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by Jim Sillars
11 July 2014
Imperial America’s decline

Imperial America’s decline

When in 1956, the British Government connived with the French and Israelis to invade Egypt to take back control of the Suez Canal, and failed miserably, it was the beginning of a retreat from imperial power. Until then, in large areas of the world, what British policy wanted, it got. Only a few years before, the real ruler of Egypt, who sat in the British embassy, had marched British soldiers to the Egyptian king’s palace, ordered him to sack his government and replace it with one the British approved of. The king did as he was told.

At roughly the same time, an anti-British government took office through a coup in Iraq, making noises in favour of Nazi Germany. Its revolt was quickly quelled, and a British-friendly government reinstalled by units of the British Army.

It could be that as we see the consequences of the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the inability of Washington to get its way with the respective governments, we are witness to the start of the decline of US imperial power. America still has a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons, battle groups at sea able to launch devastating air strikes, and soldiers in bases all over the world. But it can no longer instruct and be obeyed. America no longer has hegemonic control in the Asia-Pacific region, where China now plays a significant role. In Latin and South America, where dictators used to hold power at America’s pleasure, democratic leaders are immune to destruction by the CIA.

It is no better in the Middle East, where US foreign policy failure is now laid bare. Despite its army, navy and airforce, it does not have the will to employ its power where, a decade ago, it did not hesitate to intervene. The US used to be able to change foreign leaders and governments, just like the British before them, who had become a burden. America’s say-so in Afghanistan is being ignored. If Mr Al Maliki does demit office as Iraqi Prime Minister it will not be Washington’s doing, but that of the Shia clerics in alliance with Iran.

Basically, US Middle East policy has been to protect Israel, and shield the conservative regimes in the Gulf states from the power and influence of Iran. When Saddam Hussein invaded revolutionary Iran, the Americans, without any declaration of support, helped him with battlefield intelligence drawn from their satellite systems, and other sources. They did not raise hell when he used chemical weapons against Iranian troops. Saddam was useful then. All that mattered was keeping Iran in a tight corner. In return for this protection, which was confirmed when Saddam, getting above his station, was ejected from Kuwait in the first Gulf War, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE and Oman followed the US line on every issue.

The removal of Saddam’s regime did not usher in a continuation of American supremacy. The Bush-Blair war left Iraq bitterly divided along religious and ethnic lines, and saw a Shia government emerge in Baghdad which had strong personal and religious links to Shia Iran. That regime, led by Al Maliki, is corrupt, vicious in its treatment of Sunnis (it has held thousands prisoner and driven the Sunni Vice President out of the country), and is a source of instability. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, being Sunni, were anything but happy as Iran’s influence started to spread outwards, not only to embrace Iraq, but to assist the Assad regime, a sect of Shia Islam, in Syria. With US approval, those two funded the jihadists in Syria, and money from both continues to go to them now they are attacking the Shia government in Iraq.

So, we have the situation where key allies of America in the Gulf, who shelter under its protection, are funding and assisting Isis to advance against a government that America wants to change, but does not want to fall. To this end, having no will itself to put troops on the ground, the US has to turn to a new relationship and hold talks with its old adversary, Iran. Like the poodle it is, the British Foreign Office is acting as ‘point man’ for the Americans by restoring diplomatic relations with Iran. This restoration is taking place despite Iran having refused to pay compensation, as it should under international law, for allowing the British embassy in Tehran to be wrecked at the time diplomatic ties were cut – a clear sign of British desperation born of weakness.

Who is gaining from all this US failure? The Ayatollahs in Iran. They can put troops in on the ground if this proves necessary to protect a Shia Iraqi government from a murderous Sunni Jihadist movement that, if it succeeds, will create a new Islamic caliphate by carving out territory from Syria and Iraq. But Shia Iran and Shia-dominated Iraq, is a nightmare for the Gulf rulers, especially Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. In Saudi’s eastern province, where the oil is, a substantial Shia minority has been suppressed for years, and looks for salvation towards Iran. In Bahrain, just across the causeway from Saudi’s eastern province, the majority Shia have been oppressed by a minority Sunni elite. The place is simmering with hatred. Bahrain also happens to be the base of the US 5th Fleet.

The US foreign policy imperative of preventing Iran emerging as the Gulf region superpower is collapsing. Saudi and the other Sunni Gulf rulers have cause to be worried. It isn’t that Iran is likely to invade them. It doesn’t need to. All it needs to do is stir up the Shia in Saudi and Bahrain, where there are legitimate grievances, while America, their former safeguard, plays footsie with Iran to stop Isis.

Now under severe attack from the new Jihadists, and their Sunni allies, the Iraqi Government knows that with America’s failure to act in a way that can stop Isis, they have only one source of real help, and that is Iran.

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