The Internationalist  
June 2010  

The Real Nuclear Threat in the Middle East: U.S. and Israel

Zionists Gearing Up for War on Iran

Commandos of Israel’s Shayetet 13 Navy SEALS unit storm the Mavi Marmara, May 31.
They “were ordered to shoot to kill even as they were on their way onto the deck.”

(Photo: DHA)

Many liberals in the West and in Israel talk of the Israeli massacre of passengers on the Gaza flotilla as a “bungled operation.” The costs to Israel in “public opinion” and with “decision-makers” in Europe and the United States from killing activists delivering humanitarian aid are so high, they argue, that the military planners of the raid, or Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and “Defense” Minister Ehud Barak who ordered it. must have made a big blunder. Writer David Grossman (a Zionist “peacenik” who support Israel’s disastrous 2006 war on Lebanon) called the government’s response “stupid,” arguing: “Israel did not send its soldiers to kill civilians in cold blood; indeed, this is the last thing it wanted” (Haaretz, 2 June). On the contrary, Israel’s rulers absolutely wanted their soldiers to “kill civilians in cold blood.” Foreign minister Liberman declared on the eve of the raid that Israel was prepared to stop the flotilla “at any cost,” and called on the international community to show understanding for Israel’s action (AP, 30 May).

This was not a case of inexperienced, trigger-happy soldiers run amok. The unit that carried out the raid on the Mavi Marmara was Shayetet (Flotilla) 13, Israel’s equivalent of U.S. Navy SEALS. This killer elite is notorious for its assassinations of Palestinian militants on the West Bank. The commandos trained for a month for the grotesquely named “Operation Sea Breeze,” including practice takeovers of a ship at sea. According to the military correspondent of the liberal Zionist Haaretz (4 June), the training “included opening fire at charging activists,” and if they thought the situation was life-threatening “the commandos were ordered to shoot to kill even as they were on their way onto the deck” – which is what they did. Moreover, the head of the Navy was on a boat next to the ship to supervise the operation; the chief of commandos unit, on another gunboat, “gave orders by radio to use live fire, two minutes after the incident had begun” and climbed on the ship during the raid. In short, killing civilians in cold blood was exactly what the commanders ordered. The only “mistake” was that they got more resistance than they expected.

Shayetet 13 commandos are Israeli military’s killer elite. Shown here in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, during Israel’s 1980s occupation, after assassinating a PLO guard.

A commentary on the site of an Israeli leftist group, the Alternative Information Center (4 June), remarked: “In contrast to the opinions of the Israeli newspapers that contend something went wrong in the military action, we believe that the natural conclusion from this criminal action of the occupation army is that it must necessarily have resulted in the slaughter of innocent civilians.... [T]hese are commando soldiers trained to kill in face to face combat who fell on the activists like a pack of wolves.” Precisely. But if the killing was deliberate and the public outrage predictable and expected, the question then is: why did Israeli leaders order it? In the first place, they wanted to deliver a bloody lesson to those who dared to break the Zionists’ deadly blockade of Gaza. But beyond that, the Gaza flotilla massacre was a message to the Obama White House. Already in Operation Cast Iron, the Israeli invasion of Gaza that murdered more than 1,400 Gazans and destroyed 50,000 homes just as the U.S. president-elect was taking office, the Netanyahu government put Obama to the test – and he remained silent.

Then last September, when the U.S. called on Israel not to expand West Bank settlements, Netanyahu’s refusal to stop new construction was a deliberate warning to Obama not to step on Israeli toes. Once again the Democratic White House backed down. No surprise there: several of Obama’s top aides are committed Zionists, including his political adviser David Axelrod and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel (who did volunteer work for the Israeli army during the 1991 Gulf War), and pro-Israel hardliners like Hillary Clinton. So why do it again, especially as the raid had to screw up the U.S.’ diplomatic maneuvering over Iran and put the U.S. alliance with Turkey in jeopardy? Because the attack on the Gaza aid flotilla was a war provocation. Israel’s execution of activists delivering humanitarian aid was so brazen that it was designed to provoke some kind of revenge attack, potentially setting off a chain reaction. The rightist Israeli government is gearing up for a military attack on Iran, and is making sure Washington is prepared to withstand the worldwide opprobrium that will bring.

Medical supplies seized by the Israelis from the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. (Photo: Ariel Schalit/AP)

Zionist spokesmen went out of their way to rub it in. The Israeli press office sent out a sneering video, “We Con the World,” financed by a “neo-conservative” Zionist think tank in Washington, that mocked the activists on the Gaza “love boat.” Israeli premier Netanyahu echoed the theme in defending the Israeli assault on the “terror boat” in a June 2 TV speech. He hammered on the theme that the blockade was necessary because Israel would not “permit Iran to establish a Mediterranean port a few dozen kilometers from Tel Aviv.” The claim that letting in used clothing, toys, prefabricated housing and cement would be tantamount to establishing an Iranian port in Gaza is ludicrous. In fact, Israel won’t let the beleaguered Strip have any kind of port. Moreover, as the astute Near East commentator Juan Cole pointed out, if that were the issue there has for years been a nearby port in the hands of a pro-Iranian Arab movement: Tyre, in Hezbollah-dominated southern Lebanon (Informed Comment, 3 June). But this was not about irrational Israeli fears of an “Iranian port,” it’s pushing for war on Iran.

Various liberal and even serious conservative media wring their hands about the Israeli government creating enemies. The London Guardian (7 June) described Netanyahu’s response “almost as appalling as the commando raid itself.” The New York Times (6 June) published an article, “What to Do About Israel,” citing a piece by imperialist strategist Anthony Cordesman titled “Israel as a Strategic Liability.” Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, lectures sternly: “It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the United States ... and that it become far more careful about the extent to which it tests the limits of U.S. patience and exploits the support of American Jews.” The Times article reports on “deep soul-searching in parts of the American Jewish community,” the emergence of a liberal Zionist lobby, J Street (in contrast to all the conservative and Zionist lobbies with offices on K Street in Washington), and a seder in suburban Washington where “a debate broke out ... over where to draw the line when considering American support for Israel’s government.”

Even the conservative London Economist (5 June) headlined, “Israel’s Siege Mentality,” adding: “The government’s macho attitude is actually making Israel weaker.” It writes that “for Israel, the episode is accelerating a slide towards its own isolation,” that it is “now seen as the clumsy bully on the block.” Echoing the new Tory prime minister Cameron, it sums up: “The blockade of Gaza is cruel and has failed.... Just as bad, from Israel’s point of view, it helps feed antipathy towards Israel, not just in the Arab and Muslim worlds, but in Europe too.” The ultra-establishment New York Times (3 June) quotes “senior American officials” saying, “There is no question that we need a new approach to Gaza,” one “allowing more supplies into the impoverished Palestinian area.” Note that the Obama administration officials are not calling to end the boycott, only to modify it. These top-level imperialist spokesmen presume that opinion in Europe and among Washington policy makers would dictate a shift in Israeli policy. Liberal Zionists in Israel assume the same thing, as do many leftists. But any change will be limited.

The real nuclear threat in the Middle East: Israel has hundreds of nuclear warheads, developed at the Dimona facility in the Negev (shown here).
 (Photo: SpaceImaging)

The head of the Mossad, Israel’s international espionage agency, testifyied before a Knesset committee the day after the Gaza flotilla raid that “Israel is less of an asset to the United States” these days (Jerusalem Post, 2 June). He was not referring to blowback from the massacre, however, but to the more fundamental fact that Washington needs a degree of Arab and Muslim support in order to get out of the morass it has sunk into in Iraq and Afghanistan and for its diplomatic maneuvers over Iran, and that Israeli intransigence on Palestine is an obstacle to this. That will not change tomorrow, no matter what happens to the Gaza bockade. But that by no means implies that the Israeli government will bow to Washington’s needs. The Zionists have always sought to sell their services to the dominant imperialist power, first Britain and then the United States, as a vital ally in controlling the Near East, whether standing astride the Suez Canal, helping secure U.S. domination of oil from the Persian/Arab Gulf or working closely with the Turkish army. But they are fully capable of biting the hand that feeds them.

The Netanyahu government thinks it has taken the measure of the Obama administration, and that Washington will cringe if Tel Aviv snarls. So far they’re right, and on fundamental issues that will continue. But if the Zionists conclude they have to go it alone, the hardliners most likely will. During the last U.S. presidential campaign, Israeli historian Morris predicted that Israel would launch a strike against Iran before George W. Bush left office., writing that “an Israeli nuclear strike to prevent the Iranians from taking the final steps toward getting the bomb is probable” (New York Times, 18 July 2008). His timing was off, but his basic reasoning is that of mainstream Zionists. From the standpoint of U.S. imperialism, and of the peoples of the region, including the Israeli population, this would appear crazy. The idea that an Israeli nuclear first strike would stop or even set back efforts by Iran’s Islamic regime to obtain nukes is absurd. But the madmen in Tel Aviv have the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world, as big or bigger than Britain’s, with hundreds of A-bombs, the military means to deliver them, and they are possessed of a suicidal Masada1 complex” that makes them quite capable of setting off a conflagration that would incinerate the Middle East.

Contemplate, for example, the recent report from the London Sunday Times (30 May):

“Three German-built Israeli submarines equipped with nuclear cruise missiles are to be deployed in the [Persian] Gulf near the Iranian coastline.
“The first has been sent in response to Israeli fears that ballistic missiles developed by Iran ... could hit sites in Israel, including air bases and missile launchers.
“The submarines of Flotilla 7 — Dolphin, Tekuma and Leviathan — have visited the Gulf before. But the decision has now been taken to ensure a permanent presence of at least one of the vessels....
“Some of the cruise missiles are equipped with the most advanced nuclear warheads in the Israeli arsenal....
“The submarines could be used if Iran continues its programme to produce a nuclear bomb. ‘The 1,500km range of the submarines’ cruise missiles can reach any target in Iran,’ said a navy officer.”

Israeli nuclear submarine of the Dolphin class (U212), built in Germany, carries nuclear cruise missiles. These subs will be stationed in the Persian Gulf, within striking range of “any target in Iran.” Egypt allowed the subs to go through the Suez Canal. Saudi Arabia will stand down its air defense system to let Israeli jets attack Iran. Iran has every right to obtain nuclear weapons to defend itself against Israel's nuclear-armed madmen – and the U.S., whose ships and subs in the Persian Gulf are loaded with nukes.
(Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP)

The London Times is no sensationalist rag but the authoritative voice of British imperialism that in 1986 revealed the existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal from information supplied by Mordechai Vanunu. The courageous Israeli technician working at the Dimona atomic facility was jailed for 18 years, eleven of them in solitary confinement, for his revelations. Now the Times (12 June) reports that “Saudi Arabia has conducted tests to stand down its air defences to enable Israeli jets to make a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities.” The dispatch from Dubai quotes a U.S. military source in the region saying, “This has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department.” So the Iranian government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can have no doubts about Israel’s ability to deliver a nuclear strike, and it will no doubt act accordingly.2

The League for the Fourth International defends Iran, a semi-colonial country, against imperialism and Zionist Israel, which serves as a cat’s paw for the imperialists. We give no political support to the Islamic fundamentalist regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and denounce its brutal crackdown against opposition demonstrations last year (see “Mass Protests Rock Iran: No to All Wings of the Mullah Regime!” and “Iran’s Islamic Republic in Turmoil –
What Program for Struggle?
” in The Internationalist No. 29, Summer 2009). But we defend Iran’s right to develop nuclear power and to obtain nuclear or any other kind of weapons to defend itself against those countries that already have nuclear weapons in the region and have threatened to use them against Iran: the United States and Israel. With 5 million Jews facing 500 million Arabs in the region – as well as 75 million Persians, 70 million Turks and 35 million Kurds – no matter how great Israel’s present military superiority, no matter how brutal its oppression of the Palestinians, the long-term prospects of the Zionist state are somber.  In 1940, Leon Trotsky warned that “the attempt to solve the Jewish question through the migration of Jews to Palestine” was a “tragic mockery of the Jewish people,” and a turn of military events could “transform Palestine into a bloody trap for several hundred thousand [now several million] Jews.” This is no less true today

1 That is, the Zionist rulers will stop at nothing, even suicidal measures. In the Judean struggle for liberation against the Roman empire, a sect of Jewish merchants and nobility, the Zealots, who had been expelled from Jerusalem after killing other Jews, took refuge by seizing the Roman fortress at Masada. As the Romans were about to retake Masada in the year 73, the Zealots murdered their own families and then committed collective suicide. Today Israeli soldiers end their basic training by climbing the mount and taking the oath, “Masada shall not fall again.” For the raid on the Gaza flotilla, the Israeli prison service mobilized its elite Masada unit, a hit squad notorious for provoking jail riots and executing Palestinian prisoners.

2 Tehran will also have taken note of the article in the New York Times (28 March), “Imagining an Israeli Strike on Iran.” This is a report on a war game last December at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East policy, involving “former top American policymakers and intelligence officials — some well known,” simulating an Israeli first strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Although the reporter concluded, “No one won,” cautioning that it would at most set Iranian nuclear programs back “a few years” and would quickly turn into a region-wide conflict centering on U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, “the Israelis argued that it could further undercut a fragile regime” and was “worth the cost.” When they start publishing war simulations in the Times, even as a cautionary note, it’s clear that serious steps are being contemplated behind the scenes.

See also: Israel’s Gaza Flotilla Massacre: Bloody War Provocation
The Blockade of Gaza and Zionist Plans for “Transfer”
                For an Arab-Hebrew Palestinian Workers State in a Socialist Federation of the Near East
                Egypt: Mubarak Regime Tottering

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com