US: End of Middle East Dominance: What Dominance?

Previously suppressed states are exploiting the mess in Iraq and vying for supremacy.By Liam Bailey

With the Baker report suggesting America talks with its staunch adversaries Iran and Syria, and the public’s apparent support for Baker’s findings. It is beginning to look like Bush might finally be forced into –unthinkable for him– acts of history validated common sense. Since talking to Iran and Syria was first suggested by Blair after he gave evidence to the Baker Commission, analysts have been questioning the end of U.S domination in the Middle East.

The question should be: did the U.S ever dominate the Middle East? Sure, unconditionally supporting Israel ensured their influence in that conflict, IDF style. Bombing and shooting the Palestinians into agreement with the U.S’ –fad– peace plan at the time. Meanwhile the U.S exerted little or no influence in Israel’s often ill-advised and frequently illegal actions. Israel currently has little or no influence in Middle East affairs anyway. It couldn’t get by without U.S aid [PDF], let alone suppress the latest Palestinian Intifada.

There was a tradition of U.K and U.S influence in Iran’s monarchical rule after we imposed a suitable Shah. The current stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program, and its meddling in Iraq [PDF] show how much things have changed. Not only recently but since the Iranian revolution in 1979, the hostages taken in the U.S embassy during the revolution flipped the bird to U.S influence in Iran.

Iran currently showing disregard for U.S power is a facade to amplify its own strength and help their hegemonic aims.

Syrian diplomats have always adhered strictly to agreements reached with their U.S counterparts. But they have also been close to all-out war over the Israeli Lebanon conflict in 1983. The U.S, recognising that Syria plays a central role in the Middle East and in global Jihad, attempts to exert its influence. And turn the “rogue state” from a supporter of terrorism to a supporter of democracy and U.S hegemony. They have and probably will never succeed in that aim.

The U.S has enjoyed 70 years of good relations with Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, until 9/11 put a significant strain on the “special relationship”. Saudi Arabia’s condemnation of Israel during the Israel/Hezbollah conflict and rhetoric of going to war showed that the U.S doesn’t hold much influence over Saudi Arabia.

In Iraq’s case, we all know the current scenario. The U.S has as much influence in Iraq now as any of the rival militia factions. The same influence it has recently had over every other Middle East country, very little.

The U.S has had reasonable influence in Turkey since shortly after World War II, with the exception of the mid-late 70’s when Turkey invaded Cyprus. The U.S’ influence in Turkey crumbled in the build up to the Iraq war. Turkey refusing U.S forces entry to hit Iraq from the North, showed that –unlike Saudi Arabia– Turkey’s loyalty to their Iraqi Muslim brothers and sisters influenced their policy more than U.S relations. U.S aid [PDF] was cut-off 2003. Except a small military grant, which I presume was necessary for Turkey’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Relations fell apart in Mar. 2005, when the U.S ambassador to Turkey resigned after two years. Because Turkey’s government came out in support of their President’s decision to visit Syria in early April that year, despite the U.S warning against it. Also for ignoring the ambassador’s calls for Turkey to join an international coalition concerning Syria.

The U.S weighs its relationship with and influence of Egypt perhaps higher than any other Middle East country, because of its leadership role in the region. A role which was set when Egypt was actively fighting Israel and sought military aid from the Soviets. Several other Arab states shortly followed suit. U.S Israel relations improved after the 1979 peace treaty was signed with Israel. Since then the U.S has given billions of dollars [PDF] in military and financial aid to sustain Egypt’s moderate voice in Arab councils. Persuade less moderate regimes of the benefits of compromise and to maintain the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty.

The latter has been more successful than the other two by far. As the U.S failed to realize that the feelings of Egypt’s leaders toward Israel’s treatment of their Arab Palestinian brothers didn’t change overnight. More likely they realised they would be in a much better position to help the Palestinians in every way with a whole whack of U.S aid.

Jordan’s monarchy has perhaps the best relationship with the U.S. The U.S began providing Jordan with economic and military aid in 1951 and 1957 respectively. Relations were slightly soured by Jordan’s reluctance to participate in the first Iraq war to liberate Kuwait. Relations improved throughout the 1990’s as Jordan began to take a more favourable view of normalization of relations with Israel. Over the years the U.S has provided billions of dollars [PDF] in aid to Jordan. In return Jordan provided logistical support in the Afghanistan war, and, informally the same in the current Iraq war, although the monarchy was publicly opposed.

King Abdullah’s policies of normalization with Israel and alliance with the U.S cause much unrest from Jordan’s Islamic fundamentalist groups. Like the Jordan Muslim Brotherhood, an influential part of the political mainstream. It also causes unrest in parts of the Palestinian communities, and in prominent professional and trade organizations.

The Middle East and its rich oil reserves have always been at the fore-front of U.S policy. So much so that they have taken their eye off the ball elsewhere; allowing China to become the main influence in Asia and enter the fight for global supremacy. The North Korean nuke test is another example of the Bush administration taking their eye off the ball.

Given all this focus on their Middle East policy it is ludicrous that it has descended into such a farce.

Little wonder as it is largely the world’s most backward foreign policy. Unconditionally supporting a country surrounded by enemies –Israel–, while hoping to exert influence over its enemies. Is like a boxer’s coach shouting orders at the opposing fighter. Stupid. Previously however the U.S had tried to exert their influence over Israel’s enemies by diplomacy in the main. Bush Jnr coming in with his complete ignorance of foreign policy and its relation to even recent history, alongside his policy of never talking to your adversary. Combined with the backward policies above, are perhaps the main reasons for the current state of the Middle East.

Something else I find laughable however is Bush Snr, responsible for another reason for the current mess. Coming in now and telling his son what he needs to do in Iraq. If he had honoured his statements to the Iraq’s Shia and Kurdish populations, by ordering U.S forces to go on into Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, in the first gulf war 1991. Embracing the uprising started by the Shia in the south and driving Iraqi forces into the Kurdish uprising in the North. Both of which were started because of Bush’s suggestion of support.

Saddam would undoubtedly have been easily defeated. As he was 2003, but the occupying U.S or U.S/U.N forces would have probably had the support of the Kurdish minority and Shia Majority. Giving the Sunni’s no choice but to join the new diplomatic efforts or be left out of Iraq’s democratic future. As oppose to miss-trust for Bush Jnr by Shia and Kurd’s after being lied to by his dad before him. And resentment because of the massacres his lies led them into.

I believe had Bush Snr done this Iraq would have been a stable democracy by now, certainly closer than has been for decades.

In closing, the U.S never really had much influence in Middle Eastern affairs. The little it did have from supplying heavy financial aid to needy countries in prominent positions. And U.S and Israel’s superior military force were sufficient to secure the things they really needed and manipulate affairs to ensure no-one else gained more control.

The Iraq war in 2003 showing that U.S military force was useless against sporadic Jihad’s guerrilla warfare. Accelerated the rate at which the little Middle East influence the U.S had is disappearing. All that remains is moderate influence in return for heavy aid to countries with even less influence –than the U.S– in Middle East affairs.

The rich and influential Middle East countries are exploiting the exposed weakness to secure their own hegemony.

It will be interesting to watch the changing political and military landscapes in the coming months. Especially if a serious U.S strategy shift in Iraq coincides with a policy shift in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Liam Bailey is a writer from the UK, he runs the War Pages weblog and can be contacted by e-mail.


Global Nuclear Arms Race

The consequences of Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs are globally catastrophic.By Liam Bailey

Nov. 3 2006 will be remembered as the day the Middle East changed forever, six Arab states announced their intention to initiate programmes to master atomic technology. Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, want to start civilian nuclear energy programs, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates also showed interest. So many states, all predominantly Sunni Arab making simultaneous announcements of seeking nuclear power has prompted fears that their true intention could be to master the technology on the path to the first Arab atom bomb.

Despite these fears the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has consulted with all governments and will offer technical assistance in their development of nuclear power plants. The announcement was a complete reversal of Arab policy, which had previously been joint calls for nuclear disarmament throughout the Middle East, in other words the nuclear disarmament of Israel, the only Middle East state known to have a useable nuclear arsenal.

In my opinion the trigger for the Arab announcement was Iran firing “dozens” of long range missiles Nov. 2, including the Shahab 3, capable of carrying warheads of 1400 cluster bomblets anywhere within 1000 miles and the Shahab 2 with a shorter range but just as deadly. The Iranian missile tests came in response to the Oct 31 U.S led Naval exercises in the Persian gulf, in which 25 nations practised an operation to intercept and search a ship thought to be carrying weapons of mass destruction 20 miles from Iranian territorial waters. Despite what is becoming a significant U.S naval presence in the region, only one U.S coastguard vessel had an active role in the exercise; making the U.S Naval build-up seem somewhat suspicious.

One of the six Arab states announcing an intention to go nuclear: United Arab Emirates was involved in the exercise as an observer, all six are part of the Arab League, and all among the League’s ten richest states. Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait the other three Arab states involved in the exercise are also members of the Arab League, which has a long running rivalry with Iran.

With the exception of Iraq and Bahrain, the Arab League is made up of predominantly Sunni countries, many Sunni Arab countries in the Middle East are thought to be suspicious of Iran’s nuclear program, so you could say such an announcement from the countries rich enough to go nuclear was to be expected. In my opinion Iran’s firing of long-range missiles in response to an exercise involving Arab League countries was the trigger for six of the richest Arab League states to take a step towards mastering nuclear technology. What they will use this technology for and the reactions to their intended use remain to be seen.

So while Iranian missile tests threaten to provoke a nuclear arms race across the Middle East Pyongyang’s nuclear test Oct. 9 caused and is still causing reverberations throughout Asia. The test, which could have killed thousands in North Korea and neighbouring countries if in going wrong radioactive material was spewed across the region at the mercy of wind speed and direction. The test didn’t go wrong but the consequences look to be just as dire.

In the days and weeks before Kim Jong Il’s irrational act some hard-line Japanese conservatives such as former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone were quietly stating the need to develop nuclear weapons in the face of nuclear sabre-rattling by North Korea. Although his comments caused controversy among the Japanese political community, according to the Korea Times a large number of strongly nationalistic Japanese politicians supported his views. The successful test Oct. 9 added further validity to their cause and in the following weeks their case has been further strengthened by main-stream and prominent ministers like Foreign Minister Taro Aso showing his support for the controversial stance, saying Oct. 18 that it may be time for Japan to start discussions about nuclear armament.

Japan possesses enough Plutonium to make thousands of nuclear bombs and given its economic, academic and technological strength it is widely thought that they could develop nuclear weapons within months of starting such a program. Shinzo Abe’s assurances that Japan will neither have, make nor allow the import of nuclear weapons in Japan have done little to reassure their understandably anxious neighbours. Whether reflective of a genuine change in Japan’s stance on nuclear armament or not Foreign Minister Taro Aso adding credibility to former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s comments prompted a similar debate in South Korea. The day after Taro Aso’s remarks, former leader and presidential candidate for South Korea’s opposition GNP party Lee Hoechang questioned whether South Korea should reconsider nuclear armament in the face of Japan’s changing attitude and the recent actions of Kim Jong Il, saying during a lecture: South Korea will need to develop its own nuclear weapon when Pyongyang’s possession of a nuclear weapon becomes an accomplished fact and Japan starts moving for nuclearization.

A nuclear domino effect in Asia, long feared by the west and a main reason for preventing a nuclear armed North Korea threatens to become a reality. If Japan does move towards nuclear armament, likely pushing South Korea to follow suit, not only will it lessen the chance of denuclearisation in Pyongyang, no doubt it will prompt Kim Jong Il to further augment his nuclear prowess, possibly with another test. These actions could then become a catalyst for China, Russia and other regional powers to do the same; triggering a catastrophic arms race, which given the current tensions between the west, China and Russia over Iran’s fledgling nuclear program, could quickly spread around the world.

Depending on the Arab League intentions and the restraint of the Japanese and South Korean governments; two already unstable regions could well enter into a nuclear arms race. A race that would make both regions much more unstable, possibly drawing in other regions and undoubtedly bringing the world one step closer to its second use of the world’s deadliest weapons; something I hoped I wouldn’t see in my lifetime.

Is Attacking Iran a Viable Option?

This article was also published by the Centre for Research on Globalisation, one of my best achievements so far…

Is Attacking Iran a Viable Option?

The definitive end of U.S military supremacy.

By Liam Bailey

I have written several articles on the Iran crisis pitting two expanding and important strategic alliances against each other and the similarities to the powder keg of Balkan and European alliances that erupted into World War I.

On one side is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Led by China and Russia, the SCO has four other permanent member states: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Along with a senior official from India’s oil and gas industry, the prime ministers of Pakistan, Mongolia, Afghanistan and Iran attended the last meeting in Shanghai on June 15. It was the first meeting since Iran announced that it had successfully enriched Uranium: Iran was invited to become a full member.

The meeting was about strengthening trade and exports but also had a strong undertone of strengthening the alliance. A verbal oath was sworn for defending each other in the event of any attack. China and Russia have already signed military cooperation agreements with and are the main suppliers of advanced weaponry to Iran and Syria. This gave them verbal military cooperation agreements with all the SCO members, including Iran.

A senior spokesperson for U.S. ally Japan said: “The SCO is becoming a rival block to the U.S. alliance; it does not share our values. We are watching it very closely.” The U.S. too was watching it very closely, but from afar because their request for observer status at the meeting had been denied on the grounds that they shared neither land nor fluvial border with any of the SCO member states.

The meeting’s undertone of warning the U.S. against attacking Iran was evident in Chinese President Hu Jintao’s closing statement: “We hope the outside world will accept the social system and path to development independently chosen by our members and observers and respect the domestic and foreign policies adopted by the SCO participants in line with their national conditions.” Jintao’s statement was immediately followed by the verbal agreement — all members vowing to defend each other’s sovereignty and the alliance as a whole.The strengthening of this rival alliance and its challenge to U.S. supremacy was worrying amid speculation of advanced U.S. plans for war in Iran. The developments in the coming weeks and months increased the powder keg tensions of a well-backed Iranian nuclear standoff.The start of July, with joint military exercises by U.S., Romanian and Bulgarian armed forces, which continued until September, coincided with the North Korean missile tests of July 5 and began an intense period of war-games and weaponry testing from all the major players in both alliances.

Aug. 19 saw the beginning of Iranian military exercises and missile tests in all the border provinces likely to become the frontline in the event of a U.S. attack. The SCO and Collective Security Treaty Organisation) (CSTO) headed by China and Russia respectively, held joint exercises in coordination with the Iranian exercises, both launched Aug. 24 in Kazakhstan, which between them involved all 10 members of the SCO except Uzbekistan.

The Russian and Chinese exercises were thought to have come in response to mistrust of the U.S.’s intentions in the region, the threat of attack on Iran, the U.S. navy’s involvement in the rebuilding of Kazakhstan’s navy since 2003, and Iranian fears that the U.S. was attempting to build up their ally Azerbaijan to counter Iranian influence and dominance in the region. Hence, the Iranian exercises along the Azerbaijan border.

These provocative drills from all sides of the powder keg of alliances could easily have took us one step closer to war, because of the strong support from the Muslim world, Russia and China for Iran’s stance that it has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under theNuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As the exercises continued, they coincided with Iran’s response to the six-nations incentive package on Aug. 22, which was a practically flat refusal to suspend enrichment as a precursor for U.S.-involved talks. This made Iran’s failure to comply with U.N. Resolution 1696 and suspend enrichment by Aug. 31 inevitable.

This lead to a stalemate, the U.S maintaining its hard line toward the rogue regime and immediately pressuring for sanctions, the EU taking the middle ground, and Russia and China effectively vetoing any form of U.N. punishment against Tehran. China is of course heavily dependant on Iran’s oil reserves on its path to becoming a world superpower.

As October comes to an end, we are still no closer to a compromise on ending Iranian enrichment and possible proliferation. The U.N. is split and sanctions just do not look viable in the foreseeable future. Yet another draft resolution has been drawn up by the U.S. and its allies and diplomats say it could be presented to Russian and Chinese officials this week. The proposed resolution aims to impose restrictions on Iran’s nuclear progression similar to those imposed on North Korea last week with the passing of U.N. Resolution 1718.

However, the fact that North Korea angered China and Russia with its openly defiant and dangerous (for China) nuclear test, has put the bond between China and Russia, and the dependence of China on Iran, foremost in their decision making processes, not to mention strengthening the SCO alliance. All of which makes the passing of this draft resolution unlikely.

As the U.S. has always maintained that it will not let Iran get the bomb, decisive military action continues to become increasingly likely. Who knows, Bush may give us one last expensive war on his way out of office. All the signs seem to indicate that this is highly possible. North Korea, named alongside Iran and Iraq as part of Bush’s axis of evil, performed its first nuclear test on Oct. 9. Its defiance of the international community in its six-nations format could and in my view will harden Bush’s already hard-line stance toward Tehran’s enrichment program and make military action a real possibility should Iran seem close to obtaining the bomb.

The months between Iran ignoring U.N. Resolution 1696 and North Korea’s nuclear test brought many statements from senior Iranians. Many speaking on condition of anonymity threatened tough retaliation against any imposed sanctions. The latest announcement, on Oct. 23, that Iran had launched a second batch of 164 centrifuges, bringing the total to 328 interconnected centrifuges, which can enrich uranium for energy or weaponry purposes, further exasperated the Bush administration.

But according to a diplomat close to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, no UF6 uranium gas is being fed into the cascade, as has generally been the case with the first batch: “The second cascade was brought on line earlier this month but they appear to be just running it empty. That is, vacuum-testing to assess durability.”

These reported advances in Iran’s quest for nuclear power, either for civilian or military use, are increasing the pressure on the U.S., the EU and the fractured UN to end the standoff before it reaches a critical point like North Korea’s defiant test. As is Israel’s leadership, who have also constantly fueled the tensions over the past months by periodically threatening the use of its military might to end Iranian enrichment, a cycle of responding to Iran’s slow but propagandized advances tit-for-tat. Therefore, in such a heightened climate, if Bush puts another wrong foot forward in his handling of Kim Jong-il (that is, concentrates on Iraq and pressurizes Iran while allowing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions to become nuclear weapons and reach a catastrophic climax), it could strengthen the Iranians’ resolve, which is already strong because of China’s large dependence on Iranian oil.

Chinese dependence, which is empowering an Iranian regime bent on becoming a nuclear power, is a dangerous mix in itself. Add to this, reports from Chinese and Russian defectors that a catastrophic conflict with the U.S. has been in the planning for years and that the timetable is to be stepped up in the event of an attack on Iran, and it becomes very dangerous indeed.

Despite the consequences of a U.S. attack on Iran ranging from bad to catastrophic, depending on the strategy and success of the attack, the stalemate within the dysfunctional U.N. is threatening to leave Bush with no option. Speculation over the use of military force against Iran has been rife since Tehran’s April announcement of successful uranium enrichment.

The latest surge in tensions is over proposed U.S naval exercises with Britain, France, Bahrain and Kuwait in the Persian Gulf next week. Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry official as calling the maneuvers dangerous and suspicious. The official also said the exercises, reported to be practice runs for intercepting and searching ships carrying WMDs, were not in line with the security and stability of the region but instead aimed at fomenting crisis. The source blamed the neoconservatives’ warmongering, which is being used in an attempt to achieve success in the mid-term elections.

I believe the proposed exercises are another attempt by the U.S. to provoke Iran into a knee-jerk reaction, which would further alienate it from Russia and China and ultimately allow Bush to use military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

According to a war game organized by The Atlantic with the help of retired air force colonel and specialist in the field Sam Gardiner, which simulated preparations for an assault on Iran by the next American administration be it Republican or Democrat, such an assault could involve any or all of three separate strategies: (1) a punitive raid on key Revolutionary Guard units to retaliate for Iranian actions in Iraq and elsewhere, (2) a pre-emptive strike on all possible nuclear facilities or (3) the forceful removal of the Mullah regime from Tehran in a regime change operation.

The war games panel decided that the first two could be carried out independently but that the third would require the success of the first two as preparation. In reality, the second option — a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities — is the one most often discussed. Also in reality, any one of these actions or the encouragement of similar actions from Israel’s military forces could well unleash a catastrophic global conflict.

The earliest retaliation would likely come in the form of missile attacks on Israel and other U.S. allies within the range of Iranian missiles (1,280 kilometers), followed by the blocking of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil channel, as threatened in the event of sanctions. Also, Iran may decide that a bloody defeat for the U.S., even if it means chaos in Iraq, is something they might actually prefer and begin exerting their significant influence over the majority Shia militias in Iraq to more heavily join the war against U.S. forces. Iran has so far discouraged the Shia communities from becoming involved in the insurgency. This would mean that the number of U.S. forces in Iraq would be greatly reduced for the first time as forces would be needed for the Iran invasion, which would coincide with the most dramatic rise of violence against U.S. forces since the Iraq invasion began.

If the Iran invasion did not go according to plan, the subsequently shrinking number of U.S. troops in Iraq could shortly find themselves unable to control the rising violence and forced into a hasty withdrawal from the Green Zone. Such an outcome would be seen as a defeat and empower the Jihadists for decades to come.

If any or all of the SCO members (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) were dragged into the conflict with allegiance to Iran, in turn bringing involvement from U.S. allies (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Japan, Israel and the U.K., although the latter two would quite possibly be involved in some capacity from the beginning), a catastrophic global conflict would become World War III.

If none of these countries became involved but the badly overstretched U.S. military failed to achieve regime change in Tehran, whatever Iranian nuclear capabilities remained would undoubtedly be channeled toward the rapid advancement of any existing nuclear weapons program.

Military action in Iran, therefore, should be consigned to the realm of fiction. But Bush’s predisposition to falling for his own rhetoric, and the slim chances of achieving any form of sanctions against Tehran, leave a catastrophic global conflict that could easily become World War III looming over our heads. Whatever the strategy, if Bush or the next American president decides to use military force against Iran, it could easily result in the definitive end of U.S. military supremacy in the 21st century.

North Korea Goes Nuclear!

By Liam Bailey

October 9 2006 became the day threatening talk turned into drastic action when North Korea announced: “The field of scientific research in the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9, 2006, at a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great, prosperous, powerful socialist nation.” Adding: “It has been confirmed that there was no such danger as radioactive emission in the course of the nuclear test as it was carried out under scientific consideration and careful calculation.” and: “It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the KPA (Korean Peoples Army) and people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defence capability.”

Although Japan is yet to independently confirm the nuclear test, South Korea has reported a Seismic tremor of 3.58 on the Richter scale believed to have been caused by the explosion, this was confirmed by the USGS (United States Geological survey), who reported a Seismic event 4.2 on the Richter scale in North Korea at approximately ground level. China, perhaps N Korea’s closest ally has confirmed the nuclear test in its open condemnation of what they called a “brazen” nuclear test. The Australian PM has also announced Seismic confirmation of the test although he didn’t state which country the data had come from.

Although this is worrying for all countries in the world and especially all countries in the immediate vicinity, currently N Korea don’t have the capabilities to launch their nuclear weapons, their recent test firing of a long-range missile was a dramatic failure. According to Russian military experts in a recent interview in the daily Telegraph the N Korean nuclear bomb is 10ft long and weighs some 4 tons making it too large to fit on any missile currently in Kim Jong Il’s arsenal. However, according to the same experts the N Korea nuclear bomb is a 20 Kiloton yield, the same as the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan during World War 2 and would kill everything within a 5-mile square; or somewhere in the region of 200,000 people if detonated in a populated area such as Tokyo or Seoul.

Despite N Korea’s apparent inability to currently launch their newly tested weapon, the consequences of the test could be dire for N Korea and surrounding neighbours, Japan’s conservative Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported before the test that if N Korea were to conduct its test above ground radioactive fallout — known as the ‘ash of death’ — would fly to the northern half of Japan, parts of South Korea and Russia and a vast eastern area of China within 54 hours. If the S Korean report, quoting intelligence officials is true and the North Korean nuclear test was conducted in a horizontal tunnel, dug into a 360 metre (1200 feet) mountain northwest of the Musudanri missile base in Hwadaeri the possibility of such dire consequences becomes even more real. Although there have been no reports of radioactive fallout thus far, it is still far too early to be certain what the consequences might be.

If radioactive fallout does occur it will almost certainly increase the political fallout surrounding the N Korea test as worst affected after N Korea would be allies of the communist state, Russia, China and S Korea, who has recently adopted a more conciliatory tone toward its neighbour and long running enemy. Along with rival Japan, who have recently began attempts to repair relations with China, their leaders Shinzo Abe and Hu Jintao gave a joint warning to Kim Jong Il before the test yesterday, therein tightening the diplomatic noose around Kim Jong Il’s neck in the event of any repercussions surrounding the nuclear test. Shinzo Abe arriving in South Korea the day of the test prompting reports that Kim Jong Il’s actions were timed to coincide with the diplomatic envoy.

Ash of death or not the political fallout from Kim Jong Il’s sudden, drastic action will reverberate around the EU, U.S and Asia, I’m sure for days and weeks if not months ahead. China wield the biggest power over Kim Jong Il on their role of provider for the badly impoverished country since U.S led economic sanctions began to take hold. The question is will Bush stay on the path of diplomacy and in accordance with the UN or alone impose further economic sanctions, affecting worst the already impoverished population of N Korea, and therefore continue the precedent of military inaction against newly nuclear hostile states, set by India and Pakistan. Or will Bush again seek to override the UN and take some kind of drastic military action against the “rogue state”. Recent U.S rhetoric like “not living with a nuclear armed N Korea” alongside their recent unwillingness to abandon diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear programme, despite Tehrans outright defiance of the UN’s six party coalition, throw Bush’s previous unpredictability into the mix and its anyone’s guess.

Will World Leaders Ever Learn?

The build up of opposing strategic alliances continues to present similarities with the build up to World War 1. War-games, arms sales, technological advances and advanced weaponry testing are creating the powder keg ready to erupt into World War 3.

By Liam Bailey

Well, everyone count your fingers and toes August 22 has come and gone and we’re all still here.   In the last few weeks since I posted my article on the similarities between the current Iran/west stand-off and the build up to World War 2, and how they could result in World War 3, the search engine terms people found my article with became strange. Things like “World War 3 August 22 (in my article the date of Iran’s reply) and military action August 22.  At first I was a little intrigued so I did a little searching myself, but after reading the first article I knew it was claptrap. 

The gist of it was… August 22 this year coincided with the Islamic date that Muhammad flew first to “the farthest mosque” – usually identified with Jerusalem – and then to heaven and back.  Ahmadinejad’s strong belief in the Shiite tradition of the 12 “hidden imam, Shiites believe the Imam Mahdi has been miraculously kept alive by Allah since his disappearance in 874 A.D and will return at a time of great global chaos. Ahmadinejad believes strongly in this, some analysts are stating that Ahmadinejad and the Iranian leadership believe the time for Mahdi’s return is now, others like go further to say “Ahmadinejad sees himself as Allah’s instrument to pave the way for Imam Mahdi.” This led to suspicions over Iran’s intentions for delaying their response to the six-nations incentives package until that significant religous day, some people believed they intended to attack Israel some even stated a nuclear attack could be in the offing.

All August 22  brought was the Iranian response to the six-nations incentives package, as stated, which continued the routine of this whole diplomatic effort, both sides in the tussle for the support of Russia and China being seen to favour diplomacy, but both sides unwilling to sacrifice sufficiently to achieve it.  Iran refused to halt its enrichment activities in return for the six-nations incentives package, a western pre-condition for talks, then said they want to re-open diplomatic talks, which could then possibly led to an enrichment suspension.  The reactions from world leaders were somewhat predictable. 

The EU and U.S were unsurprisingly disappointed with Iran’s response, saying that the response fell short of what was expected of Iran, a full and swift suspension to all enrichment activities, as stated in U.N resolution 1696, which threatens sanctions should Tehran refuse to comply by August 31.  Russia and China however were less disappointed with the Iranians response, saying it was enough to bring all parties back to the negotiating table.

On the face of it the Iranian response and the unsurprisingly different reactions from the five member states has led to fears that Iran are trying to split the UN.  I believe it is just another effort at buying time to achieve their goal, using the Indian, Pakistani and North Korean model that once you have the bomb no one dare do anything about it.  I suspect Iran will come unstuck in this strategy, Bush cannot be compared to other Presidents, he is crazy, and the areas that it comes most to the fore is areas of previous U.S foreign policy mistakes, Afghanistan, Iraq and North Korea.  It is when you look at the other related events in the past days and months that it all becomes clear… 

Bush is definitely planning the use of military action to stop Iran building nuclear weapons; the trouble is the amount of fringe nations likely to enter the conflict, not to mention China and Russia, whose defectors have said there are existing plans in both nations for a catastrophic conflict with the U.S.   The UN is already split and the world has never been closer to all out war.  This crisis is making friends and enemies for both sides and as I’ve said in previous articles, both have and are creating significant strategic alliances.

In recent days and months we have and are seeing massive military exercises carried out by all players in both alliances, including joint exercises involving U.S, Bulgarian and Romanian armed forces from the start of July, which coincided on July 5 with the N.Korean missile tests and the exercises are expected to continue until September.  Followed on August 19 by Iran launching their biggest military exercises since just after their announcement of successfully enriching uranium, the exercise, which is well underway in 14 of Iran’s provinces bordering with Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Armenia and the Republic of Azerbajan, all would become front-lines in any U.S/Iran war, and the exercises are to continue between now and October, the timeframe many analysts predict for a U.S led attack on Iran.  

Perhaps most worrying of all the Iranian war-games coincided with two massive operations in Kazakhstan, by the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation), both launched on August 24.  The CSTO, Rubezh-2006 exercise, organised by Russia and involving Tajikstan, Krygistan and Kazakhstan took place near Aktau in Kazakhstan.  Kazakhstan also took part in the SCO operation with China, police and special forces units from both countries took part in the exercise Tianshan one in the Almaty region near China, which is thought to have been closely co-ordinated with the Russian CSTO and the Iranian exercises. 

Russia and China have signed a military cooperation agreement and are the main suppliers of advanced weapons to Iran and Syria, as well as both having spoken military cooperation agreements with all other SCO members, which will include Iran when their invitation to become a full member is honoured.  Respectively the U.S and Israel have military cooperation agreements with Azerbajan and Georgia.  The joint drills in Kazakhstan are thought to have come in response to mis-trust of the U.S intentions in the region, the threat of attack on Iran, the U.S navy’s involvement in the re-building of Kazakhstan’s navy since 2003, and Iranian fears that the U.S is attempting to build up their ally Azerbajan to counter Iranian influence and dominance in the region, hence the Iranian exercise on the Azerbajan border. 

The Kazakhstan exercises were undoubtedly both preparation for a U.S attack on Iran and a warning that if Iran is attacked, Russia and China won’t remain neutral.  How many other countries are dragged into the conflict and when will depend on the U.S and/or Israeli strategy.   The Iranian exercise and missile tests are preparation, but could be used as cover for mass transporting of troops and equipment, possibly a pre-emptive strike of their own on Azerbajan say.  All this is on top of the latest reports from U.S Brigadier General Michael Barbero, he told reporters at the Pentagon that Iran is training Iraqi insurgents, who would have thought it. 

I suggest that all informed people have known for a long time that Iran is deeply involved in the U.S problem of Iraq, the Pentagon making the announcement amid the current nuclear stand-off could be a further suggestion that the U.S war machine is in the final stages of preparation, the first attempt at pacifying the public, at least this time it is true.  Another worrying development was Iran announcing that their new heavy water reactor was going on-line, just a few days after it replied to the six-nations incentives package on Aug 22 with a refusal to meet the western demands of suspending enrichment. 

Since the proposal was given Bush’s Neocon UN ambassador John Bolton finally managed to get Russia on board and resolution 1696 was passed demanding an immediate and verifiable halt to all enrichment activities by August 31 and threatening sanctions should Iran fail to comply.  Thursday August 31st then, is the big day, but if we didn’t know immediately after the resolution was passed that Iran wouldn’t comply, their calling it illegal was always a bad sign, then we certainly did when they responded to the six-nations proposal, and the heavy water reactor sealed the deal. 

Iran will not suspend uranium activity Aug 31, in fact I suggest it will continue to be scaled up.  Bush will begin to get his knickers in a twist with the UN failing to impose sanctions, which Russia and China will always oppose, and according to the Times would do Iran more good than harm.  Bush will eventually use the situation to continue his advance for domination of the Middle East and onwards… the Caspian…who’s next, come on then?  I just hope the world can survive till Bush is finally restrained and dragged from the White-House, or voted out democratically, which ever comes first.

The World War Blame Game

The world seems to be getting closer and closer to the brink of a catastrophic global conflict.  Thank you George W Bush.

By Liam Bailey

As I lay out in my previous post the current stand-off over Iran’s increasing nuclear capabilities is extremely capable of plunging the world into a catastrophic global conflict.  The latest tit-for-tat of the U.S and others extending the deadline for Iran’s reply to the latest offer week-by-week, and Iran standing firm on replying when it suits them possibly as late as mid-august, backs-up my theory that neither side is willing to compromise sufficiently to reach a diplomatic solution.   It is my belief that Iran feared American attack after the “axis of evil” speech and made the announcement as a form of defence, as well as funding the terrorist militias in Iraq to bog down U.S forces, making an Iran invasion unlikely.  The testing of seven long-range missiles by North Korea on Wednesday 5th July, the promise of more from N. Korea’s Kim Jong II and the ensuing diplomatic tensions, I’m sure causing fear to many people in Asia.  Another taught standoff and with possibly catastrophic consequences.

Look at the worlds two main crisis points/possible conflict triggers, Iran and North Korea, what do they have in common?  They were both part of an imaginary “axis of evil” according to the U.S President before he invaded Iraq, now they really are becoming an “axis of evil.”  Iran is standing firm on its nuclear program being for peaceful purposes, and their right to enrich uranium for such purposes under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, a right backed up by Russia, China and many other nations making sanctions almost impossible and war increasingly likely. North Korea claims its missile tests were in preparation to defend their national sovereignty, a claim generally met with scorn by the west.  Don’t you agree that if North Korea’s Kim Jong II went on television worldwide and said Britain, the United States and Japan pose a serious threat to the safety of the world, took up mass bombardment of Japan and then launched a ground force invasion, we would all expect a reaction from Bush and Blair to sure up our national security?

Of course Kim Jong II has clearly got it wrong, in attempting to increase self-defence capabilities I believe he has failed, but succeeded in increasing the likelihood of increased capabilities becoming necessary, as well as proving Bush right about the “axis of evil” statement to a certain extent.  The Friday following the test-firing, Japan proposed a U.N security council resolution ordering North Korea cease its ballistic missile program, including sanctions and a call for all other nations to take steps to keep North Korea from acquiring equipment needed to further the missile program.  Like the Iran stand-off most of the six-nations favour sanctions, it is China and Russia that still need to be convinced, but Japan maintain the need for sanctions their foreign minister Taro Aso according to the Kyodo News Agency said: “ Japan will not give in.  It definitely must be a resolution containing sanctions.”  Their senior vice minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki said security council members were privately “having positive discussions” and were chipping away at Russian and Chinese doubts.  If the Iran standoff is anything to go by that will not be an easy task.

Bush has seemed dedicated to achieving a diplomatic solution on North Korea, whereas in Iran’s case he doesn’t appear to be trying quite as hard.  Iran wrote a 27 page letter to President Bush at the beginning of the crisis, which was ignored by the U.S President at the time negotiating with Iran through the five-nations.  Even when he did offer to directly join the talks it was on the precondition of Iran ceasing enrichment, trying to secure the hopeful outcome of the talks before even coming to the table was either arrogant or optimistic to the point of stupidity, nothing strange for Bush though.  In North Korea’s case a U.S envoy is already in Seoul touring the region to coordinate a response to the missile tests.  Assistant secretary of State Christopher Hill is backing the Chinese proposal for informal six-nation talks, in the hope of bringing North Korea, currently boycotting formal talks because of U.S financial restrictions, back to the table.

The encouraging thing about both of these tense diplomatic standoffs is just that, they are diplomatic and not yet military standoffs, proving that Bush, despite his rhetoric is learning lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan that American oil imperialism no longer has free-reign.  The rate of his learning is slow in comparison to the rate the world is heading towards catastrophic conflict, so things will surely get worse before they get better.

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