By Chris Hedges
The United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia are plotting a war with Iran. The 2015 Iranian nuclear arms accord, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Donald Trump sabotaged, does not look like it will be revived. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) is reviewing options to attack if Teheran looks poised to obtain a nuclear weapon and Israel, which opposes U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiations, carries out military strikes.
During his visit to Israel, Biden assured Prime Minister Yair Lapid that the U.S. is “prepared to use all elements of its national power,” including military force, to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S. function as a troika in the Middle East. The Israeli government has built a close alliance with Saudi Arabia, which produced 15 of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks and has been a prolific sponsor of international terrorism, supporting Salafi jihadism, the basis of al-Qaeda, and such groups as the Afghanistan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Al-Nusra Front.
The three countries worked in tandem to back the 2013 military coup in Egypt, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew its first democratically elected government. He has imprisoned tens of thousands of government critics, including journalists and human rights defenders, on politically motivated charges. The Sisi regime collaborates with Israel by keeping its common border with Gaza closed to Palestinians, trapping them in the Gaza strip, one of the most densely populated and impoverished places on earth.
Israel, the only nuclear power in the Middle East, has conducted an ongoing campaign of covert attacks on Iranian nuclear sites and nuclear scientists. Four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated, presumably by Israel, between 2010 and 2012. In July 2020, a fire, attributed to an Israeli bomb, damaged Iran’s Natanz nuclear site. In November 2020, Israel used remote control machine guns to assassinate Iran’s top nuclear scientist.
In January 2020, the United States assassinated Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, along with nine other people including a key figure in the anti-ISIS coalition, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. It used an MQ-9 Reaper drone to fire missiles into his convoy, near Baghdad’s airport.
If similar attacks had been carried out by Iranian operatives inside Israel, it would have triggered a war. Only Iran’s decision not to retaliate, beyond lobbing about a dozen ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq, prevented a conflagration.
On July 7, Iran informed The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it is using IR-6 centrifuges with “modified subheaders.” The declared purpose of the enrichment process at its underground facility at Fordow is to create uranium isotope enriched up to 20 percent — far below the 90 percent enrichment levels necessary to create weapons-grade uranium. Under the JCPOA agreement, enrichment levels were capped at 3.67 percent.
Israel has allocated $1.5 billion for a potential strike against Iran and, during the first week of June, held large-scale military exercises, including one over the Mediterranean and in the Red Sea, in preparation to attack Iranian nuclear sites using dozens of fighter aircraft, including Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets.
The 2016 Memorandum of Understanding signed by President Barack Obama provides a 10-year, $38 billion military package for Israel.
Israel and its lobby in the U.S. are working to scuttle negotiations with Iran to monitor its nuclear program. The preparation for war mirrors the Israeli pressure on the U.S. to invade Iraq, one of the worst strategic decisions in U.S. history.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in testimony before the British Iraq war commission, offered this account of his discussions with George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas in April 2002:
“As I recall that discussion, it was less to do with specifics about what we were going to do on Iraq or, indeed, the Middle East, because the Israel issue was a big, big issue at the time. I think, in fact, I remember, actually, there may have been conversations that we had even with Israelis, the two of us, whilst we were there. So that was a major part of all this.”
Saudi Arabia, which seeks to dominate the Arab world, severed ties with Iran in 2016 after its embassy in Tehran was stormed by protesters following Riyadh’s execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Saudi Arabia, with Chinese help, has built a plant to process uranium ore and acquired ballistic missiles. Saudi Arabia signed a series of letters in 2017 with the U.S. to purchase weapons totaling $110 billion immediately, and $350 billion over the next decade.
Awar with Iran would be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. It would spread swiftly throughout the region. The Shiites across the Middle East would see an attack on Iran as a religious war against Shiism. The two million Shiites in Saudi Arabia, concentrated in the oil-rich Eastern province; the Shiite majority in Iraq; and the Shiite communities in Bahrain, Pakistan and Turkey would join the fight against the U.S. and Israel.
Iran would use its Chinese-supplied anti-ship missiles, rocket and bomb-equipped speedboats and submarines, mines, drones and coastal artillery to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, the corridor for 20 percent of the world’s oil and liquified gas supply. Oil production facilities in the Persian Gulf would be sabotaged.
Iranian oil, which makes up 13 percent of the world’s energy supply, would be taken off the market. Oil would jump to over $500 a barrel and perhaps, as the conflict drags on, to over $750 a barrel. Our petroleum-based economy, already reeling under rising prices because of the sanctions on Russia, would grind to a halt.
Israel would be hit by Iranian Shahab-3 ballistic missiles. Hezbollah’s store of Iranian-supplied rockets that allegedly can reach any part of Israel, including Israel’s nuclear plant at Dimona, would also be deployed. Strikes by Iran and its allies on Israel, as well as on American military installations in the region, would leave hundreds, maybe thousands, dead.
In 2002, the U.S. military conducted its “most elaborate war game” ever, costing over $250 million. Known as the Millennium Challenge, the exercise was between a Blue Force (the U.S.) and the Red Force (widely considered as a stand-in for Iran). It was meant to validate America’s “modern, joint-service war-fighting concepts.” It did the opposite. The Red Force, led by retired Marine lieutenant general Paul Van Riper, conducted a swarm of kamikaze suicide boat attacks and destroyed 16 U.S. warships in under 20 minutes.
When the war game was reset, it was rigged in favor of the Blue Force. The Blue Force was given access to experimental technology – including that which doesn’t exist such as airborne laser weapons. Meanwhile, the Red Force was told they weren’t allowed to shoot down the Blue Team’s aircraft, had to keep their offensive weapons in the open and could not use chemical weapons. Even then, the Blue Force could not achieve all of its objectives as Riper unleashed a guerrilla insurgency on the occupying forces.
The US-Saudi Tandem
President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz greeting at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah, on Friday. (Saudi Press Agency/Wikipedia)
Why shouldn’t Joe Biden be feted by the murderous regime of Saudi Arabia and the apartheid state of Israel? He and the U.S. have as much blood on their hands as they do. Yes, in 2018 the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the assassination and dismemberment of my friend and colleague Jamal Khashoggi. Yes, Israel assassinated Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. But Washington has more than matched the crimes carried out by Israel and the Saudis, including against journalists.
The imprisonment of Julian Assange – who released the collateral murder video showing U.S. helicopter pilots laughing as they shot to death two Reuters journalists and a group of civilians in Iraq in 2007 – is designed to destroy Assange psychologically and physically. The corpses of civilians, including children, piled up by Israel and Saudi Arabia, who do much of their killing in Gaza and Yemen with U.S. weapons, don’t come close to the hundreds of thousands of dead the U.S. has left behind in the two decades of warfare it has perpetrated in the Middle East.
In 1991, a U.S.-led coalition destroyed much of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, including water treatment facilities resulting in sewage contaminating the country’s drinking water. Then followed years of U.S., U.K. and French airstrikes enforcing a “No Fly Zone” along with crushing sanctions they imposed via the U.N. From 1991 to 1998, these sanctions alone were estimated to have killed 100,000 to 227,000 Iraqi children under the age of five, although the exact figures have been the subject of much dispute.
The U.S. “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign of Iraqi urban centers during its subsequent invasion of Iraq in 2003 dropped 3,000 bombs on civilian areas, killing over 7,000 noncombatants in the first two months of the war.
By one estimate, the U.S. has been responsible for directly or indirectly killing nearly 20 million people since the end of the Second World War.
Israel and Saudi Arabia are gangster states. But so is the United States.
“There are few of them,” Biden, reacting to Democratic lawmakers who have criticized Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, told Israel’s Channel 12 news. “I think they’re wrong. I think they’re making a mistake. Israel is a democracy. Israel is our ally. Israel is a friend and I make no apologies.”
The angst about Biden’s not holding the Saudis and the Israelis to account on this visit is risible, as if we have any credibility left that allows us to arbitrate between right and wrong.
The idea that Biden and the U.S. are brokers for peace was eviscerated long ago. The U.S. offers shameless support for Israel’s right-wing government, including vetoing U.N. resolutions that censor Israel.
It refuses to condition aid on a respect for human rights even as Israel launches repeated murderous assaults against the civilian population in Gaza, labels Palestinian NGOs as terror groups, expands illegal Jewish-only settlements, carries out aggressive housing evictions of Palestinian families and mistreats Palestinian and Arab-American citizens at points of entry and within the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The idea that the U.S. represents and promotes virtue illustrates the self-delusion that accompanies America’s moral and physical degeneration. The rest of the world, which recoils in repugnance at what the U.S. has become, does not take it seriously. They fear U.S. bombs. But fear is not respect.
They no longer envy America’s hedonistic mass culture, tarnished by mass shootings, social inequality, the decay of infrastructure, dysfunction and a Grand Guignol-style of politics that has turned civil and political discourse into a tawdry burlesque.
America is a grim joke, one about to be made worse when the Christian fascists, bigots and conspiracy theorists take control of Congress in the fall, and I expect, the presidency two years later.
The U.S., along with Israel, makes war on Muslims who, with an estimated 1.9 billion adherents, comprise nearly 25 percent of the world population. The U.S. has turned many in the Muslim world into its enemies. The Muslim world does not hate the U.S. for its values. It hates its hypocrisy. It hates its racism, its refusal to honor their political aspirations, its lethal attacks and military occupations and its crippling sanctions.
Muslims express the rage felt by Guatemalans, Cubans, Congolese, Brazilians, Argentines, Indonesians, Panamanians, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Filipinos, North and South Koreans, Chileans, Nicaraguans and Salvadorans – those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth.” They too were slaughtered by the U.S. high-tech military machine and subjugated, humiliated, forced to accept U.S. hegemony and killed in American clandestine torture centers or by C.I.A.-backed assassins.
No one is held accountable. The C.I.A. blocked all investigations into its torture program, including destroying videotape evidence of interrogations involving torture and classifying nearly all of the 6,900-page report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that examined the C.I.A.’s post-9/11 program of detention, torture and other abuse of detainees.
Biden goes to Saudi Arabia and Israel as a supplicant. As a presidential candidate, he called Saudi Arabia a “pariah” and vowed to make it “pay the price” for Khashoggi’s murder.
But with the rising price of oil, Biden is whitewashing the murder, along with the humanitarian disaster the Saudis have caused in Yemen, imploring the Saudis to increase output, a plea Prince Salman has rejected.
Similarly, Biden is weak in Israel, powerless against the expansion of Jewish settlements and assaults on Palestinians, and unwilling to move the U.S. Embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, a move by the Trump administration that violates international law.
Biden’s staff was reduced to pleading with the Israelis not to embarrass him as they did during his 2010 visit as vice president. During his 2010 visit, Israel announced it was building 1,600 new Jewish-only houses in illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. The Obama White House angrily condemned “the substance and timing of the announcement.”
How can the U.S. bar Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from a summit of the Americas in Los Angeles and embrace the Saudi regime and the Israeli aparatheid state? How can it decry the war crimes of Russia and unleash industrial violence on the Mulism world?
How can it plead for the 12 million Uyghurs, mostly Muslim, living in Xinjiang, and ignore the Palestinians? How can it justify another “preemptive war,” this time against Iran?
The duplicity is not lost on most of the world. They know who the U.S. is. They know that in American eyes they are unworthy. The inevitable demise of the U.S. on the world stage is cheered by the majority of the planet. The tragedy is that, as it goes down, it is determined to take so many others down with it.
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