By Iqbal Jassat
As the first month of 2012 ebbs away, a question dominating many conversations is whether war is still likely to break out in the Persian Gulf anytime soon.
While tensions have been heating up as “war talk” between regional players adds greater anxiety, it remains unclear whether the Obama administration is willing to risk more American lives in pursuit of an Israeli agenda.
Unlike former president George W Bush who seemed hell bent to settle personal scores with Saddam Hussein and was immensely assisted by a largely pliant media to “sell” America’s war on Iraq, Obama is not too certain of gaining similar levels of support.
The most obvious challenge he has failed thus far is to obtain a consensus amongst America’s allies. France and Britain may be on board, but for a US president who staked a great deal on forging multilateral consensus on sticky foreign policy issues, he needs more than these two European nuclear powers.
Obama also has to contend with dynamic changes in Arabia and North Africa that in the last year has dramatically altered America’s leverage following the ousting of two key despotic allies in Tunisia and Egypt. What ought to be clear for his administration is that these rapid revolutionary changes rested in large part on widespread anti-imperial sentiments paving the way for popularly elected governments whose political formations were outlawed as “terrorist” and whose members were subject to brutal repression, including detention without trial and torture – all courtesy of successive American governments.
In addition, failure to obtain a UN Security Council Resolution that would confer “legitimacy” for a premeditated war on Iran is largely due to reluctance by Russia and China to allow the US any new military adventures in a region they covet for their own national interests. In fact disclosures about the Pentagon’s new strategic guidance, “Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defence” places China squarely at the centre of American war planning.
Some analysts have argued that unless America curbs Israeli appetite for military attack against Iran, the US will be unable to prevent the rise of China as potential strategic rival. The driving force for this US confrontation with China is the relative economic decline of American imperialism. It signifies a continuation of a global order dominated by the US in which the Pacific Ocean has been considered “an American lake” for more than a century, hemming China in by a network of US military alliances, and Beijing’s economic and strategic interests are subordinate to Washington’s.
And if news reports on the Israeli population’s mood for war are to be believed, signs of disapproval seem to be dominant. Some of these signals emanate from the Zionist state’s inability to reconcile with the reality of having suffered defeat at the hands of Hizbullah in Lebanon and most recently in Gaza at the hands of Hamas.
A few days ago, reflecting on why Israel fell short against Hizbullah, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that it was because its soldiers did not have faith! Though he has apologized for these remarks, parents of soldiers who died in this war are demanding that Yishai, who is also the head of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas Party, be removed from Netanyahu’s cabinet.
So whether it’s a question of “disinterest” in a war carrying huge risks for the Zionist regime or simply a lack of “faith/belief”, Israeli preparedness hinges on the message Obama’s high profile military envoy Martin Dempsey, who is the chairman of the US joint military chiefs of staff, is likely to bring on his visit.
In this context postponing their largest ever-joint military exercise, Israel and America explained that the major reason for the delay is due to tensions with Iran. And to top it off were the remarks made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak during an interview with Israel’s Army Radio a day before the arrival of Dempsey. An Israeli attack on Iran is “very far off” he said, adding that no decision has been made to do so.
As tensions mount so does the uncertainty of war that in all likelihood will engulf the entire region. Recent revelations of a secret visit to Israel by the Qatari Emir and support by the Saudi monarchy for any war effort by Israel and America has raised the stakes. Yet despite complaints by Israel accusing Obama of procrastinating and conflicting statements by members of his administration, the “unknowns” retain elements of surprise!
– Iqbal Jassat is the chairperson of Media Review Network, Pretoria – South Africa. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com.