives us a perfect justification for keeping permanent military forces in the Mideast. Every time Saddam acts up, our client oil sheiks get petrified and buy billions more arms from us. A smart-bombing of Iraq usually quiets down Saddam.
We need Saddam - at least until we can find another equally mean SOB, but one who knows how to obey orders from Washington. Our CIA boys originally put him in power, and only Saddam can hold Iraq together. If Iraq crumbles, those horrid Iranians will charge in. Maybe the Gulf War wasn't such a great idea, after all.
IRAQ - So we've good no food or medicine, and our kids are dying of malnutrition because of the US embargo. We still tied the Gulf War, us a little nation of only 22 million people (lots of them untrustworthy Kurds and Shias, though). We'll just hang tough until one day sanctions collapse and we can resume exporting oil. Iraq has the Mideast's second biggest oil reserves.
We'll hide what weapons, germs and Scuds we have left in the sand, and do our best to frustrate those US, British and Israeli spies disguised as UN arms inspectors. Every time we cause a rumpus, the anti-Iraq coalition weakens. The French and Russians, whom we still owe billions from the 1980's, want to end the embargo. Patience. We'll outlast, and out-snarl, our enemies - and get revenge on those Kuwaiti dogs.
SAUDI ARABIA - Keep Saddam bottled up, but in power, or Iran's mad mullahs will take Baghdad and then invade Arabia, Allah forbid. Of course we're embarrassed that we let the US turn us into a protectorate, but that prevents our people from foolishly demanding democracy and rebelling - and keeps Saddam's Hittites away.
KUWAIT/GULF EMIRATES - We'll bribe the US and Europe to defend our precious discos from those beastly Iraqis, and keep up the oil embargo. If Iraq resumes exporting, world oil prices will plummet. No more gambling, whoring and night clubbing for us, if this happens.
TURKEY - As payoff for our support in the Gulf War, the US is letting us quietly annex oil-rich northern Iraq. We say, our soldiers are just chasing bad Kurds, but we're really `establishing facts on the ground' there, a trick we learned from our clever, new Israeli allies. By Ataturk, once we annex Iraq's northern oil fields, Turkey will once again be mighty - and spit on the Arabs!
ISRAEL - No way will we ever allow Saddam, or Iran, to break our monopoly on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. We've put our American lobby and media mavens into high gear to pressure President Clinton and Congress to crush Iraq and Iran. Better Americans than us. Who wants more Scuds, maybe this time filled with germs. Too bad, in a way. If Iraq and Iran would just accept our nuclear monopoly, we could probably do business with them.
IRAN - Death to Great Satans Saddam, Israel, the US and those Saudi mongrels. Though Iraq's US-inspired invasion of Iran cost us 500,000 casualties, we need Saddam to keep the American imperialists occupied. If he goes, they'll turn on us. And Parveez, hurry up with our secret nuclear kabob bomb. We're surrounded by enemies. Everyone wants our oil, including those godless Turks, and Russian infidels.
BRITAIN - We must protect our oil business in Kuwait and keep peddling arms to the Gulf Arabs. Sure we stole Kuwait from Iraq, but where did the British Empire not caused great mischief? Who cares? The wogs begin in Calais.
EGYPT - Oh Brother Saddam, why were you so stupid as to invade Kuwait just because its creepy crown prince told you to kiss his fee? What a mess your big ego made. That, of course, leaves us unquestioned leader of the Arab World.
RUSSIA - Had it not been for that naive, teetotaling fool, Gorbachev, Russia would never have allowed the US to smash Iraq and implant its military forces in Arabia. We've got to end the blockade of Iraq, and resume selling Baghdad arms, but discreetly, to avoid infuriating Washington. Ten years from now, we'll have rebuilt our influence in the Mideast, and we'll get revenge on the arrogant Americans by screwing their henchmen in Saudi or Egypt, the way they did to our old pal, Saddam.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]
Copyright © 1997 Eric Margolis - All Rights Reserved