Sunday, August 06, 2006

Why Destroy Lebanon Over Two Soldiers?

Juan Cole asks this question, and posits an answer, which boils down to the old maxim: Follow the money:

The wholesale destruction of all of Lebanon by Israel and the US Pentagon does not make any sense. Why bomb roads, roads, bridges, ports, fuel depots in Sunni and Christian areas that have nothing to do with Shiite Hizbullah in the deep south? And, why was Hizbullah's rocket capability so crucial that it provoked Israel to this orgy of destruction? Most of the rockets were small katyushas with limited range and were highly inaccurate. They were an annoyance in the Occupied Golan Heights, especially the Lebanese-owned Shebaa Farms area. Hizbullah had killed 6 Israeli civilians since 2000. For this you would destroy a whole country?

It doesn't make any sense.

Moreover, the Lebanese government elected last year was pro-American! Why risk causing it to fall by hitting the whole country so hard?

And, why was Condi Rice's reaction to the capture of two Israeli soldiers and Israel's wholesale destruction of little Lebanon that these were the "birth pangs" of the "New Middle East"? How did she know so early on that this war would be so wideranging? And, how could a little border dispute in the Levant signal such an elephantine baby's advent? Isn't it because she had, like Tony Blair, been briefed about the likelihood of a war by the Israelis, or maybe collaborated with them in the plans, and also conceived of it in much larger strategic terms?

Prof. Cole then quotes from an e-mail sent him by a European reader (emphasis mine):

'When I was in Portugal I also watched a presentation by a guy who works for the ministry of energy in that country, a certain [JFR].

He started his presentation with the growing need for oil in China and India. He stressed that China wants to become the 'workshop' of the world and India the 'office' of the world. both economies contributed combined some 44% to world economy growth during 2001-2004. He compared the USA, Japan, India and China to giant whales constantly eating fish. They had no fish near them so they started to move. He explained that the Persian Gulf is the 'fish ground', the 'gas station' of the world.

Later on he explained the . . . hypothesis . . . that says demand for oil will continue to grow. also for natural gas, which is even better than oil. Sadly the existing production is getting smaller, these fields are getting emptied. [One oil major] seems to believe that the gap between demand and existing production will become so large by 2015 that economic growth cannot continue. Yet there is hope on the horizon.

JFR strongly denied that there is going to be an oil peak. He says, and the oil multis seem to agree with him [- my link, JRC], that there is more than enough untouched oil and natural gas. The stupid thing: it is further to the east. Partly in Russia, but most of all, in Iran.

JFR explained to the astonished audience that Iran was the most valuable country on the planet. They have one of the biggest holdings of gas and oil reserves in the world. second in gas, second in oil. On top of that they have direct access to the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Caspian Sea what makes them a potential platform for the distribution of oil and gas to South Asia, Europe and East Asia. JRF called Iran 'the prize' . . .

The disaster in Lebanon actually was also part of JFR's presentation. He explained that the US government is 100% convinced, fanatically and completely convinced, that both, Hamas and Hizballah are creatures of Iran and that Iran uses them to undermine US goals in the region . . .

The presentation got kind of freaky then. He said the US government wanted to stop state-controlled Iranian or Chinese (or Indian) companies from controlling the oil. JFR says the US Government is convinced that this battle will decide the future of the world. It sounded like he was talking about 'the one ring' in lord of the rings. he who controls Iran controls them all. '

Cole suggests that we consider this theory as a "thought experiment": Can it be knocked down? If not, maybe we should take it seriously:

It is true that Iran's regime is hostile to US corporate and investment interests. Iran itself has substantial energy resources, many of them undeveloped, but they are locked up by state-owned Iranian companies.

Iran is astride the Oil Gulf, which has the majority of the world's proven gas and petroleum reserves. Iran has a silkworm missile capability that could interfere with oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz. It also has emerged as the most influential country in oil-rich South Iraq, which is, like Iran, Shiite Muslim.

Iran is no credible military threat to the United States, though US warmongers are always depicting it as such, rather as they manufactured ramshackle 4th-world Iraq into a dire military menace to the US, allowing for a war of choice to be fought against it.

The regime in Iran has not gone away despite decades of hostility toward it by Washington, and despite the latter's policy of "containment." As a result, US petroleum corporations are denied significant opportunities for investment in the Iranian petroleum sector. Worse, Iran has made a big energy deal with China and is negotiating with India. As those two countries emerge as the superpowers of the 21st century, they will attempt to lock up Gulf petroleum and gas in proprietary contracts.
It may be that that hawks are thinking this way: Destroy Lebanon, and destroy Hizbullah, and you reduce Iran's strategic depth. Destroy the Iranian nuclear program and you leave it helpless and vulnerable to having done to it what the Israelis did to Lebanon. You leave it vulnerable to regime change, and a dragooning of Iran back into the US sphere of influence, denying it to China and assuring its 500 tcf of natural gas to US corporations. You also politically reorient the entire Gulf, with both Saddam and Khamenei gone, toward the United States. Voila, you avoid peak oil problems in the US until a technological fix can be found, and you avoid a situation where China and India have special access to Iran and the Gulf.

The second American Century ensues. The "New Middle East" means the "American Middle East."

And it all starts with the destruction of Lebanon.

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