- Jonathan Cook is a British-born independent journalist
based (since September 2001) in the predominantly Arab city of Nazareth,
Israel and is the "first foreign correspondent (living) in the Israeli
- He's a former reporter and editor of regional newspapers,
a freelance sub-editor with national newspapers, and a staff journalist
for the London-based Guardian and Observer newspapers. He's also written
for The Times, Le Monde diplomatique, the International Herald Tribune,
Al-Ahram Weekly and Aljazeera.net. In February 2004, he founded the Nazareth
- Cook states why he's in Nazareth as follows: to give
himself "greater freedom to reflect on the true nature of the (Israeli-Palestinian)
conflict and (gain) fresh insight into its root causes." He "choose(s)
the issues (he) wish(es) to cover (and so is) not constrained by the 'treadmill'
of the mainstream media....which gives disproportionate coverage to the
concerns of the powerful (so it) makes much of their Israel/Palestine reporting
- Living among Arabs, "things look very different"
to Cook. "There are striking, and disturbing, similarities between"
the Palestinian experience inside Israel and within the Occupied Territories.
"All have faced Zionism's appetite for territory and domination, as
well as repeated (and unabated) attempts at ethnic cleaning."
- Cook authored two important books and contributed to
others. His first one in 2006 was titled "Blood and Religion: The
Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State." It's the rarely told
story of the plight of the 1.4 million Palestinian Israeli citizens living
inside the Jewish State, the discrimination against them, the reasons why,
and the likely future consequences from it. Israel's "demographic
problem" is the issue as Cook explains. It's the time when a faster-growing
Palestinian population (aside from the diaspora) becomes a majority, and
the very character of a "Jewish State" is threatened. Israel's
response - state-sponsored repression and violent ethnic cleansing to prevent
it - in the Territories as well as and in Israel.
- Cook's newest book, just published, is called "Israel
and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle
East." It's the subject of this review in the wake of advance praise.
Noted author John Pilger calls it "One of the most cogent understandings
of the modern Middle East I have read. It is superb, because the author
himself is a unique witness" to events and powerfully documents them.
This review covers them in-depth along with some of this writer's reflections
on the region from America.
- Introducing his topic, Cook begins with Iraq and states
upfront that "civil war and partition were the intended outcomes of
invasion." Separation and conflict were planned, they serve America's
interests, they're not haphazard post-invasion events, and they originated
far from Washington.
- From the early 1980s, it was Israeli policy to subdue
the Palestinians, fragment Arab rivals, and foster ethnic and religious
discord to maintain unchallengeable regional dominance. Bush administration
neocons chose the same strategy. Like Israel, they want to neutralize the
region through division and separation and make it work even though prior
to invading Iraq, Sunni and Shia neighborhoods were indistinguishable,
and the country had the highest intermarriage rate in the region.
- The scheme is "Ottomanisation," and it worked
for Ottoman Turkey against a more dominant Islam. Israel sees four advantages
- -- divided minorities are easier to exploit, and Sunni
- Shia conflict can achieve a greater aim - subverting Israel's main threat
- secular Arab nationalism united against the Jewish State;
- -- greater military dominance lets Israel maintain its
favored status as a valued Washington ally;
- -- regional instability may lead to the breakup of Saudi-dominated
OPEC, weaken the kingdom's influence in Washington, and diminish its ability
to finance Islamic extremists and Palestinian resistance; and
- -- Israel becomes freerer to ethnically cleanse Palestinians
from Israel and the Occupied Territories.
- Washington supported the scheme post-9/11, the "war
on terror" was born, a clash of civilizations ensued, and the idea
was that "Control of oil could be secured on the same terms as Israeli
regional hegemony: by spreading instability across the Middle East"
and Central Asia through a new-type divide and conquer strategy. For Israel,
it weakens regional rivals and dampens Palestinian nationalism and their
hopes for "meaningful statehood."
- Regime Overthrow in Iraq
- Removing Saddam Hussein was justified to disarm a dangerous
dictator threatening the region. It was untrue and based on "False
Pretenses" according to a study by two nonprofit journalism organizations.
On January 22, it was posted on the Center for Public Integrity web site.
It's "an exhaustive examination of the record" that shows the
President and his seven top officials "waged a carefully orchestrated
campaign of misinformation about the threat" Iraq posed to galvanize
public opinion and go to war "under decidedly false pretenses."
- At least 532 separate speeches, briefings, interviews,
testimonies and more provide the evidence. They show a concerted web of
lies became the administration's case for war even though it's clear Iraq
had no WMDs or any ties to Al-Queda. Numerous bipartisan investigations
drew the same conclusion, including those by the Senate Select Committee
on Intelligence in 2004 and 2006, the multinational Iraq Survey Group's
"Duelfer Report," and even the dubious 9/11 Commission.
- The study cites 232 false Bush statements alone about
WMDs and 28 others about links to Al-Queda. Colin Powell, Dick Cheney,
Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and others put out the same lies that increased
after August 2002 and spiked much higher in the weeks preceding invasion.
In all, the study documented 935 false statements, the dominant media spread
them, their deception is now revealed, and yet the administration avoided
any responsibility for its actions and the media is unapologetic. In addition,
there are no congressional investigations, and the war is still misportrayed
as a liberating one when its clear intent was to erase a nation, divide
and rule it, turn it into a free market paradise, use it as a launching
platform to dominate the region, and control its oil.
- Saddam was never a credible threat. In addition, he'd
been effectively disarmed in the early 1990s, but US officials suppressed
what UN weapons inspectors' learned - the Gulf War neutralized Iraq and
"there were no unresolved disarmament issues." Further, Saddam's
son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, ran the country's WMD program in the 1980s and
early 1990s. In 1995, he defected to the West, was thoroughly debriefed,
and confirmed that there was no nuclear program, and "Iraq destroyed
all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver
- The story was widely reported at the time, including
a front page New York Times August 12 article headlined "Cracks in
Baghdad" plus several subsequent follow-ups as events developed. It
was then buried, however, and never resurfaced in the run-up to March,
2003. For Iraqis, the consequences were horrific, and they began after
Saddam was tricked into invading Kuwait.
- Four days later, Operation Desert Shield was launched,
economic sanctions followed, a large US troop buildup began, and a sweeping
Kuwait-funded PR campaign prepared the public for Operation Desert Shield.
It began on January 17, 1991, ended on February 28, caused mass killing,
and all essential to life facilities were destroyed, effectively returning
the country to its pre-industrial condition.
- Twelve years of the most comprehensive, genocidal sanctions
followed. They included a crippling trade embargo and an air blockade to
enforce it. Adequate humanitarian essentials were restricted, and the 1995
UN Oil-for-Food Program was a well-planned scam. Until it ended after March
2003, it provided the equivalent of 21 cents a day for food and 4 cents
for medicines. In addition, vital drugs and other essentials were banned
because of their claimed potential "dual use."
- The toll was horrific and got two UN heads of Iraqi humanitarian
relief to resign with Dennis Halliday saying in 1998 that he did so because
he "had been instructed to implement a policy that satisfies the definition
of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed over one million
individuals, children and adults," including 5000 Iraqi children a
month in his judgment.
- Conditions got worse post-March 2003 with street violence
commonplace; mounting deaths and injuries; and a total breakdown of essential
services, including electricity, clean drinking water, sanitation, medical
care, and education made worse by mass unemployment and poverty - an occupation-created
humanitarian disaster of epic proportions that continues to worsen.
- Four million refugees left the country or are internally
displaced, one-third of the population needs emergency aid, millions can't
get enough food, malnourishment is rampant, medical care barely exists,
and the British medical journal The Lancet published the Johns Hopkins
University School of Public Health study on the death toll in October 2006.
It estimated 655,000 violent deaths since March 2003 that could be as high
as 900,000 at the time (and now much higher) because interviewers couldn't
survey the country's most violent areas and omitted from the study thousands
of families in which all members were killed.
- Cook quoted a Palestinian academic, Karma Nabulsi, citing
similarities between Iraq and occupied Palestine - two populations "living
in a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless,
destroyed, cowed, ruled by disparate militias, gangs, religious ideologues
and extremists, broken up into ethnic and religious tribalism and co-opted
collaborationists." Palestinians and Iraqis resist, demand their freedom,
and polls shows overwhelming numbers want the occupations to end. In Iraq,
almost no one thinks America came to liberate them or establish democracy.
- Nearly everyone knows Washington's real intent - permanent
occupation to control the country's oil so Big Oil giants can exploit it
for profit, deny Iraqis their own natural wealth, and give America "veto
power" over rivals and potential ones to assure their compliance.
- A September 1978 Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum is
particularly notable. It listed three US Middle East objectives:
- -- "assure continuous access to petroleum resources,
- -- prevent an inimical power or combination of powers
from establishing hegemony, and
- -- assure the survival of Israel as an independent state
in a stable relationship with contiguous Arab states."
- Of great concern to US planners, then and now, is "curbing
and crushing (Arab and Iranian) nationalism that might inspire Middle Eastern
states" to claim the right to their own resources and deny the West
their benefits. Twentieth century history documents how Britain and America
controlled the region, installed puppet rulers, backed repressive dictators,
removed uncompliant ones, and looted oil-rich states for their gain. Iraq
is now exploited, local industry was crushed, US corporations plunder the
country, and the so-called hydrocarbon law gives Big Oil the same right
to the nation's oil - if it's enacted but so far it's stalled.
- The Iraqi cabinet approved it last February, but that's
where things now stand because of mass public opposition to a blueprint
for plunder. If the puppet parliament passes it, foreign investors will
reap a bonanza of resources leaving Iraq with just slivers. Its complex
provisions, still being manipulated, give the Iraqi National Oil Company
exclusive control to less than one-fifth of the country's operating fields
with all yet-to-be-discovered deposits (most of Iraq's reserves) set aside
for Big Oil. Even worse, contracts (under "production sharing agreements")
up to 35 years will be granted, all earnings may be expropriated, and foreign
interests have no obligation to invest in Iraq's economy, partner with
Iraqi companies, hire local workers, respect union rights, or share new
- Earlier in the 20th century, America coveted Middle East
oil once its potential was realized. Post-WW I, however, Britain occupied
Iraq and Kuwait, benefitted most until WW II, miscalculated on Saudi's
importance, and let the Roosevelt administration secure an oil concession
in the 1930s that began close ties between the two nations. The President
and King ibn Saud struck a deal. America guaranteed the kingdom's security
in return for a steady supply of oil at stable prices, and later on, the
recycling of huge petrodollar profits into US investments and military
- Thereafter, the region was key, and the Carter Doctrine
highlighted it after engineering the Shah's removal in 1979. Carter stated
- "Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside
force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an
assault on the vital interests of the United States of America (and) will
be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."
- Post-9/11, the Bush Doctrine applied Carter policy globally
in the 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS), later revised and made harsher
in 2006. It's an imperial grand plan for world dominance, preventive wars
are the strategy, the Middle East and Central Asia are its main targets,
and the powerful Israeli Lobby assures Washington and Tel Aviv interests
are in lockstep. More on that below.
- The Long Campaign against Iran
- The January 2007 Herzliya, Israel conference was notable
for what's become the country's premiere political event. This one differed
from others in two respects. Forty-two past and present US policy makers
were invited, and attention focused on a Shia "arc of extremism"
with debates and discussion highlighting Iran and Hezbollah.
- Participants claimed Iran spread regional instability,
was close to developing nuclear weapons, and would use them against Israel.
There were similar echoes from the January 2008 conference with comments
from speakers like Ehud Barak saying "The Iranian nuclear threat remains
critical (and) We will not accept an Iran which possesses a nuclear capable
military." General Ephraim Sneh added "Our problem is not the
nuclear problem, but rather the Iranian regime. (It) incorporates imperial
ambition, hatred of Israel, increasing military strength, and an unlimited
budget." Ignored was common knowledge or any glimmer of truth - that
the late Ayatollah Khomeini banned nuclear weapons development, today's
Iranian officials repeatedly stress the country's only nuclear aim is commercial,
and Tehran represents no threat to Israel or any other country in or outside
- Since the early 1990s, Israel claimed otherwise - that
Iran sought nuclear weapons, represented an existential threat, and had
to be confronted. By 1994, Haaretz reported that the country's top priority
was neutralizing Iran to thwart its regional aspirations because Tehran
threatened to acquire nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, and had the
ability to export terrorism and revolution to subvert secular Arab regimes.
Iraq was already under sanctions, but Israel saw both countries as a combined
threat. Weakening one would only strengthen the other, so both had to be
- With Iraq under occupation, Iran's now called the center
of world terrorism and packaged with Syria and Hezbollah as Israel's axis
of evil with Hamas added later after its early 2006 electoral victory.
Israel has big aims - to become a regional hegemon, prevent a rival power
from influencing the "peace process," and deny the Palestinians
any hope of ending the occupation. It thus manufactured an Iranian threat
and along with Washington blocks dialogue and negotiation.
- Claiming Iran is a nuclear menace runs counter to the
facts. Tehran is years away from producing nuclear power, and IAEA head
Mouhammad el-Baradei reports no evidence that Iran is building or seeks
to build nuclear weapons. He also told the press last August that "Iran
is ready to discuss all outstanding issues which triggered the crisis in
confidence. It's a significant step. There are clear guidelines (and Iran
is not) dallying with the agency (or) prolong(ing) negotiations to avoid
sanctions....Iran (deserves) a chance to prove its stated goodwill."
- IAEA also reported Iran's uranium enrichment program
slowed, operates well below capacity, and isn't producing nuclear fuel
in significant amounts. It had only 1968 centrifuges functioning, several
hundred others in various stages of assembly or testing, and its enrichment
level is well below what's needed to build a nuclear bomb. In addition,
in December 2007, the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) reported
that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 (without evidence
one ever existed) and has none of these weapons in its arsenal.
- The Bush administration and Israel sidestepped NIE and
denounced the IAEA, called it an Iranian ploy to buy time, and "There
was no (Israeli) debate about which country should be targeted after Iraq."
The goal was to isolate Iran, end its threat to Israel, but avoid the mistake
of invading and occupying another country with Iraq already out of control.
Other choices were preferable - stoking internal conflict, inciting instability,
attacking by air, and deciding which reports to believe.
- An August 2007 one called "Considering a war with
Iran: A discussion paper on WMDs in the Middle East" was particularly
alarming. British experts Dan Plesch and Martin Butcher prepared it, other
evidence of impending conflict supported it, no date was given, but they
stated things are too far along in planning to stop. They wrote the Pentagon
has plans for a "massive, multi-front, full-spectrum" shock and
awe-type attack with no ground invasion. Its aim is to target 10,000 sites
with bombers and long-range missiles, destroy the country's military capacity,
nuclear energy sites, economic infrastructure and other targets to destabilize
and oust its regime or reduce the country to a "weak or failed state."
- Washington also pressured the UN to impose sanctions
on Iran. In July 2006, the Security Council passed Resolution 1696 demanding
Tehran halt enriching uranium by August 31 or be sanctioned. UN Resolution
1737 followed in December, cited the country's nuclear program and imposed
limited sanctions with further ones applied after UN Resolution 1747 passed
in March. On January 22, 2008, the five permanent Security Council members
and Germany agreed to a third round of sanctions that was less than what
the Bush administration wanted.
- The cat and mouse game continues, the threat of wider
war remains, and nothing may be resolved with the current administration
in power. Nor is there much chance for change under a new one in 2009 as
hawkish candidates from both parties dominate the race and support Israel's
design on Iran.
- The Islamic Republic remains Target One, but on July
12, 2006 the Olmert government surprised. It attacked Lebanon in a blatant
act of aggression. It later came out the war was long-planned, Washington
was on board, and a minor incident became the pretext to launch it. The
target was Hezbollah, and the scheme was to remove what former Deputy Secretary
of State Richard Armitage once called "the A-team of international
terrorism." That was his way of noting a long-time Israeli irritant
that was able to liberate Lebanon's south by ending the IDF's 22 year occupation
in May 2000.
- By summer 2006, strong rhetoric suggested a wider war
with Iran and Syria. Both countries were accused of supplying Hezbollah
with thousands of rockets to "wipe Israel off the map," and they
were being indiscriminately used to do it.
- In fact, Hezbollah was founded as a national liberation
movement after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. It's not an Islamist or
terrorist organization as its founding mission statement reveals. It was
an "open letter to all the oppressed in Lebanon and the world"
stating its aims - to drive the US, French and Israeli occupiers out of
Lebanon, defeat the right wing Christian Maronite Phalange party allied
with Israel, and give our people "liberty (in) the form of government
they desire." It added "we don't want to impose Islam upon anybody.
We don't want Islam to reign in Lebanon by force as is the case with the
- Today, Hezbollah is a legitimate political and social
organization that maintains a military wing for self-defense. It represents
Lebanon's Shia population (40% of the total) and is respected for running
a comprehensive network of schools, health facilities and other social
services available to anyone in need, not just Shias. Nonetheless, it's
been unfairly branded anti-Jewish, accused of wanting to destroy Israel,
and Washington put it on its Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list
- In summer 2006, Hezbollah responded to Israeli aggression
as its legitimate right. It targeted military, not civilian, sites with
spotty accuracy, hit some, and proved to Israel's embarrassment that its
forces, Iran and Syria knew site locations that could be struck more accurately
with more powerful weapons in retaliation if attacked.
- The threat is real, but Hezbollah was the first order
of business. Its rockets had to be eliminated as Seymour Hersh reported.
Otherwise, "You hit Iran (or Syria first), Hezbollah then bombs Tel
Aviv and Haifa," but more was at stake as well. Backing Lebanon's
Siniora government against a weakened Hezbollah and asserting the army's
control in the south was key. In addition, with Iran and Syria potential
targets, the Pentagon wanted Israel to field test its bunker-buster bombs
to learn their effectiveness in advance.
- Hezbollah was more formidable than expected, it prevailed
against Israel's might, its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasralah, is stronger
than ever, his support extends beyond his Shia base in the south, the IDF
suffered a humiliating defeat, and that's where things now stand. Had the
Olmert government prevailed, Cook reports that an air attack on Syria was
planned, President Bashar Assad apparently knew it, a credible Washington
source revealed it, and the Israeli media suggested the Bush administration
wanted Israel to proceed.
- Further hawkishness came from Hebrew University professor
Martin van Creveld, a respected military historian "with intimate
knowledge of the army's inner workings and its collective ethos."
His March 2007 Jewish Daily Forward commentary argued that Syria planned
to attack Israel no later than October 2008, possibly with chemical weapons,
but no evidence was cited. He merely said the Assad government "had
been on an armaments shopping spree in Russia" and let readers draw
their own conclusions. Israel, he claimed, was thus justified to attack
preemptively even though there was credible evidence that Syria sought
resolution on the Golan issue, made overtures to negotiate, and the Olmert
government believed Assad was serious.
- Nonetheless, he was rebuffed and hard line Washington
and Tel Aviv officials prevailed. Appeasing Iran and Syria was off the
table, removing their "dire threat" had to be confronted, and
it hardly mattered that none existed. Then came November 2006. Olmert's
approval rating was dismal, and a newspaper poll showed Netanyahu would
best him in fresh elections. US Republicans were just as weak. The November
2006 congressional elections sent a strong message - end the war and bring
home the troops. For the first time since 9/11, neocon dominance was uncertain,
tensions surfaced in the administration, and a change of direction looked
- James Baker's Iraq Study Group recommended one in December.
It argued that US forces should be gradually withdrawn from Iraq, Iran
and Syria should be engaged to help stabilize "what was clearly a
failed state," and the home front battle lines were drawn. Key Bush
advisors continued to claim Iran was the problem by trying to undermine
Washington in Iraq. It was stirring up Shia resistance, arming the Sunnis,
and countering Tehran required greater US involvement, not an exit.
- For a while, it wasn't clear how things would turn out,
but in the end the administration remained hard line, and in early 2007
announced a 30,000 troop surge, stepped up pressure against Iran, and positioned
a major naval strike force in the Gulf. At the same time, President Ahmadinejad
became another "Hitler" and was misquoted as saying he was trying
to "wipe Israel off the map." He actually said "this regime
that is occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time" in
a reference to its military conquest, illegally occupying Jerusalem, colonizing
the Occupied Territories, and repressing the Palestinian people. Ultimately,
these policies will fail, and respected analysts say the same thing.
- Ahmadinejad made no reference to Jews, only a racist
Israeli government that relegates non-Jews to second class status or worse.
Regardless of his words and meaning, every move and comment he now makes
is scrutinized for any way to attack him.
- End of the Strongmen
- Cook asks why were Israel and the US extending the "war
on terror" to the strongest Middle East state, Iran, since it's the
one most able to alleviate crisis in Iraq? Why turn a "clash of civilisations"
into an added Sunni-Shia struggle and risk making an unstable situation
worse? Many Middle Eastern states are "uncomfortable amalgams of Sunni
and Shia populations" because they were combined into unnatural states
post-WW I. By late 2006, internal conflicts destabilized Iraq and Lebanon,
threatened to spread, and Washington and Tel Aviv were encouraging it.
- By confronting Iran and Syria, things may only worsen,
but White House reasoning is that this as preferable to a united resistance
targeting its occupation. Israel has the same view, and it lay behind the
summer 2006 Lebanon war. At its start, it was hoped conflict would unite
Christians and Sunnis against Hezbollah and repeat the sectarian civil
war that ravaged the country from 1975 to 1990. Instead, the nation united
against Israel, and Hezbollah's power and overall status was enhanced,
the opposite of what Tel Aviv planned.
- The same strategy is playing out in the Occupied Territories,
but its outcome is unresolved. After Hamas' electoral victory, Israel refused
recognition, and the US and West went along. All outside aid was cut off,
an economic embargo and sanctions were imposed, and the legitimate government
was isolated. Stepped up repression followed along with repeated IDF incursions
and attacks, and the idea was to foment internal conflict on Gaza streets.
It went on for months, then subsided (with occasional flare-ups) when Hamas
prevailed against Fatah. It defeated Mahmoud Abbas' heavily US-Israeli-armed
paramilitaries that were led by Mohammed Dahlan. In spite of defeat, Israel
achieved a long-standing aim. It split the Palestinians into two rival
camps in Gaza and the West Bank and recognized the unelected Abbas government
- Israel plans the same fate for Syria, but Cook says its
"closed society (is) more difficult to read." Nonetheless, Congress
passed the Syria Accountability Act in late 2003 to justify a US and/or
Israeli future attack on any pretext that's never hard to find. A clause
in the law states Syria is "accountable for any harm to Coalition
armed forces or to any United States citizen in Iraq if the government
of Syria is found to be responsible" even without proof. Whatever
Syria does, it's thwarted despite clear evidence it seeks peace with the
West and Israel and will make concessions in return for resolution to long-outstanding
issues like the Golan.
- Cook thus wonders "who controls American foreign
policy? Does the dog wag the tail or the opposite given the power of Israel
to influence policy? One camp argues the former with distinguished figures
like Noam Chomsky believing Washington has a "consistent, predictable
and monolithic view of American interests abroad" and how best to
- How to explain Iraq then since the administration rejected
the advice of many of its key policy advisors, including what Big Oil wanted.
Instead, it opted for a messy "regime overthrow," not a simpler
"regime change" that worked well in the past without war and
occupation. In addition, attacking Iran guarantees regional turmoil, greater
instability, regimes likely toppling, intensified Iraq conflict targeting
Americans, higher oil prices, possible world recession, and no assurance
of a favorable outcome.
- Why risk it when Iran sought dialogue for years, but
Washington consistently refuses. Cook cites two US academics, John Mearsheimer
and Stephen Walt and might have included James Petras' work and his powerfully
important book titled "The Power of Israel in the United States."
This writer reviewed it in-depth and was greatly struck by its persuasive
content. It documents the Lobby's depth and breath at the highest levels
of government, throughout Congress, business boardrooms, academia, the
clergy (especially dominant Christian fundamentalists) and the mass media.
Together they assure full and unconditional support for most Israeli interests
most of the time going back decades. Wars included - in the Occupied Territories,
against Lebanon, the Gulf War, the current Iraq war as well as all Israeli
wars since 1967 and the prospect of engaging Iran and Syria despite strong
opposition at home.
- Cook presents his own view saying "the dog and tail
wag each other," and that's Israel's strategy by making both countries
dependent on the other for dominance in and outside the region. He believes
Israel persuaded administration neocons that both countries shared mutual
goals. It worked because it placed US interests of global domination and
controlling oil at the heart of strategy.
- Consider also a long-standing "special relationship"
between the two countries going back decades. Senate Foreign Relations
Committee private meeting transcripts before and after the 1967 war reveal
it. They explain, early on, that Washington valued Israel as a strategic
ally in a vitally important part of the world. Aside from oil, the Johnson
administration called Israel a useful Cold War asset at a time Russia courted
leading Arab states and made progress. Its regional wars were also helpful
to confront the kind of nationalist threat Egypt's Nasser represented.
They split regional states into irreconcilable camps - weak Gulf ones like
the Saudis needing US protection; stronger regimes in Egypt, Jordan and
Iran under the Shah; and outliers like Syria, Libya, Iraq and Iran after
- Cook recounts Ariel Sharon's vision of empire as a regional
superpower in an early 1980s speech he never made. He radically departed
from Israel's traditional strategy of either seeking peace or directly
confronting hostile neighbors. His new thinking was to extend Tel Aviv's
influence to the whole region by achieving qualitative and technological
- Sharon was a seasoned general, his views were respected,
and he greatly influenced younger officers who rose in prominence and,
in the case of Ehud Barak, became Prime Minister like himself. He believed
Israel should impose its dictates and force other regional states to comply
or be punished.
- The "Sharon Doctrine," as its called, also
reflected the views National Security Adviser, General Uzi Dayan, and Mossad
head, Ephraim Halevy stated in December 2001. They called 9/11 a "Hannukkah
miracle" because it gave Israel a chance to marginalize and confront
its enemies. Henceforth, all "Islamic terror" elements could
be grouped together as threats to the region's rulers. Confronting it was
crucial, so after Afghanistan Iraq, Iran and Syria were next "as soon
as possible." It was Dick Cheney's vision of permanent "war that
won't end in our lifetimes."
- In 1982, Israeli journalist and former Foreign Affairs
Ministry senior advisor, Oded Yinon, proposed an even more radical idea.
Like Sharon, he advocated transforming Israel into a regional power with
an added goal: breaking up Arab states into ethnic and confessional groupings
that Israel could more easily control. Similar to Huntington's "clash
of civilizations," Yinon suggested we were witnessing cataclysmic
times, the "collapse of the world order," and he identified the
threat: "The strength, dimension, accuracy and quality of nuclear
and non-nuclear weapons will overturn most of the world in a few years."
He believed an age of terror emerged that would challenge Israel with growing
- His remedy - install minority population leaders who
are dependent on colonial powers even after nominal independence. It worked
in Lebanon under the Maronites, in Syria under the Alawis, and in Jordan
under Hashemite monarchs. Yinon believed these states were weak, as were
oil-rich ones, could be easily dissolved, and doing it was key to forcibly
displacing Palestinians from the Territories and inside Israel. Furthermore,
achieving dominance depended on dissolving Arab states so Israel would
be unchallengeable and able to complete its ethnic cleansing process.
- Remaking the Middle East
- After the Soviet Russia dissolved, Israel's military
had to convince Washington it could be useful in a post-Cold War world.
Would it be a bullying enforcer or a regional guarantor of US and Israeli
dominance by sowing disorder and instability? In the 1990s, "two new
kinds of Middle Eastern political and paramilitary actors" emerged
- Sunni jihadis called Al-Queda and elements like the Taliban in Afghanistan
and Hezbollah in south Lebanon. They represent formidable challenges that
aren't easily intimidated or bullied.
- In this type world, threats are at a sub-state level,
so Yinon's scheme was appealing - encourage discord and feuding within
nations, destabilize them, and arrange their dismemberment into mini-states.
Tribes and sectarian elements could be turned on each other, and alliances
with non-Arab, non-Muslim groups like Christians, Kurds and Druze could
be cultivated to advantage.
- One problem remains, however - the possibility that another
Middle East state may develop nuclear weapons, challenge Israel's dominance
and get away with it. Nonetheless, Israel planned "organized chaos"
across the region and convinced administration neocons the scheme was sensible.
They had every reason to approve, and powerful opposition at home aside,
they're destabilizing the region along with Israel. There's no guaranteed
outcome, the subsequent fallout is unpredictable, but consider the possibilities.
The administration is quite able to vaporize Iran and Syria and end the
homeland republic if that's the plan. It's also what other states have
- Cook considers why Israel and Washington chose this agenda
despite the risks:
- -- by controlling Iran and Iraq, oil production can be
increased and prices brought down to a desired level;
- -- Israel's rivals will be economically and politically
crippled as will Palestinians in the Territories and inside Israel;
- -- Gulf states will also be weakened, including Saudi
Arabia; and one major out-of-region goal may be achieved -
- -- containing China by controlling its main oil source;
it may also be easier to dismember the country the way the Soviet Union
- The goal is grandiose, risky and its chance of succeeding
highly improbable. Consider Russia under Vladimir Putin. Contained under
Boris Yeltsin, it's no longer a pushover. In a largely ignored June 2007
speech, Putin highlighted deteriorating US-Russian relations post-9/11
with alarm. Bush administration policies were threatening and endangered
his country's security:
- -- US military bases encircle it;
- -- former Soviet states were recruited into NATO;
- -- offensive missiles were installed on its borders on
the pretext of missile defense;
- -- allied Central Asian regimes were toppled to Washington's
- -- US-backed Serbian, Ukrainian and Georgian "pro-democracy"
groups incited political instability in Moscow.
- These actions convinced Russian hard-liners that America
plans regime change and further fragmentation of the Federation. China
sees this, too, and knows it may be next. It's gotten both powers to ally
in two organizations for their own self-defense and to compete with the
US for control of Central Asia's vast reserves - the Asian Energy Security
Grid and the more significant Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that
was formed in 2001 for political, diplomatic, economic and security reasons
as a counterweight to an encroaching US-dominated NATO. Other regional
powers may also join one or both alliances, including India, Iran and even
South Korea and Japan as a new millennium Great Game unfolds.
- On the other side are the US and Israel with the Occupied
Territories a test laboratory for what they have in mind for the region.
Israel has been at it since the 1967 war when the idea was to expel Palestinians
to Jordan because "Jordan is Palestine." The only debate was
how to do it.
- At the same time, Israel long considered dismembering
Arab countries into feuding mini-states, and in the early 1980s, Haaretz's
military correspondent, Ze'ev Schiff, wrote that Israel's "best"
interests would be served by "the dissolution of Iraq into a Shi'ite
state, a Sunni state and the separation of the Kurdish part." Ever
since, Israel implemented this practice in the Territories along with testing
urban warfare tactics, new weapons and crowd control techniques. Workable
or not, it's been a boon to business and it's built Israel's economy around
responding to violence at home and everywhere.
- Israeli technology firms pioneered the homeland security
industry, still dominate it, and it's made the country the most tech-dependent
one in the world and its fourth largest arms exporter after the US (far
and away the biggest), Russia and France. The US Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) is one of its biggest customers for high-tech fences, unmanned
drones, biometric IDs, video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger
profiling, prisoner interrogation systems, thermal imaging systems, fiber
optics security systems, tear gas products and ejector systems and much
- With products like these and lessons learned from the
Territories, Israel believes it can abandon the old puppet strongman model
of controlling populations. It wants no part of a "Palestinian dictator"
who might encourage Palestinian nationalism, challenge Israeli rule, and
disrupt settlement development plans in the Territories. Building them
depends on keeping Palestinians divided, weak, unable to resist, and easier
to remove from land Israel wants to incorporate into a greater Israel that
includes south Lebanon.
- After the 1967 war, Israel prevented new Palestinian
leaders from emerging and first tried to manage the population along family
or communal lines by co-opting its leaders or eliminating ones who became
obstacles. By 1981, Sharon (as defense minister) refined the scheme into
what was named "Village Leagues" that were local anti-PLO militias.
The system was abandoned, however, when Palestinians rebelled against their
collaborating leaders so Israel tried new approaches.
- Most important was the Muslim Brotherhood (that had roots
in Egypt) that later became Hamas in the late 1980s. Israel, at the time,
believed traditional Islamic elements were more easily managed than PLO
nationalists, would later learn otherwise, and it led to a radically new
experiment - the Oslo process. It began secretly with a post-Gulf War weakened
PLO, specified no outcome, and let Israel delay, refuse to make concessions,
and continue colonizing the Territories. For their part Palestinians renounced
armed struggle, recognized Israel's right to exist, agreed to leave major
unresolved issues for indefinite later final status talks, and got nothing
- Yasser Arafat and his cohorts got what they wanted -
a get-out-of-Tunis free pass where they were in exile following the 1982
Lebanon war. They got to come home, take charge of their people and become
Israel's enforcer. Interestingly, Cook points out a little known fact.
Many high-level Israeli security figures opposed Oslo. They saw it giving
Arafat an "internationalist platform" to encourage Palestinian
nationalism that might undermine Israel. After Rabin's assassination, it
wasn't surprising that the spirit of Oslo died, Arafat became isolated,
spent much of the second intifada a prisoner in his Ramallah compound,
and died in a Paris hospital in November 2004, the victim of Israeli poisoning
with convincing evidence to prove it.
- In the meanwhile, Israel scrapped Oslo and tried a new
approach - cantonizing Gaza and the West Bank to crush organized resistance
and dissolve Palestinian nationalism. It began with checkpoints and curfews.
Then it was hardened into forced separation, displacement, willful harassment,
land seizures, home demolitions, bypass roads, and state-sponsored violence
matching lightly-armed people against the world's fourth most powerful
military with every imaginable weapon at its disposal and no hesitancy
using them against civilians.
- At the same time, Israel chose a co-optable Mahmoud Abbas
over the legitimate Hamas government. Its leaders will only recognize Israel
if Palestinians are recognized in return and given an independent homeland
inside pre-1967 borders or there's one state for all Israeli citizens.
Israel, of course, refuses, and continues expanding settlements on expropriated
land. In addition, with Abbas' Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza,
Israel assures the two sides remain divided and continue fighting each
other for control. That's the strategy to keep Palestinians marginalized
and Israel confident that what's now working in the Territories can be
applied advantageously across the region.
- That became Bush administration strategy early on with
extremist neocons in charge led by Dick Cheney. They knew all along that
invading and occupying Iraq would unleash sectarian violence "on an
unprecedented scale." Cook notes that the scheme came out of a 1996
policy paper called "A Clean Break" that was written by key neocons
behind the war - David Wurmser, Richard Pearle and Douglas Feith. They
predicted that after Saddam fell Iraq would "be ripped apart by the
politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects and key families" because
Sunni leadership maintained unity through state repression.
- Pre-war, Britain knew it as well, and, in May 2007, a
US Senate Intelligence Committee reported that US intelligence documents
warned of post-invasion chaos because Iraq is one of the least cohesive
Middle East states with rival Sunni, Shia and Kurdish populations. This,
however, fits perfectly with the type occupation Washington wants. It also
justifies the "war on terror," and prepares things for the final
solution Israel advocates - splitting the country into three mini-states:
a Kurdish one in the North, Shias in the South, and Sunnis between them.
- Making it work won't be easy, however, because Iraq's
largest cities have mixed populations. It's the reason the Pentagon plans
to cantonize them Israeli-style by enclosing neighborhoods with barricades
and walls and require special IDs for entry. Israel plans the same thing
for Lebanon where a large Shia population has been marginalized under the
country's "confessional" system. It allocates public office along
religious lines, gives disproportionate power to Christian and Sunni minorities,
but Hezbollah is challenging the pro-western government with things so
- After the 2006 war, Hezbollah got stronger, Washington
supports the Siniora government, and is promoting a "Cedar Revolution"
like the "Orange" and "Rose" ones it successfully engineered
in Ukraine and Georgia. Assassinations and car bombings are part of the
scheme, they're blamed on Syria without evidence, but a more likely culprit
is Mossad that has a long history in the region engineering this type violence.
Cook quotes former US counter-terrorism expert, Fred Burton, saying the
technology used in Lebanon's recent assassinations is available only to
a few countries - the US, Israel, Britain, France and Russia.
- The Pentagon and CIA are also active in "black operations"
in Iran, have been for many months, and it's no secret why. As in Iraq,
Lebanon and Palestine, it's to create ethnic tensions throughout the country,
promote conflict, and hope it will destabilize the government and force
it into a mistake Washington can jump on in response. A Pentagon source
told Seymour Hersh that their operatives are working with Azeris in the
north, Baluchis in the southeast, Kurds in the northeast, and their own
special forces in-country as well. The pot is bubbling, and Iran knows
- It's a new version of the older colonial "divide
and rule" scheme that so far proved ineffective, and Hezbollah leader,
Hassan Nasrallah, thinks he knows what's going on. He says Israel and Washington
want to partition Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Syria. If he's right, as seems
likely, it means the idea is to change the way colonial powers ruled post-WW
I, and Cook challenges it. He believes making it work is "improbable
(and) little more than a deluded fantasy." It worked in Yugoslavia,
but the Arab world is different.
- He concludes his book saying a generation of Washington
policy makers have been "captivated" by thinking the Middle East
can be remade by "spreading instability and inter-communal strife."
Instead, Cook sees a different outcome - new political, religious and social
alliances forming across the region. If Washington pursues its "war
on terror," he sees continued "war without end" with no
victory. After the chaotic Bush years, it's hard disagreeing with him.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.