Was Israel’s attack on Hezbullah part of preparations for a coming US attack on Iran?
As I write, it with no great belief that the coming month will be one of peace in the Middle East. I personally anticipate a serious and threatening crisis will commence the instant the Iranian government - at the moment under a UN deadline to stop uranium enrichment (actually Iran's legitimate rights under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) by August 31st - tells the UN what it can do with that resolution.
Sanctions will no doubt be immediately announced, but to what effect and with what response from Iran remains to be seen. Iran has already intimated it would spark a global oil price crisis in response to UN sanctions, and it is unclear whether China and Russia – each with vested oil interests in Iran, will go along with any sanctions. The worse case and perhaps more likely scenario is that the US will express feigned frustration at Iran’s unwillingness to cooperate and use the rejected resolution as a chequered flag to attack Iran militarily.
Make no mistake about it. Syria and Iran – part of the “axis of evil” have been in the US’ cross hairs for some time - the evidence for this is well documented – and lined up for a military bombardment, the likes of which will make the war in Iraq look like a street fight.
It is against this backdrop that we can begin to set the present Middle East crisis in context, particularly the recent Israeli attack upon Lebanon. This latest act of Israeli aggression had nothing to do with capturing back two kidnapped Israeli soldiers on 14th July and everything to do, it would seem, with oil and the securing of other resources and preparing for a wider conflict against Syria and Iran.
There are numerous reports that the war in Lebanon had been planned in advance by Israel. Reporting from Tel Aviv for the San Francisco Chronicle on 21st July, Matthew Kalman wrote: "More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail."
Speaking to CNN, veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersch said: “July was a pretext for a major offensive that had been in the works for a long time. Israel's attack was going to be a model for the attack they really want to do. They really want to go after Iran.” (The Guardian, August 14th, 2006).
In bombarding Lebanon and the Gaza strip - Gaza is still being bombed - there can be no other objective than to neutralise two opponents of Israel and indeed the US, and softening the backlash from Hezbullah and Hamas when Iran is eventually bombed.
Hezbullah’s fire power and missile capabilities needed to be tested in advance of any attack on Syria and Iran. For one thing, Israel is unsure of the number of rockets in the hands of Hezbulah (some say 20,000) or indeed their range. Now they know. The Israeli bombardment of key roads and bridges and passage to Syria can serve no other function than to cut of the weapons supply route to Hezbullah. By striking pre-emptively Israel seems to have planned to destroy as many Hezbullah weapons as possible in advance of any Hezbullah rocket attack on Israel resulting from a US-allied bombardment of Iran.
Now, widely unreported in the western popular media and brought to a wider audience by Michel Chossudovsky, a Canadian economics professor, on the Global Research website, was the inauguration of the Ceyhan-Tblisi-Baku (BTC) oil pipeline linking the Caspian sea to the Eastern Mediterranean, and one day before Hezbullah’s kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers that ostensibly started the recent ware in Lebanon. The BTC pipeline is anticipated to carry a million dollars of oil a day to Western markets.
In attendance at this inauguration ceremony were BP’s CEO Lord Browne and senior officials from the UK and USA, along with Israel's Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, accompanied by a delegation of top Israeli oil officials.
The British Petroleum dominated pipeline skirts the Russian Federation, cutting through new pro-US states Georgia and Azerbaijan, countries allied with NATO and with a standing military pact with Israel. Israel already gets 20% of its oil from Azeri oil fields and this new pipeline is set to increase Israeli imports from the Caspian basin. Israel is now tipped to be a key player in the East Mediterranean oil transport protection racket.
Israel’s military programme is increasingly looking to be tailored to the region’s strategic oil pipelines and by the Western oil companies commanding the pipeline passages. The war against Lebanon can perhaps be best seen as Israel’s first overt move for territorial control over the East Mediterranean coastline.
Officially, the BTC pipeline will be channelling oil to Western markets. What is not admitted, however, is that some of this oil will be redirected towards Israel via a proposed underwater pipeline from Ceyhan in Turkey to the Israeli port of Ashkelon, and from there via a pipeline system to the Red Sea.
The plan seems to serve not only Israeli oil consumption needs, but plays a part in the US’ wider game of global-politics. Oil channelled from Ashkelon to the Red Sea will then be re-exported from the Red Sea port of Eilat to Asian markets. This will help undermine the inter-Asian energy market eventually weakening the position of Russia in Central Asia and cutting off China from Central Asia’s oil reserves.
In April of this year Ankara and Tel Aviv publicised their intention to create four pipelines which would bypass Syrian and Lebanese territory. As the Jerusalem Post reported on 11th May:
"Turkey and Israel are negotiating the construction of a multi-million-dollar energy and water project that will transport water, electricity, natural gas and oil by pipelines to Israel, with the oil to be sent onward from Israel to the Far East.”
The scheme further envisages a pipeline to carry water to Israel from upstream Anatolian rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Not only is this plan catered for in the recently announced military pact between Israel and Ankara, its implementation will be devastating for Syria and Iraq. The execution of this joint Israeli-Turkish venture requires that land and sea routes between the Ceyhan border, through Syria and Lebanon, and to the Lebanese-Israeli border, be militarised. Michel Chossudovsky asks in his article The war on Lebanon and the battle for oil:“Is this not one of the hidden objectives of the war on Lebanon? Open up a space which enables Israel to control a vast territory extending from the Lebanese border through Syria to Turkey.” (http://www.globalresearch.ca/)
Israel is keen to play a more dominant role in the Middle East and seeks to achieve a degree of economic autonomy by becoming a key player in oil politics. Of course to punch above its weight it needs outside help, hence alliances with the US and more recently with Turkey and NATO.
Chossudovsky’s well cited piece Triple Alliance: The US, Turkey, Israel and the War on Lebanon details the alliances and agreements which apparently underpin the war with Hezbullah:
“We are not dealing with a limited conflict between the Israeli Armed Forces and Hezbullah as conveyed by the Western media. The Lebanese War Theatre is part of a broader US military agenda, which encompasses a region extending from the Eastern Mediterranean into the heartland of Central Asia. The war on Lebanon must be viewed as ‘a stage’ in this broader ‘military road map’.” (ibid.)
Significant for Chossudovsky is the Turkey-Israel alliance which involves military and intelligence sharing on Iraq, Iran and Syria, as well as joint military exercises and trainingFurthermore, in early July, just one week before Israeli forces commenced the bombing of Lebanon, Turkey and the US jointly signed a "Shared Vision" contract, validating a new Turkey-US alliance. In attendance for the signing was US Secretary of State Condi Rice and Abdullah Gul, the Turkish Foreign Minister.
This "Shared Vision" contract depicts the Turkish-US alliance as being "characterized by strong bond of friendship, alliance, mutual trust and unity of vision. We share the same set of values and ideals in our regional and global objectives: the promotion of peace, democracy, freedom and prosperity."
More importantly, the document commits Turkey to lend its full support to the “war on terrorism” and to approve US foreign policy with regards the defence of Israel.
Off the coast of Israel, preliminary drilling and seismographic results suggest that the Eastern Mediterranean is also rich in gas reserves. One recent report states that:"… Palestinian and Israeli waters in the Mediterranean appear to contain at least 100bn cu metres of gas reserves, divided about 60:40 in the Palestinians ' favour. Almost all of this gas is expected to go to the Israeli market which, by 2015, will probably be consuming at least 12bn cu metres/yr. A small portion (about 0.5bn cu metres/yr) might also be reserved for a new power plant in the Gaza Strip."(See http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reportinfo.asp?report_id=19835&t=e&cat_id=)
Seeking greater independence and an enhanced role in the Middle East, the smell of profits all around, Israeli aggression now becomes more understandable.
Pepe Escobar, writing for Asia Times, stresses Israel’s water needs as partly behind the recent war in Lebanon. :
“There's also the all-important matter of the waters of the Litani River in southern Lebanon. Israel might as well prepare the terrain now for the eventual annexation of the Litani. ”Beyond Lebanon, Israel is mostly interested also in Syria. The motive: the all-important pipeline route from Kirkuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan, to Haifa. Enter Israel as a major player in Pipelineistan.
”So Israel wants to grab water (and territory) from Palestine, water (and territory) from Lebanon and oil from Iraq. This all has to do with the inevitable - the 21st-century energy wars.” (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HG26Ak02.html)
Tel Aviv recently announced it was in for a “long war” – clearly not with Hezbullah. It has been stockpiling weapons for several years and was re-supplied throughout the war with Hezbullah by the US. On top of its arsenal of 200 nuclear warheads it has in excess of 500 bunker-busting bombs, only a few, by all accounts, used recently in Lebanon. Clearly Israel is preparing for a widening and intense conflict.
With its military alliances, its stockpiling of WMD, its hankering after control of vital resources, its regional hegemonic ambitions, and ultra-strong links to belligerent US Neocons who have already intimated they can hit Iranian targets with 30 minutes notice and that they reserve their right to use nuclear weapons, are we being unrealistic in prophesising Israel’s desire to get involved in a more serious conflict.
Just how do we interpret Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s promise that he will officially proclaim Israel's "new" and in theory "final" borders before 2010, as anything other than a veiled hint at region-wide conflict?
Speaking of the Israeli-Hezbullah conflict, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “We need to make clear to Syria and Iran that there is a choice: come into the international community and play by the same rules as the rest of us, or be confronted.” Can this hypocritical statement be interpreted as anything other than a serious threat of violence to those Middle Eastern countries that would stand in the way of profit hungry masters of war and their ambitions for global domination of the planet’s vital resources?
Seymour Hersch repeatedly asserts that President Bush ordered all out war against Iran shortly after his re-election in 2004. Pat Buchanan's American Conservative amongst other sources, sides with Hersh in arguing that vice-president Dick Cheney has drawn up a war plan for Iran inclusive of the possible use of nuclear weapons.
US Defence Secretary Don Rumsfeld has placed US forces on alert and Lieutenant-Colonel Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force acknowledges: "We're now at the point where we are essentially on alert. We have the capacity to plan and execute global strikes in half a day or less."
Dan Plesch (The Guardian, 8th August) suggests President Bush has at his disposal:
“200 strategic bombers (B52-B1-B2-F117A) and US Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles. One B2 bomber dropped 80,500lb bombs on separate targets in 22 seconds in a test flight. Using just half the available force, 10,000 targets could be attacked almost simultaneously. This strike power alone is sufficient to destroy all major Iranian political, military, economic and transport capabilities.”
We live at a dangerous stage of human history, in which the greatest crime a country can commit is to have more than its fair share of resources in a world in which the leading superpower is seeking full spectrum dominance. Iran’s real and unforgivable crime – leaving aside its refusal to halt its legitimate uranium enrichment programme - is to have enviable oil and gas reserves, to control access to the Persian Gulf - a vital oil and gas transhipment route to Europe, Japan, and the rest of the world - and to have contemplated oil deals with a series rival for US supremacy, China. With China expected to have oil demands similar to US levels within 20 years, already consuming vast resources of coal, iron and steel, not to mention almost 70% of the world’s cement supplies on one dam project - the panic button has clearly been pressed.
As a Socialist I’m naturally fearful as I watch events unfold; fearful for my class, my fellows throughout the world and for whom I hold no ill feelings. As always, Socialists refuse to take sides in conflict, seeing all war as rooted in the desire to make profit, and viewing workers, wherever they are, united as one class with the same basic needs and common interest, diametrically opposed to the interests of those who would urge them to kill each other.
Before the slaughter once again commences, myself and fellow Socialists once more take the opportunity to declare our heartfelt solidarity with the workers of all nations, and their true common cause. We appeal to workers to organise consciously and politically and to use the power at their disposal to head off the threatening bloodshed, and secure the space we need in order to build a world of peace and stability. As ever, we appeal to the workers of al lands to join with us in campaigning for a system of society where there are no leaders, no classes, no states or governments, no borders, no force or coercion; a world where the earth’s natural and industrial resources are commonly owned and democratically controlled and where production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the benefit of all; a world of free access to the necessaries of life. A world without waste, or want, or war.