A new hot summer in the Middle East?

War in Iraq has solved nothing for US imperialism. Equally Israel’s attempt to invade Lebanon last year also failed miserably. Every time imperialism tries to use the jackboot it merely serves to destabilise even further this already extremely unstable region. Now they are preparing for more wars…

It is not a secret that the US is losing the war against Iraq. Now, not only the Sunnis are opposing the occupation but also the powerful Shiite militia - the Mahdi Army led by al-Sadr - are fighting the occupation forces and as result more and more American and British solders die daily. Since the war began in March 2003, 3292 American soldiers have died and anything between 23,000 and 100,000 have been wounded.

At the same time studies have placed the number of civilian deaths as low as 70,000 (Iraq Body Count project) or as high as 655,000 (see The Lancet study). But the Iraq Body Count website points out that "Our maximum therefore refers to reported deaths - which can only be a sample of true deaths unless one assumes that every civilian death has been reported. It is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media."

How weak this so-called American "democracy" in occupied Iraq has become can be seen from the fact that it could not prevent tens of thousands of Iraqis draped in Iraqi flags from marching from Kufa to neighbouring Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad on April 9. A day before the march Muqtada al-Sadr had issued a statement calling on the Iraqi army and police to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerrilla fighters to concentrate on pushing American forces out of the country.

And while the situation of the occupation forces is going from bad to worse, more information is coming out pointing to the real possibility that in the last days of the US offensive back in 2003 they used neutron bombs - tactical atomic bombs against the Iraqi elite units. The source of this information is Saifeddin Fulayh Hassan Taha al-Rawi, the former commander of Iraq's Republican Guard who told Al Jazeera that the US forces used neutron and phosphorus bombs during their assault on Baghdad airport before the April 9 capture of the Iraqi capital. These bombs "annihilated soldiers but left the buildings and infrastructure at the airport intact", he added.

This information was broadcast on Sunday April 8, on the Al-Jazeera satellite news channel. The network did not give the date of the interview with the chief of the Republican Guards, that same person for which Bush had offered a bounty of one million dollars, dead or alive.

Rawi's claim is quite plausible, as the US has a large stock of these neutron bombs - thermonuclear weapons that produce a minimal blast and heat but release large amounts of lethal radiation that can penetrate armour and is especially destructive to human tissue.

Use of napalm and depleted uranium

Our readers may recall that during the war we thought that the Republican Guard would put up strong resistance, and that therefore the actual final occupation would take much longer than it did. Now there seems to be an explanation why this elite unit did not fight back as we had expected and instead we witnessed a rapid collapse of Saddam's forces.

For the rulers of the US and for Israel the use of lethal weapons such as cluster bombs, dropped from the air, and cluster munitions, fired from the ground, is considered legitimate.

During the first 1991 Gulf War, the US and its allies dropped cluster bombs containing around 20 million bomblets. In addition, cluster munitions spread more than 30 million bomblets. During the war on Lebanon Israel used the same weapon.

The US and the UK both officially acknowledged on April 3, 2003 that their air forces had been dropping cluster bombs on Iraq. Not only cluster bombs have been used in Iraq but napalm bombs as well. Napalm is an incendiary mixture of chemicals. It was first tested during the Second World War, but was used mainly during the Vietnam War. Napalm was initially used to clear areas of jungle to create landing pads. However, it has also been used against civilian populations. The US claims it stopped using napalm in the early 1970s and that it officially destroyed its last stockpile of napalm on April 4, 2001.

However, it seems quite likely that not all the napalm stockpile was destroyed. On March 22, 2003 reporters from CNN and the Sydney Morning Herald/Melbourne Age embedded with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines at Safwan Hill near Basra reported that there had been air strikes with napalm being used to beat Iraqi resistance. It is also a known fact that the US and its allies used depleted uranium in anti-tank shells in the first Gulf War. US tanks fired 14,000 depleted uranium shells, and anti-tank aircraft fired a further 940,000 rounds.

Depleted uranium (DU) is uranium 238, the isotope produced after uranium 235 has been enriched for use in nuclear weapons or reactors. As Simon Helweg-Larsen explains on Znet:

"When DU-tipped shells are fired at high speeds from tanks or planes, the radioactive material burns through tank armour, igniting the vehicle. After exploding, 70% of the shell is vaporized into tiny particles and can be carried by the wind for many miles. (...)

"On March 28, 2003 a tank unit fired two 120mm DU rounds down the main road of urban Kifl, creating a vacuum effect that ‘literally sucked guerrillas out from their hideaways into the street, where they were shot down by small arms fire or run over by the tanks'."

In 1945 the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan. On August 6 of that year the US B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb over Hiroshima and three days later on Nagasaki. Since 2002 the Bush administration has adopted the doctrine of "pre-emptive" nuclear war under the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review.

Instability in the Arab countries

It is not a secret that the instability in the Middle East, particularly since the defeat of Israel in the war in Lebanon last summer, has been growing daily. On March 28, Mr. Ban, the new General Secretary of the UN, issued a statement under the title: The General Assembly and Security Council, Secretary-General, citing growing causes of Middle East instability in address to Arab League summit. This hypocritical statement that puts the blame not on his imperialist masters but on the so-called Islamic radicals, is of interest as it shows how worried he is about his master's loss of control of the region:

"The Middle East region is more complex, more fragile and more dangerous than it has been for a very long time. Deep mistrust continues to constrain Palestinians and Israelis from conducting a meaningful peace process. In Lebanon, political stalemate threatens to undermine one of the region's most vibrant societies.

"The violence in Iraq continues to take a shocking daily toll in civilian lives... The crisis in Darfur is no closer to being resolved, as instability ripples out beyond its borders. The situation in Somalia is deteriorating amid banditry, violence and clan rivalries. Throughout the region, in addition to the grievous toll of lost lives and destroyed property resulting from armed violence, there is the quiet despair, felt most keenly among young people, of unemployment and the lack of economic opportunity and political participation. It is in such conditions that radicalism and militancy find it easier to take hold.

"Instability in the Arab League States is of profound significance for international peace and security. I am here with you today, in the early days of my tenure, to pledge my support, and that of the United Nations, for peace, justice and the well-being of your peoples."

And instability in Israel

Not only are the Arab pro-imperialist regimes unstable, but so is Israel. As we expected, the defeat of Israel in the last war is sharpening the contradictions within the Israeli capitalist system.

As I am writing these lines, 250,000 university and college students are on strike at all the institutions of higher learning, demanding that the Shochat Committee on higher education reform be disbanded.

This Committee was established in November 2006, to cut funding for Higher Education and raise tuition fees that now stand at about NIS 9,000 a year. The demagogy of the government claiming that the solution is a further increase in tuition fees while extending government-subsidized student loans, is rightly opposed by most students who understand that higher education is becoming a privilege of the rich. The solution of course is free education from kindergarten to university for everyone. The wealth of Israel's 10,000 millionaires should be used to pay for it rather than leaving it in their hands so that they can live in luxury while a growing number of people are driven to poverty. Poverty and ignorance is rooted in the capitalist system itself that serves only the capitalists.

The Israeli ruling class, fearing the struggle of the workers and of the students, is resorting to its old trick of turning the anger toward hatred of the Arabs in Israel and for a new war, this time against Iran.

In December of last year, an amendment to the Basic Law on the Knesset was proposed by right wing National Religious Party chair MK Zevulun Orlev. That Basic Law sets out the reasons for which the Election Committee can prevent a party or an individual from running. Among them are "negating the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state" and "support for a terror organization". Orlev proposed that the Knesset committee, with the approval of the Supreme Court, be given powers to remove Members of Parliament for these reasons.

The amendment is aimed against Arab members of the Knesset, and most of all against Azmi Bishara, the head of the liberal left party, Balad. Azmi Bishara is calling for the replacement of the capitalist Jewish state with a capitalist state for all the citizens of Israel, Arab and Jews. He is calling for cultural autonomy for the Arab citizens of Israel and his party opposed the dirty war against Lebanon as well as the Israeli occupation. Now they want not only to remove him from the Knesset but to force him to step down by using criminal proceedings with the charge of treason for visiting Arab states such as Syria and Lebanon.

Yesterday, Orlev proposed a bill blocking anyone who visited an enemy country from being elected to the Knesset. As early as 2001, Ariel Sharon's government passed an amendment to the law stating that a visit to an enemy country was punishable by four years in prison. The result: Arab MKs continue to visit enemy countries under their immunity, but the police investigate them. Orlev wants to put an end to this. At the moment Azmi is visiting Jordan and from there he will visit Europe and maybe India...

Such a law would mean an end to Arabs serving in the Knesset. It would be another step in the direction of a new mass "transfer" of the Arab citizens of Israel. It is in the interest of the international working class to demand an end to this witch-hunt.

New wars against Lebanon and Iran looming

The Israeli government is also not behaving as if it wants to calm the situation down. On the contrary, it is stoking the fires. It has decided to reject the list of prisoners the Palestinian Unity Government wants released in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

An announcement released by the Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday (April 10) stated that during a security consultation "disappointment and reservations were expressed over the list of prisoners whose release Hamas is seeking. Israel will continue contacts with... Egypt on the issue". And why not with the Palestinians directly? They may as well talk to people on the moon at this rate.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah and the ruling class of Iran are well aware of the plans to attack them this summer. Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General, Sheikh Naim Kassem, told the British newspaper The Guardian that the group is rearming in the wake of the Second Lebanon War and is prepared for another war this summer.

On the news today (April 11) we hear that the United States, France and Great Britain are pushing for a special United Nations "expert committee" to examine ongoing weapons smuggling to Hezbollah across the Lebanon-Syria border. The same hypocrite Ban said that he has "received information from Israel and other countries" that included evidence of arms smuggling from Syria and Iran to Hezbollah, calling it a "blatant violation" of Security Council resolutions - including the resolution that led to a cease-fire in the Second Lebanon War.

"We are prepared for the possibility of another adventure or the demand of American policy that might push the Israeli army in that direction," said Kassem in an interview published on Wednesday, April 11.

According to The Guardian, Kassem accused Washington of waging a covert war against the militant group by arming anti-Hezbollah militias and seeking to undermine the Lebanese army. Again, according to The Guardian, the accusation follows reports that the CIA has been authorized to take covert "non-lethal" actions against Hezbollah as part of a wider strategy to prevent the spread of Iranian influence in the region. The same is happing in Iran where Afghani terrorists backed by the CIA have infiltrated from Pakistan and are using terror against Iranian citizens.

American imperialism likes to talk a lot about the "danger of terrorism" while in reality it has a long history of supporting terrorist groups. It all depends on whose side the terrorists are. If they are on the side of the USA then they are "freedom fighters". Only if they oppose the USA do they become "terrorists". In the case of Bin Laden he has been both a "freedom fighter", when his efforts were directed against the Soviet Union, and a "terrorist", when he turned on the USA.

It is no mere accident that today (April 11) Cuba is protesting the release of the right wing terrorist Posada who bombed a Cubana airlines flight in 1976. Posada, who was released on Friday (April 6) pending a hearing on US immigration fraud charges in the town of El Paso, is wanted by both the Cuban and Venezuelan governments who say he is responsible for the bombing of a Cubana Airlines flight between Barbados and Cuba in 1976 which killed all 73 on board. He was initially jailed for the crime in Venezuela but with help from high places escaped and later became involved with CIA terrorist operations in Central America. He was plotting to assassinate Castro in 2000 when he was arrested with a large cache of explosives in Panama. This individual can get away with it as he is obviously a "freedom fighter". Yes, a freedom fighter fighting for the freedom of imperialism to oppress peoples around the world and to subvert any regime that does not toe the line of US imperialism.

The same method is applied to whole regimes, not just individuals. Bush feels he has the right to decide which regimes are "rogue regimes" and thus also has the right to decide on whether they can stand or fall. On this basis he went ahead and toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But what he and his cronies - or at least the more intelligent sections of the US ruling class - are discovering is that it is one thing to topple a regime, it is another thing to hold down a whole people that does not want to be governed by a foreign power.

The truth is that all around the world opposition to imperialism is growing. The peoples of the world are being pushed to the limit. This is clearly the case in the Middle East as well. And yet Bush still learns nothing from all this. He just plods on relentlessly. Now there are growing signs that the US, with the support of Israel and the Saudis, are preparing to strike Iran and possibly Lebanon and Gaza again. If they do this, then the whole of the Middle East will become a boiling cauldron of discontent and mass opposition to imperialism. Rather than solving any of their problems, an increased military presence in the region will only exacerbate them.

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