Russian coups and World War III

Wow, I take a few days off and all news happens. I’m going to have to get a staff at this rate. Keep those donations coming!

Anyway, has picked up Stratfor’s theory that the Russians are plotting a coup in Iraq, hoping to steal the United States’ thunder, preempt an American invasion and protect Russia’s oil interests. There’s more and more chatter about this on various news sources. The obvious question is, is it true? Russia did sign off on UNSCR 1441 rather easily considering how critical oil prices are to Russia’s economy. Granted, Bush has assured Russian president Vladimir Putin that Russia’s interests will be taken care of. But honestly, does anyone really think American oil companies will give the Russians and the French serious consideration?

So here’s my theory: The Russians are buzzing about with some kind of coup plan that would install either a pro-Western or pro-Russian government. Washington has agreed to this plan in exchange for solid support on UNSCR 1441. If the coup plan works, the American forces will move in and help restore order. If it doesn’t, American soldiers are on standby to start shooting.

Of course, it could be wrong, too.

What is without doubt, however, is the United States’ efforts to step up its courtship of Turkey, asking for help against Iraq and even trying to invoke Article V of the NATO charter, which provides for mutual defense if a member country is attacked. Whether the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won the parliamentary elections in November will agree to this remains to be seen, since the United States is trying to enlist both the Iraqi Kurds and Turkey. (By the way, Turkey lifted the state of emergency — after 15 years — in the southeast part of the country.)

Across the frontier, in Iraqi Kurdistan, the chairman of the KDP, Massoud Barzani, said he has received no assurances about the form of rule in Iraq after Saddam is toppled. “(The United States) has decided what it will do in Iraq without briefing precisely the Iraqi opposition about it,” he told the BBC. “If the U.S. wants to ensure the security (of the country) it has to listen to us.” He added American military rule is unacceptable and hinted darkly that the Kurds might — might — react badly to an American viceroy. “The role of the soldiers is to defend the territories,” he said.

(The Kurds introduced drafts of a federal constitution into their regional parliament in October. Frankly, they’re asking for trouble with the Turks. And they seem to have found it. Turkey has shut down the illegal fuel sales that were a big source of revenue for the KDP and PUK, an effort to starve the Kurdish authorities of revenue in northern Iraq so they have less of an ability to agitate for independence or autonomy.)

In the event of a war, the Natal Witness, South Africa’s oldest newspaper (it says so on the Web page, so it must be true!) reports that Americans will not get a warm welcome in the streets of Baghdad. “It’s really a question of sovereignty and pride,” a taxi driver told reporter Fred Kockott. And American war planners are kidding themselves if this report is true. Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a pro-Saddam newspaper in London, quoted a “senior Iraqi official” thusly:

“When the regime was under intense attack in Al-Fau and began to be under threat, it did not hesitate to use all the weapons of mass destruction in its possession. Similarly, when the people of Halabja, or some of them, became guides for the Iranian forces that tried to breach the northeast [front], the regime did not hesitate to use chemical weapons. … Do not expect us to stand idly by in the face of any aggression that seeks to destroy and banish us not only from the regime but also from life.”

Well, that seems clear enough. U.S. soldiers should expect to confront chemical weapons. If that happens, I fear the United States will retaliate with nuclear weapons, as James Baker threatened it would do in 1991 if Iraq used weapons of mass destruction. The threat of deterrence worked then, but will it this time?

And if that doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations worries that a war with Iraq would start “a third world war.” Hans von Sponeck, the U.N.’s humanitarian aid coordinator for Iraq from 1998 to 2000, warned that there would be “more Mombasas, more Balis.”

“I shiver when I hear the extreme views some people have in the region,” he says.

Now, Herr von Sponeck is German, and they haven’t been the most reliable of NATO allies when it comes to war with Iraq, so take his comments with grains of salt. (I happen to agree with him, that it will be very bad and dangerous after the Battle for Baghdad, but draw your own conclusions. I can point you to a lot of writings by Paul Wolfowitz, who says everything will be hunky-dory.)

There was a slight lessening of war drums over the holiday weekend, but look for them to start up again on Monday. We’ve got about three months to go.