by Iqbal Jassat (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 12, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1433)
As the first month of 2012 ebbed away, a question dominating many conversations was whether war was still likely to break out in the Persian Gulf anytime soon. While tensions have been heating up as “war talk” between regional players adds greater anxiety, it remains unclear whether the regime of President Barack Obama is willing to risk more American lives in pursuit of an Israeli agenda.
Unlike former president George W. Bush who seemed hell-bent on settling personal scores with Saddam Hussain of Iraq and was greatly assisted by a largely pliant media to “sell” America’s war on Iraq, Obama is not too certain of gaining similar levels of support from a war weary American public that has been further buffeted by an economic meltdown.The most obvious challenge Obama has failed to face thus far is to obtain consensus among America’s allies. France and Britain may be on board, but for a US president who staked a great deal on forging multilateral consensus on sticky foreign policy issues, he needs more than these two European nuclear powers for support.
Obama also has to contend with dynamic changes in Arabia and North Africa that in the last year have dramatically altered America’s leverage following the ousting of two key despotic allies in Tunisia and Egypt. What ought to be clear for his regime is that these rapid revolutionary changes rested in large part on widespread anti-imperial sentiments. They paved the way for popularly elected governments whose political formations were outlawed as “terrorist” and whose members were subjected to brutal repression, including detention without trial and torture — all courtesy of successive American governments.In addition, failure to obtain a UN Security Council resolution that would confer “legitimacy” for a premeditated war on Iran is largely due to the reluctance of Russia and China to allow the US any new military adventures in a region they covet for their own national interests.
In fact disclosures about the Pentagon’s new strategic guidance, “Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defence” places China squarely at the centre of American war planning.Some analysts have argued that unless America curbs the Israeli appetite for military attack against Iran, the US will be unable to prevent the rise of China as a potential strategic rival. The driving force for this US confrontation with China is the relative economic decline of American imperialism. It signifies a continuation of a global order dominated by the US in which the Pacific Ocean has been considered “an American lake” for more than a century, hemming China in by a network of US military alliances, and Beijing’s economic and strategic interests are subordinate to Washington’s.
And if news reports on the Israeli population’s mood for war are to be believed, signs of disapproval seem to be dominant. Some of these signals emanate from the Zionist State’s inability to reconcile with the reality of having suffered defeat at the hands of Hizbullah in Lebanon when it unleashed a war in July–August 2006, and more recently in Gaza (December 2008–January 2009) at the hands of Hamas by failing to dislodge the resistance movement from power in the tiny enclave.Last month, reflecting on why the heavily armed Israeli troops failed so miserably against the lightly armed Hizbullah fighters in the 2006 war, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that it was because its soldiers did not have faith!
Though he has since apologized for these remarks, parents of soldiers who died in the war are demanding that Yishai, who is also head of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas Party, be removed from Netanyahu’s coalition cabinet.So whether it is a question of “disinterest” in a war carrying huge risks for the Zionist regime or simply a lack of “faith/belief”, Israeli preparedness hinges on the message Obama’s high profile military envoy Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, took to his Zionist hosts on a visit that was so uncharacteristically short that it immediately evoked intense speculation. Comments by Israeli officials clearly indicated that Dempsey had told the Zionists in no uncertain terms that any military adventure against Iran would be ruinous.
In this context postponing their largest-ever, joint military exercises, American and Israeli officials explained that the major reason for the delay was due to tensions with Iran. And to cap it all were the remarks by Defense Minister Ehud Barak during an interview with Israel’s Army Radio a day before Dempsey’s arrival. An Israeli attack on Iran is “very far off” he said, adding that no decision had been made to do so.As tensions mount, so does the uncertainty of war that in all likelihood will engulf the entire region. Recent revelations of a secret visit to Israel by the Qatari Emir Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and support by the Saudi monarchy for any war effort by Israel and America against Iran have raised the stakes much higher. Yet despite complaints by Israel accusing Obama of procrastinating and conflicting statements by members of his administration, the “unknowns” retain elements of surprise!
Iqbal Jassat is Chairman of the Pretoria, South Africa-based Media Review Network.