Archive for the ‘Lebanon’ Category

Hezbollah prepared for war on Israel

February 15, 2008
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2008
7:40 MECCA TIME, 4:40 GMT
Hezbollah declares ‘war’ on Israel

Thousands of people turned out in Beirut’s southern suburbs to mourn Moghaniyah’s death [Reuters]
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Accusing Israel of killing Imad Moghaniyah in a car bomb blast on Tuesday in Damascus, the Syrian capital, Hassan Nasrallah said that it had “crossed the borders”.
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“With this murder, its timing, location and method – Zionists [Israel] if you want this kind of open war, let the whole world listen: let this war be open,” he said.
Nasrallah speech


Hezbollah ready to expand fight against Israel

He said Hezbollah fighters had started preparing for the next war immediately after the end of the 2006 war with Israel.

Speaking in a videotaped message to supporters at the funeral service for Moghaniyah in southern Beirut on Thursday, Nasrallah said: “Like all human beings we have a sacred right to defend ourselves.
“We will do all that it takes to defend our country and people.”

Israel on alert

The Israeli prime minister’s office issued a warning late on Thursday urging Israeli citizens to act with extra caution while abroad, noting the threat of kidnapping.

 

It advised staying out of Arab and Muslim countries, avoiding concentrations of other Israelis and turning down “unexpected invitations to meetings in remote places”.

 

Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel’s military chief, put forces on heightened alert, and the military sent more troops to the already fortified border with Lebanon, defence officials said.

 

Israeli embassies worldwide also were put on alert, and Israeli security forces advised Jewish institutions across the globe to be vigilant, officials said.

In Washington, Sean McCormack, the US state department spokesman, called Nasrallah’s threats “quite concerning”.

 

“Quite clearly, Hezbollah has a long record of carrying out violent acts and acts of terrorism around the globe,” he said.

Different visions
The speech by Nasrallah, who is in hiding after the July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, came shortly after an event elsewhere in the Lebanese capital to mark the third anniversary of the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, a former prime minister.

Thousands of other Lebanese called on Syria
to stay out of their country’s politics [AFP]

Security was tight as thousands of people gathered for the two separate rallies, which highlighted the deep divisions in the country.

Leaders in the pro-government March 14 bloc had supporters in the al-Hariri commemoration in Martyrs Square to show their rejection of alleged Syrian efforts to regain influence in Lebanon.
Hezbollah, which is supported by Syria and Iran, has led an opposition political bloc against March 14 for the past three years.
Rula Amin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Beirut, said the rallies advanced different visions for Lebanon.
She said the al-Hariri rally speakers took pride in the fact that it was the US, the EU and the West that was backing them.
But in the southern suburbs, at the funeral for Moghaniyah, there was defiance against Israel, the US and the West in general which considered Moghaniyah a terrorist, she said.
The funeral was a message from Hezbollah not just to Israel but the March 14 leaders that the Shia group also commanded support on the streets, Amin added.
Nasrallah vow

Moghaniyah, who was accused by the US of planning attacks on Western targets during the Lebanese civil war, was killed by a car bomb in Damascus on Tuesday evening.

Nasrallah said that the death of Moghaniyah would only strengthen the resistance against Israel.
“Moghaniyah’s blood will lead to the elimination of Israel. These words are not an emotional reaction,” he said.

Amin said Nasrallah’s words had left many Lebanese wondering if there will be another war with Israel.

 
 
 

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Hezbollah mystique undiminished

December 12, 2007
Hezbollah mystique undiminished

By Zeina Awad

 
 
 
 
 
 

In 2006, Israel bombed Lebanese cities for 34 days
in an attempt to destroy Hezbollah [GALLO/GETTY]

As political turmoil continues in Lebanon, observers say Hezbollah, the Shia movement, is re-arming and pursuing fresh recruits for its armed wing. Hezbollah has not denied this.

The movement was launched in 1982 in response to Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. Backed by Iran and supported for much of its history by Syria, Hezbollah fighters carried out a series of suicide attacks against Israeli soldiers.

By the late 1990s, Hezbollah had developed into a political party and was funding schools, hospitals and social programmes for Lebanon’s often impoverished Shia population.

While the movement adapted to Lebanon’s political sphere, its armed wing, the Islamic Resistance, continued to attack Israeli forces occupying southern Lebanon until they pulled out on May 25, 2000.

Last year, Hezbollah fighters captured two Israeli soldiers and killed several more in a cross-border raid.

In retaliation, Israel bombarded Lebanon for 34 days in an attempt to destroy Hezbollah.

However, in the aftermath of the war, Hezbollah now enjoys increased popularity, with more fighters signing up.

One such recruit spoke to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity.

Mohammed, a 22-year-old architecture student, joined after the war. He was following in the footsteps of his brother and father, both resistance fighters.

Q: How did you get involved with Hezbollah?

First, when I was in university, I started to work with them [Hezbollah], participating in events and celebrations. Then it evolved to this point.

Special report

We, as Muslims, when we see oppression, we can’t accept it. That’s why I decided to get involved … I am not married and I am young. It is fairer for someone like me to be martyred. This is why I joined Hezbollah.

Q: What is Hezbollah for you?

The resistance, Hezbollah, is like the mother and the father.

We in the south [of Lebanon] were raised on the border of occupied Palestine. Only the resistance took care of us and defended us … I can tell you that Hezbollah is everything a person from the south dreams of when they dream of being defended.

We had a big problem in the south, we were forgotten by the government. Israel could attack us at anytime, but now Hezbollah is defending the people.

Q: How much did the war of July 2006 affect you?

What happened last July affected me deeply. People’s steadfastness, the steadfastness of the men who had no idea what their fate would be … they were fighting so that my people can return to their homes.

Parents look after their children, and Hezbollah looks after the people of Lebanon.

These guys were 23, 24, 25 – in the prime of their lives with a big future ahead of them … They always knew that they had a bigger duty – the duty to defend their country.

Their sacrifices, the things we were seeing on TV – innocent women and children dying. They [Israel] said they were targeting fighters but they weren’t only targeting fighters.

I got to a point where I refused to sit on the sidelines.

These fighters, maybe their mothers or sisters or family members were killed and they were reacting to that loss. It is my duty as a citizen to defend my mother and my family.

Q: If you want to defend your land, why don’t you join the Lebanese army?

The Lebanese army doesn’t have weapons. It is not allowed to carry weapons because there is an international arrangement not to properly arm it.*

The Lebanese army has a mandate to protect this country, but the Americans and the Israelis are trying to change this mandate.

Q: If the Lebanese military was properly armed, would you join the army?

If the Lebanese army had weapons there would not have been a resistance because the army would be protecting Lebanon. The resistance was born because people were trying to defend their villages.

I work with the resistance because there is no proper army, but if there was an army then I would think of joining it.

If the army had weapons then everyone would go back to their lines and the resistance would have to rethink its defence strategy. This is what [Hassan] Nasrallah [the Hezbollah secretary-general] said. He said once we have a government then come back and talk to us.

Q: If the idea is to defend Lebanon and advance it, why don’t you put your efforts into rebuilding Lebanon?

Rebuilding my country is an honour as well. I work and I study. I fulfil these duties just as I fulfil my military duties.

There are two sides to the struggle – the military jihad and the other [social] jihad. Those who God gave the ability to participate in both should do so.

I will continue my life as normal and once my duty calls me I will go.

Q: If one day all occupied lands are liberated, what will your personal struggle become?

I would want to raise a family and send my children to university. There are many jihads in life, and the biggest jihad is the jihad of the Self.

For a person to be able to carry out the military jihad – to bear the pressure of knowing that he is going and he may never come back – his jihad of self is key.

His religion and his spirituality get him closer to God and away from earthly temptations. This will get him to a point where he can carry out his military jihad.

Our akeedah [belief in our cause], as I told you, is a fundamental thing. The akeedah is what allowed a single fighter in a village to fight 30, 40, 50 Israeli soldiers. Why? Because he won’t go back, he won’t give up. He would rather be martyred than humiliated. This is in the blood of the martyrs and this is why we have all these victories.

Q: How do you remember your life as a child growing up

I used to live in Tyre, like all the children in the south we used to hear Israeli jet fighters all the time, and we used to get scared.

single fighter … won’t give up. He would rather be martyred than humiliated. This is in the blood of the martyrs and this is why we have all these victories.

Once, when I was 11, we were playing football and a bomb fell very close to me. I remember I stayed up all night crying. When I was 10 they bombed a Palestinian refugee camp near us and we didn’t sleep nights on end.

We were forced to grow up before our time.

When you live in fear, it affects everything – your life, your studies. We were able to come and go freely but we were constantly scared.

I have been living in Beirut for 13 years … Beirut was safer, but you could still hear Israeli planes overhead, although it was nothing like the south.

In the south, Israeli warplanes used to show up anytime and do whatever they wanted … their soldiers kidnapped farmers and killed people.

Lebanon, as a whole, is under threat from Israel … Farmers can’t access their land, people can’t go to their homes because of cluster bombs.

The threat is there and it will remain there as long as Israel is our neighbour.

Q: How do your parents feel about you  and your brother being Hezbollah fighters?

It is normal for every mother to worry about her sons, but my mother knows this is our duty and we can’t run away from it.

She cries, she is sad, she misses us, she wishes our circumstances were different and we weren’t forced to go through this, that we don’t have any wars, but duty comes first.

She is convinced that whatever God wants, will happen. If I get martyred, she will only cry over my absence and because she will be separated from me.

Parents look after their children, and Hezbollah looks after the people of Lebanon.

Footnote
The Lebanese army has in the past been supplied with weapons by the US. International observers, including the International Institute for Strategic Studies, say it remains poorly equipped. One of the agreements of the Taif Accord, signed in 1989 and which helped bring an end to the Lebanese civil war, was that all non-military armed groups – including Hezbollah – should be disarmed.

The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging America’s Ambitions in Eurasia

September 25, 2007

The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging America’s Ambitions in Eurasia

Global Research, September 23, 2007

“But if the middle space [Russia and the former Soviet Union] rebuffs the West [the European Union and America], becomes an assertive single entity, and either gains control over the South [Middle East] or forms an alliance with the major Eastern actor [China], then America’s primacy in Eurasia shrinks dramatically. The same would be the case if the two major Eastern players were somehow to unite. Finally, any ejection of America by its Western partners [the Franco-German entente] from its perch on the western periphery [Europe] would automatically spell the end of America’s participation in the game on the Eurasian chessboard, even though that would probably also mean the eventual subordination of the western extremity to a revived player occupying the middle space [e.g. Russia].”

-Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, 1997)

 

Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” These precepts of physics can also be used in the social sciences, specifically with reference to social relations and geo-politics.

America and Britain, the Anglo-American alliance, have engaged in an ambitious project to control global energy resources. Their actions have resulted in a series of complicated reactions, which have established a Eurasian-based coalition which is preparing to challenge the Anglo-American axis.

 

Encircling Russia and China: Anglo-American Global Ambitions Backfire

 

“Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible. We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way.”

 

-Vladimir Putin at the Munich Conference on Security Policy in Germany (February 11, 2007)

 

What American leaders and officials called the “New World Order” is what the Chinese and Russians consider a “Unipolar World.” This is the vision or hallucination, depending on perspective, that has bridged the Sino-Russian divide between Beijing and Moscow.

China and Russia are well aware of the fact that they are targets of the Anglo-American alliance. Their mutual fears of encirclement have brought them together. It is no accident that in the same year that NATO bombarded Yugoslavia, President Jiang Zemin of China and President Boris Yeltsin of Russia made an anticipated joint declaration at a historic summit in December of 1999 that revealed that China and the Russian Federation would join hands to resist the “New World Order.” The seeds for this Sino-Russian declaration were in fact laid in 1996 when both sides declared that they opposed the global imposition of single-state hegemony.

 

Both Jiang Zemin and Boris Yeltsin stated that all nation-states should be treated equally, enjoy security, respect each other’s sovereignty, and most importantly not interfere in the internal affairs of other nation-states. These statements were directed at the U.S. government and its partners.

The Chinese and Russians also called for the establishment of a more equitable economic and political global order. Both nations also indicated that America was behind separatist movements in their respective countries. They also underscored American-led amibitions to balkanize and finlandize the nation-states of Eurasia. Influential Americans such as Zbigniew Brzezinski had already advocated for de-centralizing and eventually dividing up the Russian Federation.

 

Both the Chinese and Russians issued a statement warning that the creation of an international missile shield and the contravention of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) would destabilize the international environment and polarize the globe. In 1999, the Chinese and Russians were aware of what was to come and the direction that America was headed towards. In June 2002, less than a year before the onslaught of the “Global War on Terror,” George W. Bush Jr. announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the ABM Treaty.

On July 24, 2001, less than two months before September 11, 2001, China and Russia signed the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation. The latter is a softly worded mutual defence pact against the U.S., NATO, and the U.S. sponsored Asian military network which was surrounding China. [1]

The military pact of the Shanghai Treaty Organization (SCO) also follows the same softly worded format. It is also worth noting that Article 12 of the 2001 Sino-Russian bilateral treaty stipulates that China and Russia will work together to maintain the global strategic balance, “observation of the basic agreements relevant to the safeguard and maintenance of strategic stability,” and “promote the process of nuclear disarmament.” [2] This seems to be an insinuation about a nuclear threat posed from the United States.

 

Standing in the Way of America and Britain: A “Chinese-Russian-Iranian Coalition”

 

As a result of the Anglo-American drive to encircle and ultimately dismantle China and Russia, Moscow and Beijing have joined ranks and the SCO has slowly evolved and emerged in the heart of Eurasia as a powerful international body.

The main objectives of the SCO are defensive in nature. The economic objectives of the SCO are to integrate and unite Eurasian economies against the economic and financial onslaught and manipulation from the “Trilateral” of North America, Western Europe, and Japan, which controls significant portions of the global economy.

The SCO charter was also created, using Western national security jargon, to combat “terrorism, separatism, and extremism.” Terrorist activities, separatist movements, and extremist movements in Russia, China, and Central Asia are all forces traditionally nurtured, funded, armed, and covertly supported by the British and the U.S. governments. Several separatist and extremist groups that have destabilized SCO members even have offices in London.

 

Iran, India, Pakistan, and Mongolia are all SCO observer members. The observer status of Iran in the SCO is misleading. Iran is a de facto member. The observer status is intended to hide the nature of trilateral cooperation between Iran, Russia, and China so that the SCO cannot be labeled and demonized as an anti-American or anti-Western military grouping.

 

The stated interests of China and Russia are to ensure the continuity of a “Multi-Polar World.” Zbigniew Brzezinski prefigured in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and the Geostrategic Imperatives and warned against the creation or “emergence of a hostile [Eurasian-based] coalition that could eventually seek to challenge America’s primacy.” [3] He also called this potential Eurasian coalition an “‘antihegemonic’ alliance” that would be formed from a “Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition” with China as its linchpin. [4] This is the SCO and several Eurasian groups that are connected to the SCO.

 

In 1993, Brzezinski wrote “In assessing China’s future options, one has to consider also the possibility that an economically successful and politically self-confident China — but one which feels excluded from the global system and which decides to become both the advocate and the leader of the deprived states of the world — may decide to pose not only an articulate doctrinal but also a powerful geopolitical challenge to the dominant trilateral world [a reference to the economic front formed by North America, Western Europe, and Japan].” [5]

Brzezinski warns that Beijing’s answer to challenging the global status quo would be the creation of a Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition: “For Chinese strategists, confronting the trilateral coalition of America and Europe and Japan, the most effective geopolitical counter might well be to try and fashion a triple alliance of its own, linking China with Iran in the Persian Gulf/Middle East region and with Russia in the area of the former Soviet Union [and Eastern Europe].” [6] Brzezinski goes on to say that the Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition, which he moreover calls an “antiestablishmentarian [anti-establishmentarian] coalition,” could be a potent magnet for other states [e.g., Venezuela] dissatisfied with the [global] status quo.” [7]

 

Furthermore, Brzezinski warned in 1997 that “The most immediate task [for the U.S.] is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitration role.” [8] It may be that his warnings were forgotten, because the U.S. has been repealed from Central Asia and U.S. forces have been evicted from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

 

“Velvet Revolutions” Backfire in Central Asia

 

Central Asia was the scene of several British-sponsored and American-sponsored attempts at regime change. The latter were characterised by velvet revolutions similar to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia.

These velvet revolutions financed by the U.S. failed in Central Asia, aside from Kyrgyzstan where there had been partial success with the so-called Tulip Revolution.

As a result the U.S. government has suffered major geo-strategic setbacks in Central Asia. All of Central Asia’s leaders have distanced themselves from America.

Russia and Iran have also secured energy deals in the region. America’s efforts, over several decades, to exert a hegemonic role in Central Asia seem to have been reversed overnight. The U.S. sponsored velvet revolutions have backfired. Relations between Uzbekistan and the U.S. were especially hard hit.

 

Uzbekistan is under the authoritarian rule of President Islam Karamov. Starting in the second half of the 1990s President Karamov was enticed into bringing Uzbekistan into the fold of the Anglo-American alliance and NATO. When there was an attempt on President Karamov’s life, he suspected the Kremlin because of his independent policy stance. This is what led Uzbekistan to leave CSTO. But Islam Karamov, years later, changed his mind as to who was attempting to get rid of him.

 

According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Uzbekistan represented a major obstacle to any renewed Russian control of Central Asia and was virtually invulnerable to Russian pressure; this is why it was important to secure Uzbekistan as an American protectorate in Central Asia.

Uzbekistan also has the largest military force in Central Asia.  In 1998, Uzbekistan held war games with NATO troops in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan was becoming heavily militarized in the same manner as Georgia was in the Caucasus. The U.S. gave Uzbekistan huge amounts of financial aid to challenge the Kremlin in Central Asia and also provided training to Uzbek forces.

 

With the launching of the “Global War on Terror,” in 2001, Uzbekistan, an Anglo-American ally, immediately offered bases and military facilities to the U.S. in Karshi-Khanabad.

The leadership of Uzbekistan already knew the direction the “Global War on Terror” would take. To the irritation of the Bush Jr. Administration, the Uzbek President formulated a policy of self-reliance. The honeymoon between Uzbekistan and the Anglo-American alliance ended when Washington D.C. and London contemplated removing Islam Karamov from power. He was a little too independent for their comfort and taste. Their attempts at removing the Uzbek President failed, leading eventually to a shift in geo-political alliances.  

 

The tragic events of Andijan on May 13, 2005 were the breaking point between Uzbekistan and the Anglo-American alliance. The people of Andijan were incited into confronting the Uzbek authorities, which resulted in a heavy security clampdown on the protesters and a loss of lives.

Armed groups were reported to have been involved. In the U.S., Britain, and the E.U., the media reports focused narrowly on human rights violations without mentioning the covert role of the Anglo-American alliance. Uzbekistan held Britain and the U.S. responsible accusing them of inciting rebellion. 

 

M. K. Bhadrakumar, the former Indian ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998), revealed that the Hezbut Tahrir (HT) was one of the parties blamed for stirring the crowd in Andijan by the Uzbek government. [9] The group was already destabilizing Uzbekistan and using violent tactics. The headquarters of this group happens to be in London and they enjoy the support of the British government. London is a hub for many similar organizations that further Anglo-American interests in various countries, including Iran and Sudan, through destabilization campaigns. Uzbekistan even started clamping down on foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) because of the tragic events of Andijan.

The Anglo-American alliance had played its cards wrong in Central Asia. Uzbekistan officially left the GUUAM Group, a NATO-U.S. sponsored anti-Russian body. GUUAM once again became the GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldava) Group on May 24, 2005.

On July 29, 2005 the U.S. military was ordered to leave Uzbekistan within a six-month period. [10] Literally, the Americans were told they were no longer welcome in Uzbekistan and Central Asia.

Russia, China, and the SCO added their voices to the demands. The U.S. cleared its airbase in Uzbekistan by November, 2005.

Uzbekistan rejoined the CSTO alliance on June 26, 2006 and realigned itself, once again, with Moscow. The Uzbek President also became a vocal advocate, along with Iran, for pushing the U.S. totally out of Central Asia. [11] Unlike Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan continued to allow the U.S. to use Manas Air Base, but with restrictions and in an uncertain atmosphere. The Kyrgyz government also would make it clear that no U.S. operations could target Iran from Kyrgyzstan.

 

Major Geo-Strategic Error 

It appears that a strategic rapprochement between Iran and America was in the works from 2001 to 2002. At the outset of the global war on terrorism, Hezbollah and Hamas, two Arab organizations supported by Iran and Syria, were kept off the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Iran and Syria were also loosely portrayed as potential partners in the “Global War on Terror.”

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Iran expressed its support for the post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi government. During the invasion of Iraq, the American military even attacked the Iraqi-based Iranian opposition militia, the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK/MOK/MKO). Iranian jets also attacked the Iraqi bases of the MEK in approximately the same window of time.

Iran, Britain, and the U.S. also worked together against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is worth mentioning that the Taliban were never allies of Iran. Up until 2000, the Taliban had been supported by the U.S. and Britain, working hand in glove with the Pakistani military and intelligence.

The Taliban were shocked and bewildered at what they saw as an American and British betrayal in 2001 — this is in light of the fact that in October, 2001 they had stated that they would hand over Osama bin Laden to the U.S. upon the presentation of evidence of his alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

Zbigniew Brzezinski warned years before 2001 that “a coalition allying Russia with both China and Iran can develop only if the United States is shortsighted enough to antagonize China and Iran simultaneously.” [12] The arrogance of the Bush Jr. Administration has resulted in this shortsighted policy.

According to The Washington Post, “Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago [in 2003], an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table — including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.” [13]

The White House impressed by what they believe were “grand victories” in Iraq and Afghanistan merely ignored the letter sent through diplomatic channels by the Swiss government on behalf of Tehran.

However, it was not because of what was wrongly perceived as a quick victory in Iraq that the Bush Jr. Administration pushed Iran aside. On January 29, 2002, in a major address, President Bush Jr. confirmed that the U.S. would also target Iran, which had been added to the so-called “Axis of Evil” together with Iraq and North Korea. The U.S. and Britain intended to attack Iran, Syria, and Lebanon after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In fact immediately following the invasion, in July 2003, the Pentagon formulated an initial war scenario entitled “Theater Iran Near Term (TIRANNT).”

Starting in 2002, the Bush Jr. Administration had deviated from their original geo-strategic script. France and Germany were also excluded from sharing the spoils of war in Iraq.

The intention was to act against Iran and Syria just as America and Britain had used and betrayed their Taliban allies in Afghanistan. The U.S. was also set on targeting Hezbollah and Hamas. In January of 2001, according to Daniel Sobelman, a correspondent for Haaretz, the U.S. government warned Lebanon that the U.S. would go after Hezbollah. These threats directed at Lebanon were made at the start of the presidential term of George W. Bush Jr., eight months before the events of September 11, 2001.


The conflict at the United Nations Security Council between the Anglo-American alliance and the Franco-German entente, supported by Russia and China, was a pictogram of this deviation.

American geo-strategists for years after the Cold War had scheduled the Franco-German entente to be partners in their plans for global primacy. In this regard, Zbigniew Brzezinski had acknowledged that the Franco-German entente would eventually have to be elevated in status and that the spoils of war would have to be divided with Washington’s European allies.

By the end of 2004, the Anglo-American alliance had started to correct its posture towards France and Germany. Washington had returned to its original geo-strategic script with NATO playing an expanded role in the Eastern Mediterranean. In turn, France was granted  oil concessions in Iraq.

The 2006 war plans for Lebanon and the Eastern Mediterranean also point to a major shift in direction, a partnership role for the Franco-German entente, with France and Germany playing a major military role in the region.   

 
It is worth noting that a major shift occurred in early 2007 with regard to Iran. Following U.S. setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as in Lebanon, Palestine, Somalia, and former Soviet Central Asia),  the White House entered into secret negotiatiations with Iran and Syria. However, the dye has been cast and it would appear that America will be unable to break an evolving military alliance which includes Russia, Iran, and China as its nucleus.

 

The Baker-Hamilton Commission: Covert Anglo-American Cooperation with Iran and Syria?

 

“America should also strongly support Turkish aspirations to have a pipeline from Baku in [the Republic of] Azerbaijan to Ceyhan on the Turkish Mediterranean cost serve as [a] major outlet for the Caspian Sea basin energy sources. In addition, it is not in America’s interest to perpetuate American-Iranian hostility. Any eventual reconciliation should be based on the recognition of a mutual strategic interest in stabilizing what currently is a very volatile regional environment for Iran [e.g., Iraq and Afghanistan]. Admittedly, any such reconciliation must be pursued by both sides and is not a favor granted by one to the other. A strong, even religiously motivated but not fanatically anti-Western Iran is in the U.S. interest, and ultimately even the Iranian political elite may recognize that reality. In the meantime, American long-range interests in Eurasia would be better served by abandoning existing U.S. objections to closer Turkish-Iranian economic cooperation, especially in the construction of new pipelines…”

 

-Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, 1997)

 

The recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Commission or the Iraq Study Group (ISG) are not a redirection in regards to engaging Iran, but a return to the track that the Bush Jr. Administration had deviated from as a result of the delusions of its hasty victories in Afghanistan and Iraq.  In other words, the Baker-Hamilton Commission was about damage control and re-steering America to the geo-strategic path originally intended by military planners that the Bush Jr. Administration seems to have deviated from.

The ISG Report also subtly indicated that adoption of so-called “free market” economic reforms be pressed on Iran (and by extension Syria) instead of regime change. The ISG also favoured the accession of both Syria and Iran to the World Trade Organization (WTO). [14] It should also be noted, in this regard, that Iran has already started a mass privatization program that involves all sectors from banking to energy and agriculture.

The ISG Report also recommends an end to the Arab-Israeli Conflict and the establishment of peace between Israel and Syria. [15]

The joint interests of Iran and the U.S. were also analysed by the Baker-Hamilton Commission. The ISG recommended  that the U.S. should not empower the Taliban again in Afghanistan (against Iran). [16] It should also be noted that Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the U.S., the Syrian Foreign Minister, and Javad Zarif, the Iranian representative to the United Nations, were all consulted by the Baker-Hamilton Commission. [17] The Iranian Ambassodor to the U.N., Javad Zarif, has also been a middle man between the U.S. and Iranian governments for years. 

 

It is worth mentioning that the Clinton Administration was involved in the track of rapprochement with Iran, while also attempting to keep Iran in check under the “dual-containment” policy directed against Iraq and Iran. This policy was also linked to the 1992 Draft Defence Guidance paper written by people within the Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. Administrations.

It is worth noting that Zbigniew Brzezinski had stated as far back as 1979 and again in 1997 that Iran under its post-revolutionary political system could be co-opted by America. [18] Britain also ensured Syria and Iran in 2002 and 2003 that they would not be targeted and encouraged their cooperation with the White House.

It should be noted that Turkey has recently signed a pipeline deal with Iran that will take gas to Western Europe. This project includes the participation of Turkmenistan. [19] It would appear that this cooperation agreement between Tehran and Ankara points to reconciliation rather than confrontation with Iran and Syria. This is in line with what Brzezinski in 1997 claimed was in America’s interest.

Also, the Anglo-American sponsored Iraqi government has recently signed pipeline deals with Iran.

Once again, America’s interests in this deal should be questioned, as should the high opinions being given about Iran by the puppet leaders of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Something’s Amiss…

The media attention given in North America and Britain to the positive comments made about Tehran by Anglo-American clients in Baghdad and Kabul is sinister.

Although these comments from Baghdad and Kabul about the positive role Iran plays in Iraq and Afghanistan are not new, the media attention is. President George W. Bush Jr. and the White House criticized the Iraqi Prime Minister for saying Iran plays a constructive role in Iraq in early-August of 2007. The White House and North American or British press would usually just ignore or refuse to acknowledge these comments. However, this was not the case in August, 2007.

The Afghani President, Hamid Karzai, during a joint press conference with George W.  Bush Jr. stated that Iran was a positive force in his country. It is not odd to hear that Iran is a positive force inside Afghanistan because the stability of Afghanistan is in Iran’s best interests. What comes across as odd are “when” and “where” the comments were made. White House press conferences are choreographed and the place and time of the Afghani President’s comments should be questioned. It also so happens that shortly after the Afghani President’s comments, the Iranian President arrived in Kabul in an unprecedented visit that must have been approved by the White House.

Iran’s Political Leverage

In regards to Iran and the U.S., the picture is blurry and the lines between cooperation and rivalry are less clear. Reuters and the Iranian Student’s News Agency (ISNA) have both reported that the Iranian President may visit Baghdad after August 2007. These reports surfaced just before the U.S. government started threatening to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a special international terrorist organization. Without insinuating anything, it should also be noted that the Revolutionary Guard and the U.S. military have also had a low-key history of cooperation from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The Iranian President has also invited the presidents of the other four Caspian states for a Caspian Sea summit in Tehran. [20] He invited the Turkmen president while in Turkmenistan and later the Russian and Kazakh presidents at the August of 2007 SCO summit in Kyrgyzstan. President Aliyev, the leader of the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azarbaijan) was also personally invited during a trip by the Iranian President to Baku. The anticipated Caspian Sea summit may be similar to the one in Port Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan between the Kazakh, Russian, and Turkmen presidents where it was announced that Russia would not be cut out of the pipeline deals in Central Asia.

Iranian leverage is clearly getting stronger. Officials in Baku also stated that they will expand energy cooperation with Iran and enter the gas pipeline deal between Iran, Turkey, and Turkmenistan that will supply European markets with gas. [21] This agreement to supply Europe is similar to a Russian energy transport deal signed between Greece, Bulgaria, and the Russian Federation. [22]

In the Levant, Syria is involved in energy-related negotiations with Ankara and Baku and important talks have started between American officials and both Tehran and Damascus. [23]

Iran has also been involved in diplomatic exchanges with Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Additionally, starting in August 2007, Syria has agreed to reopen Iraqi oil pipelines to the Eastern Mediterranean, through Syrian territory. [24] The recent official visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki to Syria has also been described as historical by news sources like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Also, Syria and Iraq have agreed to build a gas pipeline from Iraq into Syria, where Iraqi gas will be treated in Syrian plants. [25] These agreements are being passed as the sources of tensions between Baghdad and the White House, but they are doubtful. [26]

Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are also planning on starting the process for creating an Iranian-GCC free trade zone in the Persian Gulf. In the bazaars of Tehran and amongst the political circle of Rafsanjani there are also discussion about the eventual creation of a single market between Iran, Tajikistan, Armenia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. The American role in these processes in regards to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the GCC should be explored.

Under President Nicholas Sarkozy, France has indicated that it is willing to engage the Syrians fully if they gave specific guarantees in regards to Lebanon. These guarantees are linked to French economic and geo-strategic interests.

In the same period of time as the French statements about Syria, Gordon Brown indicated that Britain was also willing to engage in diplomatic exchanges with both Syria and Iran. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, the German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, has also been involved in talks with Damascus on mutual projects, economic reform and bringing Syria closer to the European Union. These talks, however  tend to be camouflaged by the discussion between Syria and Germany in regard to the mass exodus of Iraqi refugees, resulting from the Anglo-American occupation of their country. The French Foreign Minister is also expected in Tehran to talk about Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. Despite the war-mongering by the U.S. and more recently by France, this has all led to speculation of a potential about-turn in regards to Iran and Syria. [27]

Then again, this is part of the two-pronged U.S. approach of preparing for the worst (war), while suing for the diplomatic capitulation of Syria and Iran as client states or partners. When large oil and weapons deals were signed between Libya and Britain, London said that Iran should follow the Libyan example, as has the Baker-Hamilton Commission.

Has the March to War been Interrupted?

Despite talks behind closed doors with Damascus and Tehran, Washington is nonetheless arming its clients in the Middle East. Israel is in an advanced state of military preparedness for a war on Syria.

Unlike France and Germany, Anglo-American ambitions pertaining to Iran and Syria are not one of cooperation. The ultimate objective is political and economic subordination.

Moreover, either as a friend or foe, America cannot tolerate Iran within its present borders. The balkanization of Iran, like that of Iraq and Russia, is a major long-term Anglo-American goal.

What lies ahead is never known. While there is smoke in the horizon, the U.S.-NATO-Israeli military agenda will not necessarily result in the implementation of war as planned.

A “Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition” — which forms the basis of a global counter-alliance — is emerging. America and Britain rather than opting for outright war, may choose to reel in Iran and Syria through macro-economic manipulation and velvet revolutions.

War directed against Iran and Syria, however, cannot be ruled out. There are real war preparations on the ground in the Middle East and Central Asia. A war against Iran and Syria would have far-reaching worldwide implications.


Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is an independent writer based in Ottawa specialising on the Middle East and Central Asia. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).



NOTES

 

[1] Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, signed and entered into force July 16, 2001, P.R. of China-Russian Federation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjdt/2649/t15771.htm

 

The following are treaty articles that are relevant to the mutual defence of China and Russia against American-led encirclement and efforts to dismantle both nations;

 

ARTICLE 4

 

The Chinese side supports the Russian side in its policies on the issue of defending the national unity and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.

The Russian side supports the Chinese side in its policies on the issue of defending the national unity and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China.

 

ARTICLE 5

 

The Russian side reaffirms that the principled stand on the Taiwan issue as expounded in the political documents signed and adopted by the heads of states of the two countries from 1992 to 2000 remain unchanged. The Russian side acknowledges that there is only one China in the world, that the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The Russian side opposes any form of Taiwan’s independence.

 

ARTICLE 8


The contracting parties shall not enter into any alliance or be a party to any bloc nor shall they embark on any such action, including the conclusion of such treaty with a third country which compromises the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contracting party. Neither side of the contracting parties shall allow its territory to be used by a third country to jeopardize the national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contracting party.

Neither side of the contracting parties shall allow the setting up of organizations or gangs on its own soil which shall impair the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contrasting party and their activities should be prohibited.

 

ARTICLE 9

 

When a situation arises in which one of the contracting parties deems that peace is being threatened and undermined or its security interests are involved or when it is confronted with the threat of aggression, the contracting parties shall immediately hold contacts and consultations in order to eliminate such threats.

 

ARTILCE 12

 

The contracting parties shall work together for the maintenance of global strategic balance and stability and make great efforts in promoting the observation of the basic agreements relevant to the safeguard and maintenance of strategic stability.

The contracting parties shall actively promote the process of nuclear disarmament and the reduction of chemical weapons, promote and strengthen the regimes on the prohibition of biological weapons and take measures to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and their related technology.

 

[2] Ibid.

 

[3] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (NYC, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), p.198.

 

[4] Ibid., pp. 115-116, 170, 205-206.

 

Note: Brzezinski also refers to a Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition as a “counteralliance” (p.116).

 

[5] Zbigniew Brzezinski, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century (NYC, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993), p.198.

 

[6] Ibid.

 

[7] Ibid.

 

[8] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Op. cit., p.198.

 

[9] M. K. Bhadrakumar, The lessons from Ferghana, Asia Times, May 18, 2005.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/GE18Ag01.html

 

[10] Nick Paton Walsh, Uzbekistan kicks US out of military base, The Guardian (U.K.), August 1, 2005.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1540185,00.html

 

[11] Vladimir Radyuhin, Uzbekistan rejoins defence pact, The Hindu, June 26, 2006.

http://www.thehindu.com/2006/06/26/stories/2006062604491400.htm

 

[12] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Op. cit., p.116.

 

[13] Glenn Kessler, In 2003, U.S. Spurned Iran’s Offer of Dialogue, The Washington Post, June 18, 2006, p.A16.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/17/AR2006061700727.html

 

[14] James A. Baker III et al., The Iraq Study Group Report: The Way Forward A New Approach, Authroized ed. (NYC, New York: Random House Inc., 2006), p.51.

[15] Ibid., pp.51, 54-57.

[16] Ibid., pp.50-53, 58.

[17] Ibid., p.114.

[18] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Op. cit., p.204.

 

[19] Iran, Turkey sign energy cooperation deal, agree to develop Iran’s gas fields, Associated Press, July 14, 2007.

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/07/14/business/ME-FIN-Iran-Turkey-Energy-deal.php


[20] Tehran to host summit of Caspian nations Oct.18, Russian Information Agency (RIA Novosti), August 22, 2007.
http://en.rian.ru/world/20070822/73387774.html

 

[21] Azerbaijan, Iran reinforce energy deals, United Press International (UPI), August 22, 2007.

[22] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, The March to War: Détente in the Middle East or “Calm before the Storm?,” Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), July 10, 2007.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=6281

[23] Ibid.

It is worth noting that Iran has been involved in pipeline deals with Turkey and in negotiation between Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and the Republic of Azerbaijan in the possible creation of an energy corridor in the Eastern Mediterranean. These deals occurred in the same time frame that both Syria and Iran started talks with the U.S. after the Baker-Hamilton Commission’s report.


[24] Syria and Iraq to reopen oil pipeline link, Agence France-Presse (AFP), August 22, 2007.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Roger Hardy, Why the US is unhappy with Maliki, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), August 22, 2007.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6958440.stm

[27] Hassan Nafaa, About-face on Iran coming?, Al-Ahram (Egypt), no. 859, August 23-29, 2007.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/859/op22.htm


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Israeli warplanes have flown at low altitude over southern Lebanon in defiance of a United Nations resolution, reports from Beirut say.

September 19, 2007

‘Israeli warplanes raid’ Lebanon

Israeli warplanes have flown at low altitude over southern Lebanon in defiance of a United Nations resolution, reports from Beirut say. The fighter jets allegedly caused sonic booms as they flew over the cities of Sidon and Tyre, as well as the towns of Bint Jbeil and Marjayoun.

Israel has so far made no comment on the Lebanese claims.

Israel has been criticised by the UN for making a number of overflights in Lebanon in recent weeks.

Israel says they are necessary to monitor activities by the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militants.

‘Hezbollah stronghold’

Lebanese police said six Israeli aircraft violated Lebanon’s airspace at 0700 GMT, according to the AFP news agency.

Police said the jets swooped low over the port cities of Sidon and Tyre as well as the Bint Jbeil region, a Hezbollah stronghold.

Last August’s UN ceasefire followed a resolution by the world body that ended a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/7001006.stm

Published: 2007/09/18 15:55:51 GMT

© BBC MMVII

Israel condemned over Lebanon war

September 6, 2007

Over 1,000 Lebanese died in Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon during the war[GALLO/GETTY]
bodyVariable350=”Htmlphcontrol1_lblError”;

 

“Responsibility for the high civilian death toll of the war in Lebanon lies squarely with Israeli policies and targeting decisions in the conduct of its military operations,” the report said.

 

Israel has said it attacked civilian areas because Hezbollah set up rocket launchers in them.

bodyVariable300=”Htmlphcontrol2_lblError”;

 
 
 
 

Mark Regev, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said: “We faced a very specific problem in that Hezbollah adopted a very deliberate and premeditated strategy to embed itself among the civilian population.”

 

The rights organization, though, said there was no basis to the Israeli claim.

 

In an earlier report Human Rights Watch also accused Hezbollah of indiscriminately firing rockets against Israeli civilians during the war.

 

A HRW news conference in Beirut last month was canceled because of threats by Hezbollah.

 

Civilian casualties

 

Hezbollah is accused of killing 43 Israeli
civilians in rocket attacks [GALLO/GETTY] 

More than 1,000 Lebanese were killed in the 34-day conflict between July and August last year after Hezbollah staged a cross-border raid, killing three Israeli soldiers and capturing two others who are still being held.

 

Kenneth Roth, HRW executive director, said at a press conference in Jerusalem that, while Israel did not appear to have had a deliberate policy of killing civilians, there was “a pattern of killing that amounts to indiscriminate fire”.

 

Forty-three Israeli civilians and 12 soldiers died as a result of rocket attacks by Hezbollah, HRW said, while about 250 Hezbollah fighters were killed, according to Roth.

 

Hezbollah party officials have said “about 150” of its fighters died, without providing an exact figure. Israel claimed to have killed around 300.

 

Civilians targeted

 

HRW acknowledged that Israel warned civilians that aircraft were going to bomb villages, at one point announcing a 48-hour cease-fire to let civilians leave.

 

But the air strikes that followed targeted civilians as well was militants, the report said.

 

Israel’s army said its forces distinguish “at all times” between civilians and combatants.

 

The findings in the 247-page report are based on the investigation of 510 civilian deaths, including at least 300 women and children, visits to more than 50 Lebanese villages, and more than 350 interviews.

Why Saudi Arabia? Why Now?

August 8, 2007

Why Saudi Arabia? Why Now?

Col. Daniel Smith, U.S. Army (Ret.) | August 6, 2007

Editor: Miriam Pemberton

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Foreign Policy In Focus

www.fpif.org

The “headline-grabber” read: “U.S. Plans New Arms Sales to Gulf Allies.”

Nothing startling there. For decades the United States has routinely sold or transferred weapons and ammunition, sent military teams abroad or brought foreign military personnel to the United States for training, and transferred technology that allowed “friendly” governments to produce almost state-of-the-art copies of U.S. weapons.

What was a surprise were two details in the article’s subheading. The main recipient of Uncle Sam’s largesse was Saudi Arabia, and the value of the deal was said to be $20 billion.

Saudi Arabia? Isn’t that the country:

  • from which came 15 of the 19 men responsible for 9/11?
  • that opposed the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and whose king, in March 2007, called the invasion an “illegal occupation”?
  • that told the United States to remove its troops and find some other country for U.S. Central Command’s (CENTCOM) forward command post?
  • whose border is so poorly monitored that 75% of all foreign fighters crossing into Iraq do so from Saudi territory, far more than from Syria?
  • whose autocratic government either will not or cannot prevent its youth from going to Iraq – an estimated 40% of all foreigners fighting U.S. troops and Iraqi government forces are Saudi nationals – where they become bomb makers, snipers, and suicide bombers?
  • that nearly 60 years after the creation of the modern state of Israel still refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to Tel Aviv?

No matter how deft the White House “spin,” there will be considerable congressional opposition to the sale. Previous congresses have opposed sales of weapons to the Saudis on the grounds that the kingdom has never signed a peace agreement with Israel. This time, the opposition is fueled by the lack of sustained support from Riyadh for U.S. aims in Iraq and in the global war on terrorism.

Cost of Oil

There is also the sense among some members of Congress that the Saudis have not acted to control the soaring costs of energy. In the run-up to the 2004 elections, the Saudis allegedly promised they would increase production if necessary to preclude a price spike that might hurt the reelection prospects of the Bush-Cheney ticket. Once the U.S. election was concluded, however, the Saudis did little if anything to curb higher prices – first to $40 and then to $50 per barrel – pleading market forces beyond their control. Coincidentally with the announcement of the proposed arms sale, the price of a barrel of oil hit $78. Yet there was only silence from the Saudis.

From the perspective of the hard-liners in George W. Bush’s White House, the Saudis were undercutting every American goal in the Middle East, particularly the current president’s vision of a democratic Iraq as the seedbed for transforming autocratic regimes to democracies.

How different from 1990-1991when President George H. W. Bush sent American troops to protect Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein seized Kuwait. In the first years after the 1991 Gulf War, the Pentagon willing sold almost anything to the Saudis – with the stipulation, demanded by Tel Aviv, that Arab countries would not get equipment that technologically equaled the equipment provided Israel. Even so, based on these orders, the United States actually delivered $22.9 billion in weaponry to the Saudis in the period 1997-2004.

From Riyadh’s perspective, however, it is George W. Bush who is undercutting good governance in the Middle East, something more important yet more elusive than the type of government a country may have. Early 2006 was the turning point. As soon as it became clear that the Saudi-backed Hamas movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and not Fatah had won the January 2006 parliamentary election, Washington and Tel Aviv – who regard Hamas as a terrorist organization – took steps to cut all financial, commercial, and diplomatic contact with the incoming Palestinian government. This set the Bush administration on a collision course with King Abdullah who was pressuring Fatah and Hamas to overcome their past animosities and form a “unity government.” By early 2007 conditions were so dire that Hamas and Fatah agreed to the Saudi-sponsored “Mecca Accord” as the basis for a united government. The agreement intensified U.S. and Israeli counteractions, and after three months fighting resumed between the factions.

Supporters of the Bush administration quickly saw Riyadh’s effort to respect the election results as yet another instance in which Saudi Arabia was not pulling its weight in the war on terror. In fact, Congress had already expressed its frustration about Riyadh’s failure to be more actively engaged in furthering U.S. (and therefore implicitly Saudi) objectives. In Fiscal Years 2005 and 2006, Congress had directed that Saudi Arabia was not to receive any funds in the State Department’s foreign operations appropriation. But as usual, the legislation contained an escape clause: the ban against assistance became moot if the president certified that the Saudi’s were cooperating in the war on terror. Much to the dismay of many in Congress, Bush so certified each year.

Timing

An unanswered question about the proposed arms deal is: Why now? Had the administration moved before November 2003, the announcement would have been seen in the region as an audacious – given the “success” of U.S.-led coalitions in Afghanistan and Iraq – but credible recommitment by Washington to the then-25-year-old policy of diplomatic, economic, and military (conventional and nuclear) containment of Tehran’s ambitions in the Gulf by increasing Riyadh’s military stance.

But looking at the Saudi record and Riyadh’s increasing propensity to act in its interests without coordinating with Washington, there is the suggestion that the Bush administration is suddenly wary of its “other” flank in the Persian Gulf – the one occupied by the Saudi-dominated six-member Gulf Cooperation Council. Militarily overcommitted in mid-summer 2007, the White House has only two cards to play: pump up fear of Iran acquiring enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon, or bribe the regional allies.

For a few months the nuclear fear factor seemed to work, but Tehran seems to have become “reasonable” enough in its position to defuse tensions with most of the main actors in this dispute. This left the Bush administration with bribery, spiced with a touch of traditional Sunni-Shi’a sectarianism that underpins relations between Riyadh and Tehran even when they cooperate (e.g., the just-formed Iraq security sub-committee that will consider steps to reduce the influx of weapons and fighters into Iraq from Iran).

This also explains the visit last week by the secretary of state and the secretary of defense to the region on an old-fashion, bribe-them-first-then-twist-arms, whistle-stop campaign to make sure regional “allies” – this time including the Saudis – are in line behind U.S. policy.

Inconvenient Inconsistencies

But the multi-billion dollar arms deal has some inconsistencies that could cause the two secretaries problems. The most immediate one is the policy message represented by the sheer size of the arms deal. Washington has been insisting that there is no military solution to the region’s trauma. Yet it is proposing not only $20 billion in weapons to the Saudis but another $13 billion to Egypt and $30 billion to Israel – a total of $63 billion for weapons in a part of the world already awash in modern arms. And this total apparently doesn’t include $40 million in guns, bullets, rockets, missiles, small arms ammunition, night vision goggles, and spare parts for the Lebanese army this year and another $280 million for 2008. Nor does it include the $3 billion Iraq is spending on weapons and ammunition – all of which are contributing to the current mayhem in these two countries.

Nonetheless, since Israel has already said it will not oppose the sale, it is unlikely that Congress will vote to block it or even to amend it. As for the Pentagon, it hopes to save money through economy of scale for items produced for either the Saudis or Israelis. And of course U.S. companies that build weapons and munitions are pleased at the prospect of new contracts and new profits.

The irony in this whole affair is that George Bush started the Iraq war over weapons that never existed and that have not been used since 1945. Now his administration seems to think the way to end the war is to make sure that there are more weapons – ones that kill thousands every day. Go figure!

Dan Smith is a military affairs analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus, a retired U.S. Army colonel, and a senior fellow on military affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. His blog is The Quakers’ Colonel.

The March to War: Détente in the Middle East or “Calm before the Storm?”

July 12, 2007