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Lebanon is just shadow boxing:

Is Iran the real US-Israeli target?

Many are those who say "The Israeli assault on Lebanon and the destruction it is wrecking on that hapless country is unbelievable. It is just not possible to fathom this; surely Hezbollah cannot be reason enough for destroying a whole country". Well those good and simple folk are quite right, except for one simple thing; maybe what is going on in Lebanon is only a trial balloon. The real objective could well be to provoke Iran into some slight reaction and use it as an excuse to destroy its nuclear installations. Memories of the Gulf of Tonkin incident are still fresh.

In general, I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories, however, neither am I deaf and blind to the clear implications of large scale military and political happenings. There is no other adequate explanation of US and Israeli behaviour in recent weeks. Both have said explicitly on many occasions that they are determined to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, whatever the cost. Surely this is the real mischief that is afoot; as for poor Lebanon - Bush and Rice, no doubt, do not wish this fate upon a helpless bystander, but what is to be done, the destruction of Beirut is what the Americans, in their hubris, call unavoidable collateral damage!

Hamas is indigenous Palestinian and was born out of the ferocious conflicts, exile and slaughter in refugee camps and the mass uprising called the intifada, that overwhelmed the Al Fatah, PLO and the Palestinian Left during the last two decades as a consequence of US and Israeli determination to destroy a secular left oriented Palestinian liberation movement. One sows the wind and reaps the world-wind - instead of a left and secular Palestinian leadership one has an Islamic and radical (but certainly not Fundamentalist) force at the helm of the Palestinian populace.

From the moment Hamas was elected to govern the Palestinian Authority not only Israel and the US, but the European powers as well, have done all they can to undermine the government and bring about its fall. That democracy does not run even skin deep in the veins of Bush and Blair comes as no surprise, but the indifference of the population of the Western countries to such egregious misconduct is something of a revelation.

Hezbollah is as home grown in Southern Lebanon as Hamas is Palestinian. It too is largely a creation of the long Israeli occupation of the southern parts of that country. Lebanon is a kaleidoscope of religions (several sects of Christians, Sunni and Shiite Muslims and a generous helping of Druids) all of which were fired up by the Israeli, and as a consequence Syrian, occupations, and Syrian meddling in that country. What really propelled Hezbollah into prominence, however, was the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Shiite Iran which opened the door to training and arms.

Currently it is said to number only about 3,000 armed cadres but its fighting capabilities are exceptional and it has strong support in the populace.

Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005 was largely a Hezbollah victory, and the last three weeks of fighting has shown up the Israeli army's inability to get the better of Hezbollah.

Politically, it is important to recognise that though Hezbollah is nominally an Islamic force and speaks in Koranic tongues, in reality it is, like Hamas, a radical and militant movement, not a Fundamentalist one.

It is known for its commitment to social work such as hospitals and education; it stands for a modernist and progressive political programme and its international stance is not fundamentalist. All over the Middle East radical Islam is emerging as the principal anti-imperialist standard bearer of the poor, the hungry and the oppressed. The Israeli savaging of the Gaza strip and Lebanon and Washington's complicity will ensure that these two organisations gain enormously in prestige among their respective populations.

The policy makers in Washington are not unaware of all this. Nor are they oblivious to popular anger and opprobrium not only in the Middle East but across the non-Western world (once again the relative indifference of the Western populace to the destruction of civilian life and infrastructure in Lebanon is quite an eye-opener). Hence an adequate explanation for what is going on must lie outside three abducted soldiers and the relative quiescence, an occasional transgression notwithstanding, for some years on both fronts - Hamas and Hezbollah. The stakes must be big, very big for Washington and Jerusalem; the only plausible stake is preventing strategic rebalancing in the Middle East, which in turn means bombing Ahmedinejad's nuclear facilities into the rubble.

The unexpectedly robust resistance has forced Israel into an extension of its destructive campaign, leading to inevitable civilian casualties and global condemnation. Despite Israel's efforts to bomb Lebanon back into the stone-age the government in Beirut has not caved in to Israeli demands; it could not, without handing Hezbollah and Syria a major political victory which would be fatal for the prevailing political balances and power sharing in Beirut.

Hence things did not go quite as Washington and Jerusalem had planned; Israel is unable to finish the job in either Gaza or Lebanon and Hezbollah's ability to hit back at Israeli cities and inflict losses on its military have taken the heat off Iran.

It seems that any more direct Iranian involvement than provisioning the resistance movements will not be necessary.

Thanks to the robust Hezbollah resistance a strike on Iran is now not imminent but remains the US-Israeli objective in the longer term.

Whatever the provocation, Iran must keep its cool, not just today but for some years to come and look toward the bigger picture and the longer term. Remaining passive in the face of Israeli war crimes is the price that must be paid for eventual nuclear power status which is infinitely more important. There will be no justice in the Middle East until an Islamic country in the region, and Iran is obviously the front runner, achieves strategic equality with Israel, and that means nuclear weapons capability. Machiavelli, a hard nosed realist, would underwrite this conclusion with relish.

The non-proliferation treaty never made sense anyway; why are seven countries openly, and one more in secret, entitled to nuclear weapons but the rest of the world is expected to forego the same status? In a world full of Big-Mac sized bullies what protection is there for nations without strategic capability? If only Iraq did possess WMDs rather than the setting for a Washington fabricated fairytale, would Anglo- American aggression ever have taken place?

Since the United States is the militarily most powerful and at the same time the most ruthless and rapacious nation in the world, one would have thought it elementary common sense that other nations can protect themselves only if they have a minimal nuclear weapons and delivery systems capability. History has shown that nothing, certainly not moral or humanitarian concerns, will stop the US from doing as it pleases except the prospect of retaliation, even on a small scale, on the US mainland itself and against invading American troops.

The North Korean state may be slightly deranged in the way it treats its own people, but it is perfectly lucid in its grasp of the only way of protecting itself from obliteration by the US.

Unfortunately for North Korea and Iran, and small inconvenient spots like Lebanon, the US too knows this only too well.



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