Tuesday, July 25, 2006




As Israel ramps up the war fever in the Middle East, and Iran and Syria are now being war-pimped as responsible for all the chaos in the region (they're not, of course, but they have to be perceived as the major threat to excuse what comes next), the old alliances of the world continue to shake free of each other, and powerful new alliances are being formed.

For the first time since the end of World War 2, the United States is not being viewed as the key player in these new power structures. In fact, the US, and even the EU, are out of the game for now as far the negotiations for the new regional orders go.

Iran, with or without nukes, is a powerful ally for China and Russia in the Middle East, and the US knows it. Iran is already supplying Russia and China with oil and gas, and China and Russia are both expanding plans to ramp up the country's aging infrastructure.

Then there is, of course, Iran's stunning new alliance with the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq.

It was never supposed to be this way, not for the US at least. China and Russia, however, probably saw it all coming.

A new war across the Middle East now seems inevitable, and there is likely to be some strange or unlikely attack or mystery bombing soon enough that will pull Iran and Syria into the conflict that rages now between Israel and, presumably, a few thousand Hizbullah fighters in Southern Lebanon.

Think the Gulf Of Tomkin incident that the US perpertrated to get themselves into full blown war in Vietnam. Somebody will blow up something and then blame it on someone else.

It's beyond clear that Israel and her allies, or at least the war hawks amongst her allies, wants to go right down to the mat with Iran. But the US, under President, has been reluctant to get this part of the War On Terror truly going. Bush decided diplomacy was the best way to go, and this infuriated the war pigs of Washington and Tel Aviv.

It is clear that Iran and Syria don't want wars with the West (despite the rhetoric), or even a larger conflict with the West's bulldog, Israel, now fully let off its leash. But either Iran or Syria, or both, will most certainly get the blame for the Big Bang that seems likely to be coming soon.

A few soldiers being taken prisoner in a conflict zone seems an unlikely enough excuse for the bigger war about to break out.

And something new will be needed, a more powerful set of images for the world's media than the horrors thrust onto the innocents of Lebanon that are now convincing much of the world that Israel has joined the Rogue States Club, through its targeting of civilians and uniquely civilian infrastructure.

The only way for Israel's actions to stop being seen as completely over the top and brutal is for something far bigger to happen to make everyone forget about a few hundred dead civilians in Lebanon.

It's remarkable that it is Iran and Syria that seems the least willing to Bring It On, as President Bush would say.

Today, it is Israel and the US, and even the UK and Australia, via their leaders and think tanks and opinion makers, who are hammering the case for a full blown war against Iran and Syria, whilst still talking about diplomacy, in a staggered effort to shake up the power structures of the Middle East, and to tell the rest of the world that pre-emptive war is now the norm for the West.

Iraq was the first example, now Lebanon is the second. You don't even need a brutal dicator to be in charge of your country to cop a Pre-Emptive War. Minor hostility towards your Western allied neighbour is now clearly enough.

The message being broadcast is loud : Fall into line or pay the price. What has happened to Lebanon is both a terrifying example of what the US/Israel 'Pre-Emptive War' methodology truly means. It is hard to deny that Lebanon now serves as a visual metaphor of the most powerful kind.

In less than two weeks, Israel's air assault has caused upwards of $10 billion worth of damage to Lebanon, killed almost 500 civilians and displaced some 1 million people.

Two weeks. And the US, the UK, most of Europe, stood by and watched it all happen. A series of attacks that can only be described as terrorist in action, despite the the fact they were carried out by Israel's military.

But this new round of pre-emptive war, as all wars are, is going to be an extremely dangerous game. For the alliances of the world today are far different to what they were last year, or even six months ago.

This new wider war will be as much about the United States, and Israel, holding on to their domination of the Middle East, by proxies, and proxy war, than it will be about fighting terror.

The War On Terror, once again, is the excuse for what comes next.

Iran and Syria, and China and Russia, are being told, "Don't get too comfortable with each other. You can't just get together and form a new new world order and ignore us, the West. Lock us out, cut us off, and let Lebanon become your new reality."

The next few weeks will be the key to how the rest of the year unfolds.

For some background on why the West now feels so threatened by what China, Russia, Iran and Syria, and other former nations of the Soviet Empire, have been up to, this story from the Financial Times is as good a place to start as any :
For the first five years of its existence, the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation was thought of as little more than a talking shop for central Asian leaders.

Yet since the annual summit in Shanghai (in May) of the six-nation group – its members are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – diplomats have been trying to decide if the organisation is now becoming an important political entity.

This is partly down to Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the controversial Iranian president, who visited the Shanghai summit as an observer and talked of his desire for Iran to enter the SCO. His presence prompted speculation that the SCO could provide a diplomatic lifeline to Iran and hamper efforts to persuade Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment programme.

But as high oil prices have intensified the jostling for political power in central Asia, the questions raised by the SCO summit go much deeper. The group appears to underline China’s ever-expanding influence in the region and is taking a more confrontational attitude to the US. Critics in the US have tagged it with labels such as “Oriental Nato” and “Opec with nuclear weapons”.

“The SCO is emerging as a focus of global power which is competing with the US,” says Ariel Cohen, a Russia and Eurasia specialist at the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think-tank in the US.

“Its agenda, especially after Ahmadi-Nejad’s performance, is clear: to dictate to the US how things are done, and at what pace.”

The SCO has its roots in a group called the Shanghai Five set up in 1996 to analyse territorial disputes in central Asia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It evolved into the SCO in 2001 with a focus on security and economic co-operation.

Diplomats say the SCO is beginning to establish an identity for itself, partly based on opposition to the US making greater inroads into the region.

Iran & China Sign Massive Oil, Gas Deal - Push Further Co-Operation