“By opting for unprovoked aggression against Israel’s enemies, the US is embarking on a project beyond imperialism, and moving toward world war and Armageddon.”1
– Ronald Bleier, Demographic, Environmental
and Security Issues Project
“The Americans promised freedom and prosperity; what’s this? Go up to one of their headquarters, at one of those checkpoints were they point their guns at you, and tell them that you hate them as much as Saddam, and see what they do to you. The only difference is that Saddam would kill you in private, where the Americans will kill you in public.”2
– Mohammad Saleh, an
Iraqi Building Contractor
US troops in Baghdad
In many ways, 2003 could be considered one of the most catastrophic years in the history of the Muslim world. The US occupation of Iraq that began that year and that followed a decade-long process involving the destruction and deconstruction of Iraq – a major Arab state with immense strategic weight – represented the ultimate culmination of Arab humiliation. Moreover, Israeli brutality in the Occupied Territories reached its peak in 2003, as Israeli tanks, bulldozers, and soldiers routinely terrorized Palestinians, and cities and towns in Gaza and the West Bank were transformed into adjacent mega-prisons.
Both Syria and Iran became targets for US regime change, manifesting in congressional and presidential approval for the Syria Accountability Act, which threatened punitive measures against Syria should it continue to support resistance groups in Palestine and Lebanon, develop weapons of mass destruction, or permit Arab fighters to cross its border into Iraq. In addition, both Iran and Libya agreed to allow international inspection of their suspected nuclear weapons’ sites while Israel was allowed to maintain its nuclear arsenal. In fact, any Arab attempt to include Israel in nonproliferation arrangements was rejected by the US. The message was clear: Israel is above the law, and only Muslim states should be inspected and demilitarized.
More seriously, for the first time in the history of the Muslim World, US leaders and decision-makers not only openly discussed redrawing the map of the region, but also the deconstruction and recreation of the Muslim psyche. Catchwords such as the “modernization of Islam” and the “war of ideas” have become routine in the political lexicon of American decision-makers.3 This was concomitant with US pressure on Muslim states to change school curricula to stamp out any reference to certain Islamic concepts, such as martyrdom and jihad, which are essential to Islamic doctrine.
All of this was met by a surprising degree of complacency on the part of Arab and Muslim regimes, and a willingness to go along with all US demands as long as their position in power was guaranteed. Even the religious establishment in the Muslim world, once a bastion of resistance to foreign invasion, has become a state-owned enterprise, tailored to propagate a culture of defeatism, passivism, and apathy to Arab and Muslim citizens.
As we enter 2004, the Muslim world is under siege, not only through the presence of US troops on Muslim soil, Israeli carnage in the Occupied Territories, and the practices of pro-US dictatorships, but through the systematic destruction of the social, political and historical fabric of Arab and Muslim societies.
US leaders openly discussed the deconstruction and recreation of the Muslim psyche.
What is striking to note is that after the capture of Saddam Hussein, many Western commentators and Arab apologetics seemed to have lost sight of the real aims and objectives behind the US campaign in Iraq . Many have hailed Saddam’s capture as the beginning of a new era of freedom for Iraq, and the embodiment of America’s unshakable commitment to the liberation of the Arab people. It is important to remember that the US war on Iraq is part and parcel of Israel’s grand design for the region. The neoconservatives in the US and their Israeli counterparts not only have a common agenda, but in recent months have also adopted common practices in the occupied Arab lands of Palestine and Iraq.
US-Israeli Strategic Links – Setting the Record Straight
The strategic links between the US and Israel and their role in the war on Iraq are not simply the product of bankrupt conspiracy theorists or passive apologetics wishing to put the blame on a fictitious “Western-Zionist crusade.” In fact, America’s commitment to Israel’s self-defined security needs is on par with Washington’s commitment to the security of its NATO allies, with the significant difference that Israel reserves the right to make its own decisions regarding war and peace.4 America’s guarantee for Israeli security is firm, open-ended and qualitatively different from its commitment to any other state. Prominent Israeli strategist Nadav Safran contends that: “The relationship between the United States and Israel has been… a most unusual one in the annals of international relations altogether… It has permeated the societies as well as the governments of the two countries as no other relationship of theirs has, with the possible exception of American-British relations.”5
All of this lends weight to the theory that Bush’s war is part of a larger plan to reshape the Middle East to serve Israel ’s interests. The neoconservative hawks began pressing the case for overthrowing Saddam in 1998, with a letter to the Clinton administration drafted by Richard Perle and signed by 40 prominent neoconservative figures. Many of the signatories became advisers to then-Governor George W. Bush. Some won top jobs in the new administration. Hawks include, at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, William Luti, and Harold Rhode; at the Office of the Vice President, Lewis “Scooter” Libby and John Hannah; at the State Department, David Wurmser; and at the National Security Council, former Gen. Wayne Downing.6
After September 11, it became clear that US decision-making circles had been hijacked by fanatic neoconservatives pushing for a war against the entire Muslim world in furtherance of Israeli interests. Kathleen and Bill Christison wrote in the leftist e-journal Counterpunch: “The suggestion that the war with Iraq is being planned at Israel’s behest, or at the instigation of policymakers whose main motivation is trying to create a secure environment for Israel, is strong.”7 In addition, the Israeli commentator Akiva Eldar recently observed frankly in a Ha’aretz column that Perle, Feith, and their fellow strategists “are walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments and Israeli interests.”8 Harvard Professor, Stanley Hoffman contends:
And, finally, there is a loose collection of friends of Israel, who believe in the identity of interests between the Jewish state and the United States… These analysts look on foreign policy through the lens of one dominant concern: Is it good or bad for Israel? Since that nation’s founding in 1948, these thinkers have never been in very good odor at the State Department, but now they are well ensconced in the Pentagon, around such strategists as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith.9
Israelis detain a Palestinian
Israel has always viewed Iraq, with its highly educated population and enormous natural wealth, as a potential rival in the Middle East. Moreover, a US war with Iraq would further alienate the Arabs from America and polarize relations between the West and the Muslim World – a positive development for Israel.
Israel has always hoped to tap into Iraq’s massive oil reserves. One has to note that even before the occupation of Iraq there were multiple US efforts to bring Iraqi oil to Israel. Under a 1975 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the US guaranteed all Israel’s oil needs in the event of a crisis. The MoU, which has been quietly renewed every five years, also committed the US to construct and stock a supplementary strategic reserve for Israel, worth some $3 billion in 2002. Special legislation was enacted to exempt Israel from restrictions on oil exports from the US. Moreover, the US agreed to divert oil from its home market, even if it entailed domestic shortages, and guaranteed delivery of the promised oil in its own tankers if commercial shippers were unwilling or not available to carry crude oil to Israel. Israeli Minister for National Infrastructures Joseph Paritzky, openly talked about the possibility of reopening the long-defunct oil pipeline from Mosul to the Mediterranean port of Haifa. With Israel lacking energy resources of its own and dependent on very expensive Russian oil, reopening the pipeline would significantly boost its ailing economy.10 In addition, the proposed pipeline would lessen US dependence on Gulf oil supplies and provide the US with access to the world’s second-largest oil reserves.
The Ugly Face of US Occupation – Learning from Israel
For residents of the Sunni Triangle in Iraq, who have spent years watching television images of the residents of the West Bank and Gaza living under siege, surrounded by checkpoints and suffering routine airstrikes and military sweeps, American practices in Iraq have touched a sensitive chord. In fact, US forces in Iraq have been receiving lessons in occupation and counterinsurgency tactics from the Israeli military. The Israelis have supplied the US army with aerial surveillance equipment, decoy drones and D-9 armored bulldozers. A senior official in the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently met with Israel’s Defense Ministry Director General Amos Yaron and toured several high-tech Israeli defense firms. Moreover, Israeli security sources say mass assaults by covert squads of soldiers and swoops by troops posing as Arabs are among the tactics US forces are studying for use in Iraq.11
The religious establishments of the Muslim world became state-owned enterprises, propagating defeatism and apathy.
Over the past six months, whole villages in Iraq have been surrounded by razor wire, their residents forced to pass through checkpoints manned by US soldiers. Moreover, US aircraft and artillery have blasted buildings suspected of being used by insurgents, and there have been instances of family members of suspected insurgents being taken hostage to pressure the insurgents into surrendering.12 United States’ military officials have also reviewed the common Israeli tactic of conducting house-to-house searches for armed fighters by knocking down interior walls with a portable battering ram.13 Other reports suggest that US Special Forces are already behind the lines inside Syria, attempting to kill foreign Islamists before they cross the border, with a group focused on the “neutralization” of guerilla leaders being set up.14
One of the key planners of the Special Forces offensive is Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, who has repeatedly equated the Muslim World with Satan. According to Boykin, “Satan wants to destroy this nation [USA]… and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army.” Boykin suggested that the Muslim world hates America because “we are a nation of believers.” Pentagon advisors described Donald Rumsfeld and William Boykin getting along “like two old warriors” after their meeting last summer.15 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld brushed aside widespread demands for Boykin’s dismissal when reports of the inflammatory remarks were published in October. It is now clear that Rumsfeld insisted the general remain at his post because of his key involvement in planning the escalation of repression in Iraq.16
United States’-Israeli cooperation is not a new phenomenon, and has long been tied into the strategic and military planning for the war on Iraq. In fact, before the war, Israeli security sources said American officers had visited a mock-up of an Arab town used for Israeli training, and that US and Israeli troops held joint exercises in the Negev Desert. United States’ officers also reportedly reviewed Israeli tactics used in the brutal assault on the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin over a year ago, in which 23 Israeli soldiers and presumably hundreds of Palestinians were killed. Earlier reports suggested that Israeli squads were present in Western Iraq before the war to neutralize any potential Iraqi missile threat to Israel. In addition, Israeli commandos and intelligence units were working closely with their American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.17
The impasse in which the Middle East finds itself is quite unique in the modern history of the region. Not only do the people of the Middle East have to grapple with the evils of occupation and dictatorship, but they must also struggle to maintain their own Islamic and Arab identities. More importantly, the US-Israeli strategic alliance in the post-September 11 world has exhibited very unique features in alliance patterns. Under normal circumstances it is common for great powers to fight wars by proxy, getting smaller powers to fight wars for their interests. However, the preponderance of pro-Israeli decision-makers in the current Bush administration has made the US, in fact, a proxy for its smaller ally, Israel. For decades, support for Israel has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy in the Middle East. In recent years, however, American foreign policy has become almost identical to that of Israel. Hence, as observers of international politics, we are witnessing the superimposition of Israel’s agenda on that of the US, and more seriously, the mimicking of Israel’s tried-and-tested occupation techniques by the US military in Iraq.
The preponderance of pro-Israeli decision-makers in the Bush administration has made the US a proxy for Israel .
Despite overwhelming odds, the people of Palestine and Iraq have demonstrated extreme resilience. It is enough to note that within the past few months four former heads of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, and the current chief of staff of the Israeli military have all warned that the iron-fisted repression employed in the Occupied Territories will lead to a social and military catastrophe.18 In fact, recent events indicate that assassinations, arrests, the mass destruction of homes, the use of roadblocks and daily curfews has only fueled hatred of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and led to mass support for acts of resistance. By deploying similar tactics in Iraq – a much larger country than Palestine, with porous borders and almost unlimited access to arms – US troops may find themselves leaving Iraq the same way they did Saigon – “hanging on the strings of helicopters.”19
Kareem M. Kamel is an Egyptian freelance writer based in Cairo, Egypt. He has an MA in International Relations and is specialized in security studies, decision- making, nuclear politics, Middle East politics and the politics of Islam. He is currently assistant to the Political Science Department at the American University in Cairo.
 The neoconservative godfather, Norman Podhoretz, openly talks about a scheme involving “the long overdue internal reform and modernization of Islam” and the need to impose a “a new political culture on the defeated parties.” Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, repeatedly talked of a “war of ideas.” For a detailed analysis, see Stephen J. Sniegoski, “War on Iraq – Conceived in Israel,” Current Concerns
 Mohammed Ayoob, “Unravelling the Concept: ‘National Security’ in the Third World ,” in Bahgat Korany, et al. The Many Faces of National Security in the Arab World (New York: St. Martin’s, 1993): 31-55
 Nadav Safran, Israel: The Embattled Ally (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1981): 332
 Kathleen Christison and Bill Christison, “A Rose by Another Other Name: The Bush Administration’s Dual Loyalties” Counterpunch December 13, 2002
 Tony Karon, “Learning the Art of Occupation from Israel,” Time.com December 9th, 2003
 Esther Schrader, et al, “US Seeks Advice from Israel on Iraq,” LA Times November 22nd, 2003
 Julian Borger, “ Israel Trains US Assassination Squads in Iraq,” The Guardian December 9th, 2003
 Seymour M. Hersh, “Moving Targets,” The New Yorker December 8th, 2003
 Seymour M. Hersh, “Moving Targets,” The New Yorker December 8th, 2003