US Policy and the Iraq Time Bomb Prof. Dr. Hüseyin BAĞCI – 25 March 2002, Turkish News

US Policy and the Iraq Time Bomb

Prof. Dr. Hüseyin BAĞCI – 25 March 2002, Turkish News

When Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote his three consecutive articles in the National Interest in 2000 under the titles ‘Living with a New Russia,’ ‘Living with a New China,’ and ‘Living with a New Europa’ he was actually setting the new imperatives for U.S. foreign policy on how to deal with ‘those NEW power centers’ in a new security environment.

As one of the most well known and influential strategists in the United States together with Henry Kissinger during the Cold War years and in the post-Cold War period, Zbigniew Brzezinski appears now right in his definition of the hegemon United States, the likes of which history has never before experienced. Indeed, when Henry Kissinger published an article just a few months before Sept. 11, 2001, with the title ‘Does America need a Foreign Policy,’ he created many discussions as to the first signs of an anti-American coalition of some of the great powers starting to emerge. China, Russia, the European Union and India seem not to be very happy with U.S. conduct of international politics.

As the ‘exceptional hegemon’ in the new world order, the United States is recognizing terrorism as a global threat and finds it necessary to fight it with every means. It believes that liberal democracies are challenged by terrorism and terrorism must be fought on a global scale alone or with an ‘international coalition.’ Of course, the United States needs a global coalition to fight terrorism and this is why President Bush is sending Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to different parts of the globe to seek allies. It is not the year 1945 or 1989, or even 1991; Sept. 11 was a turning point where Henry Kissinger’s question can be answered. The United States needs a foreign policy, and this will be not easy.

Euroasia is the future of international politics. The security of the Eurasian landmass is solely America’s responsibility according to the U.S. administration. Indeed, Eurasia is the future, but poverty in Asia is the biggest challenge for all international actors. Usama bin Laden and his al-Qaida is only one among the expected challenges to the international and global order. To define some countries as ‘the axis of evil’ does not solve the problem. Look at what Russia, China and India have done following Sept. 11. None of them can openly take an anti-American position, therefore, they do not stress that the United States is doing wrong. China in particular is on good terms with the United States because China is bowling from inside [sic]. Unemployment is a big problem for all the countries in Asia and if China has bad news to spread that means it is bad for all the others too. How to contain China is indeed an ‘American problem’ now. Russia is also unhappy with the American presence in Central Asia and the Caucasus but has to appease the United States, like Britain and France did to Germany before World War II. Russia’s new alliance with China and India is a tactical one and Russia will further impose its policies over Eurasian just as before, though it will be not so easy.

Russia’s view that ‘failed states are not necessarily rouge states’ is important because Russia supports Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Therefore, Russia is not alone in this case. The EU is also having similar views and in particular in the last few years EU countries follow more and more ‘pro-Arab policies.’ The result is that Russia is more and more a reliable partner for the EU in global politics and no doubt the U.S. administration is not happy with this. In particular, French Foreign Minister Huber Vedrin leads this view and the gap between the United States and the EU on the definition of the meaning of international terrorism is widening and NATO has already been declared a ‘corpse.’ NATO enlargement has also lost speed and this will create some new discussions in Europe in November when NATO enlargement will be the main issue at the Prague summit.

Within this global context, discussions in Turkey on EU membership and the U.S. search for an international coalition dominated the political agenda over the last few weeks. Indeed, the ‘anti-EU block’ in Turkey gets intellectual support from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose book will be published in April. In her book, as some excerpts were published in several newspapers, she favors more U.S.-oriented policy than the EU and sees the EU as a ‘vanity of intellectuals.’ In her words, the EU is finished and will not be successful. No doubt, this view will be very much used in Turkey for domestic consumption and Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz will face stronger opposition. The different views of the Motherland Party (ANAP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also prove that the coalition is still not harmonious and Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit is barely managing the existence of the coalition. The good old days for the coalition are over.

The visit of U.S. Vice President Cheney also showed that Turkey is part of U.S. global politics and the United States in security issues is more reliable than the EU. The meeting between Cheney and the Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Kıvrıkoğlu with Foreign Minister İsmail Cem and State Undersecretary Uğur Ziyal is a unique one and it shows what the United States is interested in.

Turkey is a key country for any U.S. intervention in Iraq and Turkey’s many interests are at stake and Turkey cannot remain indifferent to regional developments. Cheney left Turkey with a positive view, leaving behind it ‘a reliable ally’ in regional and global politics. The Turkish government’s view that it is against U.S. intervention in Iraq is not so important! None of the 11 other countries that Cheney visited also said yes but this ‘no’ means yes if the United States intervenes. Which country or countries can prevent it? Obviously none.

It was a fact-finding tour to tell countries what the United States is intending to do. It was not asking for their permission for such an operation. Next week, the conference in Lebanon of the Arab League will take place and let’s see what will come out of it. U.S. policy is this time very different from the Cold War and Iraq has limited time to meet the expectations of the United Nations. Saddam Hussein and Iraq have gained time, but how long it can go on like this an open question. There is a time bomb in the Middle East and it is ticking faster than ever.

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Are Saddam Hussein’s days numbered? Prof. Dr. Hüseyin BAĞCI – 11 February 2002, Turkish Daily News

Are Saddam Hussein’s days numbered?

Prof. Dr. Hüseyin BAĞCI – 11 February 2002, Turkish Daily News

Turkey is once again in the line of focus since the “letter exchange” between Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein became public two days ago when the translation of Saddam’s letter was sent to the Turkish press. In his letter, Saddam gives a “lecture on real politics” to his counterpart that Turkey should not be following the same policy as the United States. Indeed, Saddam Hussein has given the same lecture to the Turkish side as he did in spring 1990, when then Turkish Prime Minister Yildirim Akbulut paid an official visit to Baghdad. At that time, Saddam said to the Turkish delegation in an undiplomatic way that the Cold War had ended, NATO would be dissolved and that Turkey should be very careful. It was considered as an open threat to Turkey by President Turgut Özal, who was against Saddam since that moment, and Prime Minister Yildirim Akbulut did not respond and was criticized very strongly after his return.

Saddam has “Turcophobia” like many other regional countries, and this is understandable within the historical context, which concerns Ottoman-Arab relations. But, the main reason for Saddam to be against Turkey was the Turkish support for Prime Minister Nuri al-Said in the ‘50s, who sided with Turkey to establish the Baghdad Pact in 1955 together with Iran, Great Britain and Israel. When the military coup d’etat took place in 1958 against Nuri al-Said in Iraq, where al-Said was mercilessly slaughtered by military officers when he tried to escape from the palace in women’s clothing, it was clear that the Baath regime should be kept at a distance. Despite the fact that Prime Minister Ecevit has always been sympathetic to Saddam, he was described as “Third Worldist” for his policies by Turkish circles.

When Bülent Ecevit visited him just before the Gulf War in his capacity as a journalist, even then Saddam was not giving any clues that he would leave Kuwait without using force. It means that he was relying very much on Soviet support and his oil revenues. Like Ecevit, he had another sympathizer in the Soviet Union at that time with the name Yevgeni Primakov, an Orientalist and journalist who had been a close friend of Saddam. Even Yasser Arafat supported him, but Arafat is now paying the price for this wrong assessment. But President Turgut Özal had a different perception of Saddam than Bülent Ecevit, and 10 years later it is very clear that Özal was right. Özal was very pro-U.S. in his policy orientation and was always saying in his official statements that Saddam is a danger to peace in the Middle East and should be neutralized politically.

When Iraqi forces were losing and leaving Kuwait in 1991, it was Özal who advised U.S. President George Bush to press on to Baghdad and replace him immediately. However, George Bush did not do it and Özal insisted that it would be the greatest mistake the United States would ever make in the Middle East, not just for now but also for the future. Indeed, this proves that the U.S. administration was wrong. People like Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Powell were all in the U.S. administration at that time and it is now those same people who will try again. Therefore, the conditions changed and no doubt Saddam is now internationally much more stronger than he has ever been in the last 10 years. Even more so since Sept. 11.

The mental and political change of Ecevit has to be studied very carefully now. His letter to Saddam was correct and necessary. But, he and Foreign Minister Ismail Cem knew exactly what kind of answer they would receive. It was more than a political scandal when Cem refused to divulge the contents of the letter Saddam sent. But, the Turkish public is not the same as 10 years ago, and this time there is no room for manipulation.

The United States is determined to attack Iraq sooner or later, despite the fact that  it doesn’t have an international coalition behind it. In the words of Donald Rumsfeld, “The mission defines the coalition, not the coalition the mission.” This is true, and Turkey is a decisive country for an international coalition and military success whatever scenario one should think. It means that Turkey remains on the side of the United States unconditionally, and Ecevit is the most important realizer of this mission at the moment. The “letter exchange” is also a game for making very clear to the domestic and international public that Turkey, under no condition, will side with Iraq.

Last week in the Munich Security Conference, more than 350 experts from around the world gathered together, where I also sat as an international observer during the two-day conference, how Turkey was very much put forward by Paul Wolfowitz, the number two in the U.S. Defense Ministry and Senator John McCain, Arizona, as the country which has to be supported by all means and by Europeans, including full membership of the European Union. No doubt Ecevit is a much desired person for U.S. policies in the region, and Mr. Ecevit is indeed on the U.S. side, of course not without any reason. Northern Iraq is a key issue for Turkey’s security policy and a replacement of Saddam will create new conditions there. Whether Saddam will be replaced or not, that is a question of time, but this time the issue is more serious. Many EU countries, Russia, China, India are against any U.S. military intervention.

This was also very clear during the Munich Conference. However, the fact is that a new regional order will be designed and in this design there is no place for Saddam. This process will take place, but there will be no return as far as one can analyze it. The price will certainly be higher than 10 years ago. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld asked the U.S. Congress to provide an extra $10 billion. It means some extra support in addition to the $376 billion defense budget. The U.S. administration is more determined. The United States is the greatest world power that the rest of the world has experienced on such a scale. Whether Europe is with it or against it, it does not matter, as Richard Perle said directly to EU politicians during the Munich Conference.

What Turkey may do when the operation starts is not an open question anymore, on the contrary, Turkey has to act with the United States. Another chance will not be given. Saddam has played his cards very well up until now, but time is working against him. It will not be long until he is replaced. Can he change the pace of history? It seems not anymore. The other big powers will only be spectators if this operation starts. Any examples in the past, look at Roman history! At least Ecevit has read this before.

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