The war on Iran … to keep Netanyahu in power


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Beirut – from Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared a pre-emptive war on Iran and given orders to hit selective Iranian targets in Syria to convince Israel politically that he is “at war with Iran”. Netanyahu is actually following the policy adopted previously by US President George W. Bush during his “war on terror” where he mobilised the whole of the US and created a warlike ambiance.

By choosing this way of injecting a fear of imminent war among the population, the Israeli Prime Minister is walking on the edge of the abyss, counting on Iran’s self-restraint and its unwillingness to be dragged into a battle that even Netanyahu is not totally convinced he must launch.

Netanyahu is exploiting the jittery situation he has created by striking Iranian targets in Syria (the Iranians were using T-4 military airport and days later other Iranian and Syrian military bases) to drag Tehran into a direct confrontation. The Iranian forces are aware they are not operating on their own soil and do not want to encumber the Syrian government by participating in a war on Israel’s terms and timing, especially when the priority is to liberate remaining pockets  around Damascus and in rural Homs and Hama.

Netanyahu is evidently exploiting his “special relationship” with US President Donald Trump and his enmity to the Islamic Republic. Trump has surrounded himself with hawks willing to strike Iran and rejoice in any war that they- the US forces- can be engaged in as long as they are on Syrian territory and in military bases which surround Iran.

Netanyahu is also taking advantage of his privileged relationship with– and the financial support of- some countries in the Middle East (mainly Saudi Arabia) that have opened the way to developing their relationship to a level that Israel has never previously enjoyed.  Both Israel and Saudi Arabia would like to see Iran and its allies (i.e. the Lebanese Hezbollah) either destroyed or weakened.

However, all parties are trying to keep Russia on the margin of any future confrontation, happily willing to see a lack of involvement by the Kremlin in this slowly increasing tension with Iran, despite the fact that the Iranian forces are fighting side by side with the Russian forces in Syria.

The US is today headed by a man who has declared his hostility to Iran from day one in power, and wants to revoke the nuclear deal agreement even though Washington has not complied with the terms it agreed to since Trump came to power.

According to informed sources in the Lebanese capital Beirut, Iran still believes that America will not revoke the nuclear agreement even if Trump has not shown commitment to it since arriving in the White House. On the contrary, Trump has violated several provisions of the nuclear agreement by urging Europe not to trade with Iran and he has refused (to name but a few violations) to hand over commercial aircraft spare parts, and prevented the granting of a licence to purchase Airbus aircraft approved by former President Barack Obama (to the dislike of Israel).

Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu knows that he can maybe get away with hitting Iranian forces (with little damage), but only in Syria. Hitting Iran as a country would certainly ignite a wider war on several fronts, triggering the involvement of countries where Iran’s allies are present (on the Lebanese front, Syria and Iraq). Such an unlikely war would definitely stop civilian air traffic over the entire Middle East due to the “congestion” of mutual missiles flying in all directions and the risk to civilians. Maritime navigation and oil tankers would not be allowed to navigate, and oil rigs in the Middle East may be bombed and destroyed. Military bases in Iran, Israel, Syria, Lebanon and other US bases in the Middle East would be potential targets.

In the case of this scenario, the Middle East would slip towards the crater of a volcano in eruption. Although Iran and its allies maybe seriously damaged, it is to be said that Iran today is no longer as it was 5 or 10 years ago, its military potentiality is very much greater, and therefore the damage to its opponents can be expected to be highly significant.

The Israeli storm raised by Netanyahu in the Syrian tea cup by hitting Iranian targets is supposed to trigger a response from the Syria Army to wind down the tension. In theory it is up to Syria – not Iran – to respond to the Israeli strikes because these took place on Syrian territory against forces (Iran, Hezbollah and Russia) called upon by the central government to help defeat Salafi Jihadi Wahhabi.

The Russians have a firefighting role to play in Syria which is certainly not for the love and support of Israel. Despite the “no antagonism” situation between Tel Aviv and Moscow, Russia is upset about the continuous Israeli provocation of a wider conflict. The Kremlin does not want the Syrian conflict to take a course that brings it back to a fully fledged war. It has behaved cautiously throughout the years spent fighting in Syria, carefully disregarding provocation to expand the war in Syria to a much larger conflict.

When Russia took the first blow from Turkey who downed its plane in late 2015, the reaction was limited to hitting Turkish proxies and effecting economic sanctions against Ankara. Also it disregarded  the US strike against Russian contractors in Deir al-Zour, the US presence in al-Tanf borders trench (that prevents Iraq and Syria to regain commerce exchange through this main border crosing) and northeast al-Hasaka and Deir-ezzour provinces  (that prevented any forces allied to Russia from crossing the Euphrates river to fight ISIS and regain access to the northern sources of energy): all these were swallowed and digested by Russia who exerted considerable self-control and refrained from responding to US provocations in Syria.

Moreover, Trump launched cruise missiles against the Syrian military airport of Shuayrat and later this year launched another missile strike against multiple objectives- but without triggering a Russian retaliation, only defensive reaction. This shows that President Vladimir Putin’s policy is to exercise restraint, conscious that “the great war” pursued by Trump and Netanyahu, recklessly, would be highly costly to all and the conflagration could expand beyond the Middle East.

Putin, therefore, shows wisdom and control in the international arena where President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu are continuously beating the drums of war without regard for the possible destructive consequences of what they are pushing for.

Trump, Netanyahu, & Saudi Arabia are today linked in the following dynamic:

– Trump is bullying Saudi Arabia and is constantly asking for more money to protect the monarchy from himself, to pay for US troops in Syria and to contribute to the US economy by buying more arms.

– Saudi Arabia accepts to be blackmailed by the US, abides by its terms and satisfies Trump’s need of tens of billions of dollars. Moreover, Saudi Arabia opens its arms wide to receive Israel and initiate an overt relationship to encourage all other Arabs to follow, isolating Iran (and its allies) in its apparent enmity against Israel.

– Driven by its hate of Iran, Saudi Arabia accepts the US blackmail and protection as long as Tehran and its allies in Syria and Yemen (and Lebanon when the time comes) can be destroyed. In exchange, the US “declares war” on the Iranian nuclear deal and Israel declares war on Iran in Syria.

– Israel stands at the forefront and pushes the state of psychological warfare against Iran and Hezbollah, and targets military Iranian bases in Syria. Netanyahu plays the role of a media star.

– Saudi Arabia – in agreement with Iran – raises the price of oil to increase their funds and compensate for the US’s financial burden on the monarchy- even though the consequently raised price of oil will boost Iran and Russia’s oil revenues.

If a war with Iran is ruled out, there is a high probability that Israel’s provocations against Iran will continue in Syria. This is the subject of continuous and daily discussion among allies in the Levant. Iran knows that it must pay for its victory in recent years in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and its support of the Yemeni Houthis. These Iranian victories mean the defeat of Saudi Arabia and its new allies: Saudi Arabia, the US and Israel are very angry and are trying to seek revenge.

This is not everything: Iran has the freedom to stay or pull out of the nuclear deal which cannot be unilaterally revoked by Washington alone. Iran is enjoying the support of Russia and China. They will support Tehran at the United Nations and prevent any resolution against it at the Security Council. Iran is aware of the differences between Europe and the US in relation to the nuclear deal but is also conscious that Washington has not waved a red card at Europe to impose the US’s will: when the time comes, he may (or may not) drag the EU with him.

So the Israeli Prime Minister, to keep himself domestically afloat, is playing a dangerous game in a sensitive area, disregarding Tehran’s real possibilities of reaction. Does he think that Israel can push the Levant to a real conflict and that Tehran will accept this without any reaction? Is he counting on the wisdom of Putin and Sayyed Ali Khamenei to let him play without hitting him hard on their own terms when the time comes? The price for Netanyahu’s confusion of foreign policy with internal Israeli home affairs could be very high indeed.

Proof reading: Maurice Brasher

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