If you have been following the news with anything like a critical view, you are probably wondering what the "actual" motivations are for the potential second Iraq war. The possible reasons for it are many: fear of Biological Weapons, control of petroleum reserves, concern with Iraq's human rights record, a strong pro-Israel lobby, Bush's personal need for revenge, the need for Bush to shore up his popularity at home and possible connections with terrorists groups of Saddam Hussein are all reasons I have heard mentioned by people of various political stripes. None of these reasons quite convinced me as being the correct explanation for the war. I thought of my own reason, which I will toss into the pile of explanations. It doesn't "explain everything", but it is one more piece in the puzzle.

The greatest driving factor in the Middle East today is Fundamentalist Islam. This seems to be a given, but it has not always been the case. For many years, from the 1952 Young Officer's coup in Egypt until sometime in the mid-seventies, the major force in the middle east was a secular, socialist pan-Arabism as espoused by General Nasser. It was only with the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the growing importance of Saudi Arabia, along with the Afghan War, that fundamentalism became the driving force in the Middle East.

Fundamentalism is the driving force in the Middle East, but it is hardly a monolithic force. There are many Islamic fundamentalist groups, from Algeria, to Central Asia, to Kashmir and on to Indonesia and the Philipines. However, even with these hundreds of seperate groups, ranging from intellectual groups to armed militaries; with untold millions of members, there is no central banner for them to rally to. They are fragmented and divided by geography, ethnicity and ideology.

In the Middle East, despite the sway that fundamentalists have, there is only a small number of fundamentalists states: Saudi Arabia and their satellite, the United Arab Emirates, along with the Persian and Shia Iran, and the semi-fundamentalist Pakistan. The central nation to most fundamentalists if, of course, Saudi Arabia, based on its location, large amounts of money, and traditional leadership and assistance of Arab and Islamic causes. While I do not want to paint any crude ethnic stereotypes of the Saudis as scheming, evil people with a medieval mentality, their is definetely a large amount of Saudis at various levels of government and society who would be very happy to see Saudi Arabia take a more prominent position in Middle Eastern, and world, affairs. Without too much exagerration, I would guess that there are certain elements within the Saudi power structure who may think that they have a right to lead a new, fundamentalist Muslim Empire.

However, even with all the smuggling that money and power can buy, they are having some trouble exporting their doctrine. If Saudi Arabia wants to export arms to their comrades in Algeria, Chechnya or elsewhere in Central Asia, what do they have to go through? Their obstacles to the free spread of their movement include the secular government in Egypt, and, of course, the secular government in Iraq. If Saddam Hussein was to be overthrown, it would be possible to (eventually) set up a pro-Saudi fundamentalist government in Iraq. Also, they could begin arming the possible fundamentalist Kurds to hurt their rivals, Turkey and Iran. And with the Zagros Mountain region controlled by Kurds, the Saudis could easily export weapons into Azerbaijan and into Chechyna, and possibly across the Caspian Sea to the other Central Asian Islamic groups.

The other government that could possibly blockade the spread of Saudi fundamentalism is the delicately balanced secular Egyptian regime. Popular digust with the government , based on discontent over the inequality of wealth in the society; and growing anger over the government's attitude of coexistence with Israel are things that could possibly lead to a massive revolt, especially when combined with the money and leadership of radical fundamentalists from Saudi Arabia. If a United States invasion of Iraq leads to a revolt in the West Bank and the consequent placing of Palestinians in concentration camps, the Egyptian population, military and religious structure may demand a military reprisal on Israel, and the overthrow of the secular government. And if Egypt has a fundamentalist, pro-Saudi government installed, the flow of arms to Algeria, the Ivory Coast and the Sudan will be assured. Not to mention the reencircling of Israel, especially if the moderate Jordanian monarch King Hussein is overthrown.

In other words, this war could very well benefit the cause of the hardcore fundamentalists in the Saudi government very well. Of course, that leaves some questions unanswered. For one thing, the leading Saudi proponent of fundamentalism has called for the overthrow of the House of Saud, and for that reason is probably not that beloved by them too dearly. However, bin Laden was at one time a trusted agent of Saudi intelligence and there is no reason to believe that they are in total aversion to most of his basic beliefs. The other question is, of course, even if the Saudis want this war, do they really have the clout to convince Washington to attack their enemies for them, especially considering their on again\off again response to Washington's deployment of troops. However, I imagine that there are ways that Saudi Arabia can twist the ear, if not the arm, of Washington: by their well kept track record of surface moderation, and by promising to lead OPEC on a policy of low oil prices.

All this, of course, is speculation by a college student whose claim to strategic fame is beating Civilization II on Deity. However, it is another explanation that will perhaps give a better picture of the entire situation.

Note that while I am opposed to Fundamentalist Islam, I do not a) oppose Islam or b) support a "crusade" against it. The only way to fight fundamentalism is to fight ignorance and poverty.