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US rushes to shore up Gulf

President Obama’s announcement to bring home America’s remaining troops from Iraq has apparently fulfilled his promise to end the occupation and war. But Washington is busily reorganising its most reactionary allies in the region to fill any power vacuum.

As always, the hawks in the Republican Party are setting the tone and the White House is responding to avoid being seen as soft when it comes to protecting American interests.

A group of 12 Republican Senators have written to the chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee saying: “The complete withdrawal of our forces from Iraq is likely to be viewed as a strategic victory by our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime.”

Together along with their allies in the region, clustered in the ultra-reactionary Gulf Cooperation Council (aka the Gulf Counter-Revolutionary Club), they fear withdrawal will create a power vacuum in the region, crucial for its massive oil deposits and strategic location.

So US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta are building closer bonds between the US and the six most reactionary regimes in the region – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

The aim is to encourage “a new ‘security architecture’ for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defence,” the New York Times reports.

The GCC, which is dominated by the pro-Sunni Muslim House of Saud, is currently financing one strand in the Syrian movement to topple Bashar al-Assad. On the other side the GCC sent ground forces to put down the Pearl Square democracy movement in Bahrain, as Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times has noted.

Despite widespread criticism of ferocious repression of unarmed, peaceful demonstrators, Panetta and Clinton announced the multilateral military alliance with the Gulf Council in New York last month. The council is due to meet next month in Riyadh to work on collaboration.

Clinton, who is now seen as the chief behind-the-scenes operator in the NATO operation to back the overthrow of Gaddafi, hopes that US support will reassure its client dictators. “We will have a robust continuing presence in the region, which holds such promise and should be freed from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy,” she said.

The Obama administration’s planned $250 billion cut in defence spending over the next five years is overshadowed by commitments to spend $700 billion on nuclear weapons alone over the next decade. A further $92 billion is to be spent on new nuclear warheads and 12 nuclear ballistic submarines, air-launched cruise missiles and bombs.

A major report published by the British American Security Information Council (Basic) warns that a host of other countries will spend vast amounts on the nuclear weapons industry.

Russia is to spend $70 billion on its “strategic nuclear triad”. China, France, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea are stepping up and modernising their nuclear submarines, missiles and other weapons capacities. Pakistan is building several new plutonium reactors.

Meanwhile, both China and the US are piling into one of the world’s most restive and crisis-ridden countries – Pakistan, in an effort to gain supremacy in the area.

A huge disarray and ultimately, as the Afghan debacle show – helplessness – within the US intelligence, politicians and military over their strategies is apparent. The Obama administration is relying on Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) to help end in the war in Afghanistan. Some chance.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary
31 October 2011

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