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The U.S. and British Assault on Iraq and the Continuation of the Intifadah

By: Nima Shirali
Apr/2003


Subsequent to the U.S and British assault on Iraq, Bush and Blair’s assertions that such an assault would be beneficial for Middle East’s political progress have been largely dismissed by Palestine’s population. An illustration of this fact can be seen by a significant number of protests inside Palestine, which express the population’s disapproval of the invasion. It is necessary for scholars committed to reconciliation between the Palestinians and Israelis to realize that such disapproval will have consequential effects on any future compromise. These effects emanate from distrust towards the U.S and Britain to facilitate any reconciliation process. The ground invasion of Iraq converges with the assailants’ comradeship with Israel to create and perpetuate this distrust amongst the Palestinians.


It is noteworthy to allude to the fact that Britain’s role in the incursion will give it great leverage to exert political control over Iraq. Though it may seem as if the U.S will set the political agenda for post-war Iraq, such a prediction does not take into account the importance of Britain’s involvement. Firstly, it would be helpful to refer to the makeup of Iraq’s population in terms of religious sects. This reference would disclose the fact that Iraq’s population is sixty, to sixty-five percent Shiite Muslim. Furthermore, the port-city of Basra is known to be the largest Shiite-populated urban centre in the country.


With careful scrutiny, one can discern the reasons as to why the British were adamant on the British takeover of Basra, leaving the ambushes and most violent engagements for the U.S military. The reasons are clear. Britain has a strategic interest in exercising control over the Shiite centre of Iraq, which is of primary importance over the Sunni-populated areas. With this control, the former colonizer of the country can re-establish its influence and authority over the strategically important elements, such as petroleum.


These facts have considerable effects on a future reconciliation process in Palestine. Firstly, as I alluded to, mistrust towards the U.S and Britain will prevail upon the thinking of Palestine’s population. Needless to say, such sentiments would originate from these countries’ invasion of Iraq, which the Palestinians have always viewed as a brother nation. Secondly, the re-establishment of British ascendancy over a former colony would be viewed as the resurgence of Britain’s colonial aspirations in the region.


The fact that Palestine was also a former British mandate implicates Iraq’s invasion to the Palestinian response and sentiment towards Britain and its ally. Though the probability of Britain joining Israel in the occupation of Palestine is low, Britain’s role in the invasion of Iraq is greatly significant to the mental hold of the Palestinians. This of course is in relation with the imperial stance, which Britain took when subjugating Palestine into a mandate in the former part of the 20th Century. Again, this is confounded by the American and British concomitance with Israel.


Palestinian reluctance to cooperate in a reconciliation process (due to the assault against Iraq), will only provide for the continuation of the second Intifadah, and take one more step away from social and political concord. With a considerable analysis of the developments, one can ask how the Palestinians can show confidence, without any suspicion, towards a future reconciliation process facilitated by the U.S, or any of its allies. This lack of confidence and hesitance to engage in a reconciliation process can be directly attributed to Bush and Blair’s hawkish Middle East policy. This policy has obviously dichotomized the Middle East into two categories: the allies, and the enemies of ‘peace-loving-, freedom-aspiring’ nations, such as the U.S. This dichotomization has alienated the need to reconcile in Palestine. Instead, it has deteriorated and intensified the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and has put forth the possibility of eradicating any prospects for reconciliation.


As a direct consequence of the attack on Iraq, Islamic fundamentalists, which resort to terrorism, will gain a more fertile ground to operate with moral impunity. This will be the aftereffect of having had their ‘cause’ strengthened on a moral basis. The U.S and British onslaught in Iraq, and the Muslim antagonism associated with it will allow these groups access to more extensive recruitment. Furthermore, such groups will be able to justify their actions morally, as their ‘brothers’ in Iraq have died due to ‘U.S, British , and Zionist imperialism’. Juxtaposed to this, the world will witness trends, which validate that terrorism against Israel has increased, and chances for reconciliation lost.


To conclude, one can accurately claim that the war against Iraq will have consequential effects on reconciliation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. A close examination of the current crisis involving the military attack on Iraq reveals that such effects would not be contributive to reconciliation, but would instead be counter-productive. This stems from the distrust, which the Palestinian population will have towards the U.S or Britain in promoting a reconciliation process in the future. With reference to history, and the colonial attitude of foreigners in the region, one can discern why such sentiments will be prevalent in Palestine.





------
Nima Shirali is Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Middle East Reconciliation Journal (MERJ), www.merecforum.org


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Comments

The following comments are for "The U.S. and British Assault on Iraq and the Continuation of the Intifadah"
by nimashirali

Reconciliation
Firstly I must say that this is the most in depth essay I have read so far on the subject, even though it confirmed my line of thought I must be missing alot.

Talking as a British citizen I have never been in favour of the war against terror as a whole, not just Iraq.

I am perfectly aware of the situation in Palestine when the Brtish left the region to it's own devices leaving strife and trouble between the insurgence of Jewish refugees from across Europe into Palestine. At the time a leading US government member did not want to recognise Israel as he said it would lead to 50 years of discord in the region. His words now seem like prophecy.

On the same note, the U.S. left a power vacuum in Afghanistan and for fifty years nobody complained about the Taliban and their regime, only after it affected the 'door step' of the US.

Again, we need to take these responsibilities have to be taken on board and therefore mistrust in Palestine is perfectly reasonable and should not be lost under a quadmire of British and US diatribe.

One thing I would like to ask you though, I can see a very large conflict arising within Islam itselfm between, Muslim states and within the very religion itself.

Do you believe that this will play a large role in the future for peace? Do you think it is something that is being largely ignored by both my (British) government and the US.

Alex

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: July 3, 2004 )

Response to previous comment
Dear Alex,
Firstly I applaud you for viewing the invasion of Iraq from a reasonable perspective. To answer your question, yes, I do believe that more conflict in the Middle East will ensue. One of the oldest methods of creating and maintaining an empire has been the "divide and rule" concept. For example, the British employed this concept to exercise imperial authority over India for centuries.

So the idea is to divide the Middle East and subsequently gain absolute leverage over the region. In fact, I believe this is the reason why British imperial authorities such as Rothschild were so in favour of creating the State of Israel out of the mandate of Palestine [which was under British control]. As history has shown, the policy worked. The creation of Israel has preceded three major wars [the "war of independence", the six day war, and the Yom Kippur war], and has allowed for perpetual conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Another example is the British support of the creation of a Muslim homeland after India gained independence in 1947. This idea culminated in the creation of Pakistan and the triggering of three major wars between India and Pakistan over the disputed Kahmir region. This conflict still continues today and may end in nuclear warfare.

So the idea is to keep strategically-important regions divided so that control over the resources of that region could eventually be ascertained. For this reason, imperial powers such as the US do not wnat peace in places like the Middle East. The reason is that peace among the countries there brings unity, and unity there means jeopardizing vital US interests such as control over oil resources.

The invasion of Iraq is simply a war for profit. It has absolutely nothing to do with freedom, liberty, love for the Iraqi people, etc. The US will increasingly face more and more Iraqi resistance and discontent towards US policies will grow towards developing intense hatred for America's imperial ambitions.

( Posted by: nimashirali [Member] On: July 4, 2004 )

British Abusing Iraq AGAIN
Haven't the British bombed, gassed and invaded Iraq ENOUGH?

Since forcing the different member parties in Iraq into one political entity early in the 20th century, the British have repeatedly used military force to abuse and harass Iraq into doing its will.

Hussein wasn't the first to gas Kurds.

It was the BRITISH AIR FORCE!

To force the Kurds to accept being part of Iraq, the British gassed thousands of Kurds to death from the air, around the time of WW I.

This is just a continuation of the same pattern of harassment by the British, which is why Blair went in on this with Bush: to reacquire British influence over Iraq and its resources, now to be shared with the Bush family.

Go see Fahrenheit 9/11, by the way. It's a real eye-opener!

( Posted by: The Alienist [Member] On: July 4, 2004 )

The recolonization of Iraq
It's true. We are now seeing a violent and ruthless revival of British imperialism in Iraq. This is what Tariq Ali has referred to as the "recolonization of Iraq." British policy is exploiting American might and ignorance to (re)achieve dominance over Iraq. The invasion of Iraq is really in the interest and favour of Britain and Israel, which have manipulated US hawkish policies to their own advantage.

( Posted by: nimashirali [Member] On: July 4, 2004 )

oh dear
Oh dear, again as a British citizen I speak.

That comment about WW1, a little bit late in the day but hey ho, if you want to bring it up at least please use it in a correct context. It is hardly connected at all.

Also I find the political and cultural comments a little bit on the amusing side considering the amount of humility we had to show after WWII, but then of course when you lose most of your major cities to Blitzkrieg nobody mentions it. I thought I would add a comment that again is out of context and completely irrelevant to the current political subtext.

There is only one imperial power left and that is not Britain, as a political entity our government has had to toe the US line because of immense pressure.

To be imperialist it has to be by consensus of the people and the culture as in the Victorian era.

I think you may find it hard to believe that the majorioty of the British population do not agree with what is going on, hence millions (not thousands) of people turned out to protest in the middle of London before it all started.

Thank you for responding to my comment before, but I cannot stand ignorant comments from either side, it is NOT constructive!!!

Alex

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: July 5, 2004 )

last comment
I am sorry that came across as very rude. Alot has happened since WW1 and the current day and the vast majority of those changes have been cultural.

If you went up to anyobdy here in the streets and tried to say we are an Imperial nation you would most likely get a very stern look or start a fit of laughter, especially from the WWII generation.

I have found that with any current issue you cannot pick random events out of history and use it to justify current events, a degree in sociology and politics has taught me that!

The issues are far too complex.

In the part of London where I live there is a muslim population approaching 40,000. Many are Iranian and Iraqi people who have come here to escape what went on before. And since this all started there has not been one single hint of trouble between the two communities. I'm sorry but I see that as a good and heartening sign.

Despite history, today there are actions taken by alot of people (I will not say 'both sides' as this is misleading) which are unforgiveable. As usual the few have entangled the many in a web of propoganda, whether it be Western or not, leading to even more misunderstanding.

On all levels the Arab, Israeli and particularly British world has taken very large steps over the past 60 years. Call me an optimist, but I simply refuse to believe that all hope is lost forever.

I do get very sick and tired of the cliched view the Muslim world has of us here, just as they get sick of ours.

I think that is a principle that needs to be learned by everyone, that we all need to a little more thinking and learning in this ever shrinking world.

Alex

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: July 5, 2004 )

on views about imperialism in Britain
Dear Alex, I'd just like to comment on this quote: "If you went up to anyobdy here in the streets and tried to say we are an Imperial nation you would most likely get a very stern look or start a fit of laughter, especially from the WWII generation."

The reality is, if you ask the civilian population of any imperial nation about whether or not their nation is imperialist, the response will be the same. The people would probably laugh and deny that their country has any imperial ambitions. Instead, they're led to believe that their country is truly pursuing noble ideals, which are worth invading other places for.

If you come here to North America and ask a group of Americans whether or not the US is pursuing imperial ambitions, they would most likely say, "No, our country is bringing democracy to the world and this is an ideal worth fighting for." When I was in the state of Indiana, I asked about 20 Americans what they thought about the war in Iraq and they all simply recited what they'd heard and seen on CNN.

Propaganda reinforcing the dominant beliefs lead the civilian population to believe that their country is not imperialist, but is instead fighting for things like "freedom, liberty, finding weapons of mass destruction", etc.

In fact, when I was travelling to the south of the US to the state of Louisiana, I saw people wearing ribbons which read, "If Saddam comes, we'll fight him to the death." As much as I despise Saddam Hussein,those wearing these ribbons had no clue that Saddam had neither the intention nor the capability of invading the US. For them, the US invasion of Iraq was not a chapter in the history of imperialism, but was a chapter in the history of "defending America". So for them even the idea of US imperialism was laughable. This, however, is clearly in contrast with reality.

( Posted by: nimashirali [Member] On: July 5, 2004 )

Imperialist Nation
I'm sorry but I will argue about this till I'm blue in the face, Britain is not an Imperialist nation, we very much see that as part of history and we very much agree that it should never be repeated.

After the second world war Britains Empire was stripped away, and humility had to be learned, something I don't think the US quite understands about us.

You have to understand that culturally we are very different to the US. We may speak the same language but you might aswell go to Japan if you are coming from the US to the UK. All I am hearing so far is the twee little stereotypes that Americans have of us, very far from the truth. Now that is a paradox of history!!!!!!

I do wish that people would perhaps fill in a few gaps in their knowledge before using terms that perhaps have changed definition over a period of time or have become antiquated as they no longer apply!

I certainly wouldn't start commenting on the treatment of women in Muslim States as I don't fully understand the culture or history, something that I feel is being pointed to the UK in this discussion!! Yet I feel I could say quite a bit!!

Perhaps the same level of 'humility'' should be used before others starting shaking fingers.

With respect

Alex

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: July 6, 2004 )

A simple question
Dear Alex,

I agree with many of the things you're saying. For instance, I agree with the fact that there are many misconceptions about the UK, and many of these misconceptions can be seen here in North America. The same idea applies to misconceptions about the U.S. However, these misconceptions relate more to the culture and history of a country and not to its foreign policy. I certainly don't believe there should be any misconceptions about why Mr. Blair decided to invade defenseless Iraq. Similarly, there is no reason for us not to see why Mr. Bush is so keen on going to war.

Alex, imperialism comes in many forms. Today's imperialism will not look like the imperiaism of yesterday. With due respect, I believe you may be trying to discern imperialist tendencies with your notion of yesterday's imperialism. Today there are no magistrates, no high priests representing the grace of the monarch, and no permanent military presence. Today's imperialism is about having economic leverage, and I believe this is what Britain, or at least Mr. Blair's government, is after. It's very important for me to clarify that the British people are amongst the most educated, warm, and understanding people. My many experiences with British people have taught me that the actions of a government almost never reflect the will and conscience of its people. So my comments are all aimed at Britain's government, the party that inappropriately calls itself the "Labour Party".

I have a very simple question Alex. What do you think is the purpose of British participation in the invasion of Iraq?

You can also email me at shirali@merecforum.org

( Posted by: nimashirali [Member] On: July 6, 2004 )

British Participation
That is a very important question, and yes I do hear the word Imperial and instantly think of India!!! I have some knowledge of it because my father was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in Delhi, Bombay and Karachi in Pakistan, so his memories have always been fond ones and he is deeply upset with the current situation as his own memories as a British child in the region were fond ones, so there's one person who hasn't been taken in, so to speak.

The signals I recieve from Downing Street are ones of a very reactive administration rather than pro-active with very limited short term vision. I believe that this makes for a rather weak government.

Economical Imperialism started with the East India Company, started to influence special trading arrangements and concessions with a fractured India, however the government gained increasing control.

But back to point, I believe that Britain has not directly invaded Iraq for economic strategy and resource control as perhaps you are suggesting. It seems that thanks to a weak minded government they have joined the side whole heartedly with a nation that has considerable economic clout and who is more likey to be the victor, I am sure a share of the wealth would be coming the UK's way but the involvement on that side has been far less direct than with the US. This of course does not say it is not a present consideration, but I do believe that it is a secndary thought compared to what obstructing the US in it's course of action would have meant for the UK. Perhaps a tightening of trading laws between us and them were threatened? A constant source of antagonism between our two nations.

I also think we are there because if America had done it alone the reaction by the Muslim world would have been more extreme than it already is. Again our international reputation before this started was somewhat cleaner with the Arab world due in part to the relationship between the Royal families and governments in terms of business. The Prince of Wales has many friends in the Arab world.

Yet again we have been used as a substantial buffer to curb international opinion and help raise support for the war on terror, I did note that Tony Blair was the one flying all over the place while Bush stayed at home!! Nice little lap dog.

I do not think the US would have been able to start this without direct British involvement. Thanks to a weak Prime Minister and a bull headed President we have ended up doing more harm to our reputation abroad than anything else.

Britain no longer has to excercise economical imperialism to stay afloat in the modern world, all it has to do is become another star on the stars and stripes. Sardonic I know but that is the public opinion here in the UK.

Alex

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: July 6, 2004 )

I agree
I agree with many of the things you're saying. We don't know for sure whether or not Britain was threatened with trade sanctions but the implication is that if Britain were threatened, than France and Germany must also have been threatened, and they still made up the biggest opposition to the war.

I have met many individuals from Britain who not only oppose the direction of their government, but have taught me a lot about how things work.

But back to my question, I don't believe Britain participated in order to just support the US, or to fight a war on terror. I believe Britain has both strategic geopolitical and economic reasons for invading Iraq. I am well aware of the prevalent opinions in the UK about the war and everything I say is with reference to Blair's government. I have spoken to many residents of the UK who have told me that Blair's decision was not only unjust but it also jeopardized the safety of Britain's population by helping to breed hatred. Many people understandably feared that what happened in Spain would also happen in the UK. Well, fortunately, the British civilian population have not been targeted [or maybe they have been targeted but no plan has materialized yet] after Blair's unpopular decision to help the US.

My view is that all powerful countries such as the UK, France and Germany, ought to pursue independent paths and make their own decisions which reflect popular will. Furthermore, I believe a country's decision to participate in this unjust war has strategic implications.

With due respect,
Nima

( Posted by: nimashirali [Member] On: July 6, 2004 )





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