Editorial from the January 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard
Last month’s Gulf crisis demonstrated once again that the alliance for the Gulf War effort has effectively crumbled. Saddam Hussein expelled US/UN weapons inspectors from Iraq leading to the US, supported by Britain, threatening military action. But states such as France and Russia sought to undermine their stance–culminating in Russia offering Iraq a diplomatic way out of the crisis.
Since the end of the Gulf War the sanctions imposed on Iraq have really taken their toll on the Iraqi economy and the working class. This, of course, could potentially threaten the regime and Saddam needs to get the sanctions lifted as quickly as possible realising that the Gulf War alliance has ended and that any crisis would create a split between states such as France and the US. His ability to play off one against the other worked as once again the desperate Iraqi situation has been put on the agenda with France and Russia (amongst others) keen to bring Iraq into the world economy and moreover to provide capital to invest in Iraqi oilfields.
And here is the rub. The Gulf situation is just an expression of the competitive rivalry between the major powers in the age of “each against all”. By keeping Iraq as a “bogeyman” it allows the US a legitimate interest in the region. It’s always worth remembering that just prior to the Gulf War Iraq was backed as the region’s policeman–primarily to contain Iran. Despite everything, this is still the case. The US needs Saddam and has no intention of getting rid of him. The US strategy is one of keeping Iraq weak but just strong enough to handle any internal or external threat to the regime.
The idea that the US–backed by Britain–is the true defender of democracy against dictatorship, of civilisation against barbarism, is the sickest of jokes. Saddam could not have survived without the protection of the world’s largest gangster organisation–the United States. And just as in the Gulf War it is the impoverished and half-starved Iraqi working class that has paid the price. Like the working class everywhere it has no friends either in barbarian dictators or their supposedly “democratic” and “civilised” opponents.