Gaza – A view from Iraq

With the Israeli war of genocide on Gaza and the Palestinian people now in its fifth month, the tensions in the Middle East are intensifying and threatening to engulf the region in a new war with grave dangers for world peace. They have been exacerbated by the US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, and US-UK airstrikes on Yemen, part of the proxy war between the Washington and Tehran, writes Ahmed Salem

As the Israeli war of genocide on Gaza and the Palestinian people enters its fifth month, the tensions in the Middle East are intensifying and threatening to engulf the region in a new war with grave dangers for world peace. They have been exacerbated by the US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, while US-UK airstrikes are continuing in Yemen.

The fascist Israeli government led by Netanyahu, with the full backing of the US, has blatantly rejected the demands by the world public opinion, the UN and all peace-loving forces in the world, for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and lifting of Israel’s blockade of Gaza.  

It is now clear that one of the immediate aims of Netanyahu is to expand the war in the region, regardless of the consequences, in order to resist the mounting international pressures for an immediate end to Israel’s barbaric onslaught and atrocities in Gaza. This would also help Netanyahu to contain the deepening divisions inside his ruling clique and allow the continuation of the war until the criminal objectives he declared are achieved.

Once again, as in previous wars and conflicts in the Middle East, the US has provided unwavering political and crucial military support to Israel and the Zionist plans to continue the illegal settler-colonial occupation of Palestinian territories. Over the past five months, since 7th October 2023, Biden’s administration has vetoed all attempts at the UN Security Council to bring about an immediate ceasefire. It also obstructed efforts comply with the legally binding decision of the International Court of Justice, following South Africa’s submission of the genocide case, to implement six provisional measures including for Israel to refrain from acts under the Genocide convention. The US also supported the cruel decision to suspend funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), dealing a devastating blow to more than two million refugees in occupied Gaza for whom the organisation serves as a sole lifeline.

But the strategy of US imperialism in the Middle East, with commitment to Israel’s security and qualitative military edge continuing to be its cornerstone, aims first and foremost to perpetuate its hegemony over the region in a turbulent and changing world. It must be viewed as part of the US global strategy, preparing to face up to what it sees as a “global threat” to its dominant position in a unipolar world that has existed since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. This “global threat”, as seen by the occupants of the White House whether Democrats or Republicans, is China’s emergence as a global superpower, driving the transition towards a multipolar world.

The desperate attempts by the US and its NATO allies to impede the ongoing transition from a unipolar world order are taking place amid deepening international crises, aggravated by the Covid pandemic, the Russia – Ukraine war, and finally the Israeli war on Gaza. It is a complex and difficult process, with the danger of fascism and war on the rise as imperialism seeks to maintain its hegemony that was consolidated by neoliberal globalisation during the past three decades.

Until the 7th October 2023, the US was continuing to implement a policy in the Middle East designed to build a strategic security-military alliance, under the leadership of Israel, with participant Arab regimes providing essential economic and financial support. A principal part of this policy was widening the process of “normalisation” of relations with Israel, under the so-called Abraham Accords, that began under the Trump administration and included the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. Egypt and Jordan had already signed peace treaties with Israel.

Just before 7th October, Biden and Netanyahu were preparing to achieve a bigger prize with an Israel-Saudi Arabia normalisation deal. During his speech to the UN General Assembly in New York last September, Netanyahu showed a map of “The New Middle East” without Palestine. It was an attempt to illustrate the increasing number of Arab countries normalizing relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords. He said: “But I believe that we are at the cusp of an even more dramatic breakthrough, an historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia will truly create a new Middle East.” But on 13th October 2023, Saudi Arabia froze the deal.

The US administration, according to recent reports, seem to have developed a so-called “Biden Doctrine”, a plan to use the turmoil caused by the Israeli war in Gaza “as an opportunity to transform the region”.  The plan has an internal dimension, aimed at improving Biden’s chances of re-election later this year.

It is “a grand bargain” that involves the normalisation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, and “substantial movement towards the recognition of a Palestinian state – all incentivised by diplomatic and economic sweeteners from Washington”. This would require a “reformed” or “revitalised” Palestinian Authority. But Netanyahu has so far strongly rejected any Palestinian state, as part of a two-state solution, even if it was demilitarised, demanding that Israel must exercise total security control over the West Bank and Gaza.

The “Biden Doctrine” or plan also involves dealing with Iran’s increasing influence in the region, “including a robust military retaliation against its proxies”. There have been nearly 170 attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria since 18 October 2023, carried out by a broad coalition of Iran-backed militias. These attacks were carefully calculated to avoid inflicting substantial loss of life, and thus ensure that Iran would not be directly targeted by the US forces. But a drone strike in Jordan on 28 January was the first to take American troops’ lives, killing three soldiers. The latest US military response was a drone strike in Baghdad killing a high-ranking commander of the Kataib Hezbollah militia which Washington blamed for “directly planning and participating in attacks” on American troops in the region”.  

Kataib Hezbollah had said in a statement that it was suspending attacks on American troops to avoid “embarrassing the Iraqi government” after the strike in Jordan. It was clearly an attempt by Iran to signal to the US its determination to reduce tensions.

The attack in Baghdad enraged the Iraqi government, triggering once again demands for the withdrawal of US forces from the country. The two countries had begun, just one day before the attack in Jordan, a first round of talks on the future of US and other foreign troops in the country, with Baghdad expecting discussions to lead to a timeline for reducing their presence.

The recent cycle of proxy war between the US and Iran, conducted in Iraq, Syria and other countries of the region, is fuelling an already highly dangerous situation in the Middle East as a result of the Israeli genocide war on Gaza and the Palestinian people. It is a grave threat to peace and stability in the region and the whole world.   

Ahmed Salem is a pseudonym to protect the identity of the author

Photo: A US Navy F/A-18 fighter jet taking off at night prior to the 2024 Yemeni airstrikes. US Army Reserve Sergeant William Jerome Rivers, Specialist Breonna Alexsondria Moffett and Specialist. Kennedy Ladon Sanders were killed in a drone attack on an outpost in northeast Jordan last week. © US Army

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