Editorial – The Middle East: capitalist powder keg

The tit for tat rocket attacks between Israel and Iran have brought to the surface the real issue in the Middle East — whether the US and its allies should or should not control the fossil reserves and the trade routes in the area, which are vital to the operation of capitalism in their parts of the world.

The US position was clearly spelt out in 1980 by President Carter in his State of the Union message:

‘An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force’.

This wasn’t just words. In 1991 the US waged the Gulf War after Iraq invaded Kuwait and in 2003 the Iraq War that led to the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime there. This allowed the US to establish bases in Iraq to add to those in the Gulf states. The civil war in Syria allowed it to establish one there too. Its main asset in the region, however, has been Israel, its support for which has been ‘ironclad’ and which it has armed to the teeth.

With the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, the threat to US domination has come from Iran where, in 1979, the pro-US regime was overthrown and replaced by a brutal theocracy. The economic system there remained capitalist and the new regime aggressively pursued Iran’s national capitalist interests against those of the US. Iran, too, has its ‘bases’ throughout the region in the form of ‘proxy’ militias, in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Iran is opposed to Israel ostensibly on religious grounds but essentially because Israel is US’s main asset in the region that needs to be destroyed if US control is to be ended.

Israel, as a capitalist state in its own right, has its own agenda. Its present rulers aspire to protect its existence as a separate state, to establish its rule over the whole of the former Ottoman province of Palestine; which involves the permanent political repression of the non-Jewish population living there. As far as the US is concerned, this is a diversion from why it supports Israel and undermines Israel’s usefulness to them.

In this sense Israel’s savage war of retaliation on Hamas and the whole population of Gaza for Hamas’s massacre of Israeli citizens on 7 October is a horrific sideshow.

Where all this will end is unclear. But one thing is not. The Middle East is a powder keg as a result of a conflict between capitalist states over who shall control raw material resources, and the trade routes to transport these out of the region. Capitalism’s competitive struggle for profits breeds such conflicts. Wars, the threat of war, and the waste of armaments will exist as long as capitalism does.

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