Chilcot Report Highlights US-British Threat to Middle Eastern Leaders

11/07/2016 12:45 | Updated 11 July 2016

The Chilcot report has laid bare the US-British plot to remove Saddam. This is the second time (that we know of) where the US and the UK have conspired to remove a Middle Eastern leader. "The world is safer" claimed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in justifying the removal of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. More than a decade after the event and following the seven year wait for the Chilcot report, it is too early to say whether this is the case.

What can be said is that the Saddam's removal has parallels with an earlier US-British removal of a Middle Eastern leader: the Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq who in 1953 was removed in a coup d'etat backed by the US Central Intelligence Agency and the UK's Secret Intelligence Service. Mossadeq, who had been democratically elected, championed social and political reform including curbing the Shah's powers and reducing foreign control over Iranian affairs, especially the oil industry. US and British concern over losing control over Iranian oil prompted the governments to launch a campaign against Mossadeq which ultimately resulted in the coup.

The circumstances surrounding Mossadeq's removal bear some striking similarities to that of Saddam. Access to oil was a central concern for the US and British governments. In the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a propaganda war was staged against Saddam which Chilcot describes in detail. Similarly in the early 1950s, the US and British staged a campaign to paint Mossadeq as a threat to international order. As it turned out, it was the removal of Mossadeq which ultimately created a more significant threat to world order and regional stability.

While the US and British did not launch a military invasion of Iran in 1953, they did then proceed to "invade" Iran with military advisors and entangled the Shah's regime in a series of military procurement, oil and other trade deals that made Iran a virtual vassal state. At the same time, the Shah turned his back on any social and political reforms. The ground had been prepared and the seeds sown for the growth of the hardline, anti-US movement that eventually came to power in the 1979 revolution. The result was the Khomeini regime dedicated to exporting its revolution and supporting terrorists groups in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

While it is not inevitable that the removal of Saddam will lead to a similar challenge to international order and regional stability, the signs are not good. The chaos that immediately followed Saddam's removal due to lack of planning (and highlighted by Chilcot) ploughed up the Iraqi political system and created fertile conditions for the growth of extremist groups including Daesh (so-called Islamic State). The Iraqi government's ability to overcome these challenges, including neutralising malicious foreign interference, will go a long way to shaping the ultimate political outcome from Saddam's removal. It may be another ten years or more before the full implications of events in 2003 become apparent.

In the meantime, the Chilcot report has highlighted the threat to Middle Eastern leaders from the US and the UK. Leaders in the region do not need to threaten directly US and British interests. They just need to obstruct the countries in some way, particularly access to oil. Although both countries are now less dependent on Middle Eastern oil than they once were, such dependence could return if Saudi Arabia and its Gulf friends succeed in their policy of choking off higher cost oil supplies. In any case, the Chilcot report demonstrates that the US and the UK are still appear prepared to act imperiously to protect their interests in the Middle East to the detriment of long term stability. This will feed conspiracy theories in the region and deepen suspicion about US and British motives in the region and so damage their long term political and economic interests.