Israel?s "Proxy War" in Iraq

An article in last week’s <i>al-Ahram</I>, the leading Egyptian daily, calls the US-led war against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq “a proxy war, one fought by the United States on behalf of Israel.” The writer, a professor of Political Science at Cairo University, is far from alone in expressing that belief in the Arab press, but his article is one of the most articulate and straightforward on th

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An article in last week’s al-Ahram, the leading Egyptian daily, calls the US-led war against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq “a proxy war, one fought by the United States on behalf of Israel.” The writer, a professor of Political Science at Cairo University, is far from alone in expressing that belief in the Arab press, but his article is one of the most articulate and straightforward on the matter.

Calling the war on Iraq “the first of a different genre”, Hassan Nafaa writes, it “was neither necessary nor inevitable. It was a voluntary act of aggression, for it took place outside the framework of international legitimacy, contravening international law and defying the will of an overwhelming majority of countries. The real motives behind the war will be debated for years. Some argue it was waged for oil, pointing out that control of oil fields is a key requisite for global domination. Some would claim that the war was an attempt to contain Iran and Islamist movements, noting that Iran's isolation is a cornerstone of the anti-terror strategy the US adopted following 11 September. Others would maintain that the war was a new Crusade targeting Arabs and Muslims in general.”

Rejecting all of the other proffered explanations for the war in Iraq, the al-Ahram article declares: “The war was primarily for Israel's sake. The US ultra-right, in cahoots with Israel's extreme right, conceived and waged it. And it would be no exaggeration to call it a proxy war, one fought by the United States on behalf of Israel.”

This “proxy war” in Iraq, writes the Egyptian professor, is “quite an achievement for Israel and the global Zionist movement.” It was unique in that, “for the first time in history, a major power fought a proxy war on behalf of a minor state....” he says. “The proxy war we have just witnessed proves that the Zionist movement, given the opportunity, is capable of controlling the mind and soul of the US administration.”

Professor Nafaa goes on to provide a background to Arab-American relations and how, in his view, the Zionists came to dominate US foreign policy.

According to Nafaa, “Following World War II, with the US poised to become a superpower, Washington tried to find a formula to reconcile its oil interests with its strategic interests, requiring it to forge a workable relationship with the Arabs, assume the role formerly held by Britain in the region and maintain close ties with the Zionist movement.” The conflict between the two interests was resolved, writes the Cairo University professor, “by backing Israel and the Zionist movement in every manner that would not compromise its oil interests in the region.... Arab divisions allowed the US to maneuver. Washington depicted radical Arab regimes -- those cooperating with the Soviets -- as a menace to the region.... This enabled the United States to boost its overt and covert backing of Israel without endangering its oil interests in the Middle East. This policy was more than successful; it was crowned by Israel's victory over radical regimes and the Pan-Arab movement in 1967. The victory convinced Washington that US interests were in complete harmony with Israel's.”

However, the Cairo daily article explains, the strategy was changed the wake of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, which the article calls “a successful military campaign” waged by Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, when “oil was used to pressure countries backing Israel, foremost among them the US.” The new Washington strategy, writes Nafaa, was to be one seeking to mediate “a peaceful and lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.” But, he continues, “[t]his vision ran into trouble because Israeli society was not mature enough to reach a settlement acceptable to the Arabs.... The US was unable to force Israel to accept a settlement. Washington chose, instead, to try to buy time and began to back Israeli conditions for a settlement. As a result, US policy became hostage to Israel's vision of a settlement, and Arab-US relations became increasingly strained.”

In the view of the al-Ahram writer, “The collapse of the Soviet Union increased Israel's intransigence and, perhaps, led to closer US-Israeli ties.... [T]he United States remained unable to exert effective pressure on Israel, a fact that became abundantly clear in the course of the Madrid conference.... The United States, thus, let another chance for peace slip away. Israel was not ready for peace. And the United States was not willing, or able, to pressure it.” The post-Oslo Accord US Administration, that of Bill Clinton, “exerted considerable effort to achieve peace in the Middle East, but it focused on serving Israel's interests, while putting maximum pressure on Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority (PA),” according to Professor Nafaa.

As for the failed Camp David meeting between Yasser Arafat and then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, “Clinton did not hesitate to blame the PA, and Arafat in particular, for the failure of the conference. This was Clinton's biggest gift to Israel's extreme right. Sharon took the opportunity and visited Al-Aqsa Mosque, knowing that the visit would cause upheaval. The Intifada erupted, and Sharon busied himself with stamping it out, although what he actually wanted to stamp out was the peace process itself.”

Sharon’s “government with extremist credentials” was mirrored, Nafaa writes in the election of the “US ultra-right, led by George W Bush.... [with] its own vision of world domination.... Likewise, Israel's right-wing had its own vision for regional domination....” These two right-wing regimes, in America and Israel, the Egyptian daily explains, believe in either global or regional hegemony respectively. “September 2001 gave Israel a historic opportunity, not only to obtain a green light to liquidate ‘pockets of resistance’ to its scheme, but also to push Washington to act, jointly or by proxy, to liquidate the resistance through military action.”

Nafaa then explains: “The US administration that took shape in January 2001.... made up primarily of fundamentalist Protestants and activists from the so-called religious right.... Numerous studies suggest that George W Bush, Vice- President Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of State Rumsfeld all belong, one way or another, to this Protestant fundamentalist trend.” Not just Protestants concern Professor Nafaa, but “[w]hat is alarming is that many senior officials in charge of foreign affairs and defense are either Jews with connections to the extremist strands of the Zionist movement and even to Ariel Sharon, or Christian fundamentalists who believe that Greater Israel should be established to pave the way for the return of the Messiah. Among these are: Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams and Paul Wolfowitz.”

According to the al-Ahram piece, “At the heart of their vision of foreign policy are two matters. One is the resumption of the hegemony schemes started by Bush senior and abandoned under the Clinton administration during the 1990s. The other is the rejection of all pressure on Israel. The US administration, in its current form, does not want Israel pressured into making any concessions, regardless of the consequences.” Then, “Washington hawks -- all closely allied with Israel -- found their golden opportunity in the September 2001 attacks. They modified US foreign policy, sanctioned the Greater Israel scheme, turning it into a cornerstone of US designs for hegemony. From then on, the US wars for hegemony, otherwise known as the war against terror, became wars serving Israel's interests.”

How did such a policy eventually lead to an attack on Iraq? According to the Egyptian columnist and professor, “It did not take US decision-makers long to reach the conclusion that the changing of the Iraqi regime by force was a necessary prerequisite to reconfiguring the region.... It was not difficult for those in the US administration who were eager to establish US global hegemony to reconcile their goals with those of their colleagues who sought to promote Israel's interests.... In view of the history of US-Israeli relations, and the US's quick victory in Iraq, Israel and the US are likely to agree on a strategy for eradicating Islamic resistance groups in Palestine and the Syrian and Iranian regimes.”

Professor Nafaa warns, “Washington's military victory may prove politically costly, for the overwhelming majority of Arabs, including the Iraqis, are beginning to equate the United States and Israel. This may have serious consequences for US interests in the region.” The Egyptian daily calls the “clique controlling the US administration” a “real danger for Middle East as well as international stability” and predicts further confrontation between the Islamic and the Jewish and Christian worlds.

“[O]ne cannot rule out the possibility that the US administration hawks, encouraged by their victory and inspired by Judeo-Christian tenets, may opt for Iraq-style military action. If so, then the war on Iraq will not be the last proxy war fought by America for Israel's sake,” Nafaa writes.