Columnists

Jooneed Khan
NATO beats the drums of war against Syria and Iran

| November 18, 2011

If you thought the $4-trillion Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan quagmire, and the loss of standing and credibility that goes with it, would bring the declining West to its senses, well, think again.

Even as I write this, drums of war are beating in Israel and across Natodom to "bomb, bomb, bomb" Iran and Syria, and go "free" them with the drones and the missiles of "regime change."

With Libya in ruins, and its oil pledged to NATO multinationals, the screws are now tightening on Iran and Syria. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) is meeting in Vienna to discuss its latest report on Iran, while Israel openly threatens to strike Iran's nuclear facilities. And the Arab League (AL) has suspended Syria to force "regime change" in Damascus.

In our "Upside Down" world, as Eduardo Galeano put it, it's the least of paradoxes that Israel is itself a widely proven though undeclared nuclear power, which has not signed the NPT (Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty), of which Iran is a member. Yet Israel, which just tested a long-range missile capable of carrying atomic warheads, is never questioned on its military nuclear activities.

The U.S. and its NATO allies have invested much over the years, in terms of both overt sanctions and covert operations, to shake Iran's and Syria's support for the Lebanese (Shiite) Hezbollah and the Palestinian (Sunni) Hamas. The resistance of Iran and Syria to Western plans has stymied Israel, NATO's regional cop. Those sustained preparations are now coming to a head.

The empire mobilizes new regional cops

So new "cops" are being mobilized. Saudi Arabia, which recently bought $75-billion worth of arms from the US, has been playing a crucial role in turning the popular, democratic Arab Spring into an Arab Winter -- sending troops and tanks to crush the uprising in Bahrain and uphold the British-installed Al-Khalifa dynasty, and supporting pro-Wahhabi Islamist parties in Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Jordan and Morocco.

Moubarak's army, a long-term client of the Pentagon (with close to $2-billion-a-year in military aid), is still running Egypt under the old system, blocking popular demand for real "regime change." Yemen is a republic, not a monarchy, but the regime is solidly in the Saudi (and U.S.) camp. Over more than 30 years in power, Ali Abdallah Saleh has been close to Saddam Hussein's Iraq and has even flirted with Iran. But he is now a Saudi client, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has not ostracized him; instead it is helping him to crush the Yemeni popular uprising.

The conservative monarchies of Morocco and Jordan have been invited to join the GCC -- which would makes for a pretty huge Gulf! Petty oil emirates of the Gulf, who make up the GCC, are turning into roaring mice. Qatar, run by the British-installed Al-Thani dynasty and known for its Al-Jazeera TV called the "Arab CNN", also had troops in Libya. It chaired the Arab League meeting in Doha which suspended Syria. The Algerian El Watan daily reported that the Qatari PM, Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani, openly threatened Algerian FM Mourad Medelci for opposing Syria's suspension.

Erdogan and the return of the Ottoman empire

The Wall Street Journal reports the U.S. plans to sell thousands of advanced "bunker-buster" bombs and other munitions to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a way to keep Iran in check. This was announced in the midst of sensational media "leaks" of the confidential IAEA report on Iran. Six months after it normalized relations with Kuwait, Iran arrested two Kuwaiti citizens in Abadan, charged them with possession of spying equipment and accused the oil sheikhdom of espionage.

All these Arab regimes have got their peoples entrapped in a U.S.-run protection racket. Israeli hype over the bugbear of a nuclear Iran has further terrified them, stirring atavistic distrust of the hereditary Persian neighbour. Turkey, another non-Arab neighbour which ruled the Arab world via the Ottoman Empire for 500 years, is also roped-in: as a contract player for the U.S. empire and a member of NATO, its Islamist (Sunni) government has challenged Iran's and Syria's pro-Palestinian credentials by making a public show of taking issue with Israel. A grand coalition is in sight for the Great Sunni-Shia War the Israelis and the Neo-Cons have been working so hard and so long to bring about.

Turkish PM Recep Erdogan toured the Arab Spring in the summer as a latter-day Ottoman emperor, hedging about the Libyan war yet fully supportive of the NATO-Africom operation. He lectured the Egyptians and Tunisians on their choice of new regimes, while enhancing the credibility of the U.K.-friendly Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Al-Nahda movement in Tunisia. Above all, he is host to the Syrian opposition, dominated by Sunni fundamentalists linked to Lebanese anti-Hezbollah Sunnis and which is launching armed operations inside Syria from Turkish and Lebanese soil.

Libya and disaster capitalism at work

In Libya, NATO and Africom successfully turned the Arab Spring to their favour -- even though the eight-month war decimated many more civilians than the West falsely accused the Qadhafi régime of killing to justify its so-called "Responsibility to Protect" mission, and even though it destroyed major cities and left vast areas strewn with lethal spent and unexploded bombs and explosives.

This is how Disaster Capitalism, superbly chronicled by Naomi Klein, actually works. Capitalism has perverted the classic Maoist principle that "To build, you must first destroy" to create through wanton destruction "level(led) playing fields" on which neo-liberalism is pasted from the top and from which juicy contracts for reconstruction flow.

All this is great for Western geo-strategy and business, as China, India, Russia, Brazil, Iran, South Africa rise, and as the Euro teeters -- while the dollar may be next.

Stockpiles of arms and ammunitions are expended in wars, and also recycled into petro-dollars, to make way for ever increasing production. Obscurantist "allied" monarchies are propped up, and secular republics are toppled by NATO's self-proclaimed "democracies," which then allow pro-Saudi Islamists, African client States and tribal warlords to fill the vacuum they generate.

The U.S. empire is seeking to reach out to the limits of Eurasia, and to strengthen its hold on Mid Eastern oil, even if, at home, the Occupy Wall Street movement rises again and again after each brutal repression.

The U.S. chimera hits a Russo-Chinese wall

But this U.S.-Israeli Neo-Con chimera is foundering against the belatedly hard-nosed realism of Russia and China, two of the five veto members in the security council of a very defective United Nations. By abstaining, both countries allowed the U.S., the U.K. and France to pass UNSC resolutions 1970 and 1973 which gave NATO the green light for the massive lynching of Libya.

Now the NATO triad wants a similar mandate against Syria, but Moscow and Beijing are saying no to a Libya-II. Western media inflates the narrative of "unarmed, innocent civilians" being "massacred" on a daily basis by Syria's army, and the Syrian opposition keeps crying for UN help. Russia and China maintain there are armed opponents and victims on both sides. They want the opposition to come to a negotiated settlement with the Assad government.

Hence the U.S. recourse to the Arab League, and the latter's quick delivery of Syria's suspension, which could just be the diplomatic fig leaf NATO needs to go barging into Syria. On the rebound from the death of 241 Marines in a massive bomb attack in Beirut in October 1983, Ronald Reagan ordered the invasion of Grenada, claiming a call for US help had come from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)! But then George W. Bush bombed and invaded Iraq in 2003 without any invitation.

Within days of the Arab League suspension of Syria, Western media began writing about armed attacks on Syrian security forces -- but kept calling the attackers "army defectors."

Republican warmongering one-upmanship

Iran's case is more problematic, though here too widespread skepticism over the IAEA report may not prevent Israel from putting the U.S., NATO and the world before a fait accompli by bombing Iran's nuclear facilities unilaterally.

Leaks from the confidential report to the Western media stress that Iran has an ongoing secret nuclear weapons programme. Critics retort the document contains no new information and just rehashes old data which led the Bush administration to conclude, in a 2007 NIE (National Intelligence Estimate), that Iran has halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003. This hysteria follows on the accusation that Iran had conspired with Mexican drug cartels to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, a charge even former CIA agents dismissed as ludicrous.

The present war propaganda against Iran is a repeat of the war propaganda against Iraq in 2002-2003, said Ron Paul, Republican presidential hopeful, in a recent candidates' debate.

Rivals Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney vied for the most bellicose posture, saying they'd had enough of Obama's sanctions on Iran. Gingrich called for "deniable covert operations" like the targeted killing of Irani nuclear scientists, which Iran has accused the U.S. and Israel of already perpetrating -- through terrorist attacks, targeted assassinations, and support for the MKO, the Jundullah (Sunni) and the Kurdish PJAK armed groups. Romney outbid him by saying he would pre-emptively bomb Iran's nuclear facilities to make sure Tehran never has the bomb.

Iraq's 'Curveball' and Iran's 'Laptop of Death'

One detail is a throwback to the "Curveball" saga, the story of an Iraqi refugee cab-driver in Germany, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who claimed in 1999 that he was a chemical engineer in Iraq, making "mobile biological weapons laboratories." German Intelligence doubted his claims, but the CIA pounced on them and the Bush-Cheney administration used them to build its case for the invasion of Iraq.

The claims were proven false in 2004, and in February 2011, Al-Janabi, for the first time, admitted to The Guardian that he had indeed lied about his story. The CIA had given him the code-name "Curveball".

In the case of Iran, there is a so-called "Laptop of death," a computer that U.S. Intelligence has shown to the IAEA in 2005. It is said to contain data on Iran's nuclear weapons programme, including satellite pictures taken at the Parchin military facility. The Hindu writes about "a steel container that can be used for testing explosives" and "triggering pressure waves that can detonate fissile material." "It is also claimed that Tehran is building computer models of a missile cone that can carry a nuclear payload," the paper adds.

Critics fault the IAEA for 'unprofessionalism'

Iran rejects these claims, calling them "obsolete and repetitive," and saying it had given "precise responses" in a 117-page document. Ali Asgar Soltaniyeh, Iran's representative to the IAEA, described the report as "skewed, unprofessional and political," and accused IAEA boss Yukiya Amano of making a "historical mistake" and "impairing the agency's credibility." He also accused the IAEA of refusing to give Iran access to all the data, and especially to the "laptop" in question.

"We don't know if this 'Laptop of Death' is a computer or a DVD nor how trustworthy it is," says Robert Kelly, a former IAEA inspector who now works for the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Questioned on the Real News Network, he said: "Iran may well have a nuclear weapons program, but this AIEA report contains nothing new that can take us there." He thought the IAEA had been "careless" in allowing leaks of its report "in the midst of drumbeats of war from Israel" and not "technically correct" enough in its observations. He cited the example of Exploding Bridge Wires (EBW) "which have a widespread use in the oil industry and not exclusively for nuclear weapons."

Many analysts on Iranian Press TV pointed out that the report was replete with vague conditionals like "can," "could," "may," and that the old WMD concept (Weapons of Mass Destruction) used against Iraq has now become the PWD concept (Potential weapons of Destruction) in the case of Iran.

Neo-cons and the empire's four-pronged strategy

The neo-con designers of George W. Bush's "Project for a New American Century" have faded into the background, but their malevolent will to cling to the mountaintop through ruthless lying and destructive bullying continues to operate behind the façade of Barack Hussein Obama, the "Yes, We Can" democrat and Nobel Peace Laureate turned warmonger for the American Empire.

The military push for Iran and Syria, blared openly by Israel with quiet but insistent support from the U.S. and Europe, is part of a four-pronged strategy aimed at strengthening control over the Arab Middle East, deepening involvement in south Asia, militarizing Africa with Africom participation, and reinforcing Western power projection in the Indian Ocean.

The modern deep-water port built by China in the Pakistani city of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea, with road links for Chinese imports and exports over the Karakoram Mountains, is seen as a threat by the U.S. Empire. As indeed nuclear Pakistan is itself seen as "a threat bigger than Iran," as explicitly denounced on U.S. webzines and blogs.

This U.S. Empire, with 250,000 servicemen spread over 750 military bases around the world and mega-nuclear-powered fleets of war deployed on all oceans (including the planned deployment of 2500 Marines in Darwin, Northern Australia), and its allies, call themselves the "international community." Yet, as the vote on the admission of Palestine to UNESCO showed a couple of weeks ago, the 14 No voters make up only 17 per cent of the world population of 7-billion! More significantly, the U.S. Empire operates for the global 1 per cent, and "We Are the 99 per cent, Worldwide"! There's hope for sanity yet.

A version of this blog, under the by-line Jooneed Jeeroburkhan, appears in the Friday, Nov 18, 2011, edition of the weekly newspaper Mauritius Times, accessible here.

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