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Egypt Under Empire, Part 1: Working Class Resistance and European Imperial Ambitions Andrew Gavin Marshall I Geopolitics I Analysis I July 11th, 2013

Egypt is one of the most important countries in the world, geopolitically speaking. With a history spanning some 7,000 years, it is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, sitting at the point at which Africa meets the Middle East, across the Mediterranean from Europe. Once home to its own empire, it became a prized possession in the imperial designs of other civilizations, including the Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Byzantine to the Islamic and Ottoman Empires, and subsequently the French, British and Americans. For any and every empire that has sought to exert control over the Middle East, Asia or Africa, control over Egypt has been a pre-requisite. Its strategic location has only become more important with each subsequent empire.

For the British to control India – their prized imperial possession – dominance over Egypt was a necessity. With the construction of the Suez Canal, Europe became increasingly dependent upon Egypt as a transport route for trade, energy and warfare, making Europe’s domination of the world increasingly dependent upon their domination of Egypt, particularly for the French and British. For the modern American Empire, which designates all of planet Earth as being under its hegemony, Egypt remains one of the most important countries over which to exert influence: with its strategic location to some of the world’s most prized energy resources, to the maintenance of the Canal route for the benefit of transport and trade – not least of all for America’s European allies – and due to Egypt’s ability to exert influence across Africa, the Middle East, the Arab/Muslim world as a whole, and indeed, across the so-called ‘Third World’ as a whole.

In the past two and half years, Egypt has been experiencing an unprecedented revolutionary struggle. Egypt’s Revolution represents a popular uprising against a domestic dictatorship, the denial of liberties and freedoms, the repression of workers and dissidents, against a global socio-political and economic system (which we commonly refer to as ‘neoliberalism’), and against the American Empire and its many institutional manifestations. Any revolution within Egypt is inevitably a revolution against the American Empire. An uprising – not only against a long-time dictator and his authoritarian imitators who followed – but against the most powerful empire the world has ever known is a powerful symbol to the rest of the world, most of which has known the terror of living under domestic tyranny, and the reality of living under America’s global hegemony.

A good example can go a long way.

This series examines some of Egypt’s recent history as it relates to Empire, and as it has built up to Egypt’s unfinished Revolution.

Egypt and the State-Capitalist Imperial Order

The development of the Egyptian working class, labour activism and nationalism was intimately tied to the expansion of Western imperial expansion and domination over Egypt and much of the rest of the world. In the early 19th century, Egypt was increasingly an autonomous state under the Ottoman Empire, ruled by Muhammad Ali who initiated a process of state-sponsored industrialization. In 1819, his regime constructed European-style factories for military production, agricultural processing and textiles. By the early 1830s, there were 30 cotton mills on operation, employing roughly 30,000 labourers, who were largely recruited from among the landless peasants.[1]

Egypt’s attempt to industrialize followed the examples set by Britain and other European powers – as well as the United States – by imposing protective measures, tariffs on foreign goods and other subsidies for domestic industry in order to allow the country to compete against the heavily protected industries of the European and American economies. Egypt was not the only major country to pursue such a strategy, as India and Paraguay also attempted major state-led industrialization programs. In 1800, Egypt’s GNP was around that of France, higher than both Eastern Europe and Japan, and Paraguay also had comparable economic weight. They were attempting to industrialize, wrote Jean Batou, “in order to avoid dependency and underdevelopment.”[2]

Resistance to these industrialization projects was strong on the part of Britain and other industrial Western powers, which wanted these countries to be in subservient positions to their own. The Europeans – and especially Britain – pressured these countries to “open up” their economies to “free trade” competition with the heavily-protected industrial goods of the West. The result, of course, was that they could not compete on an even basis, and European industrial goods gained the major advantage, forcing these countries to focus on raw goods for export to the rich nations.

In Egypt, a great deal of resistance was also expressed by the new working class, and in the 1830s, the state-led industrialization programs began to decline. Following the death of Muhammad Ali in 1849, few of his industrial programs remained, “and Egypt was well on its way to full integration into a European-dominated world market as supplier of a single raw material, cotton.” If Egypt had succeeded in its industrialization programs, some have suggested, “it might have shared with Japan [or the United States] the distinction of achieving autonomous capitalist development and preserving its independence.”[3]

In the latter half of the 19th century, Egypt made an attempt at increasing its industrial potential, though this time relying primarily upon foreign capital from European powers. The most important example of this was with the foreign financing that led to the construction of the Suez Canal in 1869, which “resulted in the development of the export sector of the economy and its necessary infrastructure,” and in turn, the development of a permanent working class.[4]

Great Britain was the first major power to undergo an industrial revolution, with other European empires and the United States soon to follow. Countries that underwent industrialization did so with heavy state involvement in the form of subsidies and protective tariffs and trade measures, allowing domestic industries and goods to gain a competitive advantage over those of other nations around the world. The global trading system – as an outgrowth of the development of the modern state-capitalist system – became a central facet in the construction and expansion of empire.

The imperial powers – predominantly in the North Atlantic region, the United States and Western Europe, with the later addition of Japan – had to maintain their own influence over the world by ensuring that the rest of the world did not follow their examples of industrialization, and thus, be able to compete with them for regional and global influence. Thus, industrialization – or ‘development’ – in the ‘core’ countries necessarily required de -industrialization – or underdevelopment – in the rest of the world, the global imperial ‘periphery.’

The period between 1770 and 1870 marked “the first phase of the underdevelopment process” for many countries and regions in the world. In 1770, “the present Third World probably had a real income and an industrial product per capita comparable to those of the rest of the world.” Multiple countries attempted state-led and protected industrialization processes in the early nineteenth century – notably Egypt and Paraguay, though lesser efforts at state-led industrialization were made in what are modern-day Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia and Brazil, with more isolated and less state-involved efforts in Mexico and Colombia. By 1870, however, the gap had widened significantly between the industrial powers (Western Europe, North America and Japan), which exported manufactured goods, and the rest of the world, which largely focused on exporting commodities needed for industry.[5]

The “specialization” of economies in the Global South – the ‘Third World’ – made them dependent upon the export of raw materials to the rich, powerful countries, and thus, kept them in a subservient position within the global order. This has been referred to as the “Great Divergence” between the powerful countries and the rest of the world, where the powerful countries industrialized themselves and de-industrialized others.[6] In short, the powerful countries became – and remained – powerful by virtue of their ability to undermine and disempower the rest of the world, pushing them away from independence and autonomy into a position of dependence on the ‘core’ economies.

In 1870, roughly 70% of Egypt’s exports were cotton, and by 1910-14, this had risen to 93%. In 1882, the British occupied Egypt, at which point the country was essentially ruled over by Lord Cromer, “a devout believer” in the ‘free market’ (for every country except Britain). Cromer’s rule of Egypt (1883-1907) coincided with many of the “formative” years for the Egyptian working class, as labour became increasingly exploited in sectors dominated by European capital.[7] Out of a total population of 11 million, Egypt had approximately 350,000 male workers in the 1907 census, with 100,000 in transport and 150,000 in commerce. Thus, by the early 20th century, “Egypt had a modern working class concentrated in its two largest cities and ready to make itself heard.”[8]

Anarchism and a Radical Working Class in Egypt

Added to the increased domestic formation of a working class, a large presence of foreign workers was brought into Egypt to provide the necessary skills for building the country’s infrastructure. Waves of immigrant workers came from Europe, notably Italy and Greece. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, many of these migrant workers brought with them to Egypt the emerging ideologies and philosophies of resistance and revolution which were spreading among the European working classes, notably socialism and anarchism. Italian workers began forming anarchist groups within Egypt, and others soon followed. Egypt’s anarchists quickly established close connections with anarchists in Greece and Turkey, and were developing connections with groups in Tunis, Palestine and Lebanon.[9]

From the 1880s onward, anarchist groups within Egypt – still primarily European in membership – were forming educational groups and starting publications around the country. As the domestic Egyptian labour movement grew, so too did the influence of anarchists, notably anarcho-syndicalists. While still largely Italian in makeup, the anarchist community in Egypt became increasingly multi-ethnic, with the increased presence of Greeks, Jews, Germans, and several Eastern European nationalities. Arab Egyptians became increasingly involved in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, specifically within the working class, and notably among the cigarette workers, printers and service employees.[10]

The first major strike in Egypt took place in 1899 among the Cairo cigarette rollers. More strike activity took place in the following years, incorporating both foreign and domestic workers within the country. The primary issues for workers were the long hours, low wages, minimal benefits and oppressive management. Since almost all of Egypt’s large employers were foreign, and the country was under foreign (British) occupation since 1882 (to 1922), “the struggle of Egyptian workers for economic gains converged with the nationalist movement seeking to end British rule.”[11] Thus, resistance to domestic tyranny within Egypt inevitably required resistance to imperial hegemony over Egypt by outside powers.

Anarchists in Egypt created the Free Popular University (UPL) in Alexandria in 1901, “with the aim of providing free evening education to the popular classes… and drew widespread support from across the full range of Alexandrian society.” Classes were given on subjects from the humanities to the sciences, to discussing workers’ associations and women in society, with discussions given in a number of different languages, including Italian, French, and Arabic. As anarcho-syndicalists began building ties with the indigenous Egyptian workers, international (or ‘mixed’) unions were formed between domestic and foreign migrant workers in Egypt, which helped contribute to the 1899 cigarette rollers strike, among other actions.[12]

During World War I, Britain decided that Egypt was now a ‘protectorate,’ and over the course of the war (1914-18), the British “oversaw a policy of clamping down on all political activities, interning nationalists, surveilling or deporting foreign anarchists and closing down newspapers.”[13] In 1919, there was a popular uprising against the British – called the 1919 Revolution – in which nationalists called for the British to leave Egypt and for independence. Workers participated in the form of strikes, demonstrations and clashes with police. Anarcho-syndicalists also played a part in supporting the protests and strikes of the 1919 Revolution.[14]

Ultimately, the British agreed to grant Egypt ‘formal’ independence by 1922, but in the decade and a half that followed World War I, the major political issues revolved around the negotiation of a treaty with Britain and the establishment of a parliamentary regime. The Wafd party, founded in 1918, would quickly become the “embodiment of the Egyptian national movement,” holding a great deal of popular support, winning all of the elections until 1952, but it was largely used as a party through which to co-opt the more radical labour and anti-imperialist elements within Egyptian society. The Wafd encouraged union organization, but only under its umbrella, not independently. When a treaty with Britain was reached in 1936, the Wafd began to lose some of its influence as new political organizations formed, such as the precursor to the Muslim Brotherhood. Labour struggled for more rights, seeking to pass legislation that would, among other things, allow for independent unions. World War II, however, came with the imposition of martial law, but also with increased industrial development within Egypt, and thus, a growing working class.[15]

Between the end of the war and 1952, Egypt “saw the appearance of an active left inside and outside the workers’ movement, a new political scene characterized by new mass organizations and issues, and renewed nationalist struggle including guerrilla action against British forces.” In 1952, Gamal Abdul Nasser and the ‘Free Officers’ orchestrated a bloodless coup, abolished the monarchy and the parliament and installed a nationalist military government under the leadership of Nasser. The coup quickly resulted in the repression of the militant labour movement, bringing workers under the control of the government.[16]

The development and evolution of Egypt’s working class has been intimately tied to the development and evolution of Egypt’s relations with the Western imperial powers and their imposition of a global state-capitalist order. The struggle of workers continued over the following decades, providing a major impetus behind the conditions that led to the start of Egypt’s unfinished Revolution in 2011, where the conditions of workers remain tied to the imperial imposition of a state-capitalist order.

In the next part of this series, I examine the relationship between Arab Nationalism – as propagated by Nasser – and the American Empire’s efforts to exert its influence over the Middle East and much of the rest of the world.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, head of the Geopolitics Division of the Hampton Institute, the research director of Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and has a weekly podcast with BoilingFrogsPost.

Notes

[1] Zachary Lockman, “Noted on Egyptian Workers’ History,” International Labor and Working Class History (No. 18, Fall 1980), pages 1-2;

Joel Benin, “Formation of the Egyptian Working Class,” MERIP Reports (No. 94, February 1981), page 14.

[2] Jean Batou, “Nineteenth-Century Attempted Escapes from the Periphery: The Cases of Egypt and Paraguay,” Review – Fernand Braudel Center (Vol. 16, No. 3, Summer 1993), pages 279-280, 291-292, 294-295.

[3] Zachary Lockman, “Notes on Egyptian Workers’ History,” International Labor and Working Class History (No. 18, Fall 1980), page 2.

[4] Joel Benin, “Formation of the Egyptian Working Class,” MERIP Reports (No. 94, February 1981), page 15.

[5] Jean Batou, op cit., pages 282-283.

[6] Jeffrey G. Williamson, “Globalization and the Great Divergence: terms of trade booms, volatility and the poor periphery, 1782-1913,” European Review of Economic History (Vol. 12, 2008), pages 357, 379.

[7] Joel Benin, op. cit., page 15.

[8] Zachary Lockman, op. cit., page 2.

[9] Anthony Gorman, “Diverse in Race, Religion and Nationality… But United in Aspirations of Civil Progress: The Anarchist Movement in Egypt 1860-1940,” in Steve Hirsch and Lucien van der Walt (eds), Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1870-1940: The Praxis of National Liberation, Internationalism and Social Revolution (Boston, Brill, 2010), pages 3-6.

[10] Ibid, pages 8-10.

[11] Zachary Lockman, op cit., page 3.

[12] Anthony Gorman, op. cit., pages 18-23.

[13] Ibid, page 26.

[14] Zachary Lockman, op. cit., page 4; Anthony Gorman, op. cit., page 26.

[15] Zachary Lockman, op. cit., pages 4-6.

[16] Ibid, pages 6-7.

Egypt Under Empire, Part 2: The “Threat” of Arab Nationalism

In 1945, the British agreed to renegotiate the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, with the British seeking to protect their large military presence with their base at the Suez Canal. The negotiations had become frustrated with the Egyptians demanding the unconditional removal of all British troops, a prospect that was reviled by both the British and Americans, who were first and foremost interested in maintaining their imperial hegemony over the region.[1] One of the major threats to Western imperial domination of the Middle East and North Africa (and thus, of Asia and Africa more generally) was the “rising tide” of Arab Nationalism.

Arab Nationalism was considered a threat for a number of reasons: it presented the possibility of small countries being able to unite as a common force, chart their own paths and determine their own sovereignty, remain ‘neutral’ in the Cold War, and threaten the West’s control of the region’s oil resources and transport routes long considered vital to energy, trade, and military expansionism. In short, Arab Nationalism was a threat precisely because it presented an ‘alternative’ for the poor nations and peoples of the world to follow, an independent form of nationalism not tied to or dependent upon the imperial powers, instead seeking to unite the ‘Third World’ – with its vast natural resource wealth and strategic locations – and thus, could potentially bring the downfall of Western imperial domination of the world.

As early as 1943, in light of the massive oil reserves in Saudi Arabia, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8926 which declared that, “the defense of Saudi Arabia [is] vital to the defense of the United States.”[2] In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote a memo to the American Director of Economic Operations in the Middle East in which he made clear, “The Middle East is an area in which the United States has a vital interest.” That interest, of course, was oil. Roosevelt made clear that Middle Eastern oil belonged to the Western imperialist nations and not the Middle East itself, as he wrote that “the objective of the United States” in the Middle East “is to make certain that all nations are accorded equality of opportunity,” and that “special privileges… should not be afforded to any country or its nationals.” This was, of course, indirectly referring to France and especially Great Britain, the imperial hegemons of the Middle East at the time. The “equality of opportunity” to exploit the resources of the Middle East was simply referring to the expansion of America’s “vital interest” in the region.[3]

American interest in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East more broadly did not die with Roosevelt. His successor, Harry Truman, was just as eager to “open the door” to the Middle East. A 1945 memorandum to President Truman written by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs in the U.S. State Department, Gordon Merriam, stated: “In Saudi Arabia, where the oil resources constitute a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history, a concession covering this oil is nominally in American control.”[4] Adolf A. Berle, one of Franklin Roosevelt’s closest advisers, particularly in relation to the construction of the post-War world, years later remarked that controlling the oil reserves of the Middle East would mean obtaining “substantial control of the world.”[5]

After the British left India in 1947 and Palestine in 1948, their largest military base outside Great Britain was on Egypt at the Suez Canal Zone. Yet, in 1947, the Labour government was determined to maintain “a firm hold in the Middle East.” Bilateral talks were held between the British and the Pentagon in 1947 in which they discussed the region, some twenty countries, in which the two powers recognized the region as “vital” to their security interests and agreed to “parallel policies.” This was agreed to by the newly-formed National Security Council (NSC), though the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) were hesitant, fearful that American forces would be drawn into the Middle East at a time when the size of the forces were being decreased while the demands of the emerging empire were increasing. Thus, the JCS stipulated that the “British should continue to maintain primary responsibility for the defense of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.”[6] In 1947, even the U.S. State Department agreed that while “the security of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East… is vital to the security of the United States,” America’s security in the region depended upon the “strong strategic, political, and economic position” of Britain in the region.[7]

As the British Empire continued its decline in influence, and the Soviet Union continued its increase in influence, the Americans became especially concerned with an expanded Soviet presence in the Middle East. In the early 1950s, Secretary of State Dean Acheson sought to exert control over the region “through the coordination of American, British, and indigenous [local Arab dictator] efforts under a concept of the defense of the Middle East as a whole.” Top State Department officials presented the plan to the Pentagon, who agreed, but were hesitant to commit troops to the region, instead favouring the building up of local allies (i.e., to establish strong regional proxies), and recommended the U.S. invite Turkey into NATO in an effort to move the strategic objectives forward. President Truman promptly invited Turkey into NATO in 1951.[8]

In 1951, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State George McGhee stated, “We wish to keep the area on our side where it is clearly cooperating with us, or to bring it firmly onto our side where it is wavering.”[9] That same year, the Egyptian parliament – frustrated with the British – abrogated the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty in the face of widespread popular demands within the country, frustrating plans for a joint American and British military command of the region, which they wanted to establish within Egypt.[10]

As tensions rose, fighting broke out between British and Egyptian forces, with mass protests and unrest in the streets across the country. It was at this point that the Egyptian army’s ‘Free Officers’ intervened and orchestrated the bloodless coup in 1952.[11] The Americans were warned beforehand about the possibility of a coup, and expressed support for Nasser and the coup officers, feeling that they were “pro-Western,” though the U.S. Ambassador in Egypt added that they were “woefully ignorant of matters economic, financial, political, and international.”[12]

As the Americans sought closer ties to Egypt, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles went to meet with Nasser, who explained that any alliance with the West – built upon the concept of the Cold War’s ‘struggle’ against Communism – would require the British to leave Egypt entirely. Nasser explained that for Egyptians, the main enemy was imperialism, not communism. He told Dulles, “I would become the laughingstock of my people if I told them they now had an entirely new enemy, many thousands of miles away, and that they must forget about the British enemy occupying their territory. Nobody would take me seriously if I forgot about the British.”[13]

The United States continued to attempt to gain the favour of Nasser and the regime in Egypt, noting its strategic importance to the domination of the entire region. The CIA established ties with Nasser’s government in 1953, passing money to the regime, which Nasser (correctly) interpreted as a bribe. Nasser accepted the American approaches to his regime, hoping to keep the U.S. comfortable, though he articulated a ‘non-aligned’ position for Egypt, choosing neither the side of the Soviet Union or the U.S. in the Cold War. The Americans had to accept this position, as they were bluntly told by Nasser’s closest adviser: “You will never be able to get the oil of the Middle East if its people do not side with you… Either you win us forever, or you lose us forever.” The U.S. attempted to ‘win’ favour, by providing funding through the World Bank for the construction of the Aswan Dam.[14]

Nasser’s suspicions grew, however, when World Bank funding came with ‘conditions’ which would allow for concessions to the British and Americans, specifically regarding the Suez Canal. Nasser felt the World Bank was cooperating with “the imperialist nations,” who were getting in the way of his attempted project to build a modern society for Egypt: to achieve a social revolution. Nasser then announced an arms deal with the Soviet Bloc in 1955, prompting the US and UK to cancel their funding of the Aswan Dam.[15]

By 1956, the State Department acknowledged – in internal documents – that, “there seems little likelihood the US will be able to work with Nasser in the foreseeable future.” British Prime Minister Anthony Eden had even stated that he wanted to “destroy” Nasser. A State Department official noted in July of 1956 that, “Nasser is pursuing policies in the Near East opposed to reasonable U.S. objectives.”[16] As the U.S. ended funding for the Aswan Dam, Nasser announced that Egypt would fund the project by nationalizing the Suez Canal. The British and French were furious, with Anthony Eden cabling President Eisenhower that they had to “be ready… to use force to bring Nasser to his senses.” The French compared the nationalization of the Suez Canal to Hitler’s seizure of the Rhineland, but the Americans remained hesitant to resort to military action, fearing that undertaking such a response would ‘compromise’ their position in the region. The British and French told the Americans that “military action is necessary and inevitable,” and hoped for U.S. support.[17]

A special national intelligence estimate shared with the National Security Council in the United States noted that Nasser’s decision had “greatly strengthened his position, not only as leader of Egypt, but also as the spokesman and symbol of Arab nationalism throughout the Middle East.” The decision to nationalize the Suez Canal “has won wild acclaim from the Egyptian population, warm support from the greater part of the Arab world, and approval from the USSR.” The intelligence estimate noted: “Nasser’s action has strengthened anti-Western, anticolonial, and nationalist trends throughout the area, and if successful, will encourage future moves toward early nationalization or other action against foreign-owned oil pipelines and petroleum facilities.”[18]

Referring to Nasser’s nationalization as a “dramatic act of defiance,” the intelligence document explained that this will “have an intoxicating effect on Arab nationalist sentiment,” and subsequently, “certain Arab states may be encouraged, both by example and persuasion, to take similar anti-Western actions.” All of these threats and possible actions “would be increased in the event of intervention by Western military forces or a substantial increase in Western arms shipments to Israel.”[19]

A State Department policy paper from early August 1956 referred to Nasser as “an international political adventurer of considerable skill with clearly defined objectives that seriously threaten the Western world.” The State Department concluded: “Nasser intends to make full use of the resources of the Arab world, notably the Suez Canal and the oil, the resources and turmoil of the entire African continent, and the support of Muslims in Indonesia, China, Malaya, Siam, Burma and elsewhere” in order “to wield a power without limit.” Thus, the State Department noted, “it must be concluded that Nasser is not a leader with whom it will be possible to enter into friendly arrangements of cooperation or with whom it will be possible to make any feasible accommodations.” Nasser did not seek to become “a stooge of the Kremlin,” but rather, to take “a more ambitious” role as a “third force,” which would ultimately “be as inimical to the interests of the West as those of the Kremlin.”[20]

The State Department paper went on to acknowledge that the regional resentment of populations against the West was legitimate in the historical context of Western colonialism and empire, but that it would be necessary to prevent the region coming together, to ‘divide and conquer.’ In the policy paper’s own words, the State Department acknowledged that “the hatreds, frustrations and resentments of the people of the Middle East and Africa certainly exist and there is no easy way of dealing with the problems which they create.” Tellingly, the report continued: “it is to the interest of the West that they be dealt with as nearly separately as possible and that no leader… be permitted to merge the emotions and resources of the entire Middle East and Africa into a single onslaught against Western civilization.” Thus, the West would have to implement “policies designed to reduce… Nasser as a force in the Middle East and Africa.” The memo bluntly concluded: “it is in U.S. interests to take action to reduce Nasser’s power.”[21]

Still, however, fear of the popular reaction in the Arab, Muslim and African world prevented the United States from supporting military intervention in Egypt, as “anticolonial and anti-Western tendencies would be greatly reinforced and resentment of the continued presence of Western power elements in the Middle East would be intensified,” according to a National Intelligence Estimate.[22]

In late October of 1956, the Israelis, British and French began their attack and invasion of Egypt. In a meeting with his National Security Council, Eisenhower declared, “How could we possibly support Britain and France if in doing so we lose the whole Arab world?”[23] The United States and the USSR both publicly and internationally condemned the European-Israeli invasion of Egypt, demanded a ceasefire and a withdrawal of troops. The event was considered a victory first and foremost for Nasser’s Egypt, then for the Soviets and Americans, and a major defeat for the waning influence of the French and British in the region (and not to mention, increased hostility toward Israel, largely viewed as a Western imperial proxy in the region).

Nasser’s influence was especially increased following the Suez Crisis. Nasser’s support for nationalist movements in North Africa, particularly Algeria, increasingly became cause for concern. Pro-Western governments in the Middle East stood on unstable ground, threatened by the ever-expanding wave of Pan-Arab nationalism and indeed, Pan-African nationalism spreading from North Africa downward.

The United States, however, noting the power vacuum created by the defeat of Britain and France in the conflict, as well as the increasing support from the Soviet Union for nationalist movements in the region as elsewhere, had to decide upon a more direct strategy for maintaining dominance in the region. As President Eisenhower stated in December of 1956, as the Suez Crisis was coming to a final close, “We have no intention of standing idly by… to see the southern flank of NATO completely collapse through Communist penetration and success in the Mid East.” Secretary Dulles stated in turn, that, “we intend to make our presence more strongly felt in the Middle East.” Thus, the Eisenhower Doctrine was approved in early 1957, calling for the dispersal of “$200 million in economic and military aid and to commit armed forces to defend any country seeking assistance against international communism,” explaining that, “the existing vacuum… must be filled by the United States before it is filled by Russia.”[24]

Support for the Eisenhower doctrine in 1957 came from the pro-Western governments [aka: dictatorships] of Libya, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, while opposition was strongest amongst Syria and Egypt. Nasser suggested that the Eisenhower Doctrine was “a device to re-establish imperial control by non-military means,” and he would thus “have nothing to do with it and felt it was directed at Egypt as much as at any communist threat.”[25]

Indeed, Nasser was correct, as internal State Department policy planning papers reflected. While a great deal of the rhetoric from internal documents and public statements was directed at dealing with the threat of ‘communism’ and the Soviet Union’s influence in the region, Nasser and Egypt figured prominently in the internal discussion among U.S. policy-makers, noting the threat of a ‘Third Force.’ Thus, as the State Department noted, “efforts to counter Soviet penetration” of the region “must include measures to… circumscribe Nasser’s power and influence.” The U.S. was adamant that it must avoid “suspicion that our aim is to dominate or control any of the countries or to reimpose British domination in a different form,” and thus, “our actions will be largely self-defeating if they create a general impression that our objective is to directly overthrow Nasser.”[26] It may be worth noting that the document said that while they wanted Nasser gone, the issue was simply that they did not want to give the “impression” (appearance) that they wanted him gone. Thus, the guise of stemming the spread of ‘communism’ became increasingly useful in a strategic context.

A National Security Council Operations Coordinating Board report from 1957 acknowledged that there had “been increasing manifestations of an awakened nationalism” in the Arab world, largely emerging in response to “a desire to end both real and imagined vestiges of the mandate and colonial periods.” Since the historic colonial powers of the region “were from Western Europe, this nationalism has assumed generally an anti-Western form” which has “created opportunities for Soviet exploitation” which has “placed the United States in a difficult position.” The “sympathy” that the United States has towards those who want to overthrow the oppressive structures of empire and domination – which is to say, the rhetoric of the American system as being supportive of democracy and liberation – often runs “into sharp conflict with actions required to maintain the strength of the Western alliance and to support our closest allies,”[27] who happen to be ruthless tyrants.

While Britain and France viewed this nationalism “as a threat to their entire position in the area,” the United States felt that while such nationalism “represents a threat to the West,” it viewed it “as an inevitable development which should be channeled, not opposed.” While acknowledging that Nasser would “remain the leader of Egypt” for some time, the objective of the United States would be to determine “the degree to which it will actively seek to curb Nasser’s influence and Egyptian activities in the Near East and Africa.”[28]

A 1958 National Security Council report on the ‘Long-Range U.S. Policy Toward the Near East’ noted that the region was “of great strategic, political, and economic importance to the Free World,” by which they meant, the Western imperial powers. This was especially true because the region “contains the greatest petroleum resources in the world and essential facilities for the transit of military forces and Free World commerce,” such as the Suez Canal. Thus, the report noted, “it is in the security interest of the United States to make every effort to insure that these resources will be available and will be used for the strengthening of the Free World,” with the added benefit of the fact that the “geographical position of the Near East makes the area a stepping-stone toward the strategic resources of Africa.”[29]

The NSC document noted that, “In the eyes of the majority of Arabs the United States appears to be opposed to the realization of the goals of Arab nationalism,” believing “that the United States is seeking to protect its interest in Near East oil by supporting the status quo and opposing political or economic progress.” The status quo, of course, was to support ruthless dictators who impoverished their populations and gave their nation’s resources over to Western imperial powers. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, has a much better reputation within the Arab world, supporting the cause of Arab nationalism without demanding the same allegiance in the Cold War struggle that the U.S. was demanding of its autocratic allies in the region. Thus, “the prestige of the United States and of the West has declined in the Near East while Soviet influence has greatly increased.” The U.S. and Soviet Union were largely divided on issues related to Israel-Palestine, Arab nationalism and self-determination, U.S. support for its “colonial” allies in Western Europe, and the “widespread belief that the United States desires to keep the Arab world disunited and is committed to work with ‘reactionary’ [i.e., authoritarian] elements to that end.”[30]

These beliefs, the report went on to note, were essentially true. The United States “supports the continued existence of Israel” and “our economic and cultural interests in the area have led not unnaturally to close U.S. relations with elements in the Arab world whose primary interest lies in the maintenance of relations with the West and the status quo in their countries,” identifying the rulers of Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Jordan as obvious examples. The report even acknowledged that the “police-state methods” employed by communist governments “seem no worse than similar methods employed by Near East regimes, including some of those supported by the United States.”[31]

Acknowledging that the region had “extremes of wealth and poverty,” the Arab people largely blamed “external factors” such as “colonialism,” and “a desire on the part of the West to keep the Arab world relatively undeveloped so that it may ultimately become a source of raw materials.” The NSC also acknowledged that because of the U.S. alliance with the Western European colonial powers through NATO, “it is impossible for us to avoid some identification” with colonialism. However, the NSC noted, “we cannot exclude the possibility of having to use force in an attempt to maintain our position in the area,” though such force may only preserve Western interests “with great difficulty.”[32]

Instead of “attempting merely to preserve the status quo,” the NSC document suggested, the United States should “seek to guide the revolutionary and nationalistic pressures throughout the area into orderly channels which will not be antagonistic to the West and which will contribute to solving the internal social, political and economic problems of the area.” However, this still required the United States to “provide military aid to friendly countries to enhance their internal security and governmental stability,” or in other words, to preserve the status quo. However, when a “pro-Western orientation is unattainable,” the document recommended to “accept neutralist policies of states in the area” and that the U.S. should “provide assistance… to such states.”[33]

In terms of the ‘threat’ posed by Pan-Arab nationalism, the NSC report recommended that the U.S. publicly proclaim “support for the ideal of Arab unity,” but to quietly “encourage a strengthening of the ties among Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq” in order to “counterbalance Egypt’s preponderant position of leadership in the Arab world” to support the political and economic power of “more moderate” states such as Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Sudan and Iraq. The United States still had to “be prepared” to use force, however, in order “to reconcile vital Free World interests in the area’s petroleum resources with the rising tide of nationalism in the area.”[34]

The National Security Council Planning Board produced a report in July of 1958 which noted a difference of views within planning circles, one of which was that the U.S. “must face up to the fact that Arab nationalism is the dominant force in the Arab world, and that it has assumed a radical form symbolized by Nasser.” Further, because “we back regimes which seem out of step with it, or otherwise seek to retard its impact, we are going to appear to oppose it.” Thus, the NSC put forward one suggestion that, “we must adapt to Arab nationalism and seek to utilize it, if we are to retain more than a steadily declining influence in the Arab world.”[35]

Another view of the matter, the NSC paper articulated, was that, “because of the many disparities between our interests and the demands of radical Arab nationalism, the United States cannot afford to accommodate it,” as Nasser’s brand of Pan-Arab nationalism “may be virtually insatiable; it mat not stop its march until it has taken over large parts of Africa,” and thus, accommodation “may only bring a still more rapid loss of Western influence.” Ultimately, the NSC document noted, “if we choose to combat radical Arab nationalism and to hold Persian Gulf oil by force if necessary, a logical corollary would be to support Israel as the only strong pro-West power left in the Near East.”[36] In other words, the United States would support Israel as a buffer against the spread of Arab nationalism.

Two days after the NSC document was issued, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles stated – during a meeting of the National Security Council – that, “Arab nationalism was like an overflowing stream – you cannot stand in front of it and oppose it frontally, but you must try to keep it in bounds. We must try to prevent lasting damage to our interests in the Near East until events deflate the great Nasser hero myth,” and that “we must try to deflate that myth.” President Eisenhower chimed in during the meeting, suggesting, “we could support self-determination by the Arabs as far as the internal governments of the various countries were concerned. Since we are about to get thrown out of the area, we might as well believe in Arab nationalism.”[37]

The following month, in August of 1958, a Special National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) noted that many pro-West dictatorships in the region were experiencing major crises, such as Lebanon and Jordan (both of which the U.S. sent troops to that year), or having been overthrown (such as Iraq), or forced to make accommodations to Nasser (such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait), and thus, noted the NIE: “the Western-supported conservative governments of the Middle East have seen their influence and authority slip away.” Arab nationalism, the NIE noted, “is a movement of long standing, with great emotional appeal, aimed at a renaissance of the Arab peoples and the restoration of their sovereignty, unity, power, and prestige.” Thus, while pro-West governments publicly spoke out against Western imperialism, they continued to maintain ties to the imperial powers “because they needed Western support in order to stay in power.”[38]

The radical nationalist governments, on the other hand, “were far more distrustful of the West, more determined to eradicate the remaining Western controls over Arab political and economic life, and far more serious about achieving (rather than simply praising) the goal of Arab unity.” Further, these radical regimes “added a doctrine of social revolution and reform to the older tenets of Arab nationalism, and thus came into conflict with the traditional upper classes and social and economic systems of the Arab world on which the conservatives’ power rested.” Ultimately, the NIE noted, “it is necessary to think of Nasser and the mass of Arab nationalists as inseparable” and that “no rival is likely to challenge him unless he suffers a series of defeats.”[39]

An NSC planning board paper from late August suggested that the United States should “seek to contain radical pan-Arab nationalism from spilling out beyond the Near East and undermining other pro-Western regimes.”[40]

Indeed, few things are more frightening to imperial powers than the possibility of a good example. If a comparably small and poor country like Egypt could successfully defy the United States, France, Britain, Israel and the Soviet Union – to not become a proxy of any major power – and to chart its own path in international affairs and attempt a ‘social revolution’ at home, the rest of the world – the majority of the world being poor and living in Africa, Asia and Latin America – are paying attention. If Egypt could do it, so could they. What’s more, if the Arab countries could unite, then the African countries could unite, defying the fallacious borders carved up by European empires and creating powerful regional forces of their own.

In short, it amounts to a type of domino theory which was articulated by the Pentagon and other imperial planning bodies in the United States to justify their massive wars in Indochina and beyond, except instead of fearing the spread of Communism – with countries caving one by one (like dominos) to the appeal of the Soviet Union – the reality of the threat was much greater: a successful attempt of independent nationalism would encourage more to follow.

This is no less true today than it was when Nasser was in power. Perhaps the most important quote regarding the spread of Arab Nationalism in the 1950s – from the perspective of American imperial strategists – was when the NSC declared in 1958 that the United States should “seek to guide the revolutionary and nationalistic pressures throughout the area into orderly channels which will not be antagonistic to the West and which will contribute to solving the internal social, political and economic problems of the area.” Indeed, one could imagine such a statement appearing almost verbatim in the internal documents of the Obama administration related to Egypt’s ongoing revolution.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, head of the Geopolitics Division of the Hampton Institute, Research Director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and hosts a weekly podcast show at BoilingFrogsPost.

Notes

[1] Peter L. Hahn, “Containment and Egyptian Nationalism: The Unsuccessful Effort to Establish the Middle East Command, 1950-53,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 11, No. 1, January 1987), pages 25-26.

[2] Maurice Jr. Labelle, “‘The Only Thorn’: Early Saudi-American Relations and the Question of Palestine, 1945-1949,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 35, No. 2, April 2011), pages 259-260.

[3] Letter from President Roosevelt to James M. Landis, American Director of Economic Operations in the Middle East, Concerning the Vital Interest of the United States in the Middle East, Foreign Relations of the United States, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, 6 March 1944.

[4] Report by the Coordinating Committee of the Department of State, “Draft Memorandum to President Truman,” Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, The Near East and Africa, Vol. 8, 1945, page 45.

[5] Lloyd C. Gardner, Three Kings: The Rise of an American Empire in the Middle East After World War II (The New Press, 2009), page 96; Noam Chomsky, “Is the World Too Big to Fail?” Salon, 21 April 2011: http://www.salon.com/2011/04/21/global_empire_united_states_iraq_noam_chomsky/

[6] Toru Onozawa, “Formation of American Regional Policy for the Middle East, 1950-1952: The Middle East Command Concept and Its Legacy,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 29, No. 1, January 2005), pages 120-121.

[7] Peter L. Hahn, op. cit., page 24.

[8] Ibid, pages 28-29.

[9] Toru Onozawa, op. cit., pages 125-127.

[10] Peter L. Hahn, op. cit., pages 34-35.

[11] Ibid, pages 36-39.

[12] H.W. Brands, “The Cairo-Tehran Connection in Anglo-American Rivalry in the Middle East, 1951-1953,” The International History Review (Vol. 11, No. 3, August 1989), pages 446-447.

[13] Ibid, pages 451-452.

[14] Barry Rubin, “America and the Egyptian Revolution, 1950-1957,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 97, No. 1, Spring 1982), pages 76-80.

[15] Amy L. S. Staples, “Seeing Diplomacy Through Bankers’ Eyes: The World Bank, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Crisis, and the Aswan High Dam,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 26, No. 3, Summer 2002), pages 410-414.

[16] Geoffrey Warner, “The United States and the Suez Crisis,” International Affairs (Vol. 67, No. 2, April 1991), pages 304-308.

[17] Ibid, pages 308-309.

[18] Document 40, “Special National Intelligence Estimate,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 16, Suez Crisis, 31 July 1956.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Document 62, “Paper by the Secretary of State’s Special Assistant (Russell),” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 16, Suez Crisis, 4 August 1956.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Document 175, “Special National Intelligence Estimate,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 16, Suez Crisis, 5 September 1956.

[23] Document 455, “Memorandum of Discussion at the 302d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, November 1, 1956, 9 a.m.,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 16, Suez Crisis, 1 November 1956.

[24] Peter L. Hahn, “Securing the Middle East: The Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, (Vol. 36, No. 1, March 2006), pages 39-40.

[25] Ibid, page 41.

[26] Document 161, “Paper Prepared in the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs and the Policy Planning Staff,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iran; Iraq, 5 December 1956.

[27] Document 178, “Operations Coordinating Board Report,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iran; Iraq, 22 December 1956.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Document 5, “National Security Council Report,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iraq; Iran; Arabian Peninsula, 24 January 1958.

[30 – 34] Ibid.

[35] Document 35, “Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Planning Board,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iraq; Iran; Arabian Peninsula, 29 July 1958.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Document 36, “Memorandum of Discussion at the 374th Meeting of the National Security Council,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iraq; Iran; Arabian Peninsula, 31 July 1958.

[38] Document 40, “Special National Intelligence Estimate,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iraq; Iran; Arabian Peninsula, 12 August 1958.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Document 42, “Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Planning Board,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iraq; Iran; Arabian Peninsula, 19 August 1958.

Islamic State Defeat Instigates Saudi-Iran Confrontation

With Islamic State routed everywhere, the threat of plunging the Middle East into a large-scale war has not diminished, but, on the contrary, it has grown. There are signs that a Saudi-Iran conflict, threatening to activate new fronts in the region, is imminent. The struggle between these countries for political and religious influence has geopolitical implications that extend far beyond the waters of the Persian Gulf and encompass nearly every major conflict zone in the region. With tensions running high, a spark is enough to start a big fire at any moment.

Eleven of Saudi Arabia’s richest and most influential businessmen and politicians were detained in a corruption probe by the Crown Prince’s Mohammed bin Salman’s anti-corruption committee over the weekend. Separately, the minister of the Saudi National Guard, who controlled the branches of the military that weren’t yet under the crown prince’s control, was replaced by King Salman. “Nothing like this has ever happened before in the history of Saudi Arabia, giving the sense the kingdom is entering into unchartered waters with unknown consequences,” David Ottaway, Middle East Fellow at the Wilson Center, said in a statement. He added the actions “could well threaten the House of Saud’s stability for years to come.”

The views on what happened in Saudi Arabia may differ but one thing is certain – the power in the kingdom is being consolidated against the background of possible conflict with Iran. The consolidation is taking place as Riyadh becomes increasingly determined to adopt a more assertive foreign policy and pursue a more aggressive approach toward what it sees as an Iranian threat.

A ballistic missile – a Burkan 2-H Scud-type missile with a range of more than 800 km – fired from Yemen towards Riyadh was intercepted on November 4. It was seen by the Saudi-led military coalition as a “dangerous escalation” by the Iran-allied Houthi militia in Yemen. All air, land and sea ports to Yemen were temporarily closed to stem the flow of arms to Houthi rebels from Iran.

On November 6, Saudi Arabia made a statement, citing evidence that Tehran was behind the strike and labelling it a potential “act of war.” According to it, an examination of the debris confirmed the role of Iran’s regime in manufacturing ballistic missiles and smuggling them to the Houthi militias in Yemen for the purpose of attacking the kingdom. The document accused Iran of violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216, which prohibits states from supplying weapons to Yemeni armed groups.

On November 4, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his snap resignation from government, triggering a crescendo of war drums. The resignation was unprecedented as it was announced in a televised address from an undisclosed location in Riyadh. It came in the context of Saudi’s renewed push to confront Iran.

Hariri, a pro-Saudi politician and the leader of Lebanon’s Sunni bloc, accused Tehran of sowing “disorder and destruction” in Lebanon. He also said: “Iran has a wild desire to destroy the Arab world,” and vowed that “Iran’s hands in the region will be cut off.” The PM also accused Hezbollah, a Lebanese pro-Iran political and armed movement, for building “a state within a state”. Hariri said his life was in danger.

Lebanon is split along sectarian and political lines with parts of the country closer to Riyadh and others closer to Tehran. The PM’s resignation is likely to plunge it into a political quagmire, as the country’s fragile coalition government suffers a severe blow and general elections set for May appear uncertain. The move is seen as the demonstration of Riyadh’s will to confront Iran in Lebanon. According to Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah, the unprecedented resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister was imposed by Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that the resignation was “a wakeup call to the international community to take action against the Iranian aggression that is trying to turn Syria into a second Lebanon”. Bahrain ordered on November 5 its citizens in Lebanon to “leave immediately”, amid mounting tension between the regional rivals.

The Syrian military and its allies have converged on holdout Islamic State (IS) group fighters in the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor, the militants’ very last urban bastion, following a string of losses. Iraqi Shia pro-Iranian Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries crossed the border to approach the IS stronghold.

Pro-US Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are also making fresh gains in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province in an attempt to seize Albu Kamal ahead of Syria and Iraqi Shia forces. The rival forces may be heading for a fight. Kurds and their SDF Arab allies are Sunni Muslims, a clash with Syria’s Shia allies would be seen as a Sunni vs. Shia conflict. Neither Iran nor the Saudi Arabia-led coalition will stand idly by.

The US has taken the side of Saudi Arabia to exclude its involvement in any potential mediation effort. It is overtly hostile to Iran. Besides, if a conflict sparks, US oil exporting frackers will gain.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Tehran on November 1 to address the problems of Middle East security. The Russian president and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran and Moscow are “strategic partners”. Saudi King Salman visited Russia in early October. If mediation to prevent the worst is possible, nobody else is better placed to assume a mediating role in the supercharged atmosphere than Moscow. Meanwhile, the Middle East’s longest-running cold war is about to turn hot.
PETER KORZUN
STRATEGIC CULTURE FOUNDATION

“Explosive” Leaked Secret Israeli Cable Confirms Israeli-Saudi Coordination To Provoke War

Early this morning, Israeli Channel 10 news published a leaked diplomatic cable which had been sent to all Israeli ambassadors throughout the world concerning the chaotic events that unfolded over the weekend in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, which began with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s unexpected resignation after he was summoned to Riyadh by his Saudi-backers, and led to the Saudis announcing that Lebanon had “declared war” against the kingdom.

The classified embassy cable, written in Hebrew, constitutes the first formal evidence proving that the Saudis and Israelis are deliberately coordinating to escalate the situation in the Middle East.

The explosive classified Israeli cable reveals the following:

On Sunday, just after Lebanese PM Hariri’s shocking resignation, Israel sent a cable to all of its embassies with the request that its diplomats do everything possible to ramp up diplomatic pressure against Hezbollah and Iran.
The cable urged support for Saudi Arabia’s war against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.
The cable stressed that Iran was engaged in “regional subversion”.
Israeli diplomats were urged to appeal to the “highest officials” within their host countries to attempt to expel Hezbollah from Lebanese government and politics.
As is already well-known, the Saudi and Israeli common cause against perceived Iranian influence and expansion in places like Syria, Lebanon and Iraq of late has led the historic bitter enemies down a pragmatic path of unspoken cooperation as both seem to have placed the break up of the so-called “Shia crescent” as their primary policy goal in the region. For Israel, Hezbollah has long been its greatest foe, which Israeli leaders see as an extension of Iran’s territorial presence right up against the Jewish state’s northern border.

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The Israeli reporter who obtained the document is Barak Ravid, senior diplomatic correspondent for Channel 10 News. Ravid announced the following through Twitter yesterday:

I published on channel 10 a cable sent to Israeli diplomats asking to lobby for Saudis/Harir and against Hezbollah. The cable sent from the MFA in Jerusalem [Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs] to all Israeli embassies toes the Saudi line regarding the Hariri resignation.
The Israeli diplomats were instructed to demarch their host governments over the domestic political situation in Lebanon – a very rare move.
The cable said: “You need to stress that the Hariri resignation shows how dangerous Iran and Hezbollah are for Lebanon’s security.”
“Hariri’s resignation proves wrong the argument that Hezbollah participation in the government stabilizes Lebanon,” the cable added.
The cable instructed Israeli diplomats to support Saudi Arabia over its war with the Houthis in Yemen. The cable also stressed: “The missile launch by the Houthis towards Riyadh calls for applying more pressure on Iran & Hezbollah.”

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Watch today’s Hebrew broadcast Channel 10 News report which features the Israeli diplomatic cable – the text of which is featured in Channel 10’s screenshot (below) – here.

“To the Director-General: you are requested to urgently contact the Foreign Ministry and other relevant government officials [of your host country] and emphasize that the resignation of Al-Hariri and his comments on the reasons that led him to resign illustrate once again the destructive nature of Iran and Hezbollah and their danger to the stability of Lebanon and the countries of the region.

Al-Hariri’s resignation proves that the international argument that Hezbollah’s inclusion in the government is a recipe for stability is basically wrong. This artificial unity creates paralysis and the inability of local sovereign powers to make decisions that serve their national interest. It effectively turns them into hostages under physical threat and are forced to promote the interests of a foreign power – Iran – even if this may endanger the security of their country.

The events in Lebanon and the launching of a ballistic missile by the signatories to the Riyadh agreement require increased pressure on Iran and Hezbollah on a range of issues from the production of ballistic missiles to regional subversion.”

Below is a rough translation of the classified Israeli embassy cable using Google Translate as released by Israel’s Channel 10 News:
Thus, as things increasingly heat up in the Middle East, it appears the anti-Iran and anti-Shia alliance of convenience between the Saudis and Israelis appears to have placed Lebanon in the cross hairs of yet another looming Israeli-Hezbollah war. And the war in Yemen will also continue to escalate – perhaps now with increasingly overt Israeli political support. According to Channel 10’s commentary (translation), “In the cable, Israeli ambassadors were also asked to convey an unusual message of support for Saudi Arabia in light of the war in which it is involved in Yemen against the Iranian-backed rebels.”

All of this this comes, perhaps not coincidentally, at the very moment ISIS is on the verge of complete annihilation (partly at the hands of Hezbollah), and as both Israel and Saudi Arabia have of late increasingly declared “red lines” concerning perceived Iranian influence across the region as well as broad Hezbollah acceptance and popularity within Lebanon.

What has both Israel and the Saudis worried is the fact that the Syrian war has strengthened Hezbollah, not weakened it. And now we have smoking gun internal evidence that Israel is quietly formalizing its unusual alliance with Saudi Arabia and its power-hungry and hawkish crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
by Tyler Durden
Nov 7, 2017 10:52 PM
zerohedge.com

The inside story of the Saudi night of long knives

Princes, ministers and a billionaire are ‘imprisoned’ in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton while the Saudi Arabian Army is said to be in an uproar

By PEPE ESCOBAR NOVEMBER 6, 2017 7:42 PM (UTC+8)
3,094 10
The House of Saud’s King Salman devises an high-powered “anti-corruption” commission and appoints his son, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, as chairman.

Right on cue, the commission detains 11 House of Saud princes, four current ministers and dozens of former princes/cabinet secretaries – all charged with corruption. Hefty bank accounts are frozen, private jets are grounded. The high-profile accused lot is “jailed” at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton.

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War breaks out within the House of Saud, as Asia Times had anticipated back in July. Rumors have been swirling for months about a coup against MBS in the making. Instead, what just happened is yet another MBS pre-emptive coup.

A top Middle East business/investment source who has been doing deals for decades with the opaque House of Saud offers much-needed perspective: “This is more serious than it appears. The arrest of the two sons of previous King Abdullah, Princes Miteb and Turki, was a fatal mistake. This now endangers the King himself. It was only the regard for the King that protected MBS. There are many left in the army against MBS and they are enraged at the arrest of their commanders.”

To say the Saudi Arabian Army is in uproar is an understatement. “He’d have to arrest the whole army before he could feel secure.”

Prince Miteb until recently was a serious contender to the Saudi throne. But the highest profile among the detainees belongs to billionaire Prince al-Waleed Bin Talal, owner of Kingdom Holdings, major shareholder in Twitter, CitiBank, Four Seasons, Lyft and, until recently, Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp.

Al-Waleed’s arrest ties up with a key angle; total information control. There’s no freedom of information in Saudi Arabia. MBS already controls all the internal media (as well as the appointment of governorships). But then there’s Saudi media at large. MBS aims to “hold the keys to all the large media empires and relocate them to Saudi Arabia.”

So how did we get here?

The secrets behind the purge

The story starts with secret deliberations in 2014 about a possible “removal” of then King Abdullah. But “the dissolution of the royal family would lead to the breaking apart of tribal loyalties and the country splitting into three parts. It would be more difficult to secure the oil, and the broken institutions whatever they were should be maintained to avoid chaos.”

Instead, a decision was reached to get rid of Prince Bandar bin Sultan – then actively coddling Salafi-jihadis in Syria – and replace the control of the security apparatus with Mohammed bin Nayef.

The succession of Abdullah proceeded smoothly. “Power was shared between three main clans: King Salman (and his beloved son Prince Mohammed); the son of Prince Nayef (the other Prince Mohammed), and finally the son of the dead king (Prince Miteb, commander of the National Guard). In practice, Salman let MBS run the show.

And, in practice, blunders also followed. The House of Saud lost its lethal regime-change drive in Syria and is bogged down in an unwinnable war on Yemen, which on top of it prevents MBS from exploiting the Empty Quarter – the desert straddling both nations.

The Saudi Treasury was forced to borrow on the international markets. Austerity ruled – with news of MBS buying a yacht for almost half a billion dollars while lazing about the Cote d’Azur not going down particularly well. Hardcore political repression is epitomized by the decapitation of Shi’ite leader Sheikh Al-Nimr. Not only the Shi’ites in the Eastern province are rebelling but also Sunni provinces in the west.

As the regime’s popularity radically tumbled down, MBS came up with Vision 2030. Theoretically, it was shift away from oil; selling off part of Aramco; and an attempt to bring in new industries. Cooling off dissatisfaction was covered by royal payoffs to key princes to stay loyal and retroactive payments on back wages to the unruly masses.

Yet Vision 2030 cannot possibly work when the majority of productive jobs in Saudi Arabia are held by expats. Bringing in new jobs raises the question of where are the new (skilled) workers to come from.

Throughout these developments, aversion to MBS never ceased to grow; “There are three major royal family groups aligning against the present rulers: the family of former King Abdullah, the family of former King Fahd, and the family of former Crown Prince Nayef.”

Nayef – who replaced Bandar – is close to Washington and extremely popular in Langley due to his counter-terrorism activities. His arrest earlier this year angered the CIA and quite a few factions of the House of Saud – as it was interpreted as MBS forcing his hand in the power struggle.

According to the source, “he might have gotten away with the arrest of CIA favorite Mohammed bin Nayef if he smoothed it over but MBS has now crossed the Rubicon though he is no Caesar. The CIA regards him as totally worthless.”

Some sort of stability could eventually be found in a return to the previous power sharing between the Sudairis (without MBS) and the Chamars (the tribe of deceased King Abdullah). After the death of King Salman, the source would see it as “MBS isolated from power, which would be entrusted to the other Prince Mohammed (the son of Nayef). And Prince Miteb would conserve his position.”

MBS acted exactly to prevent this outcome. The source, though, is adamant; “There will be regime change in the near future, and the only reason that it has not happened already is because the old King is liked among his family. It is possible that there may be a struggle emanating from the military as during the days of King Farouk, and we may have a ruler arise that is not friendly to the United States.”

‘Moderate’ Salafi-jihadis, anyone?

Before the purge, the House of Saud’s incessant spin centered on a $500 billion zone straddling Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, on the Red Sea coast, a sort of Dubai replica to be theoretically completed by 2025, powered by wind and solar energy, and financed by its sovereign wealth fund and proceeds from the Aramco IPO.

In parallel, MBS pulled another rabbit from his hat swearing the future of Saudi Arabia is a matter of “simply reverting to what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions.”

In a nutshell: a state that happens to be the private property of a royal family inimical to all principles of freedom of expression and religion, as well as the ideological matrix of all forms of Salafi-jihadism simply cannot metastasize into a “moderate” state just because MBS says so.

Meanwhile, a pile-up of purges, coups and countercoups shall be the norm.

How America Spreads Global Chaos

How America Spreads Global Chaos
The U.S. government may pretend to respect a “rules-based” global order, but the
only rule Washington seems to follow is “might makes right” — and the CIA has
long served as a chief instigator and enforcer, writes Nicolas J.S. Davies.
By Nicolas J.S. Davies
As the recent PBS documentary on the American War in Vietnam acknowledged, few
American officials ever believed that the United States could win the war,
neither those advising Johnson as he committed hundreds of thousands of U.S.
troops, nor those advising Nixon as he escalated a brutal aerial bombardment
that had already killed millions of people.
As conversations tape-recorded in the White House reveal, and as other writers
have documented, the reasons for wading into the Big Muddy, as Pete Seeger
satirized it, and then pushing on regardless, all came down to “credibility”:
the domestic political credibility of the politicians involved and America’s
international credibility as a military power.
Once the CIA went to work in Vietnam to undermine the 1954 Geneva Accords and
the planned reunification of North and South through a free and fair election in
1956, the die was cast. The CIA’s support for the repressive Diem regime and its
successors ensured an ever-escalating war, as the South rose in rebellion,
supported by the North. No U.S. president could extricate the U.S. from Vietnam
without exposing the limits of what U.S. military force could achieve, betraying
widely held national myths and the powerful interests that sustained and
profited from them.
The critical “lesson of Vietnam” was summed up by Richard Barnet in his 1972
book Roots of War. “At the very moment that the number one nation has perfected
the science of killing,” Barnet wrote, “It has become an impractical means of
political domination.”
Losing the war in Vietnam was a heavy blow to the CIA and the U.S. Military
Industrial Complex, and it added insult to injury for every American who had
lost comrades or loved ones in Vietnam, but it ushered in more than a decade of
relative peace for America and the world. If the purpose of the U.S. military is
to protect the U.S. from the danger of war, as our leaders so often claim, the
“Vietnam syndrome,” or the reluctance to be drawn into new wars, kept the peace
and undoubtedly saved countless lives.
Even the senior officer corps of the U.S. military saw it that way, since many
of them had survived the horrors of Vietnam as junior officers. The CIA could
still wreak havoc in Latin America and elsewhere, but the full destructive force
of the U.S. military was not unleashed again until the invasion of Panama in
1989 and the First Gulf War in 1991.
Half a century after Vietnam, we have tragically come full circle. With the
CIA’s politicized intelligence running wild in Washington and its covert
operations spreading violence and chaos across every continent, President Trump
faces the same pressures to maintain his own and his country’s credibility as
Johnson and Nixon did. His predictable response has been to escalate ongoing
wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and West Africa, and to
threaten new ones against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.
Trump is facing these questions, not just in one country, Vietnam, but in dozens
of countries across the world, and the interests perpetuating and fueling this
cycle of crisis and war have only become more entrenched over time, as President
Eisenhower warned that they would, despite the end of the Cold War and, until
now, the lack of any actual military threat to the United States.
Ironically but predictably, the U.S.’s aggressive and illegal war policy has
finally provoked a real military threat to the U.S., albeit one that has emerged
only in response to U.S. war plans. As I explained in a recent article, North
Korea’s discovery in 2016 of a U.S. plan to assassinate its president, Kim Jong
Un, and launch a Second Korean War has triggered a crash program to develop
long-range ballistic missiles that could give North Korea a viable nuclear
deterrent and prevent a U.S. attack. But the North Koreans will not feel safe
from attack until their leaders and ours are sure that their missiles can
deliver a nuclear strike against the U.S. mainland.
The CIA’s Pretexts for War
U.S. Air Force Colonel Fletcher Prouty was the chief of special operations for
the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1955 to 1964, managing the global military
support system for the CIA in Vietnam and around the world. Fletcher Prouty’s
book, The Secret Team: The CIA and its Allies in Control of the United States
and the World, was suppressed when it was first published in 1973. Thousands of
copies disappeared from bookstores and libraries, and a mysterious Army Colonel
bought the entire shipment of 3,500 copies the publisher sent to Australia. But
Prouty’s book was republished in 2011, and it is a timely account of the role of
the CIA in U.S. policy.
Prouty surprisingly described the role of the CIA as a response by powerful
people and interests to the abolition of the U.S. Department of War and the
creation of the Department of Defense in 1947. Once the role of the U.S.
military was redefined as one of defense, in line with the United Nations
Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of military force in 1945 and
similar moves by other military powers, it would require some kind of crisis or
threat to justify using military force in the future, both legally and
politically. The main purpose of the CIA, as Prouty saw it, is to create such
pretexts for war.
The CIA is a hybrid of an intelligence service that gathers and analyzes foreign
intelligence and a clandestine service that conducts covert operations. Both
functions are essential to creating pretexts for war, and that is what they have
done for 70 years.
Prouty described how the CIA infiltrated the U.S. military, the State
Department, the National Security Council and other government institutions,
covertly placing its officers in critical positions to ensure that its plans
are approved and that it has access to whatever forces, weapons,
equipment, ammunition and other resources it needs to carry them out.
Many retired intelligence officers, such as Ray McGovern and the members of
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), saw the merging of
clandestine operations with intelligence analysis in one agency as corrupting
the objective analysis they tried to provide to policymakers. They formed VIPS
in 2003 in response to the fabrication of politicized intelligence that provided
false pretexts for the U.S. to invade and destroy Iraq.
CIA in Syria and Africa
But Fletcher Prouty was even more disturbed by the way that the CIA
uses clandestine operations to trigger coups, wars and chaos. The civil and
proxy war in Syria is a perfect example of what Prouty meant. In late 2011,
after destroying Libya and aiding in the torture-murder of Muammar Gaddafi, the
CIA and its allies began flying fighters and weapons from Libya to Turkey and
infiltrating them into Syria. Then, working with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey,
Croatia and other allies, this operation poured thousands of tons of weapons
across Syria’s borders to ignite and fuel a full-scale civil war.
Once these covert operations were under way, they ran wild until they had
unleashed a savage Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria (Jabhat al-Nusra, now rebranded
as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), spawned the even more savage “Islamic State,”
triggered the heaviest and probably the deadliest U.S. bombing campaign since
Vietnam and drawn Russia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Hezbollah, Kurdish
militias and almost every state or armed group in the Middle East into the chaos
of Syria’s civil war.
Meanwhile, as Al Qaeda and Islamic State have expanded their operations across
Africa, the U.N. has published a report titled Journey to Extremism in Africa:
Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment, based on 500
interviews with African militants. This study has found that the kind of special
operations and training missions the CIA and AFRICOM are conducting and
supporting in Africa are in fact the critical “tipping point” that drives
Africans to join militant groups like Al Qaeda, Al-Shabab and Boko Haram.
The report found that government action, such as the killing or detention of
friends or family, was the “tipping point” that drove 71 percent of African
militants interviewed to join armed groups, and that this was a more important
factor than religious ideology.
The conclusions of Journey to Extremism in Africa confirm the findings of other
similar studies. The Center for Civilians in Conflict interviewed 250 civilians
who joined armed groups in Bosnia, Somalia, Gaza and Libya for its 2015 study,
The People’s Perspectives: Civilian Involvement in Armed Conflict. The study
found that the most common motivation for civilians to join armed groups was
simply to protect themselves or their families.
The role of U.S. “counterterrorism” operations in fueling armed resistance and
terrorism, and the absence of any plan to reduce the asymmetric violence
unleashed by the “global war on terror,” would be no surprise to Fletcher
Prouty. As he explained, such clandestine operations always take on a life of
their own that is unrelated, and often counter-productive, to any rational U.S.
policy objective.
“The more intimate one becomes with this activity,” Prouty wrote, “The more one
begins to realize that such operations are rarely, if ever, initiated from an
intent to become involved in pursuit of some national objective in the first
place.”
The U.S. justifies the deployment of 6,000 U.S. special forces and military
trainers to 53 of the 54 countries in Africa as a response to terrorism. But the
U.N.’s Journey to Extremism in Africa study makes it clear that the U.S.
militarization of Africa is in fact the “tipping point” that is driving Africans
across the continent to join armed resistance groups in the first place.
This is a textbook CIA operation on the same model as Vietnam in the late 1950s
and early 60s. The CIA uses U.S. special forces and training missions to launch
covert and proxy military operations that drive local populations into armed
resistance groups, and then uses the presence of those armed resistance groups
to justify ever-escalating U.S. military involvement. This is Vietnam redux on a
continental scale.
Taking on China
What seems to really be driving the CIA’s militarization of U.S. policy
in Africa is China’s growing influence on the continent. As Steve Bannon put it
in an interview with the Economist in August, “Let’s go screw up One Belt One
Road.”
China is already too big and powerful for the U.S. to apply what is known as the
Ledeen doctrine named for neoconservative theorist and intelligence operative
Michael Ledeen who suggested that every 10 years or so, the United States “pick
up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show
we mean business.”
China is too powerful and armed with nuclear weapons. So, in this case, the
CIA’s job would be to spread violence and chaos to disrupt Chinese trade and
investment, and to make African governments increasingly dependent on U.S.
military aid to fight the militant groups spawned and endlessly regenerated by
U.S.-led “counterterrorism” operations.
Neither Ledeen nor Bannon pretend that such policies are designed to build more
prosperous or viable societies in the Middle East or Africa, let alone to
benefit their people. They both know very well what Richard Barnet already
understood 45 years ago, that America’s unprecedented investment in weapons, war
and CIA covert operations are only good for one thing: to kill people and
destroy infrastructure, reducing cities to rubble, societies to chaos and the
desperate survivors to poverty and displacement.
As long as the CIA and the U.S. military keep plunging the scapegoats for our
failed policies into economic crisis, violence and chaos, the United States and
the United Kingdom can remain the safe havens of the world’s wealth, islands of
privilege and excess amidst the storms they unleash on others.
But if that is the only “significant national objective” driving these policies,
it is surely about time for the 99 percent of Americans who reap no benefit from
these murderous schemes to stop the CIA and its allies before they completely
wreck the already damaged and fragile world in which we all must live, Americans
and foreigners alike.
Douglas Valentine has probably studied the CIA in more depth than any other
American journalist, beginning with his book on The Phoenix Program in
Vietnam. He has written a new book titled The CIA as Organized Crime: How
Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World, in which he brings Fletcher
Prouty’s analysis right up to the present day, describing the CIA’s role in our
current wars and the many ways it infiltrates, manipulates and controls U.S.
policy.
The Three Scapegoats
In Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, he named North Korea, Iran and
Venezuela as his prime targets for destabilization, economic warfare and,
ultimately, the overthrow of their governments, whether by coup d’etat or the
mass destruction of their civilian population and infrastructure. But Trump’s
choice of scapegoats for America’s failures was obviously not based on a
rational reassessment of foreign policy priorities by the new administration. It
was only a tired rehashing of the CIA’s unfinished business with two-thirds of
Bush’s “axis of evil” and Bush White House official Elliott Abrams’ failed 2002
coup in Caracas, now laced with explicit and illegal threats of aggression.
How Trump and the CIA plan to sacrifice their three scapegoats for America’s
failures remains to be seen. This is not 2001, when the world stood silent at
the U.S. bombardment and invasion of Afghanistan after September 11th. It is
more like 2003, when the U.S. destruction of Iraq split the Atlantic alliance
and alienated most of the world. It is certainly not 2011, after Obama’s global
charm offensive had rebuilt U.S. alliances and provided cover for French
President Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Cameron, Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton and the Arab royals to destroy Libya, once ranked by the U.N. as the
most developed country in Africa, now mired in intractable chaos.
In 2017, a U.S. attack on any one of Trump’s scapegoats would isolate the United
States from many of its allies and undermine its standing in the world in farreaching
ways that might be more permanent and harder to repair than the
invasion and destruction of Iraq.
In Venezuela, the CIA and the right-wing opposition are following the same
strategy that President Nixon ordered the CIA to inflict on Chile, to “make the
economy scream” in preparation for the 1973 coup. But the solid victory of
Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party in recent nationwide gubernatorial elections,
despite a long and deep economic crisis, reveals little public support for the
CIA’s puppets in Venezuela.
The CIA has successfully discredited the Venezuelan government through economic
warfare, increasingly violent right-wing street protests and a global propaganda
campaign. But the CIA has stupidly hitched its wagon to an extreme right-wing,
upper-class opposition that has no credibility with most of the Venezuelan
public, who still turn out for the Socialists at the polls. A CIA coup or U.S.
military intervention would meet fierce public resistance and damage U.S.
relations all over Latin America.
Boxing In North Korea
A U.S. aerial bombardment or “preemptive strike” on North Korea could quickly
escalate into a war between the U.S. and China, which has reiterated its
commitment to North Korea’s defense if North Korea is attacked. We do not know
exactly what was in the U.S. war plan discovered by North Korea, so neither can
we know how North Korea and China could respond if the U.S. pressed ahead with
it.
Most analysts have long concluded that any U.S. attack on North Korea would be
met with a North Korean artillery and missile barrage that would inflict
unacceptable civilian casualties on Seoul, a metropolitan area of 26 million
people, three times the population of New York City. Seoul is only 35 miles from
the frontier with North Korea, placing it within range of a huge array of North
Korean weapons. What was already a no-win calculus is now compounded by the
possibility that North Korea could respond with nuclear weapons, turning any
prospect of a U.S. attack into an even worse nightmare.
U.S. mismanagement of its relations with North Korea should be an object lesson
for its relations with Iran, graphically demonstrating the advantages of
diplomacy, talks and agreements over threats of war. Under the Agreed Framework
signed in 1994, North Korea stopped work on two much larger nuclear reactors
than the small experimental one operating at Yongbyong since 1986, which only
produces 6 kg of plutonium per year, enough for one nuclear bomb.
The lesson of Bush’s Iraq invasion in 2003 after Saddam Hussein had complied
with demands that he destroy Iraq’s stockpiles of chemical weapons and shut down
a nascent nuclear program was not lost on North Korea. Not only did the invasion
lay waste to large sections of Iraq with hundreds of thousands of dead but
Hussein himself was hunted down and condemned to death by hanging.
Still, after North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006, even its small
experimental reactor was shut down as a result of the “Six Party Talks” in 2007,
all the fuel rods were removed and placed under supervision of the International
Atomic Energy Agency, and the cooling tower of the reactor was demolished in
2008.
But then, as relations deteriorated, North Korea conducted a second nuclear
weapon test and again began reprocessing spent fuel rods to recover plutonium
for use in nuclear weapons.
North Korea has now conducted six nuclear weapons tests. The explosions in the
first five tests increased gradually up to 15-25 kilotons, about the yield of
the bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but estimates for the
yield of the 2017 test range from 110 to 250 kilotons, comparable to a small
hydrogen bomb.
The even greater danger in a new war in Korea is that the U.S. could unleash
part of its arsenal of 4,000 more powerful weapons (100 to 1,200 kilotons),
which could kill millions of people and devastate and poison the region, or even
the world, for years to come.
The U.S. willingness to scrap the Agreed Framework in 2003, the breakdown of the
Six Party Talks in 2009 and the U.S. refusal to acknowledge that its own
military actions and threats create legitimate defense concerns for North Korea
have driven the North Koreans into a corner from which they see a credible
nuclear deterrent as their only chance to avoid mass destruction.
China has proposed a reasonable framework for diplomacy to address the concerns
of both sides, but the U.S. insists on maintaining its propaganda narratives
that all the fault lies with North Korea and that it has some kind of “military
solution” to the crisis.
This may be the most dangerous idea we have heard from U.S. policymakers since
the end of the Cold War, but it is the logical culmination of a systematic
normalization of deviant and illegal U.S. war-making that has already cost
millions of lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and
Pakistan. As historian Gabriel Kolko wrote in Century of War in 1994, “options
and decisions that are intrinsically dangerous and irrational become not merely
plausible but the only form of reasoning about war and diplomacy that is
possible in official circles.”
Demonizing Iran
The idea that Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program is seriously contested
by the IAEA, which has examined every allegation presented by the CIA and other
Western “intelligence” agencies as well as Israel. Former IAEA Director General
Mohamed ElBaradei revealed many details of this wild goose chase in his 2011
memoir, Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times.
When the CIA and its partners reluctantly acknowledged the IAEA’s conclusions in
a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), ElBaradei issued a press release
confirming that, “the agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear
weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran.”
Since 2007, the IAEA has resolved all its outstanding concerns with Iran. It has
verified that dual-use technologies that Iran imported before 2003 were in fact
used for other purposes, and it has exposed the mysterious “laptop documents”
that appeared to show Iranian plans for a nuclear weapon as forgeries. Gareth
Porter thoroughly explored all these questions and allegations and the history
of mistrust that fueled them in his 2014 book, Manufactured Crisis: the Untold
Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, which I highly recommend.
But, in the parallel Bizarro world of U.S. politics, hopelessly poisoned by the
CIA’s endless disinformation campaigns, Hillary Clinton could repeatedly take
false credit for disarming Iran during her presidential campaign, and neither
Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump nor any corporate media interviewer dared to
challenge her claims.
“When President Obama took office, Iran was racing toward a nuclear bomb,”
Clinton fantasized in a prominent foreign policy speech on June 2, 2016,
claiming that her brutal sanctions policy “brought Iran to the table.”
In fact, as Trita Parsi documented in his 2012 book, A Single Roll of the Dice:
Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran, the Iranians were ready, not just to “come to the
table,” but to sign a comprehensive agreement based on a U.S. proposal brokered
by Turkey and Brazil in 2010. But, in a classic case of “tail wags dog,” the
U.S. then rejected its own proposal because it would have undercut support for
tighter sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. In other words, Clinton’s
sanctions policy did not “bring Iran to the table”, but prevented the U.S. from
coming to the table itself.
As a senior State Department official told Trita Parsi, the real problem with
U.S. diplomacy with Iran when Clinton was at the State Department was that the
U.S. would not take “Yes” for an answer. Trump’s ham-fisted decertification of
Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA is right out of Clinton’s playbook, and it
demonstrates that the CIA is still determined to use Iran as a scapegoat for
America’s failures in the Middle East.
The spurious claim that Iran is the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism is
another CIA canard reinforced by endless repetition. It is true that Iran
supports and supplies weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, which are both listed as
terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. But they are mainly defensive
resistance groups that defend Lebanon and Gaza respectively against invasions
and attacks by Israel.
Shifting attention away from Al Qaeda, Islamic State, the Libyan Islamic
Fighting Group and other groups that actually commit terrorist crimes around the
world might just seem like a case of the CIA “taking its eyes off the ball,” if
it wasn’t so transparently timed to frame Iran with new accusations now that the
manufactured crisis of the nuclear scare has run its course.
What the Future Holds
Barack Obama’s most consequential international achievement may have been the
triumph of symbolism over substance behind which he expanded and escalated the
so-called “war on terror,” with a vast expansion of covert operations and proxy
wars that eventually triggered the heaviest U.S. aerial bombardments since
Vietnam in Iraq and Syria.
Obama’s charm offensive invigorated old and new military alliances with the
U.K., France and the Arab monarchies, and he quietly ran up the most expensive
military budget of any president since World War Two.
But Obama’s expansion of the “war on terror” under cover of his deceptive global
public relations campaign created many more problems than it solved, and Trump
and his advisers are woefully ill-equipped to solve any of them. Trump’s
expressed desire to place America first and to resist foreign entanglements is
hopelessly at odds with his aggressive, bullying approach to every foreign
policy problem.
If the U.S. could threaten and fight its way to a resolution of any of its
international problems, it would have done so already. That is exactly what it
has been trying to do since the 1990s, behind both the swagger and bluster of
Bush and Trump and the deceptive charm of Clinton and Obama: a “good cop – bad
cop” routine that should no longer fool anyone anywhere.
But as Lyndon Johnson found as he waded deeper and deeper into the Big Muddy in
Vietnam, lying to the public about unwinnable wars does not make them any more
winnable. It just gets more people killed and makes it harder and harder to ever
tell the public the truth.
In unwinnable wars based on lies, the “credibility” problem only gets more
complicated, as new lies require new scapegoats and convoluted narratives to
explain away graveyards filled by old lies. Obama’s cynical global charm
offensive bought the “war on terror” another eight years, but that only allowed
the CIA to drag the U.S. into more trouble and spread its chaos to more places
around the world.
Meanwhile, Russian President Putin is winning hearts and minds in capitals
around the world by calling for a recommitment to the rule of international law,
which prohibits the threat or use of military force except in self-defense.
Every new U.S. threat or act of aggression will only make Putin’s case more
persuasive, not least to important U.S. allies like South Korea, Germany and
other members of the European Union, whose complicity in U.S. aggression has
until now helped to give it a false veneer of political legitimacy.
Throughout history, serial aggression has nearly always provoked increasingly
united opposition, as peace-loving countries and people have reluctantly
summoned the courage to stand up to an aggressor. France under Napoleon and
Hitler’s Germany also regarded themselves as exceptional, and in their own ways
they were. But in the end, their belief in their exceptionalism led them
on to defeat and destruction.
Americans had better hope that we are not so exceptional, and that the world
will find a diplomatic rather than a military “solution” to its American
problem. Our chances of survival would improve a great deal if American
officials and politicians would finally start to act like something other than
putty in the hands of the CIA.
Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion
and Destruction of Iraq. He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in
Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a
Progressive Leader.

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