February 16, 1998
The Toronto Sun

Not So Fast, Sen. Lott

by Eric Margolis

NEW YORK - Senate majority leader Trent Lott and other senior Republicans are demanding the US adopt a long-term strategy of covert action and subversion to overthrow Saddam Hussein and other Mideast troublemakers who disturb the Pax Americana.

Bombing Iraq is simply not enough, warned war-fevered Republicans. Saddam must be driven from power once and for all. Many pro-Israel Conservatives demand the US Army march on Baghdad.

If Senator Lott knew Mideast history better, he might not be so eager for covert action, or hopeful Iraq's government could be overthrown to America's profit. He might even learn the United States is not the solution to the Mideast's chronic instability and tensions, but a major source. A few examples:

  • 1947 - Washington is displeased by Syria's government.A CIA-Army `political action team' mounts a coup, employing a `CIA asset,' Gen. Husni Za'im. As senior CIA Mideast agent Miles Copeland delightfully recalls, the Americans kept calling Za'im `our boy,' or `Husni,' and ordering him about. The day after Za'im's coup, Copeland and the American agents went to inform the new dictator whom he would appoint as ambassadors and cabinet ministers. When the Americans called him, `Husni,' Za'im ordered them to `stand at attention,' and address him as `Excellency.' US-Syrian relations have been terrible ever since. Two subsequent, US-backed coups backfired.
  • 1952 - The US helps engineer a coup against British puppet ruler of Egypt, King Farouk. CIA backs a young colonel, Gammal Abdel Nasser. But when the US later tries to pressure Nasser into joining Washington's `new order' for the Mideast, the Baghdad Pact, Nasser rebels and becomes America's enemy number one. CIA tries first to overthrow, than assassinate Nasser. All attempts fail.
  • 1953 - Iran's popular, elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, attempts to assert Iranian control of his nation's oil industry, whose profits go to the US and Britain. A CIA coup overthrows Mossadegh, and puts `our boy' Reza Shah on the throne. Iran's US-trained secret police keep the Shah in power through a reign of terror. Islamic-nationalist revolution sweeps Iran in 1979, ending US domination.
  • 1957/58 - US and Britain thwart popular uprisings against King Hussein of Jordan.
  • 1958 - Washington installs a client regime in Lebanon, which then dutifully calls for US troops. Beginning of Lebanon's 35 years of instability and civil war.
  • 1958 - Britain's Iraqi puppets, King Faisal and Nuri as-Said, overthrown by the bloodthirsty Col.Kassim. US uses Kassim to attack Nasser. Kassim murdered by Col. Aref in CIA-mounted coup. Aref's helicopter blown up. A few more murders later, CIA helps engineer into power a promising, young, Baath Party enforcer, Saddam Hussein.
  • 1960 - Anwar Sadat goes on CIA payroll. After Nasser's death, CIA puts Sadat into power in Egypt. Corrupt and hated, Sadat is assassinated to great popular joy.
  • 1969 - The US elbows Britain out of Libya to gain control of its high-grade oil. CIA overthrows British puppet, King Idris, and - in one of its most brilliant moves - helps into power a young, reformist colonel, Muammar Khadaffi. When Khadaffi subsequently trumpets the Arabs are being robbed of their oil by the west, and raises prices, he goes unto America's hit list.
  • 1976 - US, Iran and Israel secretly arm Iraq's Kurds and promote their rebellion to destabilize Iraq. Kurdish revolt plays major role in igniting Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 in which one million died. US abandons Kurds, gets chummy with Baghdad.
  • 1980 - Saddam Hussein becomes America's most important Mideast ally in trying to crush Iran's Islamic revolution. Urged on, armed and financed by the US, Saddam invades Iran in 1980. CIA and Pentagon supply military advice and intelligence on Iran. US and British intelligence help Iraq obtain its chemical and biological warfare capabilities.
  • 1983 - US attempts to install a client, Christian/fascist regime in Lebanon, drive out Syrian influence. US Marines sent to Beirut, under cover of `peace-keepers.' They are bombed out of Lebanon by Shia militants: 309 Americans die, including CIA's top Mideast staff.
  • 1985 - CIA's revenge backfires. Lebanese CIA agents detonate truck bomb in Beirut in a failed attempt to assassinate Shia leader, Sheik Fadlallah. Eighty-three civilians killed, 240 wounded.
  • 1986 - US tries to assassinate Khadaffi by bombing his residence in Tripoli. One baby daughter killed, one injured. He escapes. Downing of Pan Am and French UTA flights may be revenge for this failed hit. Three other attempt to assassinate Khadaffi, using CIA-organized Libyan exiles, fail.
  • 1996 - The Bay of Camels - CIA's biggest flop since Cuba. Urged on by President Clinton, CIA mounts an elaborate coup against Saddam Hussein. Iraqi exiles, armed and trained by CIA, to march on Baghdad from US/British ruled Kurdistan. CIA organizes a cabal of generals to assassinate Saddam. Public places in Baghdad are bombed, many civilians killed, in order to `destabilize' Iraq (this while the US is busy denouncing terrorism). But Saddam's spies have infiltrated the plot. The whole operation collapses. CIA's agent network in Iraq is rolled up. Many Kurds back Saddam, turn on pro-US Kurds. CIA agents in Kurdistan run for their lives, abandoning allies and tons of documents. Saddam is strengthened. CIA's inept Director, John Deutch, fired for this Mother of All Fiascos.
Republicans now urge more of the above to keep the Mideast calm. You certainly can't argue with success.

[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]

[Under their plan, the Americans would spend $150,000 to bribe journalists, editors, Islamic preachers, and other opinion leaders to "create, extend, and enhance public hostiltiy and distrust and fear of Mossadegh and his government." Then they would hire thugs to carry out "staged attacks" on religious figures and other respected Iranians, making it seem the Mossadegh had ordered them. Meanwhile, General Zahedi would be given a sum of money, later fixed at $135,000, to "win additional friends" and "influence key people." The plan budgedted another $11,000 per week, a great sum at the time, to bribe members of the Iranian parliament. On "coupe day," thousands of paid demonstrators would converge on parliament to demand that it dismiss Mossadegh. Parliament would respond with a "quasi-leagal" vote to do so. If Mossadegh resisted, military units loyal to General Zahedi would arrest him.--Stephen Kinzer, "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq," Times Books, April 4, 2006, p. 123]

back button