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New Nightmare Looming for the Middle East: U.S. and Israel Escalate Threats of War on Iran

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For the last 16 years, the U.S. and a host of other reactionary forces have bombed, shot, and tortured their way across Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other countries in the greater Middle East. Literally millions of lives have been damaged or destroyed. It's hard to imagine how the situation could get even worse--possibly much worse--for the people.

But that's precisely what's looming right now: escalating U.S.-Israeli threats against Iran, and the real possibility of yet another war.

This was dramatically brought home on February 9 over the skies of Syria, a country bordering Israel and one of the region's key flashpoints.

Early that morning, Israel shot down an Iranian drone it claimed violated its airspace (a claim Iran denies). Israeli fighter planes then attacked and destroyed an Iranian base in Syria the drone was allegedly launched from, killing a number of Iranian personnel. During the attack, an Israeli F-16 (made in the U.S.A.) was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire--over Syrian airspace! Israel retaliated by attacking Syrian and Iranian air defense facilities.

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The New York Times claimed that Israel's military went on a "war footing" in response to Syria and Iran's threats to retaliate, with Russia warning Israel not to escalate. All this took place in a matter of hours--but what is extremely dangerous is what the Times article concluded: "War was averted--but only for now. All of the ingredients for an extremely violent eruption in the Middle East remain in place." (Emphasis added.)

After this clash, at a February 18 international conference, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu waved a piece of metal he claimed was from the drone Israel shot down. Then, like a Mafia enforcer, he threatened Iran's foreign minister: "Mr. Zarif, do you recognize this? You should. It's yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran: Do not test Israel's resolve." Netanyahu warned that Israel would attack "Iran itself"--along with groups supportive of and supported by Iran in Lebanon and Syria. An Iranian official shot back, "Tel Aviv would be razed to the ground if the Israeli regime took any military action against the Islamic Republic."

From opednews.com: Map of Syria and surrounding area {MID-258505}
Map of Syria and surrounding area
(Image by Revolution Newspaper)
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The Context: The Trump/Pence Regime's Bellicose Global Strategy and Escalating Threats Against Iran

These threats by Israel, America's settler-colonialist attack dog in the region, and counter-threats by Iran are taking place as the Trump/Pence fascist regime is threatening the world. This regime says it's time for "America First"--time to blast away any obstacle to American global dominance and win at all costs. It has signaled its greater willingness to use nuclear weapons. And it has targeted Iran as a "rogue state" and global "scourge."

In 2015, Obama, together with Russia, China, and Europe's main powers, signed a nuclear agreement with Iran. Iran agreed to roll back its nuclear enrichment program in return for an easing of sanctions by the U.S. and others. Now Trump is threatening to tear up the agreement and impose new sanctions, sharply ratcheting up tensions. The Trump/Pence regime has stepped up U.S. support for Saudi Arabia and Israel. These are regional powers--and bulwarks of U.S. imperialist dominance--clashing sharply with Iran across the region and demanding more drastic action against it.*

The U.S. is also escalating its own direct military moves against Iran. In January, the U.S. unilaterally declared its forces--2,000 troops on the ground, with massive airpower just over the horizon--would remain (illegally and uninvited) in Syria. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated the main purpose of deploying U.S. forces was "expelling malicious Iranian influence" from Syria and preventing it from achieving its goal of "dominance in the Middle East." This creates another potential flashpoint for a direct U.S.-Iran military clash.

The Specter of Regional--Possibly Nuclear"--War

The February 9 clash between Israel and Iran is "a dangerous escalation that raises the specter of direct conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria," according to Middle East commentators, and a "far more serious situation" than before.

This is a far more serious situation than before. U.S. domination of the Middle East is being challenged, when the dangerously aggressive Trump/Pence fascist regime is in power.

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For over seven decades, the Middle East has been a crucial oil and energy spigot for global capitalism-imperialism. It's a key military and economic crossroads. And it's been a central pillar of U.S. global domination. Yet in recent years this region has become increasingly unstable, and U.S. control has faced growing challenges. Islamic fundamentalism and jihadism have been fueled by U.S. wars. Other great powers are increasingly contending with the U.S.--Russia politically and militarily, and China economically. And Iran's influence has spread.

Yet this region remains crucial to American global dominance, and the U.S. rulers are determined to preserve that by any and every means at their disposal.

In some important ways, these contradictions are now focused up in Syria. The six-year Syrian civil war has pitted the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad and his backers Russia, Iran, and Lebanon's Hezbollah against various anti-Assad "rebels," as well as reactionary Islamic jihadists backed by the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. It's been a reactionary bloodbath on all sides, leaving 400,000 dead and 11 million refugees. Assad and his allies have, for now, emerged on top, while mercilessly bombing civilian areas under rebel control. If he holds onto power, it would strengthen the hand of Russia and Iran, and be a challenge to U.S. dominance.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a reactionary, repressive theocracy, whose ruling ideology is based on the Shi'a branch of Islam. It is also a regional power--jockeying to protect its interests and expand its influence within the current setup. This includes militarily supporting Assad by dispatching its Revolutionary Guards, as well as supporting allied Shi'ite forces including Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and Shi'ite militia in Iraq. In doing so it's sharply clashing with the U.S., the region's dominant power, and its nuclear-armed ally Israel. Tillerson condemned Iran for "dramatically" strengthening its military presence in Syria. Netanyahu warned that "Israel will continue to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military presence in Syria."

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