In this edition, DEBKA-Net-Weekly will be reporting on a wholesale scramble for positions ahead of the approaching Iraq War.
The race is led by Washington, who took key ad hoc steps this week, with the very short term in mind:
On the diplomatic plane, two secret coordination accords – one with Tehran and the other with Riyadh, put the Bush administration out front in its diplomatic rush to win Arab governments and Iran over to its side in the conflict with Baghdad.
On the military plane, certain surprising developments will also be revealed here for the first time:
US and British special forces are busy at work along the Yemen-Saudi Arabian border – sometimes straying across, and US commandos have gone into Iran – with Tehran’s blessing.
Iranian special forces have, for their part, entered northern Iraq to operate alongside US and Turkish special forces.
Saddam Hussein has thus been squeezed into an ever-tightening corner, forced to opt between surrender or war – perhaps by striking out preemptively
But the Iraqi ruler still has a third option up his sleeve: to loose a chemical or biological cloud and stage a vanishing act from its midst.
This possibility strongly influenced the mood in the Persian Gulf this week, striking fear in the hearts of Iranian and Saudi rulers.
Saddam does not have much time to decide how to jump.
If he goes through with his plan, Gulf oil flow is likely to dry up for some weeks. The renewal of supplies will be gradual.
Facing a very uncertain future, America and the countries directly involved in the coming conflict are not alone in playing the “ad hoc” game.
Every move and utterance coming from Moscow, London, Ankara, Amman, Jerusalem and Cairo, as well as Riyadh, Tehran and the Gulf Emirates, must be seen as addressing the short term or making for deliberate obfuscation.
US President George W. Bush denounced the Iranian government as repressive and called for its overthrow. Yet Washington and Tehran have joined forces to launch the Iraq offensive – both aware that the accord is a transitory measure.
Further wrangling will be needed if the partnership is to carry over into the next stages of the military campaign. At any point, collaboration could revert to rivalry or even confrontation.
The same holds true for the tenuous understanding with Saudi Arabia.
Bush’s criticism of Israel‘s military operation at Yasser Arafat’s headquarters in the West Bank is likewise the product of conflicting, short-lived constraints.
On the one hand, tearing down Palestinian administrative headquarters in Ramallah is not exactly a recipe for creating a new Palestinian leadership or implementing mandatory security and anti-corruption reforms. It also throws a wrench into Washington’s plans for the region after Saddam is gone.
But, on the other hand, as demonstrated in the article below on Palestinian intelligence, now is the time cut the dangerous cord binding Palestinian and Iraqi military intelligence.
So, in the immediate term, Washington may gripe about Israel’s hardnosed actions in Ramallah, but at the same time it is not lifting too many fingers to stop them.