Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Oppose Turkish Intervention In Israel/Palestine

The murderous attacks by Israel on Gaza present a serious danger in a fragile and fundamentally changed region. The regimes that formerly acted to keep Islamist forces in check in Libya, in Tunisia, in Egypt have gone, themselves replaced by Islamist Governments made up of allies of Hamas. The other one of those regimes, that of Assad in Syria, is still in power, but is no longer able to constrain the Islamist forces there, backed by the rich Feudal Gulf Monarchies, behind which stands the US. A couple of days ago, it was reported that Hamas is close to doing a deal for an alliance with Qatar. Qatar has been the most active of the Gulf Monarchies in providing its own Special Forces, as well as advanced weapons and funding to the Islamist fighters in Libya and Syria. But, the main threat to peace in the region, if not in the world, now stems from the potential for the former Colonial Power, Turkey, to intervene to stop the Israeli atrocities.

Turkey has the second largest military in NATO behind the US. On the basis of conventional forces, if Turkey decided to attack Israel to prevent its atrocities against Gaza, then Israel would quickly be crushed. Israel's only response would be either quickly concede or to use its nuclear and chemical arsenal against Turkey. But, that would be suicide. Turkey is a member of NATO, and would be entitled to call on it against Israel. That would cause considerable problems for the US and NATO. The US is clearly moving increasingly away from Israel. That is not just a matter of the political antagonism between Obama and Netanyahu, typified, in the latter's overt intervention in the US Presidential Elections to back Romney. But, the US has not yet, completely dropped Israel. The US would be sure to make it abundantly clear to Israel before any such eventuality that it could not expect support if it resorted to use of its nuclear or chemical arsenal. That would be the only hope it would have for preventing things reaching such a stage.

If that failed, and Israel did resort to a nuclear strike on Turkey, then any attempt to block a nuclear response from NATO, by the US, would destroy NATO itself, because it would make its true nature apparent, and make its mutual defence clause meaningless. But, in any case it would not do Israel much good. In such an eventuality, Turkey might well seek support, and receive it from other nuclear armed states in the Muslim world, for example Pakistan.

But, there are good reasons why Turkey will be pressed to engage in “Liberal Intervention” against Israel, and why it might agree. Firstly, the last 20 years have shown plenty of examples of the US and other powers intervening in such situations to prevent atrocities – in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, Libya, and potentially in Syria. That has not only created the precedents, and ground rules for any such intervention, but it has created the mindset of those being oppressed to believe that they can engage in adventures, in the hope that some more powerful external force will come to their assistance. That was Trotsky's analysis of the role of Liberal Intervention in 1912-13, in the Lessons Of The Balkans.

In order to understand the danger its important to analyse the dynamics of the region as a whole, within the context of global strategic politics. In the aftermath of the end of the Cold War, the US followed the Neo-Con strategy of the “War on Terror”. That strategy was based on the idea that its necessary to present populations with the threat of some external enemy, in order to retain internal control, and to push through the necessary strong state measures to enforce that control if necessary. Al Qaeda never posed any real threat to the US. It was in fact the creature of the CIA, developed to fight the USSR in Afghanistan, and its main focus originally was to oppose the ruling regimes in North Africa and the Middle East, not the US. In 1990, China was not a credible global threat for the US, but Al Qaeda fulfilled the function admirably, because it was hidden, and unquantifiable.

But, apart from the 9/11 attacks, Al Qaeda has been spectacularly unsuccessful. The Provisional IRA, for example, with much smaller forces, and without the need to resort to suicide bombing, was able to detonate bombs on the British mainland on a very frequent basis. No Islamist bombers have been able to achieve that. ETA, has also been more successful in that regard in Spain. Taken in its wider context, Islamist terrorism poses no real threat to the great powers. Today, the main enemies of the US are Russia, China, and Europe. This is where the opposing congelations of economic power reside. US strategy is geared to that reality. That is why under current conditions the US is dropping Israel, and focussing its attention on an alliance with the Gulf Feudal regimes. Those regimes, continue to supply the US with much of its oil – though technological developments mean that the US is about to replace Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer – as well as act as a necessary buffer against Iran/Iraq, which is a sub-imperialist power, behind which stands Russia and China.

Within this context also has to be analysed the US establishment of bases in the “Stans” of Central Asia, where they have shown no qualms about aligning with dictators who boil their opponents in oil! That strategy is designed to hem in Russia to its South, and China to its West, towards what has become the new raw materials Wild West. The US has also put a ring of steel around Russia and China, by moving the bulk of its navy into the Pacific.

On that basis the role of Sunni Jihadists is a side issue, a necessary cost for the US in building its alliance with those Gulf regimes. That alliance has created the condition for removing those regimes that could have acted to block the US drive to undermine the power of Iran, and its backers. But, as I pointed out at the time the Arab Spring was erupting, the main loser would be Israel. The cost of building up the Sunni Jihadists, and of the establishment of Sunni clerical-fascist regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya might be small for the US, but it could be very great for Israel. The first thing is that Egypt must be under increasing pressure to open the border with Gaza, allowing traffic of people, and arms in both directions. If President Morsi fails to do that, he will come under increasing pressure from the Salafist, and the dynamic of such regimes is always to become more extreme. The possibility of a deal between Hamas and Qatar, shows how things could escalate quickly, particularly given the large number of foreign jihadist fighters, now well armed and financed by those Gulf regimes, and by the US, already in Israel's neighbour, Syria. The jihadists might hate Assad's regime, but they hate Israel even more. In fact, Israel's atrocities in Gaza, open the door for Assad to launch a populist opposition to Israel himself. An obvious opening gambit in such a move would be an advance on the Golan Heights, combined with renewed rocket attacks on Israel by Hezbollah.

But, the main threat as stated at the beginning comes from Turkey. The Ottoman Empire for centuries dominated the Balkans, parts of Central Europe – in competition with the Hapsburg Empire – and across the Middle East and North Africa. It was only during WWI that that Empire was finally demolished. Now a rapidly growing, and confident Turkey is seeking to develop a Neo-Ottoman strategy. For years, it tried to gain entry to the EU, but its attempts were blocked. Now, it is growing much more strongly than the EU, and it has switched its focus to building economic and political links with the East, and to its South. Meanwhile, it too has fallen prey to Islamism. The Islamist ruling party began modestly, now doubt concerned, given the country's history, that the powerful military would intervene if it pushed too far, too fast. But, the country is moving increasingly in an Islamist direction, itself a cause of potential conflict given the divisions between Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, and secularists.

For a long time, while it was trying to gin entry to the EU, Turkey was an ally of Israel. That began to change several years ago. It was typified by the aid ship from Turkey, which was violently boarded by Israeli troops, with several Turks being killed in the process. Turkey has joined other Islamist regimes in vehemently attacking Israel's acts of terror in Gaza. Some form of “liberal intervention” by Turkey in Israel/Palestine would be an obvious way for it to assert itself as the sub-imperialist power par excellence within the region, rallying the other Islamist regimes behind it. That would be unlikely to take the form of an outright military attack on Israel, but it could take the form of supply Hamas, with sophisticated air defences. It could take the form of an air exclusion zone over Gaza, with Turkey threatening to take down any Israeli jets attacking Gaza. As with other such interventions, such an approach would, however, be likely to quickly lead to the need to go further, taking out Israeli air defences, attacking Israeli armour on the border with Gaza, and so on. All such actions would have the advantage for Turkey, as a NATO member, of forcing the US to choose which side of the fence it was on.

All those who side with Palestine as against Israel would no doubt be glad to see such an intervention, just as many those who sided with the Libyan rebels, were glad to see an outside intervention against Gaddafi, and today would be glad of such an intervention against Assad. But, for socialists either kind of intervention is to be opposed for the reasons Trotsky gives in his writings on the Balkan Wars. The Israeli atrocities in Gaza are deplorable, and its not the first time. If anything on a proportional basis, taking account of relative population sizes, and duration of the attacks, the Israeli atrocities in Gaza, are worse than those of the vile Assad regime. But, once again, Trotsky's analysis in his writings on the Balkan Wars demonstrates similarities.

In the Balkans, as Trotsky points out forces were led into launching adventures on the basis of expecting external intervention to come to their support. Socialists are neither in favour of adventures, nor of workers relying on forces other than their own, undertaking the historical tasks that need to be completed. Looking at the situation in Gaza today, although the Israeli atrocities are to be wholly denounced, its also necessary for socialists to criticise the actions of Hamas. The launching of rockets against Israel in no way justifies Israel's murderous, and disproportionate response, but at the same time, its clear that this strategy of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, is both reactionary, and doomed to fail. The rockets are ineffective, despite the large numbers fired, and yet at the same time, undermine the only chance that Palestinians have of eventually resolving their problems – that is by the Palestinian and Israeli workers joining forces.

As Trotsky points out in relation to the Balkans, the solution was to be found in creating a Balkan Federation capable of economically developing the region, and breaking down national borders. That was not going to happen if the workers of the Balkans were fighting each other. The same is true today in the Middle East and North Africa. When Hamas leaders appear on TV, and say that anyone who attacks Palestine will be buried, when their tactic is resulting not in dozens of Israeli, but in Gazan deaths, this can only be because they are genuinely deluded, placing their faith literally in their mediaevalist religious ideology that counts on divine intervention, or more likely it is because, like the rebels in Libya, Syria and elsewhere, they are counting on the resulting atrocities bringing about intervention against Israel, by more powerful external forces existing in the real world.

For the same reasons as Trotsky in relation to the Balkans, we should vociferously oppose the atrocities being committed by the Israeli regime, just as we should do so in relation to the Assad regime. But, again for the same reasons as Trotsky in the Balkans, we should oppose any external intervention in the affairs of the region be that Turkish, or Iranian intervention against Israel, or be it, intervention by the imperialist powers and their Gulf agents in Syria. The solution for the Middle East and North Africa is the establishment of a Federation of States. Only the workers of the region are likely to bring that about. Socialists should concern themselves with building the workers forces in the region to that end, and doing so as an independent force from their class enemies. That is not going to be easy, and our forces to achieve it are tiny. But, as throughout our history, our responsibility is to analyse things honestly, to tell the truth even when its unpalatable, and to act upon it, not simply choose some simpler solution, because it is more immediately practical.


George Carty said...

If Israel were to be decisively losing a war against Turkey (or anyone else), wouldn't it force the European NATO states to come to its aid by threatening to nuke them too if it went down?

That's the whole point of Israel's Samson Option -- "if we go down, we'll drag the world down with us".

Boffy said...

Possibly so, but that's why the US and NATO will impress on Israel that it should not pick a fight with Turkey, that would lead to such a lose-lose situation. Its also a reason Turkey would want Patriot Missiles on its border to shoot down any Israeli nukes aimed towards it, and why Europe will want its own NATO missile shield.

Provided its Turkey in the driving seat, NATO/Imperialism will hope to keep some kind of control, a control it will not have if instead the cause of the Palestinians/opposition to Israel is in the hands of the Sunni jihadists now in control in Libya and Mali, (possibly soon in Syria) and whose co-thinkers now form the political regime in Egypt and Tunisia.

The problem with that thesis is that if Turkey does assume that role, perhaps forcing Israel to concede a separate state for Palestine, a number of other problematics arise.

We already have the Two State solutions that some have demanded for a long time i.e. we have a separate Palestinian State in Gaza. It hasn't resolved anyhting for the reasons I outlined 25 years ago in that regard. Palestinians who want the whole of Palestine continue to engage in action against Israel, now with greater force behind them. Israelis who oppose that demand, and who seek a greater Israel, us the power of the Israeli State to enforce their will.

Even if Turkey could impose a more extensive Two-State solution, there is no reason that Palestinian militants, and jihadists would not continue their attacks.

Similarly, as happened with NATO's promotion of Al Qaeda, now they have taken the jihadi option out of the box in Libya etc. there is no guarantee that NATO and their Gulf allies will be able to put it back, once it has fulfilled its task of removing the Bonapartist regimes, and opening the road to defeating Iran/Iraq.