As Western countries are floating the theory that Russia could escalate its conflict with Ukraine to a nuclear war, many Western governments continue to turn a blind eye to Israel’s own nuclear weapons capabilities. Luckily, many countries around the world do not subscribe to this endemic Western hypocrisy. “The Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction” was held between Nov. 14-18, with the sole purpose of creating new standards of accountability that, as should have always been the case, be applied equally to all Middle Eastern countries. The debate regarding nuclear weapons in the Middle East could not possibly be any more pertinent or urgent. International observers rightly note that the period following the Russia-Ukraine war is likely to accelerate the quest for nuclear weapons throughout the world.
Despite President Joe Biden having claimed earlier this year that “diplomacy is back” and that he would end the war in Yemen, revive the Iran Nuclear Deal and settle several other issues, in reality his Middle East foreign policy has been just as detrimental to the region as was that of his predecessor. “This war has to end…we’re ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arm sales,” Biden said in early February during his first address to the U.S. public on his administration’s foreign policy approach. It was a speech that saw him showered with the praise of his supporters, yet we are now in late December and the war has only intensified, with UN experts estimating that the total death toll by the end of the year will be 377,000.
Notwithstanding that China is a relatively “shy participant” in Middle Eastern policy, the US hegemony, which claims exclusivity among the most “obedient” Arab countries (those which fall into its strategic sphere of influence), is threatened by it. The worrying aspect for the US is that Beijing seeks to present a different model that integrates and takes advantage of the US’s failed military experiences in many wars and direct political interference attempts over the past decades. China hopes for a non-aggressive economic-political breakthrough in the Middle East through a less ferocious and less explicit model than the American one. China has robust chances to succeed due to the mounting awareness in that part of the world of the need for the Middle Eastern states to diversify their international relations and sources of military equipment and commerce.
Thirty years ago, representatives of the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) met in Madrid to start bilateral negotiations. Purportedly meant to bring about a just and peaceful future in the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River, the so-called Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), conceived at the meeting, has instead consolidated a dire reality for Palestinians of permanent occupation by a nuclear military power with an ever-expanding settler-colonial enterprise. Over the course of the last 30 years, the main Western sponsors of the MEPP, namely the U.S. and EU, have repeatedly introduced political initiatives under the guise of “peace building” rather than pushing for a solution to end decades of exile, subjugation, and occupation.
The war in Afghanistan appears to be drawing to a close. But Western atrocities in the Middle East continue, with the 20-year-old War on Terror estimated to have displaced over 37 million people globally. One particularly noteworthy example is the onslaught in Yemen, driving the country to become “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” in the opinion of the United Nations. Currently, more than half the country — 14 million people — are considered to be at risk of starvation. While the Saudis may be doing the majority of the fighting, they are being armed, trained, aided and supported by the United States, Great Britain, and other Western nations profiting from the suffering. One man who knows more than most about this is Ahmed Al-Babati. Ahmed was a lance corporal in the British Army until last August, where he staged a public protest in London, demonstrating against British complicity in the violence.
By the end of 2020, a total of 82.4 million people worldwide had been forcibly displaced from their homes according to the UNHCR. The number of forcibly displaced persons globally has doubled since 1990 and is likely to increase significantly in the coming decades due to a convergence of factors, including armed conflict and other forms of violence, as well as climate breakdown, which will compound pressures to migrate. Displacement occurs in the context of a capitalist economic system in which profits are made both through the sale of arms that are instrumental in causing conflicts and wars, and through the militarization of migrant routes and borders. Alongside the steady increase in the value of the arms trade and the spiraling number of forcibly displaced persons, the market for border security is growing with an expected worth of US$65-68 billion by 2025.
After 20 years of war and occupation that have caused the deaths of almost a quarter of a million people and displaced 5.9 million more, the United States appears to have finally (tacitly) admitted defeat in Afghanistan, pulling its forces and representatives out of the country. The U.S.-installed government fell within days, with President Ashraf Ghani escaping to the United Arab Emirates, reportedly with $169 million in cash stuffed in his suitcases. Ghani’s departure is illustrative of the extraordinary grift of the entire operation. Overall, the U.S. spent well over $2 trillion on the Afghanistan War, making weapons contractors and construction agencies in the Washington, D.C. suburbs extremely wealthy.
Around one quarter of the world lives in countries under unilateral United States sanctions. While American government officials insist that sanctions are targeted at officials committing human rights abuses in foreign countries, the United Nations notes that they always “disproportionately affect the poor and most vulnerable.” In Cuba, U.S. sanctions are causing shortages that led to widespread protests earlier this summer and are slowing the worldwide rollout of Cuba’s domestically produced coronavirus vaccine. U.S. government documents explicitly state that the goal of the blockade of the island is to “decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of [the] government.” U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, too, have been widely condemned, and are estimated to have caused the deaths of over 100,000 people.
Western nations and arms companies are complicit in aiding regimes in the Middle East to spy on their citizens, speakers at an international conference shedding light on the human rights implications of the arms trade, said on Saturday. Attendees at Selling Death: why the international arms trade must be controlled, which was backed by former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, decried what they said was a "corrupt" arms trade that reaped huge profits for the "global military-industrial complex." The Egyptian human rights activist, Sherif Mansour spoke of “the quiet war” which he says takes place every day across the Middle East whereby “governments use violence against their own population to build the fear barrier to stop them from ever dreaming to be free like they did 10 years ago in the Arab Spring.”
The Iraqi geopolitical analyst, Ali Fahim, recently said in an interview with The Tehran Times: “The arrival of [newly elected Iranian President] Ebrahim Raisi at the helm of power gives a great moral impetus to the resistance axis.” Further, with new administrations in the United States, Israel, and Iran, another opportunity presents itself to reinstate fully the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement, as well as completely lift the US economic sanctions from Iran. Let us wait and see after Raisi is in power in August 2021. It is a fact that, since the Trump administration pulled out of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, tensions have been on the rise. One can legitimately suspect that the Trump pull out had as its real intentions: first, to provoke Tehran; second to undo one of the only foreign policy achievements of the Obama administration, which was negotiated by John Kerry for the US.
It has taken only 36 days in office for the Biden administration to show the world, through a bombing attack on Syria, that it is belligerent, aggressive and hell-bent on war. There was only a short respite from Trump’s vile words and actions. Now we have to face Biden’s vile deeds and resist them. Even the excuse U.S. imperialism gave for bombing Syria was feeble. A rocket attack some weeks ago killed a mercenary in Iraq. Excuses like that open the door to new U.S. wars and interventions all over countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America where Washington has replaced official U.S. troops with soldiers of fortune. You might think the Biden administration had enough problems at home to keep it busy. The COVID-19 pandemic still rages despite the vaccines – whose distribution has been a disgrace.
Hard as it is to believe in this time of record pandemic deaths, insurrection, and an unprecedented encore impeachment, Joe Biden is now officially at the helm of the U.S. war machine. He is, in other words, the fourth president to oversee America’s unending and unsuccessful post-9/11 military campaigns. In terms of active U.S. combat, that’s only happened once before, in the Philippines, America’s second-longest (if often forgotten) overseas combat campaign. Yet that conflict was limited to a single Pacific archipelago. Biden inherits a global war — and burgeoning new Cold War — spanning four continents and a military mired in active operations in dozens of countries, combat in some 14 of them, and bombing in at least seven.
The United States has the dubious distinction of being the world’s leading arms dealer. It dominates the global trade in a historic fashion and nowhere is that domination more complete than in the endlessly war-torn Middle East. There, believe it or not, the U.S. controls nearly half the arms market. From Yemen to Libya to Egypt, sales by this country and its allies are playing a significant role in fueling some of the world’s most devastating conflicts. But Donald Trump, even before he was felled by Covid-19 and sent to Walter Reed Medical Center, could not have cared less, as long as he thought such trafficking in the tools of death and destruction would help his political prospects.
When I was a kid, "Beirut" became a cultural shorthand for any chaotic and violent urban setting. In the 1990s, my hometown rappers – the Wu Tang Clan – repeatedly shouted out the Lebanese city (plus one of its civil war antagonists, the P.L.O. – Palestinian Liberation Organization); but so did Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Neil Young, Snoop Dogg, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eminem, and the Dead Kennedys. In the 2001 Hollywood blockbuster Spy Game, CIA agents played by Brad Pitt and Robert Redford sprint through rubble and gunfire along the Green Line dividing war-torn 1980s Beirut’s Christian East and Muslim West (all to eat at a specific restaurant – per Redford: “This better be the best damn breakfast I’ve ever had.")
American interventionism in the Middle East has resulted in two of the longest wars in U.S. history, and led to countless deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as widespread instability in the region. Nearly two decades into the so-called “War on Terror,” concerns continue to arise about the U.S. military presence in the Mideast and its seeming inability to extricate itself after all these years. Patrick Cockburn is especially well-positioned to both ask and answer many of the questions stemming from what have become America’s “Forever Wars” as an award-winning, courageous journalist who has spent several decades reporting for the Financial Times and The Independent from the war torn region.