The Guardian • Issue #2095

Iran, Israel, and the threat of war

Palestinian flags.

Photo: Quick Spice – flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

Iran’s drone and missile attack against Israel on 14 April was immediately condemned by the USA and its allies. Israel has vowed to “retaliate.” There is a sense that the conflict will escalate. The world has seen what happened. We have been encouraged to denounce the ‘unprecedented’ attack against Israel.

On 1 April 2024 Israel bombed the Iranian embassy in Syria killing sixteen people. By attacking an embassy, which has extraterritorial jurisdiction, Israel broke all international conventions. By definition it attacked the sovereign territory of Iran. The Iranian government promised to retaliate, citing Article 51 of the United Nations Charter which recognises the ‘right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs’ against any UN member state. One can but imagine what would be America’s response to a similar attack against its sovereign territory.

The Iranian attack hit an Israeli military air-base. Significantly, this air-base is used by Israel to launch its F-35 fighter-bombers in their  war against civilian targets in Gaza.

The President of Israel, Isaac Herzog described Iran’s action as ‘a declaration of war.’ He then made the astonishing claim that Israel is “seeking always peace.” It is difficult to comprehend such language. Logic is turned on its head when Israel describes its actions, as “defensive.”

Iran, in a measured statement, declared that their response marked an end to the operation. Israel is hoping this will not be the case. They deliberately provoked the Iranian response. It was their act of war that forced the issue. The Western world remained mute after the embassy bombing. There is no such reluctance to denounce what Iran has correctly described as an act of defence.

Herzog described Iran as an “empire of evil which wants to eradicate all values of the free world.” He issued an appeal for the world to unite against Iran.

This was specifically aimed at Israel’s greatest ally, the USA. President Biden, in a clumsy attempt at deception, has done two things. On the one hand US ships and planes along with 40,000-strong American naval and military forces have been sent to the region. The USA has given Israel a ‘cast-iron’ guarantee that its security will be protected. It took part in destroying many of the Iranian drones and missiles. On the other hand, the American president made the statement that his country would not engage militarily with Iran, for fear of escalating the situation.

White House spokesperson for National Security, John Kirby has reaffirmed that “we stand with you [Israel] in your self-defence.” On Biden’s behalf, Kirby congratulated the IDF for the “ extraordinary job they did knocking things out of the sky.”

America’s reticence about committing troops to fight against Iran is understandable. Any ‘victory’ would come at a great cost. The USA is happy to pay a price in dollars, as evidenced by its sponsorship of NATO’s war against Russia in Ukraine, but it is hardly a cynical claim that Biden would be wary about too many casualties in the lead-up to his November election.

Another factor that acts as a break on any reckless commitment of troops and materiel, is that US imperialism sees a bigger fight looming against both China and Russia. At the height of its “war on terror” the USA had nearly a quarter of a million troops stationed in the Middle East. A shift in focus, towards ‘Great Power’ rivalry saw a major withdrawal of American power in order to prepare for US aggression elsewhere.

Israel is seen as a loyal bastion for imperialism in the region. To this end, the USA has poured hundred of billions of dollars into the Israeli military over the past decades. It has pledged $4 billion a year for the next 5 years alone. US boots on the ground are deemed to be unnecessary. What might transpire, if push does come to shove, is quite another matter. The ‘iron-clad’ support for Israel might well mean direct air strikes, in similar fashion to the strikes against Iranian bases in Syria that were launched by the USA earlier this year.

Israel wants a war, and wants it on all fronts. Netanyahu and his core supporters inside the regime can only maintain power if war and false threat perceptions can be maintained. A regime such as Netanyahu presides over is also in the United States’ interests in geostrategic terms. An independent Middle East, a free Palestine, an economically strengthened region out of America’s orbit does not suit the interests of imperialism.

While the economy of Israel has remained relatively strong, 2023 painted quite a different picture. GDP dropped significantly, investment crashed, consumption rates fell. The “war” (as the genocidal attack on Palestinians is known)  accounts for much of this, but it is the war and the government’s capacity to manipulate public sentiment that is keeping Netanyahu in power. Once the war is over, the Israeli people will awake to economic austerity and a corrupt government. Perpetual war, funded by US dollars seems the way out for Netanyahu. The broader picture is fear, insecurity, death, and destruction on an increasing scale.

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