India Intelligence Report



   Saddam Hanged, West Asia Crisis Intensifies

  Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein convicted by a court of questionable credentials following controversial judicial process was hanged heightening the growing divide in the Islamic world that threatens to envelop the region and indirectly the world.


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Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein convicted by a court of questionable credentials following controversial judicial process was hanged heightening the growing divide in the Islamic world that threatens to envelop the region and indirectly the world. The surprise hanging of Hussein on Saturday brought forth shock, anger, and frustration through out the world which saw Iran and the US on the same side rejoicing his death.

Hussein was not a loved man in Iraq or anywhere in the world. Like many dictators before him and continuing to rule different parts of the world, he symbolized hatred, summary killings, executions, and fear. Unlike many dictators though, he also controlled the second largest oil reserves in the world and located in one of the world’s most testy regions that fuels economies through the oil and natural gas exports and hatred bred through centuries of hatred based on religion. West Asia is also seen as the cradle of religious hatred threatening to consume the world. Therefore, the death of Hussein is not an event that will not have consequences.

The most significant outcome will be from heightened Sunni-Shia divide. As a Sunni leader in a Shia majority nation, Hussein represented an opportunity for the US to be used as a balance over its traditional enemy in West Asia, Iran. In 1980s, Hussein was cultivated by Washington and some suggest that was even encouraged to intensify its fight against Iran. Driven by Cold War politics, Iran was supported by the erstwhile Soviet Union and this engagement continues today with Russia. After the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the “evil” Soviet Union, the US ignored Iraq as it saw very little use for Hussein who unfortunately saw this as a tacit approval of his leadership in West Asia prompting him to claim traditional rights and invade Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia, variously seen as a heavily US-backed and influenced state, was always uneasy with the US engagement with Hussein and the House of Saud always vied for virtual paramountcy over the Islamic world because of its custody of the holiest shrines of Islam. Constantly challenged by a Shia Iran, which probably had much smarter and capable leaders than the free-spending royals of the House of Saud, Riyadh settled for the role as the undisputed captain of the Sunni world. Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait lent it the opportunity to appeal for a US-led attack on Hussein’s forces to drive him out of Kuwait and this easy victory and the resultant sanctions on Baghdad saw the return of paramountcy of the Sunni world to the House of Saud.

In parallel, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan and the abandonment of the region by the US saw the return of battle-hardened, rabid, and fundamentalist Islamic warriors from Afghanistan to their native regions. Seen and promoted as heroes by local clergy ranging from Africa to the Philippines, these militia once called “Mujahideen” or freedom fighters, started insurgencies in their respective nations to demand Islamic state. However, many of these movements failed because these fighters lacked leadership and this is the void that bin Laden filled.

Creating a virtual organization across geographical and political lines, bin Laden was able to create a force of fighters that were empowered to act in the name of Islam against democratic and autocratic regimes. Bin Laden’s real target has always been the House of Saud because of his belief that the royals of Saud are irreverent and are not doing enough to further Islam in the world. By bringing down the House of Saud, bin Laden hoped to claim paramountcy over the Sunni world largely ruled by royals of questionable background living extravagant lifestyles often at the cost of the poor. Hence, it is the Islamic poor that support bin Laden. Unfortunately, because of the overt support of Washington to the House of Saud, the US is seen as the enemy of the Islamic world and a rallying point for terrorists, radicals, and assorted militia.

In this fight for supremacy over the Islamic world, the House of Saud has a formidable opposition from a democratic Iran and its Shia ally Syria and the opposition ranges from religious differences to the lack of support for the Shia suffering in Palestinian Territories and Lebanon. Tehran is the only force in the world that can stop the paramountcy of Riyadh over the Islamic world and this is the frustration that is being used by the House of Saud to influence Washington over Tehran’s activities. Close to financial bankruptcy, lacking the resources to restart its stalled economy, and facing internal dissention in the form of Iranian Azeri population, Iran is seeking the establish its power over the Muslims through the development of a nuclear weapon. It believes that a nuclear device will enhance its status and counter the House of Saud influence over the Islamic world. From Tehran’s perspective, the House of Saud already has a nuclear bomb through its client state Pakistan and hence the motivation is even greater. By harvesting anti-American sentiment, Iran seeks to gain space among the poor throughout the world. By being militant against Washington, Tehran seeks to demonstrate its capacity to stand up to the “imperialist power.” However, in this scenario, Tehran is vastly handicapped because of it being identifiable and its scope and influence restricted within its borders. Iran tries to compensate this short-coming by consorting to other anti-American nations such as Venezuela and Cuba but such policies only alienate it further.

Strangely, and at least publicly, Washington seems unmindful of being caught in the quagmire of Islamic domination politics and used by the House of Saud as a pawn for its own selfish reasons. Similarly, the US is using the Saudi regime for its own selfish purposes to ensure the free flow of oil to fuel its economy and supporting economies world-wide. How this scenario will play out will largely depend on how the House of Saud will manage its poor and relations with Sunnis throughout the world. If it can successfully devolve power as monarchs in England, Thailand, or Japan have done, it would continue to stay in power. If it clings on fervently to power and continue handing out hardship to its population, a turn of events along the Nepali lines with the Maoists replaced by al Qaeda is not far-fetched. If the latter should happen, a regime run by Islamic fundamentalists much crueler than the House of Saud and more inimical to global economy will take form and spin the world into a global depression. At the same time, an improper devolution of power in Saudi Arabia that resembles a retreat of the royals may unleash a hemorrhage that cannot be stopped.

New Delhi probably has the hardest job. It needs to develop closer economic and military ties with Washington while staying away from the Islamic politics as long as possible even while placating a intellectually bankrupt Indian Muslim leadership. How long it can stay away remains on how destabilizing the region becomes and there are many factors that influence outcome and most are beyond its control. Some of them include an Iranian nuclear bomb, civil war in Iraq, Palestinian Territories, or Lebanon, a premature vacation of US forces from Iraq, or a successful terrorist attacks that could debilitate global economy.

Just before his hanging, Hussein probably sowed the seeds to the outcome when he asked Iraqis to be watchful of the Iran-supported regime—meaning that the Shia control over the Sunnis.