US Fans the Flames of New Middle East War

While the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ continues to dissolve into violent chaos in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria, Washington seems determined to inflame the already unstable situation. In addition to providing support for the most radical elements in the increasing volatile region, America is now courting nuclear disaster by playing a perilous game of chicken with the most  dangerous country in the Middle East – Iran.

On the brink of becoming a nuclear power, Iran is using escalating rhetoric to challenge the world as it follows it aspirations to join the “Nuclear Club”. Although some officials in the US government have gone on record dismissing the threat as mere saber rattling, we may all be about to find out just how short the distance is between noisy rhetoric and deadly action, and how much a flawed American foreign policy has contributed to the crisis.

A week ago, as reported here, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta released a statement that Israel would likely attack Iran in the spring. This unleashed an unveiled threat from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatolla Khamenei that Israel and “all the Jews” must be annihilated and that Iran will be the one to do it.

Now, in Washington’s latest attack on Mid-East stability, unnamed “senior US officials” leaked information to NBC News, revealing what they said was Israel’s liaison with the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), long designated a terrorist group by the US State Department. In their statements, they accused the MEK, whom they say are financed, trained, and armed by Israel’s secret service, of being responsible for the assassinations of five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007. The MEK was also said to be responsible for the destruction of a missile research and development site, although the sources are unnamed and the story unverified. The untold damage that such irresponsible reporting by the press can do is so far-reaching, that to say that it could bring us to the brink of war is hardly an overstatement.

As Iran continues to build its nuclear capability, buying time here and creating distractions there, its leaders are looking for any excuse to unleash a massive attack against Israel. The unsupported and thoroughly irresponsible statements by US officials about Israel’s alliances and intentions give Iran the fodder it needs to spark such an attack. As a result, the words of the Ayatollah may soon be replaced by actions – the launching of a shower of missiles and rockets from Lebanon by Iran’s client, Hezbollah, or a nuclear attack by Iran on Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem.

It is sad when the press, which enjoys extraordinary freedom in America, shows such a lack of responsibility by publishing unsubstantiated statements as fact, regardless of the potentially deadly consequences to people halfway around the world. It is far more unacceptable when the information comes from leaders in our federal government, whose responsibility is the conduct of foreign policy, and the information, damning in its inferences, is about a country that has been a staunch US ally for nearly 65 years.

The Gathering Clouds of Global War

The causes of the growing chaos in the Middle East have much to do with Washington’s addiction to meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. This is not a new phenomenon. It dates back to the years before 1958 when “The Ugly American” became a best seller with an exposé of America’s ineptness in foreign policy. Throughout successive administrations, Washington has continued this dubious policy. Over the last year alone, for example, the Obama administration has continued to put pressure on Israel to “show restraint” in everything from waging a pre-emptive strike on Iran to developing local infrastructure in existing Israeli cities. Meanwhile, American foreign policy has included both covert and open support for the ‘democracy rebellions’ that have evolved into a swath of new Islamist governments from Libya to Iraq. These countries, which used to be American’s allies and trading partners, are now anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-democracy.

The rebellions that we have supported have all dissolved into chaos from which organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda have taken full advantage. We have even provided arms and military aid to al Qaeda in Libya, and support to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, calling the recipients “democracy rebels”. Our interference in the Middle East has dramatically changed the balance of power throughout the region and replaced friendly dictatorships, however brutal, with hostile and equally brutal Islamist governments, which have already begun to impose harsh, new religious laws on the entire population.

In Libya, for example, what began as a so-called ‘democracy movement’, has ended in a state near chaos, with factions fighting each other in armed conflicts, and a constitution crafted in Washington that specifically states “Islam is the Religion of the State and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia)”. In the early days of the conflict, the US entered the fray with missiles blazing, delivering over one thousand missiles onto Libyan targets in the first night of combat. They were supporting the “democratic revolution” and defending the Libyan population against Gadhafi’s military and hired mercenaries. We supplied the rebel forces, heavily infiltrated by al Qaeda operatives, with weapons, ammunition, and vehicles, and placed our own special forces on the ground in key areas.

In a visit to Libya later in the conflict, Senator John McCain said, “we need to increase our support so that the Libyan people can achieve the only satisfactory outcome to this mass protest for universal rights — the end of Gadhafi’s rule and the beginning of a peaceful and inclusive transition to democracy that will benefit all Libyans.” His words completely disregarded the implied US intention to turn Libya into an Islamic nation, governed under Shariah law, and diametrically opposed to the democratic principles.

Earlier this week, hundreds of Libyan Islamists rallied to demand that new legislation be bound to Muslim sharia law. The rally was in response to the emergence of secular political parties after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship. The fact that even the presence of secular parties brings out such a response suggests that in Libya, as elsewhere, one tyranny will inevitably be replaced by another, with no room for democratic process.

Syria   According to documents released by Wikileaks in early 2011, the US has been secretly funding anti-government activities since 2005.  Barada TV, a London-based satellite channel that has been broadcasting anti-Assad propaganda since 2009, has received at least $6 million in US funding since its founding.

Funding for anti-Assad activities began under the George W. Bush administration, after it froze ties with Syria in 2005. The policy has been carried on by Barak Obama, who nevertheless reopened our embassy in Damascus in 2011. He did this, even Washington was still promoting anti-Assad propaganda, and despite the fact that Syria was still on the list of terror-sponsoring states. Playing both sides against the middle is not supposed to be the conduct of our foreign policy, and our State Department carried it to an illogical extreme.

After the riots began, the State Department took this duplicity a dramatic step further. Our ambassador in Damascus, Robert Ford, breached diplomatic protocol and visited the demonstrators, showing open support for their rebellion against the Assad government which has been his host. In an interview this week, Ford said that the US was still seeking a “peaceful political” solution, and that military intervention was not an option.

The situation in Syria gets worse every day. It is not unlike the early days of conflict in Libya, where unarmed civilians were being mowed down by the automatic weapons of Gadhafi’s soldiers and mercenaries. But for America, what was called a “humanitarian response” in Libya, does not seem to apply in Syria. America has taken a hands-off policy, while the death toll continues to rise.

Syria has, in fact, become the political prize for the competing states of Iran, Turkey, Russia, and the US. In the eastern Mediterranean, US, Turkish, Russian, and Iranian warships are waiting to see the outcome of events in Syria. Without getting involved, the four countries sit like vultures waiting to pick at the remains of a country torn by war in which the human toll is already staggering.

Over the last ten months, thousands of men, women, and children have been caught in the conflict. It is estimated that over 7,000 have been killed and many more wounded. In the coming weeks, the Syrian government will either stand or fall, and either way, the human cost will have been staggering. The opposition, which has been struggling to acquire weapons, is quietly being funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, while the Assad government is receiving full support from Iran, with Russia and China standing firmly behind Ahmadinejad, using their veto power at the UN Security Council to ward off a UN demand for Assad’s resignation.  Both Russia and China say they oppose ‘forced regime change’ in Syria, and are acting accordingly.

What is not generally mentioned is that should the Assad regime in Syria fall to Islamists, not only will the country join the growing ranks of nations governed by Shariah law as a direct outcome of the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings. There will no longer be a secular government to provide protection for the 10% of the population (2.5 million people) who are Christian. Syrian Christians realistically fear that the fall of Assad will bring with it the massacres of Christians in pogroms such as those which have flared out of control in Egypt.

The carnage in Syria is exacerbated by Iran, whose strong support of Assad has deferred his fall and encouraged the brutal government response. The sides continue to line up. Only this week, al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri released a new video in which he threw the support of al Qaeda behind the rebels. According to Fox News, he said that Muslims in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey should join the uprising against Assad’s “pernicious, cancerous regime.”.

In Egypt, the story is similar, even if the origins were different. The US openly supported the revolutionary movement against their ally, Mubarak’s Egypt, as early as 2008.  They provided active support for the group April 6, which was founded by students and young professionals seeking a more democratic government in Egypt.  Their name came from the date April 6, 2008, when a strike by workers and residents led to a brutal crackdown by security forces. Their core issues included free speech and a more open economy that would produce jobs. In December 2008, US Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey helped arrange for members of April 6 to attend the “Alliance of Youth Movements Summit” conference in New York, which was organized by the State Department. After attending the conference, a representative of April 6 was sponsored for a visit to Washington, where he met with officials on Capitol Hill.

Ultimately, according to the New York Times, the April 6 and another group, Khaled Said, emerged as the organizers of the anti-Mubarak coalition, and vowed to bring about a revolution before the 2011 elections. In January 2011, perhaps seeking strength in numbers and presumably unaware of the affiliation of their new partners, they helped organize a committee of ten people, nominally led by Mohammad ElBaradei, the former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and informally associated with the Muslim Brotherhood (although he originally denied it). Once the demonstrations began, however, the early leaders of the “democratic revolution” in Egypt were quickly overpowered by the well organized Brotherhood, who have now won the lion’s share of seats in the new parliament and will have the ultimate power in the new Egyptian government.

The secular youth groups who began the revolution have now been completely marginalized and the new government of Egypt is in line to become the newest Islamist state in the region. The historic peace treaty with Israel is history, and Shariah law seems inevitable in this formerly secular country.

Under the military government, the indigenous community of Christians, descendants of the ancient Coptic Christians, whose presence in Egypt dates back to 190 AD in Alexandria, are now subject to frequent deadly attacks by Muslim mobs, while the police stand by. This community, with its ancient roots in Egypt that go back hundreds of years before the birth of Islam, is now at risk of being totally destroyed by their Muslim neighbors.

The Middle East Whirlpool  

The Middle East has become a violent whirlpool of rampant hatred, violence, and insurrection. Without powerful intervention, the world will soon be sucked into the whirling vortex, not just because we took sides, but because we took the wrong sides.

US foreign policy has consistently supported the worst of these ‘revolutions’. We supported the al Qaeda fighters who infiltrated the local forces in Libya (whom we called ‘freedom fighters’), the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (whom we called ‘moderates’), and the Syrian revolution, which has been organized and strongly supported by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

The US was covertly behind the June 2011 attack on Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, when a rocket fired into his residential compound during a Friday prayer service burned him badly and killed four others.

The sides are squaring off, with countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar supporting the rebels; Iran, China, and Russia siding with the Assad government; and the US standing on the sidelines, waiting for the outcome. With world pressure divided, but weighing heavily on the side of the rebels, it seems clear that the Assad government must ultimately fall, and that that time is probably not far off.  But no matter which side wins, it seems clear that it will not end well.

What Next?

The end of the Syrian conflict will open a new chapter in world events. It will enable Iran to act on its open promise to wage a war against the Jews. This is not likely to remain an idle threat. After the fall of Assad, the next target of the ‘Arab Spring’ will be Israel, which will be once again threatened from all sides. This time, however,  Israel will be facing the most lethal arsenal of weaponry ever amassed in the Middle East. Throughout the region, but particularly in southern Lebanon, weapons, ammunition, and logistical infrastructure, supplied largely by Iran, are positioned for deployment against Israel. It was recently estimated that 200,000 rockets and missiles are now aimed at Israel’s heart.

As if to underscore the threat, in the last few days, an Iranian politician has released his plan to An Iranian official closely tied to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has released a detailed plan to attack Israel, and destroy the country “in nine minutes”. In his article, Alireza Forghani, a staunch ally of the regime, confirms that “Khamenei has avoided pitting Iran as an active combatant against Israel, keeping his country in a supportive role of assisting other forces against Israel.”

In the meantime, instead of racing to support Israel as the threat continues to grow rapidly, President Obama has been distancing himself from the Jewish state. He recently cancelled a massive and long-planned military exercise with Israel, in which 9,000 US military personnel were going to engage in joint war games with their Israeli counterparts. A statement said simply that the exercise was cancelled “in order to avoid giving Iran an excuse to raise tensions”. The exercise, code named Austere Challenge 12, was to have involved a scenario in which Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Israel. It couldn’t have been more timely, nor could it have sent a stronger message to Iran that an Israeli-American alliance would be an awesome enemy and that taking it on might be worth a second thought. The cancellation was another sign of worsening relations between the US and Israel, and could not have come at a worse time, when an attack on Israel may be imminent.

How the War Will Start – A Scenario Based on Current Intelligence

If a new war in the Middle East is inevitable, it will most likely be Iran that will trigger the first salvos. The war will be carried out in two waves, and Iran will begin it through its proxy, Hezbollah, to strike at Jewish and American targets around the world. The second wave will come from Lebanon, giving Iran plausible deniability.

As an indication of how imminent the threat really is, the first blows in this war appear to have been carried out as this article was being written, with two car bomb attacks against the Israeli Embassies in New Delhi, India, and Tiblisi, Georgia (see article here).

Iran has provided Hezbollah with some 100,000 rockets and sophisticated missiles, and built a massive network of tunnels, using highly effective North Korean equipment. According to our sources in Lebanon, some of these tunnels run under the border with Israel and deep into Israeli territory. Hezbollah’s plans are said to include rocket and missile attacks from the air, and streams of armed soldiers bursting from the tunnels into populated areas in Israel.  If Syria’s biological weapons have also been released to Hezbollah – including, according to our sources, weaponized anthrax and smallpox, for which there is no vaccine or antidote – these attacks could be even more devastating.

Israel’s immediate response will be all that is necessary to incur a military reaction from Iran in the form of a direct attack on Israel. Moreover, Iran has threatened US assets as well, from closing the Strait of Hormuz to preparing boats that could be used in suicide attacks on US naval vessels in the Persian Gulf. They may also include unleashing Iranian assets already in the US and around the world, who are ready to carry out terrorist attacks where they are.

The attacks will lead to a series of cascading events that will bring the West into the conflict. The unintended consequences of bad foreign policy are likely to be terrible indeed, involving countries from around the world.

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If we think that this scenario is unrealistic, and we expect Iran to act logically about starting a war, we will be badly disappointed. Ahmadinejad firmly believes that the coming of the 12th Imam (analogous to the second coming of Christ) must follow a period of chaos, and that it is his holy mission to provoke that chaos in order to hasten his coming. He is not concerned with the death and destruction that the chaos will cause, because he believes that the spread of Islam throughout the world and the fall of the West will justify whatever else may occur in the process. So long as we believe that he thinks like we do, we will be shocked at what he is truly capable of.

Will it happen this way? Perhaps, perhaps not. But it is far more likely than we would like to believe, and the crisis point is fast approaching. We in America are wrapped up in the issues of surviving in an economic crisis, in the upcoming Presidential elections, and in the issues of our day-to-day lives. But we need also to pay attention to the events unfolding on the other side of the world, which may soon suck us back into another war we don’t want. This one, if it comes, will be far more terrible than any we have yet seen. Our leaders need to wake up and take action soon by providing Israel with a firm ally, as Canada has already committed to do.

Can Iran be stopped?

Iran is the biggest terror-supporting state in the world and is determined to become a nuclear power. The fact that its leadership is fanatical, ruthless, and intent on creating chaos in the world has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. That this nation, run by fanatical idealogues, should possess nuclear weapons that it could use against the West is unacceptable.

As we have noted many times before, when dealing with tyrants, there is only thing that keeps them from wreaking havoc is an opponent holding a position of power. Nowhere is this more true than in the Middle East, where power dominates and weakness invites attack.

Washington has let the rest of the world down, failing to live up to America’s proud history of defending freedom and supporting our allies when they are challenged. In the Middle East, we have failed our friends, supporting their overthrow, allowing their countries to fall into chaos, and opening the door to a new form of tyranny that promises to be far worse than the one that preceded it.

Now is the time for America to stand tall for what is right, not for what is ideologically motivated, materially advantageous, or politically safe. The US, which should be unapologetically the leader in what used to be called the “Free World”, now needs to take bold and courageous steps to stop Iran’s inexorable march towards nuclear power.

This is not the time for appeasement or for begging Iran’s leaders to ‘negotiate’. Instead, it is the time to confront the government of Iran from a position of power.

1)  President Obama must let them know that their nuclear aspirations are unacceptable and that the US will not allow them to become a nuclear power.

2) The President should take the MEK, which poses the greatest internal threat to Iran’s status quo, off the terrorist list, which would allow them access to open support for their activities against the present Iranian government.

3) The President should re-establish America’s strong support for Israel, in the face of the Iranian threat to destroy the tiny nation, and re-affirm our alliance with proof-positive of that commitment. The time for empty words has long passed. Now is the time for taking a strong position of support for our ally, Israel.

4) The President should be prepared to engage Iran militarily – from the air and with special operations on the ground – to end the nuclear blackmail that threatens the Middle East and the West.

The clock is ticking and further procrastination is likely to bring the world as we know it to its knees. The next war in the Middle East, instigated by Iran, will not be local. It will involve the global community and its cost will be catastrophic.

I call on President Barak Obama to face the reality of what Iran truly represents and become the President he would like to be – the one who saves the world from World War III.

Ilana Freedman is an intelligence analyst with more than 25 years of experience in the field. She is Editor of GerardDirect. Represented by the GerardDirect Speakers Bureau, she is available to speak to your organization on the subjects covered on this website. For more information, please send your request to info@gerarddirect.com.

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