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Why do some Arab states collaborate with the US against each other?

Are there benefits from anti-war demonstrations?

An interactive editorial*

By Hassan El-Najjar and Husna Naim**




Husna Naim:

I am from UK and very concerned about the explosive situation regarding Iraq. I participate in anti war demonstrations whenever I can although I don't think these demonstrations will have much effect on the leaders of the superpower states. I think their strategy is that anti war protestors will organise big demonstrations, make a lot of noise etc. and then eventually get tired of these ineffective demonstrations and shut up. I believe what can be effective is the unity from all the Arab states and getting their act together, gather some courage, and order American troops out of their territories and waters.

It is very obvious from years of American military presence in the Middle East that it has made the whole region very unstable. So finally my questions to you ARE - as I am very curious, that why are these Arab countries have allowed their territories to be used by the American military for so many years? What is the American military doing there, role wise? why can't the Arab countries order the USA troops out of the Gulf? Why does half the planet receive aid from the USA?


Hassan El-Najjar:

Anti-war demonstrations are noble and effective. However, you are right in that the US and the UK leaders may not be influenced by them at this stage. The first benefit of anti-war demonstrations is bringing peace-loving activists together, not only nationally but also worldwide. The second major benefit is education for the vast majority of people around the world, who go to their work everyday without the chance of thinking about what's going on in the world. A third benefit is enabling honest journalists to write and report about these activities. Fourth, demonstrations gather momentum on their own, and when they become frequent and large enough, politicians pay attention, at least for election purposes. But the most important benefit of all is that peace activists affirm to themselves first and to the world around them that there are still humans out there, it's not completely a jungle. Finally, demonstrations do not prevent other activities, like lobbying, supporting peace-oriented political parties, collecting and sending aid to the war victims, or even going there as human shields. You shouldn't have second thoughts about the importance of demonstrations. It's an act of peaceful resistance to the tyrants and war mongers. The alternative, that is doing nothing, is terrible. It means that whatever the war hawks want they do without being checked on by the population. I think that continuous demonstrations in Europe have helped French, German, and Belgian leaders to say "No" to war. And I hope that continuous demonstrations in Britain will help convince Blair follow other European leaders before it is too late.

With regard to your questions about the relationship between the United States and the Arab Gulf states, I answered them in the first five chapters of my book, The Gulf War: Overreaction & Excessiveness. Therefore, my job here is to give a very brief summary of these chapters, adding more recent information, whenever necessary.

The development of European capitalism passed through three main stages: mercantilism (trade), colonialism (establishing colonies in the new world), and imperialism (invading other continents with armies).

Until World War I, the Arab homeland (North Africa and the Arab Middle East) was part of the Ottoman Empire. The European powers (Britain, France, Italy, and Spain) started slicing parts of it even during the 19th century, as part of their imperialist global expansion. Their objective was controlling resources, raw materials, markets, and cheap labor.

Britain established itself in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf area well before World War I. By that time, oil was known in America, then it was discovered in Kuwait and the Gulf area at the beginning of the 20th century. British and American oil companies obtained generous oil concessions from the rulers in the area. Ever since, the relationship between royal families and oil companies has become of mutual benefit. British and American oil companies got cheap oil in exchange for the British and American recognition and protection of these royal families.

But how did these families become royal anyway? They allied themselves with Britain against the Ottoman Empire in World War I. The British helped them defeat their pro-Ottoman rivals and thus becoming rulers over a small population. If you take the three states that provide military bases to the US and the UK, Kuawait, Bahrain, and Qatar, the citizens are so small in number that these states rarely disclose the number of citizens vis-a-vis immigrants. Immigrants in all Gulf states do not get permanent residence status or citizenship. The objective is limiting spending to a small number of people and for the royal families to maintain a firm grip on the huge oil reserves.

In brief, these royal families and the surrounding wealthy minority of citizens have a vested interest in allying themselves with the outside powers, the UK and the US in this case. So, if these outside powers become involved in conflict with any other Arab state, they would automatically side with their foreign imperialist protectors. This was the case with Nasser's Egypt during the 1950s and the 1960s, as well as the case with Saddam's Iraq now.

The vast majority of Arabs have never relinquished the dream of unifying the Arab homeland in one nation, like Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, or the US. However, these unionists have been severely embattled by sovereigntists whose vested interest is served by keeping Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait (for example) as sovereign states. There were so many attempts for unification in the second half of the 20th century. But these were resisted by sovereigntists in every case.

Consequently, these ruling families will not ask the US troops to leave. Actually, they beg the US to stay. In the case of Qatar, the ruler encouraged the US to transfer its main base from Saudi Arabia to Qatar by spending more than a billion dollars on Al-Udaid air base. When the US moved its command there, the royal family of Qatar should have celebrated because they perceive this as a guarantee of stability for their rule against their enemies, external or domestic.

However, the vast majority of Arabs are against the war on Iraq. They are angry against their inefficient and "client" rulers. People are so shocked of what is happening that they are doing nothing. But this may not last long before they turn against these rulers, particularly when they see the consequences of the war.

Now, with regard to what the US military presence doing there, I have answered this question several times before. The US inherited the European imperialist legacy after World War II. During the Cold War (1946-1990), the US and the Soviet Union competed for military presence around the world. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has become the only empire in the world. 

The power elite alliance which rules the US includes three main interests, the military industrial complex, oil interests, and Israeli interests. All the three have a vested interest in invading the Middle East now. This invasion of Iraq will complete the US military occupation of the entire Arabian Gulf area, which includes about 70 percent of the proven world oil reserves, thus, achieving the interests of the oil industry. The war and its consequences, particularly maintaining a permanent military presence in the Gulf area achieve the interests of the military industry and its beneficiaries. Last but not least, supporters of Israel in the US government have been arguing and pushing for such invasion and conflict with Arabs and Muslims for decades. This will guarantee that the Arab-Israeli conflict will be over in favor of Israel, as the US, the only superpower in the world, will fight Israel's war against Arabs and Muslims. The invasion of Iraq will be good news and relief in Israel, which has failed to subjugate the Palestinian people despite the huge arsenal it has been provided, for free, from the US. The world attention will be distracted from the Israeli atrocities in the occupied Palestinian territories to the horrors of war in Iraq. Even if the war doesn't happen, Zionist Israelis have already benefited from the shift of focus away from their war crimes.

We live in very dangerous times, where lives of millions of people are irrelevant, as long as the privileged few live their own luxurious lifestyle and control resources and people. The victims are the masses of people who will be dragged to the conflict to kill each other in war, then to be deprived of the social services that will be lost as a result of the war.


* In interactive editorials, the editor of Al-Jazeerah answers questions and or responds to comments of readers, which are more general than readers' responses to specific articles or issues. It is an effective method of interaction in electronic journalism, particularly because it addresses readers' concerns.

** Dr. Hassan A. El-Najjar is the editor of Al-Jazeerah. Husna Naim is a Chemist from London, UK.



















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