Middle East Overview

Rumsfeld + Saddam shake hands
George Bush I - 'The American lifestyle is not negotiable.'

Govt Report 2001 - The US's 'central dilemma' today is that 'the American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience'.

The 20th century history of the Middle East shows the US+Britain prepared to overthrow governments, install rulers, invent countries, sponsor war, break promises and generally do whatever it takes to guarantee a ready supply of / control over that essential commodity - oil. This has understandably created a large amount of resentment throughout the Middle East, which the war with Iraq has only intensied.

It is essential to understand this history before backing yet another conflict in the Middle East, if only to understand why the US+Britain are not seen as liberators, or why some Arabs might feel inclined to fly a jetplane into the WTC.

The pipeline through Afghanistan and the war View comments     
1995 Unocal report ( cached )
       US energy company Unocal signs deal with Turkmenistan over development of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan.           
1995 Article ( cached )
       Unocal begins negotiations with Taliban over a pipeline deal through Afghanistan to Pakistan.           
October 1997 Unocal report ( cached )
       Unocal and other oil companies form Central Asia Gas Pipeline, Ltd. (CentGas) in preparation for building the trans-Afghanistan pipeline.           
1998 Article ( cached )
       Pipeline project delayed due to Afghanistan's continuing civil war, and Unocal withdraws from the project in December.           
May 2000 Washington Post article ( cached )
       CIA begins operating in Afghanistan           
February 2001 Article ( cached )
       Upon taking office, the Bush administration immediately begins negotiations with the Taliban over the pipeline.           
July 2001 BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Washington tells India that US troops will be in Afghanistan "before the snow falls" - this deadline is then met thanks to the Sept. 11 attacks two months later.           
August 2001 Article ( cached )
       The last secret meeting between US officials and the Taliban is held, in a last ditch attempt to secure a pipeline deal. Talks break off, with the US allegedy delivering a final ultimatum of 'accept our carpet of gold (oil pipeline), or you will receive a carpet of bombs'. While some question whether this was in fact said (see article), the point is that talks which had been talking place for months over a pipeline deal in Afghanistan finally broke down.           
October 2001 BBC Article ( cached )
       September 11th attacks give US excuse to declare war on Afghanistan. Mainstream media attempts to quash any theories that the war might be related to desires for a pipeline in Afghanistan.           
January 2002 Independent article ( cached )
       Former Unocal consultant Zalmay Khalilzad appointed as new US special envoy to Afghanistan.           
May 2002 BBC Article ( cached )
       The leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan agree to the construction of a $2bn pipeline to bring gas from Central Asia to the sub-continent.           
December 2002 Boston Globe article ( cached )
       White House announces 10 new bases in Afghanistan 'in hopes of boosting reconstruction efforts and regional security', whose locations coincide with the route proposed by Unocal in 1998 for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan.           
December 2002 BBC article ( cached )
       Deal signed to build gas pipeline across Afghanisatan.           
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Iraqi History View comments     
       The following gives a summary of Iraq's history from WWI up to the first Gulf War, focusing on how US and British actions have shaped this history. This historical context is important to understand when looking at what is happening in Iraq today (see the in-depth section on the Iraq War).           
1914-1918 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 
       During World War I, the Arab nations fight against the Turkish forces (aligned with Germany), contributing substantially to the Allied victory. In return they are promised aid and independence.           
1919 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       The war has made everyone realise the strategic importance of oil, so even before the peace conference begins in Paris in 1919 some underhand oil trading takes place. France, for example, gives Britain the oil-rich area around Mosul in Iraq, in exchange for a share of the oil and "a free hand" in Syria. Unfortunately, Britain had already promised Syria to the Syrians. It becomes obvious to the Arabs that the guarantees of freedom and independence made during the war by Britain and France would now mean nothing.

This is confirmed at the peace conference when the oil companies press their governments to renounce all wartime promises to the Arabs - oil concessions and royalties would be easier to negotiate with a series of rival Arab states, lacking any sense of unity, than with a powerful independent Arab state in the Middle East.
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       At the Paris Peace Conference, Lawrence of Arabia warns England and the world that unless the Arab world are granted their promised freedom and independence, his great-grandchildren might one day have to fight a war in Iraq wearing gas masks.           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 5 
       A commission set up by President Wilson warns that independence for states such as Palestine, Syria and Iraq, should be granted as soon as possible. Further, the idea of making Palestine into a Jewish commonwealth should be dropped.           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       The report is ignored, and rather than grant the Arab nations their promised independence, the whole Arab rectangle lying between the Mediterranean and the Persian frontier, including Palestine, is placed under mandates to suit the foreign policies of Britain and France. The Arabs have simply exchanged one imperial ruler, Turkey, for another, the West.           
1920 Article ( cached )
       Britain, France, and the U.S. seize the rights to 95% of the oil in Iraq.           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Revolution begins almost immediately. The Iraqis try to kick out the British by raiding British establishments and killing British troops. The British army retaliates with collective punishment, burning to the ground every village from which any such attack was mounted. Lawrence of Arabia writes to The Times suggesting, with heavy irony, that burning villages was not very efficient. "By gas attacks, the whole population of offending districts could be wiped out neatly, and as a method of government, it would be no more immoral than the present system."

The grim truth was that something along these lines was being considered. Churchill, then Secretary of State for Air and War, suggested that the RAF should take on the job of subduing Iraq: '<i>It would ... entail the provision of some kind of asphyxiating bombs calculated to cause disablement of some kind but not death ... for use in preliminary operations against turbulent tribes.</i>' In the end the RAF stuck to conventional high-explosive bombs, a method we are still using today.
1921 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       England installs Feisal as king of Iraq, kidnapping his popular opponent Sayid Taleb - who had gained popular support by threatening a nationwide revolt if the Iraqis were not allowed to choose their own leader - and dispatching him to Ceylon (what is now Sri Lanka).           
1921-1958 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 
       Feisal wins the election to become kind by one of those suspiciously high majorities 96.8%, and he and his descendants hold power (interrupted by a few coups) for 30-odd years. Meanwhile, Britain installs Feisal's brother Abdullah as king of Jordan, and provides him with money and troops in return for his promise to suppress anti-Zionist activity.           
1958 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       The US and UK back a coup against King Faisal II (who had himself been installed by the British), following a pattern whereby British intelligence had murdered almost every Iraqi leader and king since the first world war, usually because they all called for the return of Kuwait. He is killed and replaced with Abdel Karim Qassim.           
1959 UPI article ( cached )
       CIA employs Saddam Hussein in a botched attempted assassination of Kassim. The CIA then helps Saddam escape through Tikrit into Syria, where the CIA pays for his apartment and puts him through a brief training course.           
1960 NY Times article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       CIA attempts to kill Kassim using a poisoned handkerchief, following orders from CIA chief Allen Dulles.           
1961 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Current president (Abdul Karim Kassim) nationalises part of the concession of the British-controlled Iraq Petroleum. He further annoys the US by restoring diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, lifting a ban on the Communist Party in Iraq, and calling for the return of Kuwait.           
Feb 1963 BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 
       CIA aids Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath party in a bloody military coup (in which around 5,000 are estimated killed) which overthrows president Kassim and puts the Ba'ath party into power.           
1963 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Following the coup, the Ba'ath party slaughters at least 800 communists using a list provided by the CIA.           
       The new Ba'athist regime has little popular support, and is replaced by rival army officers after only 9 months in power.           
1968 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 
       A second successful coup by the Ba'ath party, again with CIA cooperation. Following the coup, the party comes to be dominated by Saddam Hussein.           
1980 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 
       US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski allegedly meets with Saddam two months before the war, assuring Saddam that the US would not oppose intervention in Iran.           
Declassified documents ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 
       US Secretary of State Alexander Haig would confirm in these declassified documents the following year that 'President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran'.           
1980-1988 Washington Post article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Iraq fights a war with Iran. During this war, Saddam commits the atrocities which the Bush Administration now condemns him for - the use of chemical weapons against the Iranians. Despite these atrocities being well known to the US, the US sold many chemical/biological agents to Iraq during this time, including many strains of anthrax, and also provided cluster bombs and intelligence.           
MSNBC article ( cached )
       Throughout the war the US also provided strategic operational advice to the Iraqis, such as a secret message from Reagan to Saddam in 1986 telling him that Iraq should step up its air war and bombing of Iran, and intelligence assistance to Iraq during the war in the form of satellite photography to help the Iraqis understand how Iranian forces were deployed.           
1983 Guardian article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 
       Shortly after the secretary of state, George Shultz, is passed intelligence reports of "almost daily use of CW [chemical weapons]" by Iraq, Ronald Reagan signs a secret order instructing the administration to do "whatever was necessary and legal" to prevent Iraq losing the war. Donald Rumsfeld meets Saddam Hussein the following month in Baghdad and passes on the US willingness to help his regime and restore full diplomatic relations.           
1984 Declassified documents ( cached )
       US releases following statement 'The United States finds the present Iranian regime's intransigent refusal to deviate from its avowed objective of eliminating the legitimate government of neighboring Iraq to be inconsistent with the accepted norms of behavior among nations and the moral and religious basis which it claims.' Or were they referring to Bush's policy today?           
1985-1986 CNN article ( cached )
       Despite backing Iraq in the war, the US secretly sells weapons to Iran to fund the Nicaraguan contras in what later becomes the Iran-Contra scandal.           
1987 BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 
       US destroys three Iranian offshore oil platforms as part of the Iraq-Iran war. Iran is currently sueing the US for compensation through the International Court of Justice. Iran is further sueing the US for supplying Iraq with dangerous chemicals and deadly viruses during the war. US newspapers fail to pickup the story as the US prepares for war against Iraq over these very WMD the US supplied in the first place.           
Article ( cached )
       Right up to the time of Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, US Department of Defense training manuals sang the praises of Saddam Hussein, noting how he had vastly improved education, medical care, and the standard of living of his people. His regime was called one of the most enlightened, progressive governments in the region. This was in an official DoD document used in the education of high-ranking officers of all the military services.           
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Iran View comments     
1951 NY Times In-depth ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Iran's Parliament votes to nationalize the oil industry, and legislators backing the law elect its leading advocate, Dr. Mossadegh, as prime minister. Britain, not happy with the compensation offered for the oil nationalization, responds with threats and sanctions.           
1953 NY Times In-depth ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       A CIA covert operation succeeds in overthrowing Iran's democratic government and installing the Shah as dictator.           
1953-1979 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       The CIA, through SAVAK - the Iranian secret police - launchs a reign of terror on the civilian population. In 1976, Amnesty International said SAVAK had the worst human rights record on the planet, their CIA-textbook torture techniques were 'beyond belief.'           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       After the 1979 revolution, the Iranians find a CIA film made for SAVAK on how to torture women.           
1954 NY Times article ( cached )
       Iran announces an oil deal with British, French and American oil companies           
1979 Lonely Planet Guide ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Growing opposition to the dictatorship of the Shah causes him to flee, and he is replaced by the leader of the Shah's opponents, Ayatollah Khomeini, who returns from exile to be greeted by adoring millions. The Ayatollah's fiery brand of nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism leads to the efficient establishment of a clergy-dominated Islamic Republic, where the USA is styled as the 'Great Satan' and Israel fares not much better.           
2002 CNN Fact Sheet ( cached )
       In Bush's first State of the Union speech, he includes Iran in what he terms the 'Axis of Evil'. His answer to why they hate us is that they hate what we stand for - freedom and democracy. Right on Bush.           
2003 CNN Transcript ( cached ) See also: 1 
       In Bush's State of the Union speech this year he claims 'Iranians, like all people, have a right to choose their own government, and determine their own destiny, and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom.'. I just hope hes not lining up Iran to give it a second dose of help in this area.           
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Libya View comments     
       A look at how Libya, a member of Bush's extended 'axis of evil' was prodded into its current rogue status in part through terrorism and misinformation by Israel, and also the hyprocisy of the US stance in imposing sanctions in response to the Lockerbie bombing despite very shaky evidence, and after having performed a similar act against Libya only two years prior to the bombing.           
1969 BBC country profile ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Colonel Qaddafi leads a successful military coup against the pro-Western monarchy and takes power.           
BBC timeline ( cached )
       Qaddafi pursues a pan-Arab agenda by attempting to form mergers with several Arab countries, and introduces state socialism by nationalising most economic activity, including the oil industry.           
Feb 1973 Article ( cached )
       111 passengers and crewmembers are killed in the crash of a Libyan commercial airliner downed by Israeli guns as it descends, slightly off course during a dust storm, over Israeli-occupied Egyptian Sinai for a routine landing at Cairo International Airport.           
Feb 1986 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       According to an ex-Mossad agent, the Mossad (the Israeli secret service) Israel plants a communications device called 'the Trojan' in the top floor of an apartment house in Tripoli, Libya. The device can receive messages broadcast by Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence service, on one frequency and automatically relay them on a different frequency used by the Libyan government.           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       The Trojan broadcasts a series of fraudulent terrorist orders to various Libyan embassies. Spanish and French intelligence pick up the broadcasts and conclude they are fake. The United States, encouraged by its 'ally' Israel - which knows the broadcasts are Mossad disinformation - concludes that they are genuine.           
April 1986 BBC timeline ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Only a few weeks after the Trojan broadcasts began, the La Belle Discotheque in West Berlin is bombed, killing two American soldiers and a Turkish woman. Assuming (based on the Trojan broadcasts) that Libya had bombed La Belle, a club frequented by US soldiers, President Ronald Reagan sends planes from England and from US aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean to bomb the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi. More than 100 Libyans are killed, including Qaddafi's adopted young daughter.           
Guardian article ( cached )
       France and Germany later conclude that the bomb in La Belle had been the work of local Iranian militants.           
July 1988 Guardian article ( cached )
       The US frigate Vincennes shoots down an Iran Air airliner on a routine flight to Saudi Arabia, killing everyone on board. After hesitating to even apologize for the mistake, the US eventually pays compensation for the loss of life, albeit at the minimum rates required by international law, and gives the Vincennes' captian two decorations.           
Dec 21, 1988 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       38 minutes after takeoff, Pan Am Airways Flight 103 explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 269 passengers, most of them Americans, and 11 people on the ground.           
Dec 22, 1988 Guardian article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       The US intercepts a radio message from Tripoli (where the trojan was installed) to a Libyan government office in Berlin, saying in effect, 'mission accomplished', heightening US suspicians that Libya is responsible and drawing attention away from the initial suspect - Iran.           
1989 Guardian article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 
       Pan Am's insurers, anticipating lawsuits from victims' families, carry out their own investigation, concluding that the bomb was placed in Frankfurt (from where the plane took off, and not in Valletta as the official story goes), and was done by a Palestinian resistance movement targeting the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA).           
Interfor report ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       The actual report is available here. It is written by a former Mossad agent, and tells a much more interesting tale than the official story. It notes a number of warnings given prior to the bombing, i.e. 'About three weeks prior to the disaster, a Mossad agent ... tipped his HQ that a major terrorist attack would take place at Frankfurt airport against a US airline. Mossad HQ warned CIA HQ and BKA (German Federal Police Agency) HQ', 'two days before the disaster a BKA undercover agent reported to his superiors a plan to bomb a PanAm flight in the next few days. BKA passed the intelligence to the CIA', and 'An undercover Mossad agent tipped BKA within 24 hours before takeoff as to the plan to place a bomb on that very PanAm flight'.           
Memo ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       A warning posted at the US embassy in Moscow a week prior to the attack is also available online.           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 
       Also exposed in the report is a drug-smuggling operation which appears to have had something to do with the bombing. A number of US intelligence operatives were killed in the bombing. The report suggests they were planning to expose the drug-smuggling operation and thus were killed (i.e. Time reported that Charles McKee (an Army Major aboard the aircraft) had discovered that a rogue CIA team in Frankfurt, called COREA, was protecting the drug route). The report claims the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), CIA, and BKA were all involved in the smuggling.           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       A NBC News report confirms this idea, reporting that Pan Am flights out of Frankfurt had been used by the DEA to fly informants and heroin into Detroit as part of a sting operation, and that it was investigating whether the terrorists might have discovered what the DEA was doing and switched one of their (drug) bags with one containing the bomb. This is in fact exactly what the Interfor report claims did happen - 'a BKA surveillance agent watching that PanAm flight's loading noticed that the "drug" suitcase substituted was different in make, shape, material and colour from that used for all previous drug shipments'.           
Article ( cached )
       Other sources confirm the drug-smuggling aspect, including a senior source responsible for overseeing the Lockerbie investigation for the German government, and a farmer who found a suitcase full of cellophane packets containing white powder among the debris in his fields.           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       The London Times quotes an ex-DIA agent, Mr Coleman, as saying that the DEA, together with the narcotics squad of the Cypriot national police, the German BKA police and British customs, ran a 'drugs sting operation' through Cyprus and airports in Europe including Frankfurt. He was told that BKA had 'serious concerns' that a US drugs sting operation out of Cyprus had been used by terrorists to place the bomb on flight 103, by switching bags.           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Since the publication of the Interfor report, the US Government has gone to great lengths in failed attempts to discredit the writer. The DEA has also denied the existance of any drug-smuggling route involving the Pan Am flight.           
1992 BBC timeline ( cached ) See also: 1 
       The UN imposes sanctions on Libya in an effort to force it to hand over for trial in the UK or the US two of its citizens who are suspected of involvement in the Pan-Am bombing.           
Guardian article ( cached )
       Libya was prepared to hand the suspects over for trial in Malta (where the alleged crime took place), but not Scotland or the UK.           
1999 BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       The suspects are finally handed over for trial and the UN lifts some of the sanctions, however the US retains its own unilateral sanctions, pending compensation for the Lockerbie victims' relatives.           
Jan 31, 2001 BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       A Scottish tribunal at Camp Zeist, an old American military base near Amsterdam, the Netherlands, sentences Abdel Basset Ali Mohammad Megrahi, a Libyan, to life imprisonment for destroying Pan Am Flight 103.           
BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 
       Robert Black, the Scottish law professor who devised the format of the Netherlands-based trial, is 'absolutely astounded' at the guilty verdict, and believes the prosecution had 'a very, very weak circumstantial case'. He is reluctant to believe that Scottish judges would 'convict anyone, even a Libyan' on such evidence.           
BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       A United Nations observer at the trial notes that the decision appeared to be politically motivated, with pressure from the US and UK. He notes 'The present judgment is logically inconsistent ... You cannot come out with a verdict of guilty for one and innocent for the other when they were both being tried with the same evidence ... In my opinion, there seemed to be considerable political influence on the judges and the verdict.'           
August 2001 BBC article ( cached )
       Bush imposes a five-year extension to sanctions against Libya and Iran, accusing them of involvement in international terrorism, and demanding Libya accept responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and pay compensation to relatives.           
May 2002 BBC article ( cached )
       Libya, along with Cuba and Syria, is added to Bush's 'axis of evil'.           
May 2002 BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Libya, while still denying responsibility for the Pan-Am bombing, offers $2.7 billion in compensation to the victims' families if the UN and US sanctions against it are lifted. However, for the UN and US this is not enough - an admission is required.           
Sept 12, 2003 BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       The UN finally lifts sanctions against Libya after Libya accepts responsbility for the Lockerbie bombing and offers to pay compensation for the downing of a 1989 UTA flight above Niger which claimed 170 lives, something for which it has never accepted responsibility.           
Oct 20, 2003 BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Talks on the UTA case between Libya and France stall, with Libya wanting Paris to honour a deal to compensate for Libyan deaths as a result of French involvement in Chad, and France wanting Libya to pay the same amount of money it is giving relatives of the Lockerbie air bombing victims. Libya also continues to insist that six Libyans convicted by France in absentia for the attack were innocent.           
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Post-war Aftermath in Afghanistan and Kuwait View comments     
Feb 2001 CNN article ( cached )
       10 years following Bush's liberation of Kuwait in the name of democracy, a CNN Correspondant notes that Kuwait is still as undemocratic as it always was.           
CIA World Factbook ( cached ) See also: 1 
       The CIA World Factbook describes the government type as a 'nominal constitutional monarchy' under which only 10% of the population (no females) are allowed to vote.           
Feb 2003 BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Bush's new budget fails to request any money for humanitarian and reconstruction funds for Afghanistan, despite Bush's repeated claims the US will not walk away from the Afghan people. Congress steps in to find nearly $300m - this pales however in comparison to the $10 billion the World Bank and UN estimate is required for reconstruction alone.           
Mar 2003 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 5 6 
       The UN-funded anti-narcotics agency report says Afghanistan has again become the world's largest producer of opium with a significant upsurge in 2002 (3,400 tonnes up from 185 tonnes the previous year). Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan had significantly dropped until a US-led military coalition removed the hardline Islamic Taleban regime from power in its war on terrorism. The Taleban had imposed extremely harsh punishments on poppy growers - which accounted for the decline in opium.           
MSNBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 5 6 
       Afhganistan looks set to repeat its bumper crop again this year.           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Looking at things historically, Afghanistan opium production only gained international significance when, beginning in 1979, the CIA began financing the Mujahedden. Under CIA protection, the Mujaheddin made Afghanistan the world's largest supplier of heroin by 1981. The CIA's involvement in the drug trade ended with the civil war's end in '92, however the drugs continued, even after the Taliban overthrew the government in '96. It finally ended when the Taliban, under international pressure, banned the cultivation in 2000. This brought about a significant drop in the opium production, the only exception being the areas controlled by the Northern Alliance, whom the US then backed in overthrowing the Taliban.           
October 2003 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 5 
       Amnesty International reports (and Human Rights Watch confirms) that little has improved for the women of Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban - women are not protected by the criminal justice system, and forced marriages, rapes and domestic violence still occurring frequently.           
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