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After Hezbullah, war with Iran?

Was Israel's attack on Hezbullah part of preparations for a coming US attack on
Iran?

  As we go to press, a serious and already escalating crisis can be expected to go into overdrive the instant the Iranian government, at the moment under a UN deadline to stop uranium enrichment by 31 August, tells the UN what it can do with its resolution.

 Sanctions will no doubt be 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 worst-case 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.

 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 was not about capturing back the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped on 14 July but was rather, it would seem, about oil and the securing of other resources and about preparing for any wider conflict against Syria and Iran.

Planned in advance

There are numerous claims that the war in Lebanon had been planned in advance by Israel. Reporting from Tel Aviv for the San Francisco Chronicle (21 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 US 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." (Guardian, 14 August).

 In bombarding Lebanon and the Gaza strip (Gaza is still being bombed) the objective was to neutralise two opponents of Israel - and the US - Hezbullah and Hamas. Hezbullah's fire power and missile capabilities needed to be tested. Israel was unsure of the number of rockets in the hands of Hezbullah (some said 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 rocket attack on Israel resulting from any US-allied bombardment of Iran.

Oil and water

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 (http://www.globalresearch.ca/), was the inauguration of the Ceyhan-Tblisi-Baku (BTC) oil pipeline. This links the Caspian Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean, and was opened one day before Hezbullah's kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers that ostensibly started the recent war in Lebanon.The BTC pipeline is anticipated to carry a million barrels of oil a day to Western markets. In attendance at the 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 BP-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 percent 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.

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 not only seems to serve Israeli oil consumption needs, but also plays a part in the US's 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 (11 May) reported:"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 fromupstream 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-Israeliborder, 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."
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. Its military programme is increasingly looking like being tailored to the region's strategic oil pipelines and by the Western oil companies commanding the pipeline passages. 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 oft-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'."

Significant, for Chossudovsky, is the Turkey-Israel alliance which involves military and intelligence sharing on Iraq, Iran and Syria, as well as joint military exercisesand training.
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)

Seeking greater independence and an enhanced role in the Middle East, the smell of profits all around, Israeli aggression now becomes more understandable.

Long war

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 inLebanon. Clearly Israel is preparing for a widening and intense 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 ofviolence to those Middle Eastern countriesthat would stand in the way of profit-hungry masters of war and their ambitions for global domination of the planet's vital resources?
Seymour Hersh has repeatedly asserted 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 withHersh 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 (Guardian, 8 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."

Dangerous times

We live at a dangerous stage of human history, in which the greatest crime a countrycan 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 uranium enrichment programme - is to have enviable oil and gas reserves, to control access to the Persian Gulf , which is a vital oil and gas transhipment route to Europe, Japan, and the rest of the world, and to have contemplated oil deals with a serious 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 percent of the world's cement supplies on a single dam project,the panic button has clearly been pressed.

As Socialists we are naturally fearful as we watch events unfold; fearful for our class, our fellows throughout the world and for whom we hold no ill feelings. As always, we 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 begins again, we once more take the opportunity to declare our heartfelt solidarity with the workers of all countries, 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 all 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.

JOHN BISSETT