U.S. To Maintain Permanent Bases In Iraq?

FORECASTS & TRENDS E-LETTER
By Gary D. Halbert
June 14, 2005

IN THIS ISSUE:

1.  Plans For New Long-term US Bases In Iraq

2.  I Told You This Was The Plan Back In 2002

3.  Was The War In Iraq Worth It? I Believe So

4.  Has President Bush Lost His WOT Resolve? 

5.  Is There A Silver Lining?  Yes, I Believe So

Introduction

During the last half of May, reports began to surface in several mainstream publications that the Bush administration and the Defense Department are formalizing plans to consolidate US military bases in Iraq.  Further, that these bases will be there for at least several more years, and perhaps permanently.  Surprise, surprise!

Long-time readers of this E-Letter will recall that I told you in late 2002, before the war even started, that the driving force behind the invasion of Iraq and the ouster of Saddam Hussein was the US desire to establish permanent military bases in Iraq.  This permanent force would be used to promote peace in the region and continue the War On Terror.

While the military spokesmen who announced the latest base consolidation plans were careful to assure the media that these new, larger, more fortified military bases will “not be permanent,” they did admit that these facilities will likely be in Iraq for several more years to come.  According to the latest reports, these new facilities are quietly referred to as “enduring military bases.”

The question is, will these larger, enduring facilities and the US forces they house, be used to topple other despotic nations in the region and extend the War On Terror?  Or will they merely be used to continue the fight against the insurgents in Iraq?  The ultimate question is, has President Bush lost his conviction to continue the War On Terror aggressively?

Looking Back On What I Wrote

In my December 17, 2002 E-Letter I shared with you what my best military sources were citing as the real reasons why we were going to war in Iraq.  At the time, the media were screaming that a war in Iraq would only be to award Bush’s cronies at Halliburton and his pals in Big Oil the enormous energy reserves in Iraq.  You may recall that I told you differently.  Here’s what I said:

“I read so many articles and analyses which suggest that the only reason the United States will wage war in Iraq is so that President Bush and his cronies in ‘Big Oil’ can control Iraq’s vast petroleum reserves.  I have not believed this from the beginning, and I still don’t.  There are others who contend that the only reason the Bush administration has continued to saber-rattle over Iraq was to insure a Republican victory in the mid-term elections and regain control of the Senate.  I didn’t believe that one either. I believe that what is driving the war on Iraq is something very different.
In a nutshell, the US will not back down from a war on Iraq because of the message it would send to al Qaeda and terrorists around the world.  After eight years of Bill Clinton, the terrorists believe the US is fundamentally weak and will not resort to war.  Should Bush back down, this would send a message that could accelerate terrorist attacks on America. 
Secondly, should the US defeat Saddam Hussein and occupy Iraq, we would be in a position, as never before, to reshape the Middle East and combat al Qaeda.  Some of my sources believe that the Bush administration has made a decision to occupy Iraq with a permanent military presence to fight terrorism across the Middle East.
Clearly, there are risks associated with a war on Iraq.  American lives will be lost.  But whether we agree or disagree, it appears the Bush administration will attack Iraq, eliminate Saddam Hussein and establish a powerful US military presence in the region for years to come.” 

Just over a year ago in my May 18, 2004 E-Letter I wrote the following:

“How things go in Iraq over the next few months could well decide who is the next president of the United States.  The war has not gone well recently, in particular the latest firestorm over prison abuses.  Bush’s approval ratings have fallen to new lows.  The President has two major problems with the war in Iraq, and it remains to be seen how he will deal with them.
The first problem is that the war in Iraq has been mismanaged.  Everyone knows it, including the Bush administration, yet they steadfastly refuse to admit it.  The question is, how badly has it been mismanaged?   It remains to be seen if the administration can turn things around and what will happen if Iraqi sovereignty is actually turned over at the end of June.
The other problem, perhaps just as serious, is that the Bush administration has refused to tell the American people why we are really in Iraq in the first place.  My best sources believe that the plan from the very beginning was to oust Saddam Hussein and install a permanent military presence in Iraq that would be used both to stabilize the region and advance the War On Terror.  Yet for political reasons, apparently, the Bush administration feels it dare not reveal this policy publicly…
Let’s think back to what we were told in the weeks leading up to the war in Iraq.  We were given three primary reasons for invading Iraq: 1) Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; 2) Iraq was aiding and abetting terrorists, al Qaeda specifically; and 3) Saddam posed a threat (nuclear or otherwise) to America directly.  This, we were told, was the justification for sending 130,000 US troops into Iraq.
The liberal media, of course, had a different spin on why we went to war in Iraq.  The two primary arguments from the media were that Bush decided to attack Iraq either to seize control of its oil or to finish the job of Bush Sr. in Desert Storm, or both.  You will remember the headline: ‘ Blood For Oil.’  The media claimed that Bush was using US troops to seize Iraq and the oil for Halliburton and his cronies in the oil business.  Didn’t happen.  Others claimed Bush took us to war only to avenge Saddam’s assassination attempt on his father in Kuwait.”

Stratfor.com Had A Very Different Analysis As Compared To The Media

As I told you last year, one of my very best geopolitical sources had a very different view of how and why President Bush decided to take us to war in Iraq.  Here’s what I also said in May 2004:

“From the beginning, Stratfor had a very different take on why we went to war in Iraq.  In February and March of 2003, Stratfor laid out the following analysis for why we were going to war in Iraq:
‘The primary purpose of the Iraq campaign will, of course, be to influence and reshape the region. Al Qaeda has support throughout the Middle East, and most governments are either complicit or unwilling to incur the political costs of disrupting al Qaeda and similar [terrorist] groups at home. The purpose of this campaign is, first and foremost, to create a politico-military environment that persuades countries in the region to redefine their behavior. To put it more brutally and honestly, it is to bring massive military forces to bear on countries in the region in order to compel them to cooperate, or failing that, carry out future military confrontations.

There will be two dimensions to this. The first will be to redefine the atmosphere of the Middle East. Washington now accepts as a given that it bears the deep animosity of the region. Officials do not see any opportunity for a short-term solution to this problem, and the problem presented by al Qaeda is immediate. If the United States cannot be loved, the second best outcome is to be feared. A victory in Iraq would demonstrate both American will and power. If it can be coupled with a successful and relatively prosperous occupation, fear can be coupled with respect.

The second dimension is politico-military. Following the war, the United States not only would be an occupying power but also would field a force that is in effect indigenous to the region, at least from a military point of view. The presence of a massive, mobile force, permanently based in the region, without depending on the permission of others, would redefine the region dramatically.The United States expects to be able to use that force to its ends. 
[Emphasis added, GH.]
From the U.S. point of view, three countries are particular post-campaign targets: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran… Once Iraq is occupied, U.S. forces will have two missions. The first will be the occupation, pacification and reconstruction of Iraq. The second will be to pose a direct military threat to these countries. The United States certainly has no intention or desire to invade any of these countries. At the same time, the United States takes the view that it is only the threat of direct military action that will compel them to cooperate in destroying al Qaeda. A threat has no meaning if it is not serious. Therefore, in order to be effective, the United States will have to be prepared to carry out follow-on campaigns…
For the United States, fighting and winning a war against Iraq has become a strategic imperative. Although it is true that this war could engender greater support for al Qaeda among the Islamic masses, the consequences of not attacking Baghdad -- from Washington's perspective -- could be worse. But even more important, a victory and U.S. occupation of a conquered Iraq would reshape the political dynamic in the Middle East. The United States would be in a position to manipulate the region on an unprecedented scale.’  
Stratfor and its high placed sources believed from the beginning that the plan was to invade Iraq with overwhelming force, oust Saddam Hussein and install a permanent US force on the various Iraqi military bases seized in the conflict.  The war effort would result in the capture and control of the most strategic country in the region, and the US military presence would then be used, either directly or indirectly, to influence other countries in the region to oust al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”

Four Large New Military Bases In Iraq

The Washington Post was the first to run the story of the planned large, new – and probably permanent – US military bases in Iraq on Sunday, May 19.   The story was confirmed by top-level military officers in Iraq the following day.  The report said the Defense Department plans to consolidate the more than 100 bases where US personnel are now stationed in Iraq into four huge, new, more permanent bases.  The Post and others reported that these four new bases will be located in the north, south, west and center of Iraq.

The Washington Post reported that the military spokesmen who announced the base consolidation plans in Iraq were careful to assure the media that these bases will not be permanent.  The article quoted one military spokesman as saying the new plans are "part of a withdrawal expected to occur in phases, with Iraqi forces gradually taking over many of the bases inhabited by US and other foreign troops."

However, a week after the initial article in the Post appeared, US military commanders in briefings in Washington and Baghdad, and in media interviews, said that growth of the insurgency has convinced them that the US will be in Iraq for “many more years to come.”  The commanders are particularly concerned that the pace at which Iraqi police, in particular, are being prepared to take over their own country’s defense is not going anywhere near as fast as the US would like.

Was The War In Iraq Worth It?  I Think So.

Public opinion on the war in Iraq has been very divided from the beginning, and for some understandable reasons.  As I argued in my May 18 E-Letter last year, if Bush was unwilling to share with the American people what was really driving the war in Iraq – a permanent US military presence in the Middle East and a continuation of the War On Terror – then he would be subject to widespread criticism, unless the war went spectacularly well.  It didn’t.

It has been clear for well over a year now that the Bush administration and the Defense Department did not adequately plan for the bloody insurgency that followed the initial success in toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime.   This is, of course, very regrettable. 

But was the war in Iraq a major policy mistake?  I would say NO.  We freed Iraq of a brutal dictator; over eight million Iraqis voted in the election; and a new democratic government is in place.  So, there is no question in my mind that the war was worth it.

But the question remains whether President Bush and his advisors are still intent on following through on the initial mission.  As I discussed in 2002 and 2004, the initial mission was to establish a permanent military force in the Middle East to continue the War On Terror.  But is that still the policy?  

There is no doubt in my mind that President Bush’s intentions when he decided to invade Iraq were honorable.  In the wake of 9/11, Bush had a mandate to pursue the War On Terror, whenever and wherever.  Arguably, Iraq may or may not have been the best next target after Afghanistan, but as discussed above it was strategically the best choice.  The media, of course, has vilified Bush over Iraq from the very beginning.  No surprise there.

Yet here is the point, at least in my opinion: If we invaded Iraq to establish permanent bases there to continue the War On Terror, and attack terrorist camps in other countries in the region, then the Bush administration should continue those plans.  We have to hope that pressure from the media has not caused Bush to scrap such strategic plans for the War On Terror.  Hopefully, the latest revelations about new military bases in Iraq are an indication that the plans are still ongoing.

Finally, you have no doubt noticed that the media incessantly refers to the American military presence in Iraq as an “occupation.”  Let us not forget that the US has military bases and installations in many countries around the world.  Are we occupying Germany just because we have military facilities there?  Of course not!  But if the US goes ahead with plans to build “enduring bases” in Iraq, the media will scream that we are continuing to occupy Iraq.

Conclusions

The latest revelations that the US is planning permanent military bases in Iraq should not surprise any long-time readers of this E-Letter.  I told you that was the plan in late 2002 before we ever invaded Iraq.  And I elaborated on that point again in May 2004.

I agreed with the plans to topple Saddam Hussein and establish permanent US military bases in Iraq to expand the War On Terror.  I still do, although some readers will disagree, justifiably so.  The Bush administration and the Pentagon did a terrible job in planning for the insurgency that followed the initial phase of the war.

But at the end of the day, has President Bush lost his will to use permanent military bases in Iraq to continue the War On Terror?  Will we not continue the mission and go into Syria, the source of much of the insurgency in Iraq that has taken the lives of over 1,700 US service men and women?  Will we not use our gains in Iraq to pursue a major political change in Iran?  And Saudi Arabia?

I hope not, and the latest news about permanent bases in Iraq is a good sign.

Actually it is too early to know what the long-term plans are.  The Bush administration and the Defense Department cannot execute any follow-on plans in the region until they stabilize the situation in Iraq.  We are clearly bogged down in Iraq, and even the best laid plans before the war could not have anticipated the commitment of the insurgency.

As suggested in the first link in SPECIAL ARTICLES below, there are reasons to believe that the latest wave of suicide bombings in Iraq is a signal of the beginning of the end.  At this point, there is little doubt that the insurgency knows it is fighting a losing battle and is running out of ammunition and volunteers.

Is There A Silver Lining In Iraq?

As I wrote in my March 1, 2005 E-Letter, I believe there is a silver lining.  And there are new signs of this.  This Friday, national elections will be held in Iran.  Not real free elections, of course, but elections where some people can vote for a change.  Just today, I read that there have been huge public protests in Iran this week by WOMEN.  In Iran, women are not allowed opinions, or the right to vote, much less the right to publicly protest.  But protest they did this week.  Yet according to the reports, these women were not arrested or killed for their public demonstrations. 

Follow me here… We can all agree or disagree with the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.  We can all agree or disagree that major mistakes have been made by the Bush administration.  There are good arguments for both sides.

But we all must absolutely agree that women would not be demonstrating for equal rights in Iran this week – without punishment or killing - had they not seen what the US did for human rights in Afghanistan and Iraq.

President Bush has his faults, plenty of them.  The US has made plenty of mistakes, and we will continue to.  But Bush is right – freedom is contagious, despite our mistakes.  As I wrote in my March 1 E-Letter earlier this year, the Freedom Genie is finally out of the bottle in the Middle East and in other parts of the world.  This is good!

Very best regards,

Gary D. Halbert

SPECIAL ARTICLES

Iraq - the media has a short memory.
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05163/519867.stm

Good news from Iraq.
http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20050609-092935-1410r.htm

Americans support our military effort in Iraq.
http://www.investors.com/editorial/issues02.asp?v=6/14

John McCain/Jeb Bush, the GOP ticket in 2008?  Some say yes.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/13/AR2005061301461.html


Read Gary’s blog and join the conversation at garydhalbert.com.


Forecasts & Trends E-Letter is published by ProFutures, Inc. Gary D. Halbert is the president and CEO of ProFutures, Inc. and is the editor of this publication. Information contained herein is taken from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as to its accuracy. Opinions and recommendations herein generally reflect the judgement of Gary D. Halbert (or another named author) and may change at any time without written notice. Market opinions contained herein are intended as general observations and are not intended as specific investment advice. Readers are urged to check with their investment counselors before making any investment decisions. This electronic newsletter does not constitute an offer of sale of any securities. Gary D. Halbert, ProFutures, Inc., and its affiliated companies, its officers, directors and/or employees may or may not have investments in markets or programs mentioned herein. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Reprinting for family or friends is allowed with proper credit. However, republishing (written or electronically) in its entirety or through the use of extensive quotes is prohibited without prior written consent.

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