by Uri Avnery
TEL AVIV -- Some weeks ago, something curious happened: Israel discovered that Iran
is the Great Satan.
It happened quite suddenly. There was no prior sensational news, no new
discovery. As if by the order of a drill-sergeant, the whole Israeli
phalanx changed direction. All the politicians, all the generals, all
the enlisted media, with the usual complement of professors-for-hire, -
all of them discovered overnight that Iran is the immediate, real and
By wondrous coincidence, at exactly the same moment a ship was captured
that, allegedly, carried Iranian arms to Arafat. And in Washington
Shimon Peres, a man for all seasons and the servant of all masters,
accosted every passing diplomat and told him stories about thousands of
Iranian missiles that have been given to the Hizbullah. Yes, yes,
Hizbullah (included by President Bush in the list of "terrorist
organizations") is receiving horrible arms from Iran (included by
President Bush in the "Axis of Evil") in order to threaten Israel, the
darling of the Congress.
Does this sound mad? Not at all. There is method in this madness.
On the face of it, the matter is easy to explain. America is still in a
state of fury after the Twin-Towers outrage. It has won a amazing
victory in Afghanistan, hardly sacrificing a single American soldier.
Now it stands, furious and drunk with victory, and does not know who to
attack next. Iraq? North Korea? Somalia? The Sudan?
President Bush cannot stop now, because such an immense concentration
of might cannot be laid off. The more so, as Bin-Laden has not been
killed. The economic situation has deteriorated, a giant scandal
(Enron) is rocking Washington. The American public should not be left
to ponder on this.
So here comes the Israeli leadership and shouts from the roof-tops:
Iran is the enemy! Iran must be attacked!
Who has made that decision? When? How? And most importantly – Where?
Clearly not in Jerusalem, but in Washington DC. An important component
of the US administration has given Israel a sign: Start a massive
political offensive in order to pressure the Congress, the media and
American public opinion.
Who are these people? And what is their interest? A wider explanation
The most coveted resource on earth is the giant oil-field in the
Caspian Sea region, that competes in scale with the riches of Saudi
Arabia. In 2010 it is expected to yield 3.2 billion barrels of crude
oil per day, in addition to 4850 billion cubic feet of natural gas per
The United States is determined (a) to take possession of it, (b) to
eliminate all potential competitors, (c) to safeguard the area
politically and militarily, and (d) to clear a way from the oil-fields
to the open sea.
This campaign is being led by a group of oil people, to which the Bush
family belongs. Together with the arms industry, this group got both
George Bush senior and George Bush junior elected. The President is a
simple person, his mental world is shallow and his pronouncements are
primitive, bordering on caricature, like a second-rate Western. That is
good for the masses. But his handlers are very sophisticated people
indeed. It's they who guide the administration.
The Twin Towers outrage made their job much easier. Osama Bin Laden did
not comprehend that his actions serve American interests. If I were a
believer in Conspiracy Theory, I would think that Bin Laden is an
American agent. Not being one, I can only wonder at the coincidence.
Bush's "War on Terrorism" constitutes a perfect pretext for the
campaign planned by his handlers. Under the cover of this war, America
has taken total control over the three small Muslim nations near the
oil reserves: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The whole region
is now completely under American political-military domination. All
potential competitors – including Russia and China – have been pushed
For a long time, the Americans have been arguing among themselves about
the best route for piping this oil to the open sea. Routes that may be
under Russian influence have been eliminated. The 19th century, deadly
British-Russian competition, then called the "Great Game", is still
going on between America and Russia.
Until recently, the western route, leading to the Black Sea and Turkey,
seemed most feasible, but the Americans did not like it very much, to
say the least. Russia is much too near.
The best route leads south, to the Indian Ocean. Iran was not even
considered, since it is governed by Islamic fanatics. So there remained
the alternative route: from the Caspian Sea, through Afghanistan and
the western part of Pakistan (called Beluchistan), to the Indian Ocean.
To this end, the Americans conducted, ever so quietly, negotiations
with the Taliban regime. They bore no fruit. Then the "War on
Terrorism" was started, the US conquered all of Afghanistan and
installed their agents as the new government. The Pakistani dictator,
too, was bent to the American will.
If one looks at the map of the big American bases created for the war,
one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the
route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean.
That would have been the end of the story, but the appetite grows with
the eating. The Americans drew two lessons from the Afghani experience:
(a) that every country can be subdued by sophisticated bombs, without
putting any soldiers in harm's way, and (b) that by military might and
money America can install client governments anywhere.
And so a new idea came up in Washington: Why lay a long pipeline around
Iran (through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan) if one can lay a
much shorter pipeline through Iran itself? One has only to topple the
Ayatullah regime and install a new pro-American government. In the
past, that seemed impossible. Now, after the Afghani episode, it looks
eminently practicable. One has only to prepare American public opinion
and to acquire the support of the congress for an attack on Iran.
For this, Israel's good services are needed. It has an enormous
influence in the Congress and the media. It works like this: Israeli
generals declare every day that Iran is producing weapons of
mass-destruction and threatens the Jewish State with a second
Holocaust. Sharon announces that the capture of the Iranian arms-ship
proves Arafat is a part of the Iranian conspiracy. Peres tells
everybody that Iranian missiles threaten the whole world. Every day
some newspaper tells its readers that Bin Laden is in Iran or with the
Hizbullah in Lebanon.
President Bush knows how to reward those who serve him well. Sharon got
a free hand to oppress the Palestinians, imprison Arafat, assassinate
militants and enlarge the settlements. It's a simple deal: You deliver
the support of the Congress and the media, I deliver the Palestinians
on a platter.
This could not happen if America was still in need of allies in Europe
and the Arab world. But in Afghanistan, the Americans learned that they
don't need anybody anymore. They can spit in the eyes of the pitiful
Arab regimes, that are always begging for money, and disregard Europe
altogether. Who needs the negligible armies of Britain and Germany,
when America alone is mightier then all the armies of the world
The idea of American-Israeli cooperation against Iran is not new for
Sharon. On the contrary, in 1981, when he was just appointed Minister
of Defense, he offered the Pentagon a daring plan: in the event of
Khomeini's demise, the Israeli army would immediately occupy Iran, in
order to forestall the Soviet Union. The IDF would turn the country
over to the slow-moving Americans, once they arrived. For this purpose,
the Pentagon would stockpile in advance the most sophisticated arms in
Israel, under American control, to be used in this operation.
The Pentagon did not accept the idea at that time. Now, the cooperation
is being established against a different background.
What conclusions should we draw from all this?
First of all, that shall be located on the frontline of this coming
war. Beyond the exchange of curses between the "two Persian
Chiefs-of-Staff" (as the joke goes in Israeli command circles, alluding
to the fact that Shaul Mofaz was born in Iran), an Iranian reaction to
an American assault may hurt us grievously. There are missiles. There
are chemical and biological weapons.
Second, that those of us who desire an Israeli-Palestinian peace cannot
rely on America. Now everything depends on us alone, the Israelis and
Our blood is more precious than Caspian Sea oil. At least to us.
[Uri Avnery is a writer and former member of the Israeli Knesset. While a member
of the Jewish underground he fought against the British, and was wounded twice
in Israel's wars against the Arabs. In 1992 he helped found the Israeli peace
group Gush Shalom.]
[US President Bill Clinton looked on as the presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan,
Georgia and Turkmenistan signed a series of accords to build a pipeline from
Azerbaijan across Georgia and Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.--"Trans-Turkish pipeline
deal signed," BBC News, November 18, 1999]