The Bush administration, while totally focused on the coming campaign to dislodge the Saddam regime, has also been busy assembling a new post-war design for Iraq and the region. Unveiling the new plans this week to America’s Middle East allies, vice president Richard Cheney assured Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah II that their regimes would come out of the coming conflict more secure and stable than before.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources divulge some high points of Washington’s post-war plans:
The key feature is the massive relocation of the main US Gulf bases to Iraq. Their presence is intended to provide a buffer between Iran and Jordan and Saudi Arabia The new Iraq-based installations should be up and running by early 2003, by which time US military planners predict that the US Iraq campaign should be over and done.
Following the pattern established in Afghanistan, American forces will not be distributed across Iraq but concentrated in five existing bases at strategic points for defending the country and its territorial integrity.
Turkey pledged its support for the US anti-Iraq campaign, only after its leaders, who visited Washington in January, received a White House assurance that the country’s integrity would be preserved and no Kurdish state permitted to rise on the ruins of the Saddam regime.
American strategists propose taking over the base near Sulemaniyeh in the north, which controls the Kurdish regions; two bases in central Iraq – one near the Iraqi-Syrian-Jordanian border junction, the second, probably the big al Baghdadi ground and air installations west of the town of Rutbah and midway between Baghdad and Amman; the large naval, ground and air base at Umm Qasar in the south, located at the point where the Shaat al-Arab river flows into the Persian Gulf. This base controls the strategic Iraq-Iran sea route and Iraqi and Iranian pipeline outlets to the Gulf.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources report that the departure of US troops from Saudi Arabia will not be linked to the Iraq campaign’s timetable. Evacuated troops will be moved to Yemen, most to the island of Socotra, which is situated strategically at the confluence of the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. Here, too, the US military will find standing structures and facilities left over from the 1970s and 1980s, when the Soviet Union maintained satellite stations and docking facilities for nuclear submarines on the island.
American forces will be based in other parts of Yemen too: Aden port, at the mouth of the Red Sea, and Hodeida on the Red Sea shore not far from the Yemen-Saudi border.
The first segments of the American ring of Persian Gulf bases are already in place: an air base on Oman’s Masirah Island, a large air base at Al-Udeeid, Qatar, and ground, air and naval facilities in Kuwait and Bahrain.
By the end of the year, Washington hopes its encirclement of Saudi Arabia with military bases will be complete. Another key element of the Bush administration’s post-war strategy is a federal merger between the United Arab Emirate and the Republic of Yemen.