Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Lebanon Ceasefire

by GARY LEUPP

“How can the deployment of the expanded UN force in southern Lebanon, brought about by Israel’s attack on its northern neighbor, facilitate the broader goal of achieving regime change in Iran?”

That’s surely the question uppermost in the minds of Bush administration neocons as they seek to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat following Israel’s costly and unsuccessful effort to destroy Hizbollah. Urged on by the Bush administration (while condemned by the rest of the world), Israel undertook its invasion not for the reason advertised (in response to recent Hizbollah attacks) but to deprive Tehran from using the Shiite militia in retaliation for the long-planned attack on Iran. If the Lebanese fighters can be driven from the border area back behind the Litani River, they will be unable to launch missile attacks such as the 3800 provoked by Israeli’s most recent invasion.

The deployment of a UN-legitimated, probably French-led force in south Lebanon is in theory designed to “secure the border.” But UNIFIL itself has reported nearly daily violations of Lebanese airspace by Israel since the Israeli withdrawal from the area in 2000. (Lebanese of all faiths credit this withdrawal to the efforts of Hizbollah fighters.) In reality the expanded UNIFIL mission is intended to eliminate Iran’s ability to respond to imperialist aggression against itself through the use of its Lebanese allies. It’s a mission preparatory to that aggression, preceding Iran’s expected rejection of the U.S.-backed “generous offer” to Iran and reiteration of its inalienable right according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium.

“We are creating a situation where everything we’re going to try short of military force is going to fail,” says Ilan Berman, an Iran specialist with the American Foreign Policy Council, which advocates an aggressive posture towards Iran. While many, including some “defense officials” in Israel, doubt the willingness of the White House to exercise the military option, the U.S. has been preparing for it, step by step. First there was the campaign of vilification inaugurated with Bush’s first state of the union address in 2002, in which the president included Iran in the “axis of evil.” Then there was the rejection of Iranian diplomatic overtures, and the hype about Iran’s nuclear program, in 2003. Then the presentation of dubious “intelligence,” the campaign against IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei (for refusing to find Iran in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty), and the arm-twisting of the IAEA culminating in its disgracefully partisan vote in November 2005 in favor of a report stating Iran’s “many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement [voluntarily signed by Iran in 2003] . . . constitute non-compliance” with the NPT.

Back in May, when the U.S. agreed to join in talks with the Iranian regime if it agreed to suspend uranium enrichment,” the U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton told Neil Cavuto of Fox News that Bush was “taking this step to show strength and American leadership. He’s doing it to say ‘We gave Iran this last chance to show they are serious when they say, “We don’t want nuclear weapons.” This is ‘put up or shut up’ time for Iran.” It was in fact setup time for Iran. By giving Iran an offer it had to refuse, the administration expanded its ability to legitimate further aggressive moves. The expanded UNIFIL mission in Lebanon should be viewed in this context of a relentless drive for regime change in the Islamic Republic. Its presence increases the likelihood that a broader war in the Middle East triggered by an attack on Iran attack will find France and other nations contributing UNIFIL troops on the side of the U.S. and Israel, if only in the Levant theater of an expanding war for the reconfiguration of Southwest Asia. Even if the French, Russians, Chinese and others (along with global public opinion) deplore a U.S. strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, they will not stand in such loud opposition as they did last time—when the U.S. criminally invaded Iraq. That, at least, is the apparent neocon hope. More importantly, U.S. public opinion will more likely accept an attack on Iran if it can be sold as part of the “War on Terror.” Bush has already depicted Israel’s attack on Lebanon as part of that war, and the U.S. corporate media has dutifully portrayed the recent fighting as between Israel acting in self-defense and a “terrorist Hizbollah” acting as a proxy for Iran, the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism.”

The propaganda hasn’t been wholly effective; polls show that Americans were more inclined to see the Israeli action against Lebanon as virtually all European heads of state described it publicly: “a disproportionate response” to the “kidnapping” (capture) of two Israeli soldiers. But only the occasional courageous (and marginalized) commentator (like Scott Ritter) challenges the depiction of Hizbollah as terrorist. Americans remain deprived of the knowledge that Hizbollah is a huge, popular political movement, a significant element in mainstream Lebanese politics, enjoying according to one recent poll 87% approval in Lebanon’s religiously divided society. (Few Americans are aware that many Christians—who make up maybe 40% of the total—admire this “terrorist” group!) Those promoting a broadening of the terror war, such as the hideous Elliott Abrams, can rest assured that most Americans accept the notion that Iran, Syria and Hizbollah are all somehow terrorist, evil, and connected to the horror of 9-11. Perhaps a third of the nation is inclined to accept an attack on Iran and the apocalyptic scenario to follow as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy—hence welcome in preparing the way for the Lord. Even if Iraq’s a disaster, Afghanistan a growing problem, and the president widely perceived as stupid and dishonest, the neocon-driven administration just might get what it wants—its new Israel-centered U.S.-occupied creatively chaotic Greater Middle East—by the end of the president’s second term.

Condi Rice is going the way of her predecessor Colin Powell, sidelined by the neocons closest to the idiot-president’s ear. Reportedly furious at the reports of Israel’s attack on Qana in late July, she like virtually all foreign ministers in the world urged an immediate ceasefire. But she was ignored by her cowboy boss who insisted there be no return to the “state within a state” status quo. No matter that scandal surrounds the neocons, that their lies have been exposed by numerous investigations. They still ride high in the saddle, relying on ignorance, bigotry, fear, disinformation, the cooperative neofascist bluster of high-profile telejournalists, the Israel lobby and political smear apparatus to accomplish their goals. (AIPAC’s president Howard Friedman has boasted that “only ONE nation in the world came out and flatly declared: Let Israel finish the job,” praising AIPAC members and “the rest of American Jewry” for pressuring Washington to give Israel carte blanche, while also insisting that the Lebanon conflict was a mere “diversion” from the real problem: “Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”) Chief among these goals is to wipe the Islamic Republic of Iran off the map.

So how indeed can this UN deployment in Lebanon, taking shape as I write, aid the neocons’ and AIPAC’s ambition to topple the government of Iran? By wedding the U.S. Europe, and Israel in the common cause of disarming the most admired armed force in the Middle East and broader Muslim world, and thus involving them all cooperatively in an effort calculated to provoke Syria and Iran. True, France and the EU continue to omit Hizbollah from their U.S.-inspired lists of international terrorist organizations. True, France questions the need for a 15,000-strong UNIFIL force in Lebanon and criticizes aspects of U.S. policy in the region. Russia continues to oppose UN sanctions against Iran. All is not going exactly as Washington’s warmongers would like, and some report that the Israeli government has concluded that its American patron’s won’t destroy its “existential threat,” leaving it to the Jewish state to pull off another, more ambitious, Osiraq. (Recall that Israel destroyed a French-built Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1982 and was condemned even by the Reagan administration for this violation of international law.)

But even if things don’t pan out precisely as planned, the UNSC-brokered peace on the Lebanese border may spark a chain reaction producing an American empire, friendly to Israel, corporate America and permanent U.S. military bases, from the Mediterranean to the Khyber Pass. That’s a very bad scenario, inevitably generating endless low-intensity conflict. One can only hope that the Lebanese Army—whose rank and file are disinclined to quarrel with their patriotic brothers in Hizbollah—and whatever international troops are sent into the border region reject their assigned role in the provocative plan. In different scenarios, long-suffering Lebanon might either provide the stage for the next world war’s opening act, or help stop the crusaders in their tracks.

Hizbollah could be key here. The much-maligned movement and party has apparently cultivated ties with secularists and the left. It is no Taliban; Hasan Nasrallah, admires the eminently secularist and humanist Che Guevara, and has stated that he doubts sharia law will ever be accepted in Lebanon’s multicultural society. It looks to me as though Lebanese society has united against the U.S. imperialist program, involving as it does subtle designs to bring European allies/rivals on board, and that this is largely due to the Shiite organizers’ careful efforts to promote nationalistic unity. Such unity if it holds could inspire the growing global antiwar movement in the coming weeks. It could backfire big-time on Washington’s warmongers whose terrorist record finds few parallels in recent history. One should be optimistic.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

 

 

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail