Hands off Lebanon, no war on Iran

Israel's assault is part of broader US war aims, says Eddie Ford

With almost each day that passes, Israel's barbaric assault on Lebanon grows in intensity and ferocity. After nearly three weeks of fighting, at least 750 Lebanese - overwhelmingly civilians - have been killed by Israeli military strikes, while Israeli casualties number just over 50. Furthermore, as we go to press, all the signs indicate that Israel is on the verge of launching a massive ground invasion of southern Lebanon - just as it did in June 1982.

So several thousand troops are already deployed within Lebanon, with some 15,000 or more Israeli reservists now ready to join the fray. Meanwhile, fighter aircraft and artillery attempt to pound Hezbollah, and the Lebanese people as a whole, into terrified submission. And then there are the Israeli special forces currently swarming deep into Lebanon, seeking to engage and eliminate key targets. This has led to particularly fierce fighting in the Beka'a Valley and the Hezbollah strongholds of Bint Jbeil and Baalbek - the latter being chosen as it is the last known location of Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek, a member of the Hezbollah high council and to all effects and purposes Iran's 'official' representative in Lebanon.

Communists, like most people in the world, have been sickened by the way in which Israel has inflicted collective punishment on Lebanon in a clear act of imperialistic aggression. Once again. Equally as astounding - and revolting - has been the brutal and almost casual cynicism and violence deployed by the Israeli state, as it conducts its own 'war against terror' - using the means of mass terror ... and mass lies.

Quite obviously, whatever the miserable dissemination, the latest Israeli campaign had been planned long in advance. The capturing of two Israeli soldiers was just a flimsy pretext for war - after all, they have been almost entirely forgotten, once operation Grapes Of Wrath got underway for real. In reality, what is unfolding in the Middle East at the present time is all part and parcel of imperialism's global 'war against terror'. Specifically, the United States - and of course its most loyal and consistent ally, the United Kingdom - is determined to step up the war drive against Syria and, far more importantly, Iran. In that sense, by backing Israel's war against Lebanon, the United States is targeting Iran. The logic is impeccable. Hezbollah attacked Israel, Hezbollah is backed and supplied by Iran, therefore Iran is the problem unless it promises to cease backing and supplying Hezbollah. If it refuses or prevaricates then that provides justification for a direct US assault on Iran itself.

Hence the support that Bush and Blair have given to Israel - making out that it is the innocent party merely responding to the Hezbollah "terrorists" - is part of a bigger, strategic picture. The US is not about to remake the Middle East, let alone bring democracy. The autocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt are to be left untroubled. But those who refuse to prostrate themselves before US imperialism are to be smashed under the rubric of fighting the 'war on terror'. This device gives the US ruling class a half-convincing enemy - internal and external - which engenders general fear in the population, which justifies ratcheting down on civil rights and ramping up military expenditure (thereby maintaining profit rates and temporarily putting off the economic crisis).

Of course, communists have absolutely no illusions in Hezbollah - it is a thoroughly reactionary organisation which is fundamentally counterposed to democracy, secularism and working class control. Yet to argue that Hezbollah - or Hamas, for that matter - are the cause of Zionist aggression and US plans to unleash mayhem on Iran, is the logic of the madhouse.

But, of course, this is the position taken by Bush, Blair and the insufferable Condoleezza Rice - as she shuttles around the Middle East trying to bully everyone into imperialist line. Israel must be supported - and refusal to do so can only indicate that you are soft when it comes to the 'war against terror'. Accordingly then, Bush and Blair have defied world opinion and rejected all calls for an immediate ceasefire. Instead, the proposed US-UK draft resolution for the UN security council calls for the "phased introduction" of an "international security force" in south Lebanon, the "reassertion" of Lebanese army control, the withdrawal and eventual "disarming" of Hezbollah, and "political measures" to ensure a ceasefire is "sustainable".

In other words, an imperialist solution which sacrifices Lebanon. Something well understand by Olmert, who has stated that he is "not in a hurry" for a ceasefire - not until, that is, Hamas has been "defeated" and this Bush-Blair-sanctioned "international security force" has been duly ensconced in southern Lebanon.

The signs of imperialist things to come were made quite explicit in Blair's alarming speech this week to the World Affairs Council in America. He told his enthralled audience that there is an "arc of extremism" right across the Middle East, and that events in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc represent the playing out of an "elemental struggle" about the sort of values that would shape and determine the "world's future". Part of this titanic struggle, he continued, was the battle between "reactionary islam and moderate mainstream islam" - and in the case of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, he said, "the banner was not actually regime change" but rather "values change". As for the conflict between Israel and Lebanon, the "purpose of the provocation" that began it all "was clear".

More ominously still, Blair made plain imperialism's intentions: "We need to make clear to Syria and Iran that there is a choice: come into the international community and play by the same rules as the rest of us, or be confronted."

These words are chilling, especially when we know for a fact that the neo-cons in the Pentagon have drawn out detailed preparations for a blitzkrieg on Iran - either through the use of tactical nuclear weapons or by a massive conventional attack that takes out 10,000 targets in one hellish, concentrated, 30-minute blow.

According to the Canadian-based Centre for Research on Globalization - though other sources could be cited - the "launching of an outright war using nuclear warheads against Iran is now in the final planning stages. Coalition partners, which include the US, Israel and Turkey, are in an 'advanced stage of readiness'. Various military exercises have been conducted, starting in early 2005. In turn, the Iranian armed forces have also conducted large-scale military manoeuvres in the Persian Gulf in December in anticipation of a US-sponsored attack. Since early 2005, there has been intense shuttle diplomacy between Washington, Tel Aviv, Ankara and Nato headquarters in Brussels" (www.globalresearch.ca).

Furthermore, the centre informs us: "Since late 2004, Israel has been stockpiling US-made conventional and nuclear weapons systems in anticipation of an attack on Iran. This stockpiling, which is financed by US military aid, was largely completed in June 2005. Israel has taken delivery from the US of several thousand 'smart air-launched weapons', including some 500 'bunker-buster bombs, which can also be used to deliver tactical nuclear bombs "¦.

The website concludes: "A political consensus has developed in western Europe and North America regarding aerial attacks using tactical nuclear weapons, without considering their devastating implications."

Whatever you think of such claims, what is certain is that the world has become a very dangerous place. Clearly more, much more, is needed than protest marches and anti-war campaigns that limit themselves to a couple of broad slogans. To combat and overcome the destruction being unleashed by a declining US superimperialism requires taking up the working class programme of democracy.