Oil lobby determined to have its war' in Iraq

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Sun Jan 19 05:01:34 MST 2003

Oil lobby determined to have its war' in Iraq

HYDERABAD, India - With Canada, most of Europe and the entire Arab world
wary of an American war on Iraq, let's turn to Asia for another perspective.
To the world's largest democracy, India. To its highly respected former
prime minister, Inder K. Gujral, easily the most thoughtful and moderate
Indian leader since Jawaharlal Nehru.

Five years after stepping down from office, he remains a popular speaker,
from here to America, where his son lives. Gujral was in New York for the
fall session of the United Nations as a member of the Indian delegation in
the days leading up to the Nov. 8 resolution on Iraq, reconstituting the
U.N. weapons inspection system.

"It would be a great tragedy for the world if there was to be a war on
Iraq," he said in an interview. "It would be particularly calamitous for our
region. But the oil lobby in America is determined to have the war.

"The main American aim seems to be to gain control of the world's
second-largest oil reserves and to dictate the flow of oil to the world
market. This has, in fact, long been the objective of American diplomacy in
oil-rich West Asia."

Gujral recalled a 1990 meeting he had as India's foreign minister with
then-U.S. secretary of state James Baker. "He minced no words when he told
me: `Mr. Minister, oil is our civilization and we will never permit any
demon to sit over it.' That still seems to be the main objective of the
American policy," the job having been left unfinished in the 1991 Gulf War.

Gujral's views are widely shared here, even by the right-wing Hindu
nationalist government, whose domestic hard-line religious views are
anathema to him as a secular Hindu.

The government of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, despite hitching
itself to George W. Bush's war on terrorism, remains unpersuaded by the
president's call to arms on Iraq. It subscribes to the view that a war on
Iraq would dilute the war on terrorism.

Gujral agrees, but his critique goes well beyond that.

"Afghanistan is still unsettled. Al Qaeda is trying to recuperate elsewhere.
That task should not be left unfinished. We cannot have attention and
resolve diverted elsewhere. There is no credible evidence linking the Iraqi
government in any way with the global terrorist's network.

"The issue is not Saddam Hussein. He has done horrible things, but
individuals are dispensable. The issue is Iraqi people, long suffering under
economic sanctions. The issue is the American desire to control oil."

The issue is also American unilateralism. America is, of course, "the
pre-eminent power of this age. Its technology and economy dominate the world
and its might is irresistible. There is also a strange helplessness on the
part of other powers in the face of American domination. But the world,
especially our region, is full of apprehension that this hyper-power would
act unilaterally to impose its own form of global order and enforce its
values in shaping the world to its own taste.

"It is highly unacceptable at the beginning of the 21st century to have
powerful outsiders decide which particular government is good and which one
is bad. It would be a strange thing to have some powerful powers, sitting
thousands of miles away, dictating what should happen in which country."

Gujral believes the Bush administration's declared desire to dominate the
world may not be good for America itself.

"The world today is too complex, too volatile and too independent to be
governed from a single centre. Interventions in the name of peace and
security will always require global solutions and global coalitions. Such
co-operation would be impossible when a country chooses to operate beyond
the pale of international law and sanctity.

"The only viable option, therefore, is a multi-polar world order. I believe
that the principal centre of this order will be America, of course, and a
newly assertive European Union, and resurgent Russia and Asia, particularly
the rising economic powers of China and India. Consultation and co-operation
among these powers will be central to maintaining the stability of this

Bush is working through the United Nations on Iraq, isn't he?

Yes, says Gujral, but only to subvert it. "There's the ongoing
Anglo-American campaign to build up a war psychosis without adducing any
convincing material evidence against Iraq. As to weapons of mass
destruction, this is best proven or disproven on the ground, now that
international inspection teams are in Iraq and by all accounts are carrying
out their tasks unhindered.

"Yet America is trying to defeat the purpose of the U.N. inspection regime.
I hope the inspectors will be allowed to complete their job and table their
report. And I hope it is the United Nations which decides the merit of the
report. Let the inspectors tell the world whether Saddam Hussein has or does
not have weapons of mass destruction."

Recalling the 1953 American-organized regime change in Iran after Prime
Minister Mohammed Mossadegh nationalized the Iranian oil industry, Gujral
noted that the event unleashed "ultra-nationalistic-cum-religious" forces,
which culminated in the 1979 revolution. "I fear the emergence of similar
intifada in the post-Saddam era."
Haroon Siddiqui is The Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column
appears Sundays and Thursdays. Email: hsiddiq at thestar.ca

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