By Richard Walker
Just when it seemed the U.S. military was shifting its focus to the Asia Pacific region, it appears the Biden administration is being sucked back into a major military commitment in the Mideast.
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This is what Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has wanted for years. He is thrilled that the U.S. military might now be available should the present conflict expand beyond Gaza, to include Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. It appears that no one told the Pentagon that when you put a massive amount of U.S. military hardware in the Middle East, while expanding bases there, you present Israel’s enemies with a very big target.
And Israel indeed has many enemies. It has bombed the territory of its neighbors in contravention of international law, carried out assassinations on the streets of cities like Tehran and has stolen Palestinian land while treating the native Palestinians as second-class citizens.
Netanyahu has always wanted and has largely had the U.S. at his command, ready to destroy Iran should a wider conflict ensue. Iran could be drawn into a war, and so too Iraq, Syria, and especially Lebanon. Attacks on U.S. bases in the region have increased, and so have U.S. strikes on militia bases in Syria and Iraq.
According to a recent report published by Stars and Stripes, a daily American military-focused newspaper, the Pentagon has claimed that nearly 60 U.S. troops have been injured following 56 separate missile and drone attacks targeting U.S. military installations in Iraq and Syria over the course of the past month. In typical fashion, Pentagon spokespersons have claimed that “Iran-backed militant groups” have been responsible for the missile and drone attacks, raising the specter of a long-sought military conflict with Iran in the future.
The Pentagon claims that attacks on U.S. targets in the region have increased dramatically following the escalation of the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in the aftermath of the surprise Hamas attack on Israel launched on Oct. 7. Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem has insisted attacking U.S. positions in the Middle East is “essential” to halt Israel’s genocidal campaign against the besieged Gaza Strip, where Israeli missiles and drones rain down indiscriminately on Palestinian civilians.
“It is the [Western] axis that supports the occupation, legitimizes the murder of children and women, the destruction of hospitals, and grants immunity to Israel to continue its massacres,” Qassem recently explained to the Spanish daily El Mundo in an exclusive interview. “The U.S. is supporting these massacres, and that is why attacking the U.S. is essential to stop the aggression against Gaza.”
The American public does not know that the U.S. has roughly 750 military bases in 80 nations worldwide. There are multiple military bases in Middle East nations that include Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. There is also a secret base in Israel which has an arsenal of sorts for special operations, surveillance, and intelligence gathering operations.
Many of these bases have been hardened with additional troops, and more powerful technical equipment for surveillance and security. Now that militias are armed with advanced missiles and drones capable of delivering bombs, all those bases are much more vulnerable. The danger, of course, is that a serious loss of life at one of them might encourage the Biden White House to launch a strike against Iran, which now has powerful allies such as Russia and China.
Biden has committed the U.S. to defending Israel should the present conflict spill into Lebanon in a sustained way. This means that a wider war will undoubtedly involve U.S. troops. Hezbollah in Lebanon says its warehouses are full of weapons and believe U.S. military bases are legitimate military targets, particularly given the unwavering American support provided to Israel as well as its aggressive foreign policy in the region. This means that we can expect more attacks against U.S. bases, or U.S. ships offshore that might be vulnerable to Russian-made missiles.
What Hezbollah does not understand, however, is that its understanding of the Israel-U.S. relationship is somewhat flawed. Israel does what it chooses because the Israeli military principle is “Israel first.” Netanyahu has proven, over decades, that he can do what he wishes because he has political clout in the U.S. Congress and among Washington’s rich elites. Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump and now Biden all learned that Netanyahu is a devious, roguish politician. His actions will now determine the course of events in the Middle East.
Should there be more deadly attacks on U.S. bases, NATO member Turkey will likely stand aside. Turkish President Recep Erdogan has already said he believes Israel is involved in a genocide in Gaza. Jordan, a U.S. ally for decades, cancelled a major oil-for-water deal with Netanyahu. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said he could not contemplate sitting down with his Israeli counterpart while Israel continued to “kill Gazan children.”
Turkey’s anti-Israel statements, as well as its efforts to bring Israel before the International Criminal Court for its barbaric military operation in Gaza, signified that Biden’s policy of unqualified backing of Netanyahu has created a rift with allies in the region. This could have future consequences for U.S. foreign policy.
In May 2021, after a spate of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Stephen M. Walt, a columnist with Foreign Policy wrote what today would be branded anti-Semitic: “The United States should no longer give Israel unconditional economic, military, and diplomatic support. The benefits of this policy are zero, and the costs are high and rising. Instead of a special relationship, the United States and Israel need a normal one.”
He did not stop there. He said that decades of “brutal” Israeli control of Palestinians “demolished the moral case for unconditional U.S. support.” In his opinion, the real costs of the special relationship with Israel were political, and Israel as a strategic asset was overvalued. In the present political climate, no one is going to support this analysis without risking ferocious criticism.