Tuesday, Oct 01, 2002
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By Atul Aneja
Security analysts in Iraq's neighbourhood are increasingly veering round to the view that the U.S. exertions in Iraq are the centrepiece of changing the geopolitical map in the region in its favour. Washington's first core objective, by unleashing and winning a war, they say, is to make Iraqi territory the springboard for acquiring complete political dominance of the resource rich region.
One view that is gaining salience here is that the U.S. may have already decided on the broad contours of a Washington-friendly regime in Baghdad after the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, is unseated. While the details of this plan may not have yet been fully defined, the effort is likely to revolve around the resurrection of the remnants of the Iraqi royalty that was violently ousted in 1958. Iraq at one time was ruled by one branch of the Hashemite dynasty that is currently positioned in neighbouring Jordan.
The London-based Al-Sharif Ali bin Hussein, who has a Hashemite lineage and who is the maternal cousin of Iraq's former monarch, King Faisal, is currently the focus of attention in Britain and the United States. In London, Mr. Hussein leads the Constitutional Monarchy Movement (CMM) for Iraq since 1990. The Hashemite angle to the post-Saddam disposition in Iraq was also evident when Prince Hussein, the uncle of Jordan's King Abdullah, attended a conference of Iraq's military opposition groups in London this summer.
Strategic forecasters in the region anticipate that the resurrection of a Hashemite rule in Baghdad is likely to be part of a larger political change in the region. Jordan's merger with Iraq in the future is not ruled out, though the possibility of the formation of a Jordan-Iraq confederation under the two branches of the Hashemite dynasty is more likely. The status of Southern Iraq that is dominated by Iraqi Shias who comprise nearly half of the country's population is also under serious debate. Basra in Southern Iraq, that is increasingly the focus of U.S. and British air raids, is at the head of the Persian Gulf and is at the heart of Iraq's oil industry. There is considerable speculation among the Arab intelligentsia that a new political arrangement between Kuwait and parts of Southern Iraq after Mr. Hussein is out of the picture maybe on the cards. Analysts point out that U.S. consolidation in Iraq is likely to be the first step that would put countries such as Iran on notice. The new U.S. doctrine of pre-emptive intervention that allows the use of force against emerging threats can be invoked for this purpose.
According to diplomatic sources, Iran's association with the militant group Hezbollah that is widely accused of launching terror attacks can, in the future, be cited to justify a more assertive U.S. approach towards Teheran.
Control over oil prices appears to be the second core objective of Washington's grand strategy in the region. That means breaking the backbone of the Saudi Arabia-dominated oil cartel OPEC that has favoured keeping oil prices at a high between $22 and $28 dollars a barrel. But by finding access to Iraqi oil, and with Russia already emerging as a major oil supplier, the U.S. would be much better positioned to combat the OPEC by controlling oil supplies and prices.
Iraqi oil, however, is unlikely to flood the international market immediately. It is likely to take at least four to five years before Iraqi oil infrastructure is brought into shape, allowing Baghdad to push in supplies to around five million barrels per day, that along with Russia's around eight million barrels per day, could bring down energy prices significantly.
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