DEAD MEN'S SHOES ON TRANSYLVANIA AVENUE.
Dr De Ath. 7th March 2005.
"There Is Nothing New In The World Except The History That You Haven't Heard Yet." Harry S. Truman (U.S. President 1945-1953).
Ever since the end of the British mandate in Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel, in 1949, land grab has followed land grab. The Arabs of the region have never been considered either civilised enough, or more to the point, organised enough to warrant a seat at the top table of the decision making process. In contrast to the more streetwise Zionists, such as Chaim Weizmann ( Israel's first president ), who have always understood the importance of getting the West onside. The result now being that after five Arab-Israeli wars, invariably initiated by spurned Arabs, the Palestinians are ghettoised behind a concrete wall, designed by the racist Zionist government of Israel and built, perversely, with Arab labour; and again the Israelis illegally occupy yet more Arab land. Sharon's sleight of hand is to be admired. What he claims to give in Gaza, he takes in the West Bank and vice versa. And what do we in Britain and the U.S. do in response? Well, we continue to sell him arms of course. But that's okay, isn't it?
In the mid-seventies, I spent some time in Beirut and Damascus. This was just after the Lebanese Christian Phalangists had massacred a bus full of Muslims, thus initiating years of civil war and international strife from which the Lebanon has yet to fully recover. Yet again it seems, Beirut is becoming the focus of attention with the assassination of ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri. The sequence of events here should provide succour to any of the conspiracy theory persuasion. Saudi Arabia shows signs of brittleness. C.I.A. trained Saudis attack the U.S.. A revenge attack on mediaeval Afghanistan kills three birds with one stone: enhancement of Western moral rectitude, provision of a secure pipeline route from Central Asia to deep water ports on the Pakistani coast (thus avoiding the complications of Putin's Russia) and reinstitution of the opiate trade to be utilised as a fall-back for a rainy day. The Middle East has only ever meant oil. In general terms, it goes against the grain of human nature to attack other countries if there is no percentage to be gained. Suddenly the usual suspects of the Middle East are castigated as 'terrorist' by the usual suspects in the West. Iraq has been crippled by sanctions: easy pickings. Iran has cultivated powerful allies, in the form of Jiang and Rasputin: the time is not yet ripe. So, how to keep the momentum going? Play the nice guy. Pretend to be the honest broker with the Israel/Palestine dilemma, now that Yasser has gone to meet his maker, and just wait for the first bomb to go off. And if the militants fail to oblige, who knows, maybe one could be made to happen anyway. Let's face it, who is going to believe a rabid Muslim over the accusations of a Born Again Christian? Painting by numbers. Iran is the ultimate target post Iraq but one must not bite off more than one can chew. One at a time or the main course may prove too challenging. Now that Rice has displayed her fangs to the press corps in Ramallah, Syria enters the frame once more. Why? Who stands to gain?
The area that we call Syria has a long and varied history. Indeed it was the classical Greeks that gave it its name. Prior to the defeat of the Turks by Arab, British and French forces during the First World War, the Syrian coastline stretched from north of today's Lebanon right to the south of Israel, wherever that particular line in the sand happens to be at the moment. The disarray following the demise of the Ottoman Empire offered up a prime opportunity for the West to gain a foothold in the oil rich desert region of the Middle East. Once the allocation of the mandates post W.W.1 had been settled, Syria was split up into the countries we know as Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Syria. Thus then, the great powers seized their opportunity to change the political geography of the Middle East to the delineations we are familiar with today. Where the British were responsible for the creation of Israel (Palestine under the mandate), the French, under their mandate (so generously acquiesced to by Lloyd George), tried to establish the secular, but Christian-oriented, state of Lebanon. The Arabs of the area had no say in any of this since we regarded them as far too uncivilised to attend to their own affairs. Just like the Arabs of Iraq had, and continue to have, no say over their own oil resource. Whenever they have risen up against the West's 'civilised' domination of their lands, they have been violently repressed. Since Bush's recent visit to Europe to garner support, the French have re-entered the frame (being sponsors of the U.N. deal on Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon), interesting. All too often the French have cocked up and left the mess for others stupid enough to step into their shoes to sort it out (viz: Napoleon through to the Versailles Treaty, Vietnam, etc). They, just like ourselves, are centrally concerned to get their hands on Middle Eastern resources. Currently, of course, they are feeling a tad peeved because their deals with Saddam have gone down the Swanny. Yet again, outsmarted by those infuriating Anglo-Saxons, the French deal the morality card to salve their consciences and disguise their true interests whilst trying to keep a foot in the door. Since the Syrians took on the role as overseers in Lebanon that some today suddenly seem to find so objectionable, blood has been remarkably absent from the streets of Beirut. Whatever one may think of the Assad hegemony, the Syrians have never had anything to gain from the destruction of Lebanon and everything to gain from maintaining a prosperous peace in their former province. The Lebanese economy has been gradually raising itself from the ashes during the Syrian stewardship, which is far more than can be said for the current state of the Iraqi economy. Lebanon for the West is a device not a neighbour. Now it seems that the Syrians, under ostensibly Western pressure and the U.N., are withdrawing, interesting. More than can be said for our own conduct. So Condoleezza Rice has got irrefutable proof of Syrian involvement in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, has she? Would that be the same quality of evidence that existed over Hussein's weaponry? Remember Operation Ajax? Who exactly is funding all these anti Syrian demonstrations? Why also have there been no long shots of these gatherings that might show how big they really are? One awaits to see what demands will be put on the Syrians to prove a negative. At least there shouldn't be all those embarrassing names of Western companies to black out of correspondence to the U.N. this time.
As I sat in the Hotel Bassoul prior to my return to the U.K., listening to the bullets and missiles that decorated the night sky whistling overhead to their destinations, frequently to the Hilton hotel next door (a popular sniper position), I reflected on my experience in the war zone. Two things stood out above all others. Firstly, whether in casual conversations in the markets or the ubiquitous taxis, I was constantly but respectfully reminded of Britain's historical roll in the current Middle Eastern turmoil, Balfour being a name that came up with sickening regularity. Secondly, despite my nationality, I received the most astounding, unconditional and almost embarrassing hospitality from not only the Arabs of Beirut and Damascus, but also from the stateless Palestinian Arabs living in both cities. I had begun to feel ashamed of my passport: an experience I was to repeat, again for reasons of hospitality and history when living amongst the Persians of Iran a couple of years later (and reflecting on Operation Ajax), and indeed later still upon visiting Egypt (re: the Suez fiasco). These are not unreasonable peoples, no matter what our "embedded" media may have us believe. In fact, given the history of the Middle East since oil became the motive force of Capitalism, they have exercised remarkable tolerance. The average Persian or Arab wishes for no more than to be treated with honour and respect. Not much to ask for really. As I muse on the current predicament that we find ourselves in, it occurs to me, apropos nothing in particular, that stock markets are remarkably absent in the Islamic world of the Middle East. Curious.
Truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder; fact, like fiction, is the creature of our imagination. Now that Rice, erstwhile board member of Chevron and current U.S. Secretary of State, has displayed her fangs to the press corps outside Arafat's bolthole in Ramallah, not only are the sores of Palestine as inflamed as ever but Lebanon is again being struck by the chronic malaise that afflicts the Middle East. Did any truly believe that a White House 'Roadmap' could lead us past the burning bushes simply because Yasser had shuffled off? Whilst he is doubtless trying to explain to Allah, prior to his admission to Paradise, why it is that his personal fortune equated to the annual G.D.P. of his people, the footprints left by dead men's shoes along the garden path of history may serve to explain why we are here; should we wish to retrace them. Finally, it is crucially important to appreciate that despite the maverick conduct of those who claim to represent them, the Jewish people are as much victims of this Israel/Palestine/Lebanon conflict as the Palestinians and Lebanese are, and it is similarly important to recognise that being Jewish is quite different from being a Zionist. Jews are people who suffer with us all, Zionists are Fascists, who care little for the suffering they cause. All peoples of the region are victims of a morally bankrupt economic system. The only reason that we have the remotest interest in the Middle East is because our sacred system demands its resources. The Zionists are on-message and in turn receive our support in order that we can maintain a wild card fortress in the area to secure supplies of the black gold from the watering hole.
It is a depressing and unfortunate truth that whilst the descendents of the repressor rarely know enough of their forebears' role in the sculpting of history, the children of the repressed know all too well how the chisel has been wielded.
Black Gold Along The Silk Road
Recently, a Chinese student of business studies put it to me that Tony Blair was a truly smart guy. "Really?" said I, my curiosity aroused. "Yes of course, by going into Iraq with Bush, he can get his hands on the oil.". With Iraq now in ruins, the force of irresistible civilisation brings its self-righteous gaze to rest. Now, Iran occupies the crosshairs as the main candidate for demonisation in the locale. 'Shock horror! They're building a nuke!', exclaim the Western powers, quite incapable of seeing the threat to stability posed by their own bristling arsenals. Thus, public paranoia levels over potential 'terrorism' can be maintained as too can 'justification' be given for attempting to take military control over the watering-holes of the world's economy. So, what does the blind Cyclops of Capitalism see of Iran's domestic politics through its scope? Does it see that making Iran feel increasingly jittery and vulnerable in her ever more inflamed environment may likely result only in providing succour to precisely the same hard-line clerics so frequently castigated in the West? A golden opportunity to resurrect the spectres of previous experiences is being handed over on a plate, free of charge. Some may derive detached comfort from the hope that either Iran will see the light and simply put her hands up under Capitalism's withering glare or her people will perhaps revolt against any increased entrenchment of the clerical old guard. Perhaps though, we could invade Iran again to save the Persians from themselves but the cheaper option would probably be to follow the Israeli lead (Iraq 1981) and simply bomb Iran's reactors. Possibilities, however, also exist for the Iranians. One cleric's eye-view, from a now more commanding status within his increasingly beleaguered country, could run something like: "Over the last half century, we've suffered at the behest of the Infidel. Firstly, it was the Shah, then, we had Saddam! We have also won twice. This could be a hat trick, let's get radical! When in Satan's name did we last have the Chinese Ambassador round for Friday prayers?". China has one of the biggest Muslim populations in the world, and despite the fact that Peking may be murdering and torturing Teheran's Muslim brothers and sisters in the provinces of Ning Xia and Xin Jiang, Iran could do with having good diplomatic relations with a nation in possession of a hydrogen bomb, even if it means chumming up with such Muslim haters and xenophobes as the Jiang and the Gang from Zhong Nan Hai. Teheran already has a sweet little deal going down with Vlad 'The Mad' in the Kremlin for the supply of nuclear fuel, and lets face it, just as with the U.K. in the fifties, there is only one reason why a government builds a reactor. At present then, the Iranians are probably covered in terms of raw materials but there is certainly no harm in having a fallback. The Iranians are fully aware of the attitude held in both Moscow and Peking towards Muslims but at the same time they are playing with a very strong hand given that neither Russia nor China will wish relations with their own Islamic communities to become inflamed beyond their capacity to control the situation. Additionally of course, Iran possesses highly desirable resources and both Russia and China are none too happy to let Washington gain the upper-hand in the region. George's gonads are going to have to grow some if he is to get away with challenging the Persians. Currently, with four nuke armed powers on its borders, Iran is surrounded by some rather large and unattractive question marks. Pakistan has its own bomb and the U.S. will do anything to keep Musharraf sweet (the trans-Afghanistan pipeline also goes through Pakistan). Whilst the slavering villain RasPutin is bristling with them, a highly fruitful accommodation seems to be in place between Moscow and Teheran. The maverick freeloading Fascist Sharon has one or two up his sleeve as well. The fourth nuke adorned power is the only nation to have used one (sorry, two in fact) on civilians, the U.S.. Apart from this, the U.S. has an overwhelmingly massive military budget, stocks of just about every nuclear, biological and chemical variety of W.M.D. that may take your fancy, and, they clearly have no qualms about littering the Middle East with the radioactive detritus from depleted uranium (D.U.) shells. In addition, they have just clubbed Iran's Afghan cousins, built a huge base in Uzbekistan and are presently kicking Iraq's teeth in. Under such circumstances, Iran clearly must be feeling just a tad isolated; it should hardly be surprising if our Machiavellian Mullah might see the prospect for opportunity opening up along the Silk Road. Iran may be nervous, however, Iran has oil, and China needs it. Despite the fact that China is benefiting from the West's blind-eye policy to what Peking is doing in its predominantly Muslim provinces (Vlad is also of course getting along very well thank you through oil and gas deals with the West and the resultant carte blanche he has got to bludgeon the Muslim Chechens without the glare of publicity cramping his style; the Chechens, needless to say, are sitting atop an oil field), the reformulated Capitalist dictatorship that is New China is developing a quite insatiable thirst for the black gold, and it does not feel it owes any favours to the West. After forty years of self-sufficiency, courtesy of the huge but now spluttering Da Qing field, China has now become the second biggest global importer of oil after the U.S.A.. With the national milk cow drying up, an economic growth figure currently at around 9% and oil imports expected to have risen by 40% last year (2004), there may be awkward times ahead, and not just for the Chinese. There is little love lost between China and the U.S., historically speaking. It should not be forgotten that the West blocked the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) from joining the U.N. from 1949 until 1971 in favour of Taiwan, thus excluding international representation on this platform to 1/5th of the world's population for twenty-two years. Are the Chinese likely to be reassured by the sight of her western economic competitor attempting to expand its hegemony at Capitalism's watering-hole in the Middle East? Are they laughing up their sleeves at the prospect of picking up valuable pieces if the wheels start falling off the Coalition wagon? She may well have an interest in helping to maintain the U.S., but only to levels that will benefit China herself. China is almost certainly not going to go out of her way to assist the West in the Middle East. On the other hand, she may well consider that she can assist herself quite favourably by cosying up to the embattled Middle Eastern theocracy. Whilst the transfer of nuclear technology may not as yet emerge as an issue through such a relationship, the attitude of the Chinese towards Muslims is after all much the same as that which prevails in the West; that they are wogs who have got our economy over a barrel, who do not deserve to be in possession of something so valuable as oil and should certainly not have the power to defend themselves with nukes if it can be helped. Both parties, China and Iran, do however stand to mutually benefit on a variety of levels by dining out together. Even Bush isn't deluded enough to have a crack at the Chinese, or Putin for that matter, is he? Especially bearing in mind all his impotent huffing and puffing as the Chinese did a number on one of the U.S's spy planes during the early days of his first term. Whichever way you look at it, China appears to be tossing a double-sided coin. The Chinese have, as do many other nations, another string to their bow: the facility to manipulate the overdrawn American economy via U.S. Treasury Bonds, etc.. Clearly they were bought to enhance China's own interests, but if America stumbles, what then? With the U.S. deficit and the Middle East imbroglio spiralling like a stalled plane in a nose dive, for how long will such nations view the currency they bought into as being such a durable investment? Finally, should anyone in the West be deluded enough to think that they can take such neophytes to the Capitalist creed as the Chinese for a walk up the garden path, they do so at their peril. China has already demonstrated, with regard to the economically liberal reforms it has introduced and the appalling abuses raining down on the Chinese workforce resulting from them, that it is a very quick learner and is perfectly capable of doing the Capitalist tango just as well and no doubt even more ruthlessly than its elders in the West.