Not all international travelers are tourists. The August deployment of thousands of US troops to participate in war games in Jordan and Kuwait will not show up in the statistics of this fast-growing global industry, though shore leaves may boost some bar and brothel receipts in Haifa and Bahrain. But vacationers contemplating trips to the region may take pause from this blustering reminder that the Middle East is the region US military planners see as the most likely site of future military action involving US forces.
In August, the Pentagon, more concerned with justifying its own bloated budget than with the occupancy rates of the area’s five-star hotels, first claimed it was targeting Baghdad with Tomahawk missiles to “protect” Jordan from Iraqi retaliation for giving asylum to an entourage of high-level Iraqi defectors. When Jordanian officials publicly protested that they saw no such threat, US officials more preposterously cited the defectors’ claim that Iraq was preparing to invade Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
If the Iraqi regime poses any threat outside its borders, it would be the prospect of its disintegration and subsequent civil war. In such a scenario, surrounding allied regimes may well want to have a US interventionary force at hand, though there is no evidence that the US has given much thought to precisely what might happen should its indiscriminate embargo weapon actually lead to the unraveling of Iraq’s top leadership and, quite possibly, Iraqi society.
One of Iraq’s neighbors, Iran, would almost certainly oppose a greater degree of US military intervention in or around Iraq. Tehran will no doubt continue to act cautiously though, since it is surely aware, as most Americans are not, that the US has formally added Iran to Washington’s nuclear war plan, the SIOP, or Single Integrated Operational Plan. William Arkin writes in the July-August 1995 issue of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that in 1992 the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed that the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) retarget its nuclear weapons to threats of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons proliferation. Iran does not have nuclear weapons; its ambitions are a matter of debate, but it does not appear to be in a position to manufacture any soon. Nevertheless, STRATCOM, in preparing its “Silver Books” for the president and defense secretary with specific targets, sequence of assigned weapons, rules of engagement and timelines of attack, has made Iran its first “counter proliferation” target, adding sites there to what Arkin terms its “generic template for small-scale [nuclear] attack.”
As long as the prevailing winds cooperate, the Red Sea Riviera and the North African Club Meds should not have to worry about the radioactive fallout.