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From The Socialist newspaper, 30 November 2001

GEORGE BUSH'S 'war on terrorism' is a cover to expand the power of US imperialism. Aided and abetted by Britain, the US heads a loose and fragile 'coalition' which includes the G7 countries and Russia, joined (with varying degrees of reluctance) by Arab and Persian Muslim states and other neo-colonial states. MANNY THAIN examines how the US has temporarily bought their allegiance.

Western War Coalition: Buying Friends And Influence

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, Vladimir Putin, took a historic step when, on 24 September, he allowed the US to use former Soviet military bases in Central Asia. In return, Bush has promised to reduce America's nuclear stockpile from over 6,000 warheads to between 1,700 and 2,000. The US administration is also pushing for Russia to be admitted to membership of the World Trade Organisation.

The secretary general of NATO (the Western military alliance), Lord Robertson, has proposed that Russia enjoy "a right of equality" with NATO's 19 members.

Putin has ensured a deafening silence on Russian army atrocities in Chechnya, where there have been tens of thousands of civilian casualties. This war against guerrilla fighters, some linked to Afghan groups, is Putin's own 'war on terrorism'.

But Putin's cosy relations with Bush could come unstuck if the US's war on terrorism is widened to other states.

Russia deals with some of the states on Bush's wanted list: Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya and Syria. These are important markets for its arms and nuclear industries. Iran recently signed an arms contract worth $1.5 billion (1.05bn) over five years and Russia is building a $800 million nuclear reactor in northern Iran.

Russia is Iraq's closest ally on the UN Security Council and has blocked US and British resolutions to tighten sanctions. Iraq owes Russia $8 billion in military debts and has promised it oil exploration projects once sanctions have been eased.

Russia has armed the Northern Alliance since 1996 and aims to cash in on its 'investment' by influencing post-Taliban Afghanistan.

Former Soviet republics

THE CENTRAL Asian republics of the former Soviet Union: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan and Tajikistan by providing facilities for US military forces are expecting to benefit from Bush's $20 billion war chest to fight 'terrorism'.

These are ruthless regimes based on rich first families, pervasive corruption and the abject poverty of their populations. In Uzbekistan, for example, doctors earn $15 a month and teachers $10. Farmers are often paid a year late and then with cooking oil or grain.

Uzbek president, Islam Karimov, wants Western help against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), formed in the early 1990s. Bush duly named IMU as a terrorist group.

The West is, however, reluctant to commit significant resources into the region. Indeed, security risks have led companies to withdraw staff and cancel visits. The stranglehold of most of the states on economic activity is also a turn-off to Western capitalists in search of quick profits and privatisation acquisitions.

Nonetheless, the Central Asian connection is increasingly important. Its oil and gas reserves are vast and the states are not tied to Opec agreements. US corporations would jump at the chance of extending pipelines across Afghanistan to exploit markets in South Asia and Southeast Asia - if conditions improve significantly.

Pakistan

PAKISTAN'S DIRE poverty, the proliferation of right-wing Muslim groups and its sizeable Pashtun population mean that the military regime of Pervaiz Musharraf is extremely unstable.

The Pakistan/Afghanistan frontier is 1,400 miles long. The North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan are ruled by autonomous Pashtun tribes who share many cultural links with the Taliban and have never accepted the authority of the Pakistani state.

The US gave Musharraf little choice but to back the war. But Pakistan's support for the Taliban - with the US in the past - has effectively put it into international isolation.

India and Pakistan have secured the ending of sanctions imposed in 1998 over the testing of nuclear weapons. Pakistan is hoping for relief on its $36 billion (24.5bn) external debt. This could turn out to be small recompense for the looming social and political upheavals.

Saudi Arabia

SAUDI ARABIAN oil is an integral part of US foreign policy. The country has 25% of the world's oil reserves and accounts for 25% of the oil imported to the US. Saudi petrodollars are recycled back to the West through arms sales and construction contracts. The country's rulers rely on US military might for support.

The ruling al-Saud family has balanced a reliance on US military might with its endorsement of Wahhabi Islam - the sect from which Osama bin Laden draws his inspiration. This delicate balancing act, however, is a source of immense instability. It could be about to topple over.

The al-Saud clan numbers more than 7,000 privileged tribesmen who exercise absolute power. Corruption and excess have squandered much of the oil wealth and recent economic problems have led to cuts in welfare provision while unemployment has risen.

Whereas income stood around $16,000 (11,000) a person in the early 1980s, it has fallen to $7,000 today. In the absence of a clear socialist alternative, the predominantly young population is increasingly attracted to right-wing Islamic groups such as Osama bin Laden's.

Destabilising

ALL THE Arab regimes have been destabilised by the conflict in Afghanistan. Impassioned support by workers and the poor for the plight of the Palestinians and against sanctions and bombing raids on Iraq threatens to undermine them. That is why these authoritarian rulers urge Bush to rein in Israel.

Just as in the West, Middle Eastern regimes have used the 11 September events to clamp down on opposition.

King Abdullah of Jordan suspended parliament and postponed elections. He has introduced laws which make it an offence to disseminate information considered "defamatory, false, damaging to national unity or the reputation of the state, liable to incite crime, strikes, or meetings which are illegal or disturb public order". (The Guardian, 8 November)

Socialist solution

The Western imperialist powers along with regional nuclear powers such as Russia and Pakistan are carving up Afghanistan and Central Asia to benefit their own strategic interests - a sickening spectacle from an obscene system. And that is the view from here in Britain where we can't see the misery and destruction face-to-face. It's viewed though the TV screens and newsprint. We can't smell the stench of rotting flesh or hear the children cry.

This capitalist system means human misery. It is based on mass exploitation. Society has to be based on socialism - where the resources can be planned democratically in the interests of the vast majority instead of serving the purposes of a rich minority and we can all enjoy life in peace and to the full.

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In The Socialist 30 November 2001:

War... Recession... We Won't Pay The Price!

Fighting For Jobs And Services

Afghanistan 'Endgame': Not The End Of The 'Game'

Western War Coalition: Buying Friends And Influence

World Aids Day: Warning: Drug Giants Can Seriously Damage Your Health

Anti-Privatisation Conference: 'We're Determined To Fight Back And Win'

Israel/Palestine: Imperialism's Bitter Fruit

Socialist Alliance Conference: The Issues At Stake


 

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