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Monday, April 21, 2003

I heard a report on the BBC early this morning about the U.S. seeking basing rights in Iraq. A bit of searching shows that the New York Times was on this Saturday. Anyway, the jist of the NYT article is that the U.S. may possibly have four permanent military bases in Iraq, depending on how close U.S. relations are to the government:

'"There will be some kind of a long-term defense relationship with a new Iraq, similar to Afghanistan," said one senior administration official. "The scope of that has yet to be defined — whether it will be full-up operational bases, smaller forward operating bases or just plain access."'

The article also discusses the extent of U.S. military power in the region generally:

'Regardless of how quickly the Americans reverse the buildup of the last several months, it is plain that since Sept. 11, 2001, there has been a concerted diplomatic and military effort to win permission for United States forces to operate from the formerly Communist nations of Eastern Europe, across the Mediterranean, throughout the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, and across Central Asia, from the periphery of Russia to Pakistan's ports on the Indian Ocean.'

'It is a swath of Western influence not seen for generations.'

'These bases and access agreements have established an expanded American presence, or deepened alliance ties, throughout one of the world's most strategic regions.'

As I discussed a couple of posts down, the U.S. is expanding its presence in Afghanistan and the quote above from a "senior administration official" points to Afghanistan as the model for the types of agreements the U.S. is seeking. These new agreements are also meant to reduce dependence on politically difficult deployments in Saudi Arabia and Jordan:

'These goals do not contradict the administration's official policy of rapid withdrawal from Iraq, officials say. The United States is acutely aware that the growing American presence in the Middle East and Southwest Asia invites charges of empire-building and may create new targets for terrorists.'

'So without fanfare, the Pentagon has also begun to shrink its military footprint in the region, trying to ease domestic strains in Turkey and Jordan.'

'In a particularly important development, officials said the United States was likely to reduce American forces in Saudi Arabia, as well. The main reason for that presence, after all, was to protect the Saudi government from the threat Iraq has posed since its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.'

'Already, in Turkey, where a newly elected government bowed to domestic pressure and denied the Pentagon access to bases and supply lines for the war with Iraq, the United States has withdrawn nearly all of its 50 attack and support airplanes at the Incirlik air base, from which they flew patrols over Iraq's north for more than a decade.'

The jockeying going on here is aimed at preserving U.S. military power in the Middle East and possibly expanding it. This would be necessary if current U.S. officials all thought along the lines of Richard Perle, that the U.N. Security Council is ineffective and therefore the U.S. needs to do its own enforcing, so we'll watch U.S./U.N. relations with interest. I should point out, however, that this increased military presence could also be used _in conjunction_ with the U.N., providing it with a greater ability to enforce the resolutions of the Security Council. The U.S. would then be in an excellent position to champion the cause of international law and collective security enforcement when the next administration rolls around (or if the current administration can be convinced that these two causes are worth supporting).

Andrew 10:21 AM : |


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