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Monday, June 17, 2024

Israeli attack on Lebanon threatens a borderless conflagration in the Middle East

By Markish SchiederSpecial to CSMS MagazineAs the Middle East descends into chaos, Israeli high-tech weaponry is being used once again to impose fear and humiliation over the entire Arab Nation. With tacit endorsement from Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Holmet has made it clear that unless the Lebanese government takes control or disarm Hezbollah or Party of God, a Shiite Lebanese group that has been waging a war of resistance against Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon, the assault on Lebanon will continue.Last week, Hezbollah launched a daring raid along the Israeli border with Lebanon, capturing 2 soldiers and killing 3 others. Later that day, 3 more Israeli soldiers died while in a mission to rescue the captured soldiers as their armored vehicle got blown away while rolling over a landmine. Since then, the Israeli war machine has been on the move, threatening Syria and Iran and relentlessly pounding Lebanese infrastructure. Arab governments seems powerless in the face of US- financed Israeli military that holds one of the most sophisticated weapons in its arsenal, including ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. But on Friday, Iran launched its own warning: any attack against Syria will be considered an attack against the entire Muslim world, and Israel can bet on a swift and decisive response.Never before since 1982 that war threatens to engulf the entire Middle East region. From the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea, the potential for an all-out war has never been greater. The United States trapped in a quagmire in Iraq has no influence over the Arab masses that consider Washington as an accomplice to Israeli aggression against them. Many experts believe that the Israeli onslaught could stop in a heartbeat if Washington was serious in promoting peace in the region.        The Israeli onslaught on Lebanon, with bombings and missile strikes and the imposition of an air and sea blockade, has brought the Middle East to the brink of all-out war. The attack on Lebanon, fully endorsed by the Bush administration, coincides with Israel’s ongoing assault on the Palestinian population of Gaza, 1.5 million people who are enduring the fourth week of a siege, with electricity cut off and food supplies running low.No one can seriously suggest that bombing Lebanese towns and villages, imposing a naval blockade and attempting to assassinate Sheik Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, are methods likely to win the freedom of the captured Israeli soldiers. The two soldiers taken by Hezbollah are far more likely to die as a result, killed either by their captors or by Israeli bombs.Likewise in Gaza, the indiscriminate killing of dozens of Palestinians with bombs, shells and air-to-ground missiles will do nothing to win the release of Galid Shalit, the private seized by Islamic militants in their raid across the Gaza border into southern Israel. There is a long history of Israel using such events as the excuse for carrying out military actions that have a far broader strategic purpose—going back to 1978, when a full-scale invasion of Lebanon was launched using the shooting of the Israeli ambassador to Britain by Palestinian militants as a pretext. Only much later did it emerge that the invasion had been long planned, awaiting only the proper incident to provide a suitable official justification.The same pattern is repeated in Gaza and Lebanon today. The Israeli regime has made no secret of its desire to smash up the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. The economic blockade imposed in January, after Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections, has been escalated into a full-scale military blockade of Gaza, where Hamas has its main political support.In Lebanon, the goal of Israel is, at a minimum, the physical destruction of Hezbollah, the Shiite Islamic movement which dominates the southern third of the country. A full-scale invasion of southern Lebanon by Israeli ground forces is more than likely. Israeli Defense Minister Peretz said, “If the government of Lebanon fails to deploy its forces, as is expected of a sovereign government, we shall not allow Hezbollah forces to remain any further on the borders of the state of Israel.” In other words, if the Lebanese army does not suppress Hezbollah—and no one expects it to—then the Israeli army will do so.The US media has suggested that Hezbollah’s kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers was specifically ordered by Tehran in retaliation for the referral of Iran to the UN Security Council earlier this week, in the ongoing dispute over its nuclear research program. The Bush administration has likewise blamed Syria for the ongoing insurgency in Iraq’s Anbar province, since supplies and recruits have come across the Syrian border.The US invasion and occupation of Iraq have produced a holocaust for the Iraqi people: a mounting slaughter in which tens of thousands have been killed, by sectarian gangs and militia, by car bombs and other terrorist acts, and by bombs, shells, missile attacks, indiscriminate shooting or outright murder on the part of the American occupiers.Last week it was reported that 1,595 bodies had been brought to the Baghdad morgue during June, the largest monthly death toll yet in the escalating civil strife. The US military death toll is well over 2,500. Combined with the death toll for US soldiers in Afghanistan, Bush will soon be responsible for the destruction of more American lives than the terrorists who attacked New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.The Bush administration will not retreat from Iraq and cannot maintain the status quo, as the country slides deeper into civil war and popular opposition to the war mounts among the American people. A sizeable section of the US ruling elite, frustrated by the quagmire in Iraq, believes that the only hope of military success lies in “expanding the problem,” as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has put it. They believe that Iran is using its growing influence on the Iraqi Shiite parties and militias to undermine US control of the puppet regime established in Baghdad, and that a military confrontation with Tehran is inevitable.The policy of United States and Israel is based on a never-ending cycle of war. The Bush administration rests its entire foreign policy on the belief that American military power and high-tech weaponry can solve every problem. The Zionist project is similarly predicated on unrestrained use of force against the Palestinians and other targets, such as Hezbollah. Both policies have proven to be disastrous for the people of the region, including the Jewish population of Israel.As a US client state, Israel has long been dependent on a vast flow of economic and military aid from Washington. For the last decade, it has sought to exploit the unchallenged international supremacy of the United States, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, to reject any negotiations for a territorial settlement with the Palestinians and instead impose its dictates unilaterally on the Palestinian Authority.This was the content of the Sharon government’s withdrawal last year from Gaza, closing down a handful of unviable settlements in order to draw an international border with 1.5 million Palestinians on the other side, insuring a Jewish majority in Israel and the remaining occupied territories for at least another decade.Similar concerns are driving the Olmert government’s policy of wall-building and resettlement on the West Bank. While planning to abandon a handful of Zionist settlements, Olmert’s government is drawing the new border unilaterally to give the best land to the Israelis, including all of Jerusalem, while the Palestinians are relegated to a rump state on barely 60 percent of the occupied territory.In the last few days, the American media has been filled with denunciations of Hamas and Hezbollah, portraying them as terrorist organizations and fitting targets for a massive escalation of military force. But in the final analysis, the real target of the United States and Israel is not this or that organization, but the oppressed masses throughout the Middle East. They aim to destroy the will to struggle of the tens of millions of people who have never accepted the Zionist dispossession of the Palestinian people, and who will never accept the US conquest of Iraq and the establishment of a neo-colonial stooge regime in Baghdad.There is a profound sense in which the policies of the United States and Israel appear counterproductive and self-defeating. The Bush administration played a major role in creating the current Lebanese government, and the forced withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon has been touted as one of its few foreign policy successes in the Middle East. Yet the Israeli attacks threaten to undermine and discredit the regime in Beirut, which is compelled to stand by impotently while Lebanese citizens are slaughtered, now in the dozens, soon perhaps in the hundreds and thousands.Similarly, it might appear irrational that an administration which has been unable to subjugate Iraq (population 26 million), would attack Syria (population 18 million) and even Iran (population 75 million). But such attacks are the logical outcome of  Washington perspective that it is possible the United States to impose its will on the Middle East, and obtain control of the region’s vast oil resources, through sheer force of arms.In reality, the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq has proven a strategic disaster for American foreign policy. It has aroused the population of the entire region, and literally billions of people throughout the world, dispelling illusions that the United States could be identified with democracy, freedom or opposition to colonialism.It is now 58 years since the state of Israel was established, and 39 years since the Six-Day War which expanded Israeli control of Palestinian territory to include the West Bank and Gaza. These six decades have been an unending chain of violence—war, repression, terrorism, assassination, the expulsion of populations. Now a new and even more terrible war threatens.Note: Markish Schieder heads the Center for East-Asian Studies based in Toronto, Canada. He wrote this piece exclusively for CSMS Magazine.

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