The triple bombings on April 24 in Dahab, a major tourist centre in Egypt, which left 30 dead and 150 wounded, is another reminder that no one in the world is safe from the fury of terrorism and war. And this will not be changed by all the ‘unanimous condemnations’ of hypocritical statesmen who tell us that they reject these acts of violence with ‘horror and outrage’.
On the contrary, this attack aimed at innocent civilians who had come to spend a few days on holiday enabled the politicians to once again reaffirm their commitment to the ‘war against terrorism’, in other words, to the continuation of massacres on an even grander scale.
Today we can measure the effectiveness of this ‘intransigent struggle’ against the ‘scourge of terrorism’ and for ‘peace and freedom’ waged by the great powers, with the US to the fore. Never has there been such an explosion of warlike tensions, of military conflicts, of blind terrorist attacks, in short of barbarism, from Africa to Asia via the Middle East.
The failure of the US military and political offensive
The war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq have ended in disaster, creating a huge zone of irredeemable chaos and instability.
We have already dealt at length with the daily horrors of the situation in Iraq (see WR 293). In Afghanistan, the invasion by the troops of the US coalition was ‘legitimised’ by the struggle against terrorism in the shape of Bin Laden in the wake of the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001. Today the country is in a total mess. The Kabul government is under constant attack and the capital is regularly bombarded by missiles launched by the various Pathan and Afghani cliques vying for power. In the south and east of the country, the Taliban have gained ground through a series of commando raids and terrorist outrages. This has obliged the US to mount a new military operation, codenamed Mountain Lion, mobilising 2500 men with impressive air cover. It was clearly stated that the aim of this operation was to carry out massive destructions on a scale equal to that of 2001 and 2002. However, the media have played down the significance of this offensive by referring to the US State Department’s description, which underlines its mainly ‘psychological’ character, the primary goal being “to make an impression on the neo-Taliban and to reduce their impact on the local population and on international public opinion”. This is what you might call massive psychological dissuasion.
In the Middle East, we are also seeing a plunge into barbarism. Not only has the US been unable to impose a consensus between Israel and the Palestinian Authority; its incapacity to rein in the aggressive and provocative policies of Sharon led to a political crisis both in the occupied territories and Israel itself. The various Israeli political factions are at loggerheads about what to do next. But the failure is even more striking on the Palestinian side, with the arrival in power of Hamas, a particularly retrograde and extremely anti-Israeli Palestinian faction, which is also in opposition to Fatah. We are already seeing the different Palestinian factions settling scores with each other at gunpoint in Gaza. The latter region of 1.6.million people, 60% of whom are refugees, is now being reduced to even greater misery, not only by the Israeli checkpoints which made it increasingly difficult for people to go to work in Israel, but also by the ending of international aid following the Hamas election victory.
The Israeli state’s building of the ‘apartheid wall’ on the West Bank of the Jordan can only sharpen tensions further and push more and more young, desperate Palestinians into the arms of the Islamic terrorists. When the wall is finished, 38 villages housing 49,400 Palestinians will be turned into enclaves and 230,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem will be on the Israeli side of the separating line. The wall will create a series of ‘Bantustans’, all of them cut off from each other.
The Iranian offensive, a thorn in America’s foot
The face-off between Iran and the great powers on the question of Tehran’s nuclear energy programme has got even more tense this year. With the ultimatum set by the UN Security Council, demanding that Iran end any enrichment of uranium by 28 April, and Iran’s refusal to comply, diplomatic relations have sharply deteriorated. In a world-wide context where the insanity of war is spreading all the time, this confrontation between Iran and the UN is full of dangers. It contains the risk of a new extension and aggravation of barbarism.
It is obvious that Iran is doing all it can to equip itself with nuclear weapons – this has been the case since 2000. The speeches by Iran’s leaders about the purely civilian and peaceful use of nuclear energy are just lies. Formerly a key bridgehead of the American bloc in the region, then relegated to maverick status when the Khomeini regime came to power and bled dry by the war against Iraq in the mid-80s, this country has gradually built up its strength since the 90s. Benefiting from Russian military aid and by the weakening of Iraq, its historic rival for the control of the Persian Gulf, from the first Gulf war to the 2003 invasion, Iran today is aiming to affirm itself as the new rising power of the region. It has quite a few assets at its disposal. This explains the increasingly provocative declarations by the Iranian government, aimed at the UN and above all at the US.
The Iranian state, which has seen the return to power of the most reactionary Islamist faction, presents itself as a strong and stable state, when all around it, in Iraq and Afghanistan, all is chaos and confusion. This situation allows it to carry out a pro-Arab ideological offensive and to put itself forward as the spearhead of an independent pan-Islamic identity, in contrast to Saudi Arabia which is portrayed as being a tool of the US.
Washington’s inability to impose a Pax Americana in Iraq and Afghanistan is grist to the mill of this anti-American propaganda and lends support to Iran’s insinuations that the threats from the White House are empty of substance.
The situation in Iraq itself can only strengthen Iran’s military ambitions. Apart from the obvious failure of the US occupation, the predominant influence of Shiites in the Iraqi government has further whetted Iran’s quest for imperialist influence, not only in Iraq but throughout the Persian Gulf.
At the same time, the patent disagreements between the countries participating in the Security Council have also emboldened the Iranians. While all these countries state that they are opposed to Iran developing nuclear weapons, the open divisions between them make it all the easier for Iran to harden its tone in the face of the world’s leading power. The US – and to a lesser extent the UK – have reacted by brandishing the threat of military intervention; but we have seen France take a position against any military intervention in Iran. China and Russia, as well as Germany (which is currently trying to move closer to Russia) are completely opposed to any forceful measures, above all military ones. We should remember that Russia and China have both provided Iran with material for its nuclear programme.
This has created a difficult situation for the Bush administration. Iran’s provocative attitude is forcing it to respond. However, whatever military options the US is considering – most likely air strikes, even though these would have to be against vaguely identified targets in areas of urban density – there are big risks at the domestic level. The new phase of the war in the Middle East is likely to further exacerbate the anti-war sentiments that are growing in the US population over the war in Iraq. At the same time any intervention would result in a radicalisation of the Arab countries and of all the Islamist groups, not to mention the wave of terrorist attacks in the west and rocket attacks on Israel that the Iranian state itself has promised in retaliation to any military strikes.
Whatever the outcome of the Iran crisis, there is no doubt that it will lead to an aggravation of warlike tensions, not only between the US and the countries of the Middle East, but also between the US and its main imperialist rivals, who are just waiting for the world’s gendarme to make its next bad move so that they can reap the benefits and present it as the only real warmonger. As for the populations who will be decimated by war, this is the last concern for any of these imperialist gangsters. Mulan 25.4.06