America's problems in the Middle East have just begun, an expert in the region warned Monday.
Jerrold D. Green, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Arizona, Tucson, charged that the United States' intervention in the region was marked by substantial intelligence failures, and he predicted that the area's conflicts are likely to continue festering because underlying disputes have not been resolved.Green spoke at a symposium held at the University of Utah's Marriott Library. The daylong meeting, "The United States and the Gulf Crisis," concludes with a lecture at 7:30 p.m. by an Iraqi author.
"Most Americans seem to think that since the United States has won the war, our problems are over," Green said. "I would argue conversely that our problems have just begun."
He listed these failures of the U.S. intelligence apparatus:
- It didn't predict Iraq would invade Kuwait.
- It underrated Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. He said April Gillespie, the American ambassador to Iraq, later called Saddam "stupid" during testimony before Congress. "He still has a job and she doesn't," Green said.
- It expected the ground war to be much more protracted. "It only took four days," he said. "America's highly vaunted intelligence service seems to serve our interest not very well."
The fact that the United States Army was able to defeat Iraq is not surprising, he said. "The question is: Why was it as easy as it was and why was that not predicted?" Why were the people who should be the least surprised more surprised than anyone else?
Another failure in the gulf war effort, according to Green, was that the United States was never able to articulate its goals.
"We were there for jobs. We were there for oil. We were there to protect the American way of life. My personal favorite is we were there for freedom - to protect a way of life we rejected over 200 years ago," that is, monarchy.
Actually, he said, America intervened "to protect the gas station."
The emir of Kuwait was able to return to his palace "after the air conditioning was hooked up . . . and the housing was made suitable for a decadent monarch."
Now that the war is over, he said, the region is not changed as much as Americans believe. One difference may be that Iran is playing a greater role.
But because the Arabs and Israelis continue their dispute, "I'm hard-pressed to describe the degree to which things have changed . . .
"In terms of the Palestine issue, I don't think things have changed one whit."
The strange rehabilitation of Jordan's King Hussein, after he had sided with Iraq, "has not been extended to the Palestinians."
The United States finds it difficult to come to terms with the government of Israel, partly because the ministers of that country are not in harmony with one another. Some distrust each other more than they do Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.
"Certainly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as it was before," he said.
America expects too much from its newly improved relationship with the Arab states that opposed Saddam; and it expects more from Israel than that country can deliver, he said.
The Bush administration is putting a great deal of prestige into diplomacy aimed at solving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, yet, he predicted, the effort is likely to fail.
Green faulted the effort to get the Kurds to rise against Iraq, and charged the United States "betrayed the Kurds." At the same time, it took the risk of alienating Turkey.
Meanwhile, he wondered whether America might find itself with a permanent military presence on the Arabian Peninsula.