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The US and the EU are using the row over cartoons to whip up war fever against Syria and Iran...

War fever is back


There is a great and growing danger of a wider war in the Middle East, drawing in more and more countries. Chaos is increasing in Iraq and Afghanistan and tension is rising in Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Israel is intensifying its occupation and bantustanisation (from the extreme form of the ideology of ethnic racism found in the old apartheid South Africa) of Palestine.

The US and the EU are using the row over cartoons satirising the Muslim prophet Muhammad to whip up war fever, particularly against Iran and Syria.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking at a joint news conference with Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, said that some countries "have also used this opportunity to incite violence...I don't have any doubt that...Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes. And the world ought to call them on it."

Iran has an alliance with China, and Syria has a defence pact with Iran. So any attack on Iran or Syria could well drag China into war in the Middle East, which could grow into an even wider war.

In a mirror image of the USA and the EU, some fundamentalists are indeed trying to whip up hatred and incite violence. Some Danish imams twice visited the Middle East, in December and January, to publicise cartoons of Muhammad, first published in a Danish newspaper in September. One of the imams, Ahmed Akari, has admitted that they took three extra caricatures downloaded from extremist sites on the Internet that were far more inflammatory than the original nine. As a result, Western embassies in Iran, Syria and Lebanon and elsewhere have been attacked.

Threat to Iran
There is a growing US–EU threat to Iran. Blair threatened on 27 October last year to take military action. The USA and Israel have both consistently refused to rule out attacking Iran. In November 2002, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called on the US and British governments "to attack Iran once they are finished with Iraq." German chancellor Angela Merkel recently compared President Ahmadinejad to Hitler, saying, "In my view, Germany is obliged to do something at the early stages ... we want to, we must prevent Iran from developing its nuclear programme." Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, backed Merkel's call for tougher action and accused Iran of being "the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism". Yet Jack Straw claims, "Nobody is talking about invading Iran or taking military action."

And why is there this threat? Ostensibly, because Iran is developing a nuclear programme. Iran has announced that it would resume "commercial-scale" enrichment of uranium, which was suspended in 2004. It insists that its nuclear programme is intended only for electricity generation, reducing its dependence on oil. Iran's Foreign Ministry has called for resuming talks with the EU and cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Authority.

The IAEA's Director-General Mohamed El-Baradei concluded from all the IAEA's inspections, "I have seen no nuclear weapons programme in Iran. What I have seen is that Iran is trying to gain access to nuclear enrichment technology, and so far there is no danger from Iran."

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran said, "There are no restrictions for nuclear research activities under the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] protocol, and Iran has not accepted any obligation (not to carry out research). How is it possible to prevent the scientific development of a nation?" He said the presence of IAEA surveillance equipment at Iranian nuclear facilities proved that Iran had nothing to hide. "How will world public opinion accept their propaganda campaign against Iran when IAEA cameras are installed on all nuclear sites?" he asked.

But the real reason, as with the illegal attack on and occupation of Iraq, is oil. Iran has oil reserves of an estimated 93 billion barrels, 10% of the world's reserves.

Threat to Palestine
The USA, along with its ally Israel, opposes any peaceful settlement of the Palestine question. The Blair government goes along with the charade that the US is interested in a peaceful resolution of the crisis in the Middle East.

The US state monotonously votes against UN Resolutions opposing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. It regularly opposes Resolutions urging a peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, with a two-state solution, the principle of land for peace, and an end to "all acts of violence including military attacks, destruction and acts of terror".

It denies the application of the Geneva Convention – on the protection of civilians in time of war – to the occupied territories. It refuses the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people.

It supports Israel's exclusion of Palestinian children from the rights of the child and the Geneva conventions.

It opposes the view that the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories were illegal and that settlement activity must cease (a view consistent with Security Council resolution 465 from 1980, which had been adopted unanimously, including the affirmative vote of the USA).

And it opposes calls for Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, Syrian territory conquered in 1967, in the context of a comprehensive peace.