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The Chances Of A Regional War

Above photo: Protest in Tehran opposing Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, Oct. 14. Amin Ahouei, TasminNews, Wikimedia Commons.

As countries with influence over Israel actively encourage the slaughter, Murray considers what will happen internationally.

And what is happening in Western societies.

October 23 saw possibly the most violent bombardment of Gaza until that point, notably concentrated on precisely the areas into which Israel ordered the population to evacuate. I find it almost impossible to believe that this genocide is under way with the active support of almost all Western governments.

I want to look at two questions — what will happen internationally, and what is happening in Western societies.

Israel plainly is on the course of further escalation and intends to kill many thousands more Palestinians. More than 2,000 Palestinian children alone have now been killed by Israeli aerial attacks in the last fortnight.

Gaza has no defence from bombs and missiles, and there is no military reason why Israel cannot keep this up for months and simply rely upon aerial massacre. We are perhaps within a week of thirst, starvation and disease killing even more people per day than bombardment.

The population of Gaza is simply defenceless. Only international intervention can stop Israel from doing whatever it wishes, and those countries which have influence with Israel are actively abetting and encouraging the genocide.

The question is, what is Israel’s aim? Do they intend to reduce the Gaza Strip still further, annexing half or more of it? Will starvation and horror enable the international community to force Egypt to accept the expulsion of the population of Gaza into the Sinai Desert as a “humanitarian” move?

That appears to be the end game: expulsion of population and territorial expansion into Gaza.

That would require a ground invasion, but probably not until after even more intense aerial bombardment to eliminate all resistance.

This territorial ambition of course accords with the violent expansion of illegal settlement in the West Bank which is currently under way, with the world paying almost no attention.  It is very hard indeed to comprehend the passivity of Fatah and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, at the moment.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political stock within Israel is so low, that the only way he can recover is by making a major step towards the complete genocide of the Palestinian people and the achievement of Greater Israel. 

Netanyahu now knows that there is no violence against Palestinians so extreme that the Western political elite will not support it under the mantra of “Israel’s right to self-defence.”

I do not see any salvation for Gaza coming from Hezbollah. If Hezbollah were to employ their vaunted missile strike capabilities, the moment to do it would be now when the Israeli armour is drawn up in massive parks outside Gaza, a perfect target even for longer range missiles of limited accuracy. Once dispersed into Gaza the armour would be far harder for Hezbollah to hit at range.

Hezbollah is even better equipped now to fight a defensive war in Lebanon than it was when it defeated the Israeli advance in 2006. But it is not configured or equipped to fight an aggressive ground war into Israel, which would be a disaster.

It also has to worry about hostile militias at its rear. If Hezbollah can provoke an Israeli incursion into Southern Lebanon, that would enable it to inflict substantial casualties, but Israel is not going to do that in a way that detracts from its capabilities in Gaza.

Iran’s Limited Patience

Iran has greatly improved its diplomatic position in the last year. The Chinese-brokered lessening of hostility with Saudi Arabia has potential to revolutionise Middle Eastern politics and the benefits of this will not lightly be laid aside by Tehran. Iran had also made real progress with the Biden administration in overcoming the blind hostility of the Trump years.

Iran has no desire to throw away these gains.  That is why it seems to me extremely improbable that Iran endorsed the Oct. 7  attacks by Hamas. Iran is now restraining Hezbollah.

But there are limits to the patience of Iran. The extraordinary truth is that Iran is probably the only state under discussion here with a genuine humanitarian concern for the lives of Palestinians. If the genocide unfolds as horribly as I anticipate, Iran can be pushed too far.

That said, I offer just a cautionary footnote that Saudi Arabia is not, under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud quite the reliable U.S./Israeli puppet it has historically been. I do not have much time for MBS, as readers know, but his high opinion of the importance of the House of Saud and its leadership role among Arabs, makes him a different proposition from his predecessor.

Saudi Arabia has leverage. The Biden administration has gone all in on regional domination, sending two aircraft carrier groups into a situation which, if it escalates, could send oil prices to highest-ever levels, with Russia blocked from the market. U.S. President Joe Biden is risking a huge gas price hike in an election year.

Biden’s calculation, or that of his security services, is that nobody can or will intervene to save the Palestinians. They judge the genocide as containable. That is an extraordinary gamble.

There has been an extraordinary amount of vitriol aimed at Qatar by pro-Israel commentators, for hosting the Hamas office and leadership. This is extraordinarily ignorant.

Qatar’s Diplomatic Venue

Qatar hosts Hamas, just as Qatar hosted the Taliban Information Office, at the direct request of the United States. It provides a means of dialogue between the United States and Hamas (exactly as it did with the Taliban) both at deniable level, and through third parties, including of course the government of Qatar.

Thus when U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Qatar one day and the Iranian foreign minister the next, these were in fact “proximity talks” involving Hamas.

How do I know? Well, at Julian Assange’s request, I visited Qatar about five years ago to discuss whether Julian, and WikiLeaks, might potentially relocate to Qatar, which Julian had described as “the new Switzerland” in terms of being a neutral diplomatic venue.

It was explained to me by the Qataris, at a very senior level, that Qatar hosted the Taliban Information Office and Hamas because the United States government had asked them to do so. Qatar hosted a major U.S. military base and depended on U.S. support against a Saudi takeover.

I was told that If I could generate a request from then U.S. President Donald Trump for Qatar to host WikiLeaks, then they would do so. Otherwise, no.

So I know what I am talking about.

One tiny but good result of this brokering in Qatar was the release of two American national hostages. British diplomats have told me that discussions in Qatar have so far held back the Israeli ground offensive, but I am not convinced that Israel really wished to do this yet. They are having sadistic fun shooting children in a barrel.

Qatar has also been the origin of deals allowing a tiny amount of aid into Gaza, but this is so small as to be almost irrelevant. It is performative humanitarianism by the West.

China and Russia

I have frequently praised China for the fact that their economic dominance has been unaccompanied by any aggressive desire for world hegemony, but this also has its downside. China sees no benefit in assisting the Palestinians in practice.

Hopeful reports of China sending warships refer simply to pre-planned exercises, largely in the Gulf. That China is carrying out such joint exercises with Gulf states is indeed part of a long term increase of influence, but is not relevant to the immediate reality.

Russia of course has its hands full in Ukraine. It is allowing its Syrian bases to be used as a conduit following increased Israeli bombing of Syrian airports, but there is not a great deal more that it can do.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is genuinely furious at what is happening in Gaza, but is struggling to find any way to apply pressure, barring linkage to Ukraine shipping issues (which Erdogan is considering).

That is a very rough and ready tour d’horizon, but the net effect is that I see no current hope for averting the atrocity which is unfolding before our horrified eyes.

Leadership Gap in the West

Most of our eyes are indeed horrified. The gap between the western political and media elites and their people on this issue is simply enormous.

Western leaders have not only failed to restrain Israel, they have almost unanimously egged Netanyahu on, with the continued repetition of the phrase “Israel’s right to self-defence” as justification for the mass bombing, removal and starvation of an entire civilian population.

The Western leadership glee in vetoing every attempt at a ceasefire resolution at the U.N. is astonishing.

Massive demonstrations have been taking place across Europe against this unspeakable massacre, and the knee-jerk reaction of politicians at their isolation from public opinion has been to try to make such shows of dissent illegal.

In the U.K. people have been arrested for displaying Palestinian flags. In Germany pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been entirely banned. Something similar has been attempted in France, with predictable failure.

I have myself attended pro-Palestinian demonstrations in three countries, and the most striking thing on each occasion was the strong support of passers-by, and the number of people spontaneously coming out to join the demo as it passed.

A wave of racism has been unleashed in the U.K. and elsewhere. I am astonished by the Islamophobia and racial hatred released online, with no apparent comeback.

U.K. ministers claim to be alarmed at the “terrorist sympathies” of pro-Palestinian demonstrators, yet it is perfectly legal to call for Palestinians to be exterminated, to compare them to different types of animal and vermin, and suggest they should be driven into the sea. That does not horrify ministers at all.

It has also become dangerous to merely suggest that Palestinians too have a right to self-defence and may offer armed resistance to genocide — a right they enjoy beyond doubt in international law.

Remember, Israel has formally declared war. Is it the position in British law that the only belief it is legal to hold and express, is that in this war the Palestinians must simply line up quietly to be killed?

The step change in Western authoritarianism is likely to be met by blowback.

After 20 years, we had finally come through the vicious cycle of the “War on Terror,” where terrorism, repression and institutionalised Islamophobia all boosted each other across the Western world.

Outrage at the appalling genocide in Gaza is very likely to result in isolated incidences of, also appalling, Islamist-inspired violence in Western countries, including the U.K, particularly because of the U.K.’s military support of Israel.

That consequential terrorism in itself will be cited by the political elite as justifying their stance. And so the vicious cycle will restart. This will of course be welcome to the agents of the security state, whose power, budgets and prestige will be boosted.

Once again we have to be on the lookout for radicalisation and real terrorism, but also for agent-provocateur-led terrorism and for false flag terrorism.

If we descend back into that nightmare again, the direct cause will be elite support for the genocide of the Palestinian people and the Islamophobic narrative. The major cause of terrorism here is Israel, the terrorist apartheid state.

My Own ‘Terrorism’ Investigation

My phone is not being returned to me by police as, astonishingly, I am now formally under investigation for terrorism. Whether this relates to support for Palestine or for WikiLeaks was not made clear.

What follows is, unspun and unvarnished, my account of my interview under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act as given to my lawyers:

I arrived from Keflavik airport, Iceland to Glasgow airport at about 10 a.m. on Monday 16 October. After passport control I was stopped by three police officers, two male and one female, who asked me to accompany them to a detention room.

They seated me in the room and told me:

  • I was detained under Section 7 of the Terrorism Act
  • I was not arrested but detained, and therefore had no right to a lawyer.
  • I had no right to remain silent. I had to give full and accurate information in response to questions. It was a criminal offence to withhold any relevant information.
  • I had to give up any passwords to my devices. It was a criminal offence not to do this.

They searched my baggage and my coat, going through my documents and taking my phone and laptop. They did not look at one document from Julian Assange’s lawyers that I told them was privileged.

They asked me about boarding cards for Brussels and Dublin they found and what I had been doing there. I replied I was at a debate at Trinity College in Dublin, while in Brussels I had attended a human rights meeting focused on the case of Julian Assange.

They asked me to identify individuals on some visiting cards I had from the Brussels meeting (one was a German member of Parliament).

They asked me the purpose of my visit to Iceland. I told them that I was attending a coordinating meeting of the campaign to free Julian Assange. I said I had also attended a pro-Palestinian rally outside the Icelandic Parliament, but that had not been a prior intention.

They asked how I earnt my living. I said from two sources: voluntary subscriptions to my blog and my civil-service pension.

They asked what organisations I am a member of. I said the Alba Party. I said I worked with WikiLeaks and the Don’t Extradite Assange campaign, but was not formally a “member” of either. I was a life member of the FDA union [for professionals in public service]. No other organisations.

They asked if I received any money from WikiLeaks, from Don’t Extradite Assange or from the Assange family (separate questions). I replied no, except occasional travel expenses from Don’t Extradite Assange. In December I had done a tour of Germany and received a fee from the Wau Holland Foundation, a German free speech charity.

They asked what other campaigns I had been involved in. I said many, from the Anti-Nazi League and Anti-Apartheid movement on. I had campaigned for Guantanamo inmates alongside Caged Prisoners.

They asked why I had attended the pro-Palestine demo in Iceland. I said one of the speakers had invited me, Ögmundur Jónasson. He was a former Icelandic interior minister. I said I did not know what the speeches said as they were all in Icelandic.

They asked whether I intended to attend any pro-Palestinian rallies in the U.K. I said I had no plans but probably would.

They asked how I judged whether to speak alongside others on the same platform. I replied I depended on organisers I trusted, like the Palestine Solidarity Committee or Stop the War. It was impossible to know who everyone was at a big rally.

They asked if anyone else posted to my twitter or blog. I replied no, it was all me.

They asked how considered my tweets were. I replied that those which were links to my blog posts were my considered writing. Others were more ephemeral and like everyone else I sometimes made mistakes and sometimes apologised. They asked if I deleted tweets and I said very seldom.

I volunteered that I thought I understood the tweet that worried them and agreed it could have been more nuanced. This was the limitation of Twitter, [now X]. It was intended to refer only to the current situation within Gaza and the Palestinian people’s right of self-defence from genocide.

That was more or less it. The interview was kept to exactly an hour and at one point one said to another “18 minutes left.” They did not tell me why. At one point they did mention protected journalistic material on my laptop but I was too dazed to take advantage of this and specify anything.

They took my bank account details and copies of all my bank cards.

This is an enormous abuse of human rights. The abuse of process in refusing both a lawyer and the right to remain silent, the inquiry into perfectly legal campaigning which is in no way terrorism-associated, the political questioning, the financial snooping and the seizure of material related to my private life, were all based on an utterly fake claim that I am associated with terrorism.

I have to date not been arrested and not charged. Contempt of court is therefore not in play and you are free to comment on the case (although in the current atmosphere any kind of free thought is liable to vicious state action). I am safe and currently in Dublin. I intend next to travel to Switzerland to take this up with the United Nations.

My legal team have already made a submission against this outrage to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and are looking at the possibility of judicial review in the U.K. We also have to prepare the defence against possible terrorism charges, ludicrous as that sounds.

I am afraid this all costs money. I am grateful for the unfailing generosity of people in what seems a continual history of persecution.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support.

This article is from CraigMurray.org.uk.

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