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A New War?

Monday 14 April 2008, by Michel Warshavski

Beirut in the aftermath of an Israeli bombing raid during the war in the summer of 2006. While I risk being considered an Israeli Cassandra, I reiterate my claim that war is on the agenda in the Middle East. In other words, I take very seriously the statements of Ehud Olmert and company that a war is unavoidable, in order to remove the threat of radical Islam and the risk of a full nuclearization of Iran. The fact that Ehud Barak—the most irresponsible adventurist in the Israeli ruling establishment—sits in the Israeli cabinet as Defence Minister, makes the eventuality of such a war even more probable.

Foolhardy but not very brave, the Israeli PM doesn’t intend to strike Iran, which has powerful means of retaliation, but rather Syria, or, once again, Lebanon.

Easy targets?

Easier than Iran, obviously, but the last war on Lebanese soil should have taught us that there are no longer easy and unilateral wars, and even a country as weak as Lebanon or a relatively small militia such as Hezbollah can hit back and provoke heavy damages as retaliation for any Israeli aggression.

Nevertheless, the Israeli neocons, supported—and sometimes even incited—by their American comrades, are pushing towards a new military aggression. Before leaving the White House, George W. Bush is eager to have a successful fourth try in his global preemptive war against (Muslim) terrorism: the war in Iraq is a fiasco, the Lebanese war in 2006 was a failure, and the attempts to smash Hamas power in the occupied territories haven’t succeeded.

Syria has made crystal clear that it doesn’t want a military confrontation with Israel, as has the Hezbollah. But in front of the Israeli aggressive discourse about the "unavoidable war," they have no choice but to prepare themselves: according to international media sources, the Syrian government has ordered the deployment of defensive missiles system in order to be ready to react if Israel attacks its national territory or the Lebanese one.

On Tuesday, 8 April, at 10:00 AM, air raid sirens were activated throughout Israel as part of a five day war-game, involving the government, the military and civil society. Though it was presented as the implementation of one of the Winograd Commission recommendations, and though the Israeli leaders made numerous statements that it is only a training exercise and has no aggressive intentions, one cannot disconnect this "training" from the wider military plans of the Israeli government. Israel is creating a war atmosphere, hoping that it will provoke nervousness in Damascus or in Beirut, allowing the Israeli military to hit back.

One may argue that an Israeli-US war is not only extremely risky, but may very well end in a draw, which means in reality, an Israeli defeat. And indeed, such an eventuality is more than probable, but for the neocons in power in Tel Aviv and Washington, the drive for war is stronger than these rational evaluations, or, to be more precise, they have another kind of rationale: according to their ideology, Civilization is today threatened by the new (Muslim) Barbarians, and it is a quasi-holy duty to launch a preemptive war in order to stop that threat—a crusade to be launched, whose flags will be a combination of Western values (democracy) and the free capitalist market, i.e. Western capital control on the global economy.

This is a strategy that was elaborated as far back as the mid 1980s by neoconservative theoreticians, and could have been implemented during that time of total US political, military and ideological hegemony. But they missed the train. Twenty years have passed since then, and the world has changed: Soviet Union of Yeltsin has been replaced by Putin’s Russia, which also has imperial aspirations; China has become a major power, as, to a lesser extent, has India. Moreover, in Latin America, relatively small nations, such as Venezuela and Bolivia, are challenging US hegemony.

In the Middle East, where US-Israeli attempts to impose their hegemony have been stopped by the resistance of the Iraqi, Lebanese and Palestinian peoples, the Empire has not been obliged to admit its defeat, and has therefore passed into a second phase: destabilization by fomenting internal conflicts and even civil wars. This is the case in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon—where Siniora’s government and coalition are refusing to be bound by either the Lebanese constitution or the communal relation of forces—and in the Palestinian territories, where Washington and Tel Aviv are pushing President Abbas to launch open war against the legitimate Hamas government and the Palestinian majority which supports it.

With a Southern front against Hamas, a Northern front against Hezbollah and an Eastern front against Iran, Israel seems to be choosing to try the hard way, an extremely risky war. The question that remains open is whether or not the Israeli public will be ready to pay the price. The anti-war movement in Israel, though dramatically weakened over the last eight years, will put all its energies towards convincing the Israeli people that it is wiser to oppose the war before it has started than to protest after the damages have already been done, on both sides.

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