By: Dr. Khaled Batarfi
My Saudi taxi driver was explaining to me why America is trying to lead, yet, another military campaign against Iraq, even before the Afghani blood dries. The drive from home to airport was less than half an hour, and the middle-aged man was trying to cover more than fifty years of the American history in the Middle East. Of course it was a typical opinionated analysis.
He started off with how President Roosevelt, just before he died, promised King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, in an official letter that he won't make a stand on the Arab-Israeli conflict without consulting first with Arab leaders. Then he went on to praise Pr. Eisenhower who forced attacking English, French and Israeli troops to withdraw from Egyptian Sinai "at once". Pr. Kennedy, he assured, was killed because he didn't accept the Israeli pressure and demands for a strong stand against Egypt's Nasser. Finally, his anger and disgust showed as he talked about what he called the "Zionist" presidents—Truman, Reagan and … Bush Jr.
As we arrived at the airport he was about to tell me, as he reached a climax, what he thinks of US policies these days … I was relieved. It was just the personal opinion of a taxi driver, but it represents widely shared views among Arabs, young and old, educated and illiterate, liberal and conservative. As the theory goes, the evangelist American leadership has made an unholy alliance with the Zionists to redraw the maps in the Middle East for Israel's benefit … and, conservative will add, to westernize the last haven of Islam—Saudi Arabia. Unlike previous stands and plans, however, this time the alliance wants to rearrange the table using sheer force—a combination of high-charged military, economic, diplomatic and media campaign. The short-term goals, they believe, include the rewriting of the peace agreements handing the Palestinians no more than the red Indians were given in America. By creating pressure on them, they will be thankful to accept any kind of deal, no matter how unfair in return for peace.
The campaign against Iraq is part of the grand plan, as well, they would argue. By controlling Iraq via an Afghani-like government that owes its existence to America, and by extension to Israel, Opec and Saudi Arabia will have even less say in deciding oil prices and level of supplies.
The next step, they fear, even before the confirmation of the Rand report presented recently to a number of senior US defense leaders, is to work towards controlling Saudi Arabia itself, or its oil fields. Neighboring Syria, Jordan and Egypt could go next, with forced changes of governments and policies that serve Israeli and American interests. The concept of "If I don't like him, he must go" that was used against elected Palestinian leader, Arafat, could easily be applied to all—Saddam being first.
These views, shared by many in the Arab world and discussed daily in the media, are taking hold by the day. Only recently a civil law suit in America was filed against senior Saudi and Sudanese government officials and a long list of charities and businesses. The suit claims that the accused had supported Osama Bin Laden in the past, and therefore are responsible for the Sep. 11 events. The families of the twin-tower victims demand trillions of US dollars in compensation. Since the claims are based on so called "unpublished official intelligence documents", the assumption is that they came form the CIA. The same organization that up to the nineties was the major backer and organizer of help and support to the Mujahedeen, Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Accusations of American double standards and Saudi targeting and pressuring are therefore proven right to Arab critics and masses, once more.
In such an environment of suspicion, anger and fear, the bad guys, such as Saddam and his gang, win. For even though most Arabs, especially in moderate countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, would very much like to see Saddam toppled, they can't fathom, let alone accept, the justification for a grand, bloody and inevitably messy invasion of Iraq. The same people who asked for or accepted Western help to drive Saddam from Kuwait a decade ago, cannot justify wasting the lives of so many fellow Arabs and the destruction of their cities and civil infrastructure today.
A year after September 11, American-sponsored War on Terrorism—which has a different meaning in the Arab world as the US-sponsored New World Order—has few fans in the Middle East, except for a perceived co-author … Israel.