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Who will fire the first shot to ignite a Middle East War?

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Three nations, Israel, the U.S. and Iran are playing a deadly game of chicken in the extremely volatile Middle East. The never ending inflammatory rhetoric, the threats and counter threats, and the total inability of these nations to use rational, responsible thinking and diplomacy to address their differences is bringing the Middle East ever closer to a potential catastrophic event.

This region of the world has, for many years, been a tinderbox where one wayward spark could set off a Middle East inferno. But even with that fact before them, not one of these nations is offering any constructive ideas to cool down the tensions. This situation cries out for real attempts at diplomacy.

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President Obama, who once made positive statements about direct diplomacy and discussions with Iran has, most recently, taken a more militant position. He and others in his administration, including our globe circling Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, continue to stress that all options are still on the table, including possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. A great example of diplomacy, is it not?

Israel, America's #1 client state, finds diplomacy to be a useless exercise as it has rejected its use many times in the past. Israel has a long history of relying on military force rather than diplomacy to deal with any threat, real or imagined. Other nations such as Syria and Lebanon and the militant political movements, Hamas and Hezbollah, have felt the wrath of Israel over the years. Palestine continues to be under extreme, pervasive military domination and isolation.

The nation of Israel continues to live in a state of paranoia, ready to strike out at any Middle East nation that it even thinks may be a threat. That's why Israel has, over the years, covertly developed a nuclear arsenal of its own. They, of course, do not acknowledge that such an arsenal exists even though the world knows that it is true. It's really amazing why there is no demand by the world community of nations, the U.N., or anyone that they open their facilities to inspection; no calls for any kind of sanctions; apparently a free pass.

Iran: now there's a nation with a leader that's brilliant at playing a game of cat and mouse. Only one problem for Iran, though; it is the mouse and there are two cats, Israel and the U.S., ready to pounce. Iran also likes to play mind games. No one knows for sure if it is actually using its nuclear facilities to develop nuclear power for energy purposes or if they are in the early stages of a nuclear bomb. If they are being totally truthful that only energy is involved then there are plenty of ways that they could prove it to other nations.

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A CNN poll just taken indicates that 71% of Americans believe that Iran has nuclear weapons. They believe what? This apparent majority of Americans is not privy to any concrete evidence that Iranian nuclear weapons exist so the poll is not relevant. Therefore, we have to conclude that what they "believe" is what the Obama administration and the national media lapdogs are once again selling; that's exactly what happened prior to the attack on Iraq. Are we going to fall for that same ruse again?

Iran's outspoken leader, Mahmoud Amadinejad, is a master at keeping his adversaries off balance. He must know that by his constant, taunting rhetoric he is just increasing the chances that either Israel, the U.S. or both, will go off the deep end and launch a pre-emptive attack, also referred to as "shock and awe", on Iran's nuclear facilities. To continue baiting and being a huge irritant to military minded countries is not very smart, Mr. Amadinejad.

What's really happening in this dangerous standoff? In the case of Israel, it is just continuing its policy to intimidate its major adversary in the Middle East, so that is nothing new. But, in the bigger picture, this is all about America's #2 client state in the Middle East, namely Iraq. Iran and Iraq have very deep ties going back many years and Iran has plans to significantly enhance this relationship when U.S. troops are gone. The problem lies with the fact that the U.S. is never going to withdraw all troops from Iraq and it will maintain a sizable military presence far into the future. This means that the confrontational situation that now exists will continue to maintain high tensions in the region.

And what of President Obama, the 2009 recipient of the coveted Nobel Peace Prize? Isn't this a perfect opportunity for him to step up and push for peace negotiation whereby the three nations could begin a dialogue aimed at finding solutions for their differences? Isn't this the man who had previously given inspiring speeches in Berlin and in Egypt to indicate to the world that he was a different kind of world leader; one who aspired to bringing peace between nations?

In witnessing Mr. Obama's manner in conducting wars in increasing areas of the world more and more writers and analysts are increasingly beginning to suspect that he may not be in control of U.S. military policy. While I certainly hope that it is not true, that might explain why our military presence continues to expand. I have read recent accounts of how our military is working to extending U.S. missile systems to Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and other European nations, with the intent to box in Russia and guard against attacks from Iran or even Syria.

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To illustrate the gravity of this situation, a war games simulation was conducted by a section of the Washington-based Brookings Institution. The conclusions painted a very grim picture of what might happen if Israel launched an attack on Iran's suspected nuclear facilities. It concluded that Iran would strike back with a fury by mining the Strait of Hormuz, the passage way for supplying Middle East oil to the world. Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, strong supporters of Iran, would begin massive rocket attacks on Israel. These altercations and others could easily spread into an all out war in the Middle East.

We as a nation need to learn from our mistakes, not continue to repeat them. The attack on Iraq, which should never have taken place, may have been a cakewalk for U.S. military power. But now we find ourselves mired down in a massive quagmire in Afghanistan. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan had a military force that could repel an invasion. Iran, a nation of 72 million, has a formidable military force; an army, a navy, an air force and considerable offensive and defensive missile capability.

A very key question is: what might Russia and China, two major military powers do, if Iran is attacked? Both have close ties to Iran involving trade and have supplied it with advanced missile systems. Are they going to stand by and simply watch as Iran is attacked by Israel, the U.S. or both? Nobody knows what they might do. Israel and the U.S. must think long and hard about this situation and think about alternate ways to approach and solve international disagreements.

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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on Opednews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)

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