Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why the Rise of Fascism is again the Issue

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The recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazis iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism.
“To initiate a war of aggression…,” said the Nuremberg Tribunal judges in 1946, “is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Had the Nazis not invaded Europe, Auschwitz and the Holocaust would not have happened.  Had the United States and its satellites not initiated their war of aggression in Iraq in 2003, almost a million people would be alive today; and Islamic State, or ISIS, would not have us in thrall to its savagery.  They are the progeny of modern fascism, weaned by the bombs, bloodbaths and lies that are the surreal theatre known as news.
Like the fascism of the 1930s and 1940s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome: thanks to an omnipresent, repetitive media and its virulent censorship by omission. Take the catastrophe in Libya.
In 2011, Nato launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. Uranium warheads were used; the cities of Misurata and Sirte were carpet-bombed. The Red Cross identified mass graves, and Unicef reported that “most [of the children killed] were under the age of ten”.
The public sodomising of the Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi with a “rebel” bayonet was greeted by the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, with the words: “We came, we saw, he died.”  His murder, like the destruction of his country, was justified with a familiar big lie; he was planning “genocide” against his own people. “We knew … that if we waited one more day,” said President Obama, “Benghazi, a city the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”
This was the fabrication of Islamist militias facing defeat by Libyan government forces. They told Reuters there would be “a real bloodbath, a massacre like we saw in Rwanda”. Reported on March 14, 2011, the lie provided the first spark for Nato’s inferno, described by David Cameron as a “humanitarian intervention”.
Secretly supplied and trained by Britain’s SAS, many of the “rebels” would become ISIS, whose latest video offering shows the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian workers seized in Sirte, the city destroyed on their behalf by Nato bombers.
For Obama, Cameron and Hollande, Gaddafi’s true crime was Libya’s economic independence and his declared intention to stop selling Africa’s greatest oil reserves in US dollars. The petrodollar is a pillar of American imperial power. Gaddafi audaciously planned to underwrite a common African currency backed by gold, establish an all-Africa bank and promote economic union among poor countries with prized resources. Whether or not this would happen, the very notion was intolerable to the US as it prepared to “enter” Africa and bribe African governments with military “partnerships”.
Following Nato’s attack under cover of a Security Council resolution, Obama, wrote Garikai Chengu, “confiscated $30 billion from Libya’s Central Bank, which Gaddafi had earmarked for the establishment of an African Central Bank and the African gold backed dinar currency”.
The “humanitarian war” against Libya drew on a model close to western liberal hearts, especially in the media. In 1999, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair sent Nato to bomb Serbia, because, they lied, the Serbs were committing “genocide” against ethnic Albanians in the secessionist province of Kosovo. David Scheffer, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes [sic], claimed that as many as “225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59″ might have been murdered. Both Clinton and Blair evoked the Holocaust and “the spirit of the Second World War”. The West’s heroic allies were the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), whose criminal record was set aside. The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, told them to call him any time on his mobile phone.
With the Nato bombing over, and much of Serbia’s infrastructure in ruins, along with schools, hospitals, monasteries and the national TV station, international forensic teams descended upon Kosovo to exhume evidence of the “holocaust”. The FBI failed to find a single mass grave and went home. The Spanish forensic team did the same, its leader angrily denouncing “a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines”. A year later, a United Nations tribunal on Yugoslavia announced the final count of the dead in Kosovo: 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and Roma murdered by the KLA. There was no genocide. The “holocaust” was a lie. The Nato attack had been fraudulent.
Behind the lie, there was serious purpose. Yugoslavia was a uniquely independent, multi-ethnic federation that had stood as a political and economic bridge in the Cold War. Most of its utilities and major manufacturing was publicly owned. This was not acceptable to the expanding European Community, especially newly united Germany, which had begun a drive east to capture its “natural market” in the Yugoslav provinces of Croatia and Slovenia. By the time the Europeans met at Maastricht in 1991 to lay their plans for the disastrous eurozone, a secret deal had been struck; Germany would recognise Croatia. Yugoslavia was doomed.
In Washington, the US saw that the struggling Yugoslav economy was denied World Bank loans.  Nato, then an almost defunct Cold War relic, was reinvented as imperial enforcer. At a 1999 Kosovo “peace” conference in Rambouillet, in France, the Serbs were subjected to the enforcer’s duplicitous tactics. The Rambouillet accord included a secret Annex B, which the US delegation inserted on the last day. This demanded the military occupation of the whole of Yugoslavia — a country with bitter memories of the Nazi occupation — and the implementation of a “free-market economy” and the privatisation of all government assets. No sovereign state could sign this. Punishment followed swiftly; Nato bombs fell on a defenceless country. It was the precursor to the catastrophes in Afghanistan and Iraq, Syria and Libya, and Ukraine.
Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the United Nations – 69 countries – have suffered some or all of the following at the hands of America’s modern fascism. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted, their people bombed and their economies stripped of all protection, their societies subjected to a crippling siege known as “sanctions”. The British historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. In every case, a big lie was deployed.
“Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.” These were opening words of Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address. In fact, some 10,000 troops and 20,000 military contractors (mercenaries) remain in Afghanistan on indefinite assignment.  “The longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion,” said Obama. In fact, more civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2014 than in any year since the UN took records.  The majority have been killed — civilians and soldiers — during Obama’s time as president.
The tragedy of Afghanistan rivals the epic crime in Indochina.  In his lauded and much quoted book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the godfather of US policies from Afghanistan to the present day, writes that if America is to control Eurasia and dominate the world, it cannot sustain a popular democracy, because “the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion . . . Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilisation.”  He is right. As WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden have revealed, a surveillance and police state is usurping democracy. In 1976, Brzezinski, then President Carter’s National Security Advisor, demonstrated his point by dealing a death blow to Afghanistan’s first and only democracy. Who knows this vital history?
In the 1960s, a popular revolution swept Afghanistan, the poorest country on earth, eventually overthrowing the vestiges of the aristocratic regime in 1978. The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) formed a government and declared a reform programme that included the abolition of feudalism, freedom for all religions, equal rights for women and social justice for the ethnic minorities. More than 13,000 political prisoners were freed and police files publicly burned.
The new government introduced free medical care for the poorest; peonage was abolished, a mass literacy programme was launched. For women, the gains were unheard of. By the late 1980s, half the university students were women, and women made up almost half of Afghanistan’s doctors, a third of civil servants and the majority of teachers. “Every girl,” recalled Saira Noorani, a female surgeon,
“could go to high school and university. We could go where we wanted and wear what we liked. We used to go to cafes and the cinema to see the latest Indian film on a Friday and listen to the latest music. It all started to go wrong when the mujaheddin started winning. They used to kill teachers and burn schools. We were terrified. It was funny and sad to think these were the people the West supported.”
The PDPA government was backed by the Soviet Union, even though, as former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance later admitted, “there was no evidence of any Soviet complicity [in the revolution]“. Alarmed by the growing confidence of liberation movements throughout the world, Brzezinski decided that if Afghanistan was to succeed under the PDPA, its independence and progress would offer the “threat of a promising example”.
On July 3, 1979, the White House secretly authorised $500 million in arms and logistics to support tribal “fundamentalist” groups known as the mujaheddin. The aim was the overthrow of Afghanistan’s first secular, reformist government. In August 1979, the US embassy in Kabul reported that “the United States’ larger interests … would be served by the demise of [the PDPA government], despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan.” The italics are mine.
The mujaheddin were the forebears of al-Qaeda and Islamic State. They included Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who received tens of millions of dollars in cash from the CIA. Hekmatyar’s specialty was trafficking in opium and throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil. Invited to London, he was lauded by Prime Minister Thatcher as a “freedom fighter”.
Such fanatics might have remained in their tribal world had Brzezinski not launched an international movement to promote Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia and so undermine secular political liberation and “destabilise” the Soviet Union, creating, as he wrote in his autobiography, “a few stirred up Muslims”.  His grand plan coincided with the ambitions of  the Pakistani dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, to dominate the region. In 1986, the CIA and Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, began to recruit people from around the world to join the Afghan jihad. The Saudi multi-millionaire Osama bin Laden was one of them. Operatives who would eventually join the Taliban and al-Qaeda, were recruited at an Islamic college in Brooklyn, New York, and given paramilitary training at a CIA camp in Virginia. This was called “Operation Cyclone”. Its success was celebrated in 1996 when the last PDPA president of Afghanistan, Mohammed Najibullah — who had gone before the UN General Assembly to plead for help — was hanged from a streetlight by the Taliban.
The “blowback” of Operation Cyclone and its “few stirred up Muslims” was September 11, 2001. Operation Cyclone became the “war on terror”, in which countless men, women and children would lose their lives across the Muslim world, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria. The enforcer’s message was and remains: “You are with us or against us.”
The common thread in fascism, past and present, is mass murder. The American invasion of Vietnam had its “free fire zones”, “body counts” and “collatoral damage”. In the province of Quang Ngai, where I reported from, many thousands of civilians (“gooks”) were murdered by the US; yet only one massacre, at My Lai, is remembered. In Laos and Cambodia, the greatest aerial bombardment in history produced an epoch of terror marked today by the spectacle of joined-up bomb craters which, from the air, resemble monstrous necklaces. The bombing gave Cambodia its own ISIS, led by Pol Pot.
Today, the world’s greatest single campaign of terror entails the execution of entire families, guests at weddings, mourners at funerals. These are Obama’s victims. According to the New York Times, Obama makes his selection from a CIA “kill list” presented to him every Tuesday in the White House Situation Room. He then decides, without a shred of legal justification, who will live and who will die. His execution weapon is the Hellfire missile carried by a pilotless aircraft known as a drone; these roast their victims and festoon the area with their remains.  Each “hit” is registered on a faraway console screen as a “bugsplat”.
“For goose-steppers,” wrote the historian Norman Pollock, “substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manque, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.”
Uniting fascism old and new is the cult of superiority. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being,” said Obama, evoking declarations of national fetishism from the 1930s. As the historian Alfred W. McCoy has pointed out, it was the Hitler devotee, Carl Schmitt, who said, “The sovereign is he who decides the exception.” This sums up Americanism, the world’s dominant ideology. That it remains unrecognised as a predatory ideology is the achievement of an equally unrecognised brainwashing.  Insidious, undeclared, presented wittily as enlightenment on the march, its conceit insinuates western culture. I grew up on a cinematic diet of American glory, almost all of it a distortion. I had no idea that it was the Red Army that had destroyed most of the Nazi war machine, at a cost of as many as 13 million soldiers. By contrast, US losses, including in the Pacific, were 400,000. Hollywood reversed this.
The difference now is that cinema audiences are invited to wring their hands at the “tragedy” of American psychopaths having to kill people in distant places — just as the President himself kills them. The embodiment of Hollywood’s violence, the actor and director Clint Eastwood, was nominated for an Oscar this year for his movie, American Sniper, which is about a licensed murderer and nutcase. The New York Times described it as a “patriotic, pro-family picture which broke all attendance records in its opening days”.
There are no heroic movies about America’s embrace of fascism. During the Second World War, America (and Britain) went to war against Greeks who had fought heroically against Nazism and were resisting the rise of Greek fascism. In 1967, the CIA helped bring to power a fascist military junta in Athens — as it did in Brazil and most of Latin America. Germans and east Europeans who had colluded with Nazi aggression and crimes against humanity were given safe haven in the US; many were pampered and their talents rewarded. Wernher von Braun was the “father” of both the Nazi V-2 terror bomb and the US space programme.
In the 1990s, as former Soviet republics, eastern Europe and the Balkans became military outposts of Nato, the heirs to a Nazi movement in Ukraine were given their opportunity. Responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews, Poles and Russians during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Ukrainian fascism was rehabilitated and its “new wave” hailed by the enforcer as “nationalists”.
This reached its apogee in 2014 when the Obama administration splashed out $5 billion on a coup against the elected government.  The shock troops were neo-Nazis known as the Right Sector and Svoboda. Their leaders include  Oleh Tyahnybok, who has called for a purge of the “Moscow-Jewish mafia” and “other scum”, including gays, feminists and those on the political left.
These fascists are now integrated into the Kiev coup government. The first deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Andriy Parubiy, a leader of the governing party, is co-founder of Svoboda. On February 14, Parubiy announced he was flying to Washington get “the USA to give us highly precise modern weaponry”. If he succeeds, it will be seen as an act of war by Russia.
No western leader has spoken up about the revival of fascism in the heart of Europe — with the exception of Vladimir Putin, whose people lost 22 million to a Nazi invasion that came through the borderland of Ukraine. At the recent Munich Security Conference, Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, ranted abuse about European leaders for opposing the US arming of the Kiev regime. She referred to the German Defence Minister as “the minister for defeatism”. It was Nuland who masterminded the coup in Kiev. The wife of Robert D. Kaplan, a leading “neo-con” luminary of the far-right Center for a New American Security, she was foreign policy advisor to the fascist Dick Cheney.
Nuland’s coup did not go to plan. Nato was prevented from seizing Russia’s historic, legitimate, warm-water naval base in Crimea. The mostly Russian population of Crimea — illegally annexed to Ukraine by Nikita Krushchev in 1954 — voted overwhelmingly to return to Russia, as they had done in the 1990s.  The referendum was voluntary, popular and internationally observed. There was no invasion.
At the same time, the Kiev regime turned on the ethnic Russian population in the east with the ferocity of ethnic cleaning. Deploying neo-Nazi militias in the manner of the Waffen-SS, they bombed and laid to siege cities and towns. They used mass starvation as a weapon, cutting off electricity, freezing bank accounts, stopping social security and pensions. More than a million refugees fled across the border into Russia. In the western media, they became unpeople escaping “the violence” caused by the “Russian invasion”. The Nato commander, General Breedlove — whose name and actions might have been inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove — announced that 40,000 Russian troops were “massing”. In the age of forensic satellite evidence, he offered none.
These Russian-speaking and bilingual people of Ukraine – a third of the population – have long sought a federation that reflects the country’s ethnic diversity and is both autonomous and independent of Moscow. Most are not “separatists” but citizens who want to live securely in their homeland and oppose the power grab in Kiev. Their revolt and establishment of autonomous “states” are a reaction to Kiev’s attacks on them. Little of this has been explained to western audiences.
On May 2, 2014, in Odessa, 41 ethnic Russians were burned alive in the trade union headquarters with police standing by.  The Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh hailed the massacre as “another bright day in our national history”. In the American and British media, this was reported as a “murky tragedy” resulting from “clashes” between “nationalists” (neo-Nazis) and “separatists” (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine).
The New York Times buried the story, having dismissed as Russian propaganda warnings about the fascist and anti-Semitic policies of Washington’s new clients. The Wall Street Journal damned the victims – “Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says”. Obama congratulated the junta for its “restraint”.
If Putin can be provoked into coming to their aid, his pre-ordained “pariah” role in the West will justify the lie that Russia is invading Ukraine. On January 29, Ukraine’s top military commander, General Viktor Muzhemko, almost inadvertently dismissed the very basis for US and EU sanctions on Russia when he told a news conference emphatically: “The Ukrainian army is not fighting with the regular units of the Russian Army”.  There were “individual citizens” who were members of “illegal armed groups”, but there was no Russian invasion.  This was not news. Vadym Prystaiko, Kiev’s Deputy Foreign Minister, has called for “full scale war” with nuclear-armed Russia.
On February 21, US Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, introduced a bill that would authorise American arms for the Kiev regime.  In his Senate presentation, Inhofe used photographs he claimed were of Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, which have long been exposed as fakes. It was reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s fake pictures of a Soviet installation in Nicaragua, and Colin Powell’s fake evidence to the UN of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The intensity of the smear campaign against Russia and the portrayal of its president as a pantomime villain is unlike anything I have known as a reporter. Robert Parry, one of America’s most distinguished investigative journalists, who revealed the Iran-Contra scandal, wrote recently,
“No European government, since Adolf Hitler’s Germany, has seen fit to dispatch Nazi storm troopers to wage war on a domestic population, but the Kiev regime has and has done so knowingly. Yet across the West’s media/political spectrum, there has been a studious effort to cover up this reality even to the point of ignoring facts that have been well established ….If you wonder how the world could stumble into world war three – much as it did into world war one a century ago – all you need to do is look at the madness over Ukraine that has proved impervious to facts or reason.”
In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal prosecutor said of the German media:
“The use made by Nazi conspirators of psychological warfare is well known. Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically for the attack …. In the propaganda system of the Hitler State it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.”
In the Guardian on February 2, Timothy Garton-Ash called, in effect, for a world war. “Putin must be stopped,” said the headline. “And sometimes only guns can stop guns.” He conceded that the threat of war might “nourish a Russian paranoia of encirclement”; but that was fine. He name-checked the military equipment needed for the job and advised his readers that “America has the best kit”.
In 2003, Garton-Ash, an Oxford professor, repeated the propaganda that led to the slaughter in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, he wrote, “has, as [Colin] Powell documented, stockpiled large quantities of horrifying chemical and biological weapons, and is hiding what remains of them. He is still trying to get nuclear ones.” He lauded Blair as a “Gladstonian, Christian liberal interventionist”.  In 2006, he wrote, “Now we face the next big test of the West after Iraq: Iran.”
The outbursts — or as Garton-Ash prefers, his “tortured liberal ambivalence” — are not untypical of those in the transatlantic liberal elite who have struck a Faustian deal. The war criminal Blair is their lost leader. The Guardian, in which Garton-Ash’s piece appeared, published a full-page advertisement for an American Stealth bomber. On a menacing image of the Lockheed Martin monster were the words: “The F-35. GREAT For Britain”. This American “kit” will cost British taxpayers £1.3 billion, its F-model predecessors having slaughtered across the world.  In tune with its advertiser, a Guardian editorial has demanded an increase in military spending.
Once again, there is serious purpose. The rulers of the world want Ukraine not only as a missile base; they want its economy. Kiev’s new Finance Minister, Nataliwe Jaresko, is a former senior US State Department official in charge of US overseas “investment”. She was hurriedly given Ukrainian citizenship.
They want Ukraine for its abundant gas; Vice President Joe Biden’s son is on the board of Ukraine’s biggest oil, gas and fracking company. The manufacturers of GM seeds, companies such as the infamous Monsanto, want Ukraine’s rich farming soil.
Above all, they want Ukraine’s mighty neighbour, Russia. They want to Balkanise or dismember Russia and exploit the greatest source of natural gas on earth. As the Arctic ice melts, they want control of the Arctic Ocean and its energy riches, and Russia’s long Arctic land border. Their man in Moscow used to be Boris Yeltsin, a drunk, who handed his country’s economy to the West. His successor, Putin, has re-established Russia as a sovereign nation; that is his crime.
The responsibility of the rest of us is clear. It is to identify and expose the reckless lies of warmongers and never to collude with them. It is to re-awaken the great popular movements that brought a fragile civilisation to modern imperial states. Most important, it is to prevent the conquest of ourselves: our minds, our humanity, our self respect. If we remain silent, victory over us is assured, and a holocaust beckons.

Pentagon provocation on Russia’s border

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US armored vehicles flying American flags were paraded Tuesday through the Estonian city of Narva, just a few hundred yards from the Russian border.
The provocative action, coming on the heels of the first anniversary of the US-orchestrated coup in Kiev, underscores the transformation of the entire region into a zone of military confrontation, with potentially catastrophic implications for the peoples of not only Eastern Europe, but the entire planet.
Spearheaded by the fascistic Right Sector militia, the coup that toppled the government of President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22 of last year was carried out with the direct support and intimate involvement of the US government. Washington’s execrable representative on the scene, the State Department’s Victoria Nuland, went so far as to name those to be allowed into a post-coup regime.
The installation of this right-wing nationalist, anti-Russian regime in Kiev provoked mass popular opposition in the largely Russian-speaking eastern Donbass region. The Kiev government, with Washington’s support, sought to drown the rebellion in blood.
After ten months of fighting and the deaths of at least 5,000 people, this repressive campaign has proven a disaster for the Kiev regime and its American patrons. The Ukrainian military, dominated by fascistic militias, has virtually disintegrated after being forced into a headlong retreat. The country is on the brink of bankruptcy, with its currency, the hryvnia, in free-fall, having lost half its value since the beginning of this year.
The regime’s response consists of political repression, a largely unsuccessful attempt to forcibly draft youth into the army, and drastic austerity measures against the working class.
By any objective measure, last year’s US-orchestrated coup has yielded yet another foreign policy debacle. Far from seeking to quell the crisis it unleashed in the region, however, Washington has responded by moving to escalate and spread it.
This is because the central target of the US regime-change operation was not Yanukovych, but Russia. Its aim was to draw Ukraine tightly into the US sphere of influence and position NATO on Russia’s western border. Ultimately, the havoc unleashed in Kiev was directed at destabilizing the regime in Moscow and paving the way for the dismemberment of the Russian federation and transformation of its parts into semi-colonies of US imperialism.
In the wake of the rout of Ukrainian forces in the Donbass, the US is moving ahead with plans to arm the Kiev regime, bringing the US and Russia closer to military conflict. Thus, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was dispatched to Abu Dhabi this week for the annual International Defense Exhibition, where he claimed to have signed nearly 20 contracts for weapons. The United Arab Emirates, which served as the conduit for arming the US-backed Islamist “rebels” in Syria, is apparently providing the same service in relation to Ukraine.
One of Poroshenko’s top security advisors, Anton Gerashchenko, posted a giddy comment on Facebook, asserting that “unlike Europeans and Americans, the Arabs aren’t afraid of Putin’s threats that a third world war may start if weapons and military equipment are provided to Ukraine.”
Now we have the US armored column parading on the Estonian-Russian border. This is only one of the more inflammatory manifestations of an ongoing US military buildup in the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—that have all been brought into NATO.
Last September, speaking in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, Obama vowed that the US commitment to defend these former Soviet republics was “unbreakable.” Obama added that Washington’s pledge to use American military power to protect the three tiny countries was “unwavering” and “eternal.” He boasted that in all three countries there would be more “American boots on the ground.”
This was reiterated Wednesday in testimony delivered to the House Armed Services Committee by Gen. Philip Breedlove, the head of the US European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander. He told the congressional panel that his “top concern is a resurgent Russia.”
He enumerated a long list of US military exercises and deployments that constituted a “near-continuous air, land and sea presence” on Russia’s borders, while arguing that such a “rotational presence” was no substitute for the “fielding of credible and persistent deterrent capabilities” that would allow the US to “respond within hours…as crises emerge.”
This has begun, he said, with the establishment of a “NATO command and control presence” in the Baltic states. The US European Command, he added, had conducted 67 “significant military-to-military engagements” with the Baltic states and Poland between April and October of 2014 alone.
Gen. Strangelove…or rather, Breedlove…also stressed the role of the US “theater nuclear deterrent in support of NATO and enduring US security commitments” in the region. The US military, he said, “stands side-by-side with our NATO allies to provide safe, secure, reliable and effective nuclear forces to deter aggression,” adding that STRATCOM (successor to the Strategic Air Command—SAC) had been integrated into NATO’s “regional exercises.”
In other words, behind the backs of the American people and the population of the entire planet and with virtually no notice in the media, not to mention any public debate, Washington has turned three small Baltic states on Russia’s border into the trip wire for a nuclear Third World War.
It could not have picked more unstable allies—in reality, puppets—upon which to risk nuclear annihilation. All three Baltic states are headed by right-wing, ultranationalist and rabidly anti-Russian regimes. The Estonian independence celebration in which the US military participated was dominated by the slogan “Estonia for the Estonians,” a reactionary chauvinist demand for the expulsion of Russians, who comprise fully a quarter of the population. The town of Narva, where the US column joined the parade, is a stronghold of Russian speakers, making the demonstration an implicit threat against the local population.
In Estonia, as in the other two Baltic states, there are regular public rallies featuring swastikas and celebrating the Waffen SS, which carried out the mass murder of Jews and other minorities in these countries during World War II.
There has not been any Russian threat against these states since they established their independence from Moscow in the course of the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union nearly a quarter of a century ago, and there is no such threat now.
The claim that the corrupt regime of capitalist oligarchs in Moscow is “resurgent” is a pretext for Washington to scrap the assurances it provided 25 years ago that NATO would not deploy its military on Russia’s borders, and to embark upon a policy of military provocation and aggression that threatens to ignite a war between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

Forget all our other troubles – the Russians are coming!

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The gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow. Train and bus fares continue to rise. Twice as many people are living in poverty than 30 years ago. And our National Health Service is being privatized before our very eyes.
But hey - we Brits must forget about all those things - because there’s something far more important to worry about. The Russians are coming!
That “sinister tyrant” Vladimir Putin, doesn’t’ just threaten the whole of Ukraine - and the Baltic States - but even poses a “threat” to Britain too!
This simply must be true (says author, tongue firmly in cheek), because the claims are being made by prominent members of the British political and media establishment - you know the same bunch who in 2003 told us Iraq had WMDs, who in 2011 told us that toppling Gaddafi was a great idea, and who in 2013 wanted us to bomb Syria and topple a secular government that was fighting ISIS.
UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon (who voted for the Iraq war in 2003), raised the specter last week of Putin targeting the Baltic States.
I’m worried about Putin. I’m worried about his pressure on the Baltics, the way he is testing NATO,” Fallon said. “It’s a very real and present danger,” the Minister went on, just in case we still didn’t appreciate the Russian ‘threat’. “He (Putin) flew two Russian bombers down the English Channel two weeks ago. We had to scramble jets very quickly to see them off. It’s the first time since the height of the Cold War; it’s the first time that’s happened.”
Sir Adrian Bradshaw, the NATO Deputy Supreme Commander in Europe, went even further than Fallon, saying that “the threat from Russia” represented “an existential threat to our whole being.”
Meanwhile, the former Air Chief Marshall Lord Jock Stirrup raised the horrifying prospect that civilian planes containing holidaymakers could be brought down by Russian jets.
In case these warnings weren’t enough to give us palpitations the so-called Russophobic hack pack - the group of mutually-adoring propagandists who obsess about Russia - weighed in to reinforce the message that we all ought to be jolly scared about Putin.
The second commenter provided useful advice on “How to stop Putin nuking us all” (which includes blocking RT).
While ordinary people in Britain struggle to make ends meet, for theelite, the big burning question of the day is not “What can we do to reduce bus and train fares?” but “How can we can deal with the Russian ‘threat?’”.
Can the UK handle the Bear threat from Russia? “asked the Independent. “With bad guys about, you can’t ignore defense” was the title of one comment piece in Rupert Murdoch’s Times.
Putin’s war on the West” was the cover story of the Economist. “As Ukraine suffers, it is time to recognize the gravity of the Russian threat - and to counter it.. The EU and NATO are Mr. Putin’s ultimate targets.”
Very helpfully, amid all these concerns, the BBC News website ran an article entitled “How to spot a Russian bomber.
I printed the guide out and thanks to it I was able to rule out the possibility that the plane flying over my local playing fields was a Tupolev Tu-22M3 and was able to sleep easily in my bed that night.
Of course, the claims that Russia poses a threat to Britain are absolute baloney. As are the claims that Russia threatens the Baltic States. There’s more chance of Count Dracula being elected Prime Minister of Romania than a Russian invasion of Britain, or indeed Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia.
And as for the Russian bombers flying over Britain story - it’s worth reading the official Ministry of Defence Statement: “The Russian planes were escorted by the RAF until they were out of the UK area of interest. At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace.
The elite are trying to scare us again in the same way they tried to scare us about Saddam’s non-existent WMDs in 2003. They are scaring us because they’d rather us focus on a non-existent threat from Russia, than our problems at home. They are scaring us because they want to ’sell’ the case for a renewal of Trident, Britain’s so-called nuclear deterrent - and they are worried we might vote for parties like the ‘crackpot’Greens who don’t want us to renew Trident and who don‘t want us to get involved in any more wars of aggression.
They are scaring us because they want us, the British people, to share their obsessive Russophobia.
The establishment anti-Russia/anti-Putin campaign went into overdrive last week because of anger that a peace deal was reached in Minsk. The Russophobes want the conflict in Ukraine to continue to justify the sanctions on Russia. They want the Russian economy seriously weakened, regardless of the cost to the Russian people - believing this will eventually lead to ‘regime change’ in Moscow and someone like Garry Kasparov or Mikhail Khodorkovsky taking over in the Kremlin.
They’ve never forgiven Putin and Lavrov for blocking war against Syria in 2013 and for having the temerity to stand up and defend legitimate Russian national interests. Don’t these damn ‘Ruskies’ know their place!
That’s why we got these ludicrous warnings of the Russian ‘threat’ - just at the time when real progress has been made to try and bring the conflict in Ukraine to an end.
The good news is that the man - and woman - in the street aren’t buying into the scaremongering.
As I’ve noted before there is a real disconnect between establishment views on Russia and the views of ordinary people. Compare the bog standard “Putin is a threat to us all” comment pieces and the views of ordinary members of the public in the letters pages.
The most honest assessment of the situation I’ve read was by a letter-writer to the Daily Express newspaper, one Terence Matthews from London, who said “Putin is neither mad nor bad; he is looking after the rights of his people, just as I would expect my government to do…. The US does not want a strong Russia and is paranoid about it.. Let’s get the truth out and not lies”.
In fact if you want the truth on Russia in Britain, you’re generally much better off reading the letters pages, and below-the-line comments than you are reading the opinions of puffed-up pundits in ‘serious’ newspapers and journals who try and outdo one another in their Russophobia.
Laughing at the preposterous “The Russians are coming” brigade really is the best response. Refuse to stand to attention and deferentially tug your forelock when a neo-con or faux-leftist starts to lecture you on “the Russian threat”: Establishment Russophobes hate it when they’re not being taken seriously. And make sure that when you do come across a “The Russians are coming” scaremonger, check out what that person was saying about the Iraqi WMDs ‘threat’ in 2003. It’s usually quite revealing.

Child poverty at devastating levels in US cities and states

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Reports issued over the past week suggest that child poverty in America is more widespread than at any time in the last 50 years. For all the claims of economic “recovery” in the United States, the reality for the new generation of the working class is one of ever-deeper social deprivation.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation publishes the annual Kids Count report on child poverty, which was the source of state-by-state reports issued last week. These reports use the new Supplemental Poverty Measure, developed by the Census Bureau, which includes the impact of government benefit programs like food stamps and unemployment compensation, as well as state social programs, and accounts for variations in the cost of living as well.
The result is a picture of the United States with a markedly different regional distribution of child poverty than usually presented. The state with the highest child poverty rate is California, the most populous, at a staggering 27 percent, followed by neighboring Arizona and Nevada, each at 22 percent.
The child poverty rate of California is much higher than figures previously reported, because the cost of living in the state is higher. Moreover, many of the poorest immigrant families are not enrolled in federal social programs because they are undocumented or face language barriers. The same conditions apply in Arizona and Nevada.
The other major centers of child poverty in the United States are the long-impoverished states of the rural Deep South, and the more recently devastated states of the industrial Midwest, where conditions of life for the working class have deteriorated the most rapidly over the past ten years.
It is a remarkable fact, documented in a separate report issued February 23 by the Catholic charity Bread for the World, that African-American child poverty rates are actually worse in the Midwest states of Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana than in the traditionally poorest parts of the Deep South, including Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
Several of the Midwest states have replaced Mississippi at the bottom of one or another social index. Iowa has the worst poverty rate for African-American children. Indiana has the highest rate of teens attempting or seriously considering suicide.
The most remarkable transformation is in Michigan, once the center of American industry with the highest working-class standard of living of any state. Michigan is the only major US state whose overall poverty rate is actually worse now than in 1960.
This half-century of decline is a devastating indictment of the failure of the American trade unions, which have collaborated in the systematic impoverishment of the working class in what was once their undisputed stronghold.
The United Auto Workers, in particular, did nothing as dozens of plants were shut down and cities like Detroit, Pontiac, Flint and Saginaw were laid waste by the auto bosses. Meanwhile, the UAW became a billion-dollar business, its executives controlling tens of billions in pension and benefit funds, while the rank-and-file workers lost their jobs, their homes and their livelihoods.
In Detroit, once the industrial capital of the world’s richest country, the child poverty rate was 59 percent in 2012, up from 44.3 percent in 2006.
The social catastrophe facing the population in Detroit also exposes the role of the Democratic Party and the organizations around it that have for decades promoted identity politics—according to which race, and not class, is the fundamental social category in America. The city, like many throughout the region, has been run by a layer of black politicians who have overseen the shocking decay in the social position of African-American workers and youth. (See, "Half a million children in poverty in Michigan".)
Cleveland, also devastated by steel and auto plant closings, was the only other major US city with a child poverty rate of over 50 percent.
The Detroit figure undoubtedly understates the social catastrophe in the Motor City, since it comes from a study concluded before the state-imposed emergency manager put the city into bankruptcy in the summer of 2013, leading to drastic cuts in wages, benefits and pensions for city workers and retirees.
Wayne County, which includes Detroit, had the highest child poverty rate of any of Michigan’s 82 counties. Southeast Michigan, which includes the entire Detroit metropolitan area, endured an overall rise in child poverty rates from 18.9 percent in 2006 to 27 percent in 2012.
The state-by-state reports issued by Kids Count were accompanied by a press release by the Casey Foundation noting that the child poverty rate in the United States would nearly double, from 18 percent to 33 percent, without social programs like food stamps, school meals, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
This was issued as a warning of the effect of widely expected budget cuts in these critical programs. It coincided with the first hearing before the House Agriculture Committee on plans to attack the federal food stamp program by imposing work requirements and other restrictions to limit eligibility.
The food stamp program has already suffered through two rounds of budget cuts agreed on in bipartisan deals between the Obama White House and congressional Republicans, which cut $1 billion and $5 billion respectively from the program. Now that Republicans control both houses of Congress, they will press for even more sweeping cuts in a program that helps feed 47 million low-income people, many of them children.

How Gazan Natural Gas Became the Epicenter of An International Power Struggle

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Guess what? Almost all the current wars, uprisings, and other conflicts in the Middle East are connected by a single thread, which is also a threat: these conflicts are part of an increasingly frenzied competition to find, extract, and market fossil fuels whose future consumption is guaranteed to lead to a set of cataclysmic environmental crises.

Amid the many fossil-fueled conflicts in the region, one of them, packed with threats, large and small, has been largely overlooked, and Israel is at its epicenter. Its origins can be traced back to the early 1990s when Israeli and Palestinian leaders began sparring over rumored natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gaza. In the ensuing decades, it has grown into a many-fronted conflict involving several armies and three navies. In the process, it has already inflicted mindboggling misery on tens of thousands of Palestinians, and it threatens to add future layers of misery to the lives of people in Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus. Eventually, it might even immiserate Israelis. Resource wars are, of course, nothing new. Virtually the entire history of Western colonialism and post-World War II globalization has been animated by the effort to find and market the raw materials needed to build or maintain industrial capitalism. This includes Israel's expansion into, and appropriation of, Palestinian lands. But fossil fuels only moved to center stage in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship in the 1990s, and that initially circumscribed conflict only spread to include Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey, and Russia after 2010.

The Poisonous History of Gazan Natural Gas

Back in 1993, when Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed the Oslo Accords that were supposed to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and create a sovereign state, nobody was thinking much about Gaza's coastline. As a result, Israel agreed that the newly created PA would fully control its territorial waters, even though the Israeli navy was still patrolling the area. Rumored natural gas deposits there mattered little to anyone, because prices were then so low and supplies so plentiful. No wonder that the Palestinians took their time recruiting British Gas (BG) -- a major player in the global natural gas sweepstakes -- to find out what was actually there. Only in 2000 did the two parties even sign a modest contract to develop those by-then confirmed fields.

BG promised to finance and manage their development, bear all the costs, and operate the resulting facilities in exchange for 90% of the revenues, an exploitative but typical "profit-sharing" agreement. With an already functioning natural gas industry, Egypt agreed to be the on-shore hub and transit point for the gas. The Palestinians were to receive 10% of the revenues (estimated at about a billion dollars in total) and were guaranteed access to enough gas to meet their needs.

Had this process moved a little faster, the contract might have been implemented as written. In 2000, however, with a rapidly expanding economy, meager fossil fuels, and terrible relations with its oil-rich neighbors, Israel found itself facing a chronic energy shortage. Instead of attempting to answer its problem with an aggressive but feasible effort to develop renewable sources of energy, Prime Minister Ehud Barak initiated the era of Eastern Mediterranean fossil fuel conflicts. He brought Israel's naval control of Gazan coastal waters to bear and nixed the deal with BG. Instead, he demanded that Israel, not Egypt, receive the Gaza gas and that it also control all the revenues destined for the Palestinians -- to prevent the money from being used to "fund terror."

With this, the Oslo Accords were officially doomed. By declaring Palestinian control over gas revenues unacceptable, the Israeli government committed itself to not accepting even the most limited kind of Palestinian budgetary autonomy, let alone full sovereignty. Since no Palestinian government or organization would agree to this, a future filled with armed conflict was assured.

The Israeli veto led to the intervention of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who sought to broker an agreement that would satisfy both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. The result: a 2007 proposal that would have delivered the gas to Israel, not Egypt, at below-market prices, with the same 10% cut of the revenues eventually reaching the PA. However, those funds were first to be delivered to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York for future distribution, which was meant to guarantee that they would not be used for attacks on Israel.

This arrangement still did not satisfy the Israelis, who pointed to the recent victory of the militant Hamas party in Gaza elections as a deal-breaker. Though Hamas had agreed to let the Federal Reserve supervise all spending, the Israeli government, now led by Ehud Olmert, insistedthat no "royalties be paid to the Palestinians." Instead, the Israelis woulddeliver the equivalent of those funds "in goods and services."

This offer the Palestinian government refused. Soon after, Olmert imposed a draconian blockade on Gaza, which Israel's defense minister termed a form of "'economic warfare' that would generate a political crisis, leading to a popular uprising against Hamas." With Egyptian cooperation, Israel then seized control of all commerce in and out of Gaza, severely limiting even food imports and eliminating its fishing industry. As Olmert advisor Dov Weisglass summed up this agenda, the Israeli government was putting the Palestinians "on a diet" (which, according to the Red Cross, soon produced "chronic malnutrition," especially among Gazan children).

When the Palestinians still refused to accept Israel's terms, the Olmert government decided to unilaterally extract the gas, something that, they believed, could only occur once Hamas had been displaced or disarmed. As former Israel Defense Forces commander and current Foreign Minister Moshe Ya'alon explained, "Hamas... has confirmed its capability to bomb Israel's strategic gas and electricity installations... It is clear that, without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement."

Following this logic, Operation Cast Lead was launched in the winter of 2008. According to Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, it wasintended to subject Gaza to a "shoah" (the Hebrew word for holocaust or disaster). Yoav Galant, the commanding general of the Operation, said that it was designed to "send Gaza decades into the past." As Israeli parliamentarian Tzachi Hanegbi explained, the specific military goal was "to topple the Hamas terror regime and take over all the areas from which rockets are fired on Israel."

Operation Cast Lead did indeed "send Gaza decades into the past." Amnesty International reported that the 22-day offensive killed 1,400 Palestinians, "including some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians, and large areas of Gaza had been razed to the ground, leaving many thousands homeless and the already dire economy in ruins." The only problem: Operation Cast Lead did not achieve its goal of "transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel."

More Sources of Gas Equal More Resource Wars

In 2009, the newly elected government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inherited the stalemate around Gaza's gas deposits and an Israeli energy crisis that only grew more severe when the Arab Spring in Egypt interrupted and then obliterated 40% of the country's gas supplies. Rising energy prices soon contributed to the largest protests involving Jewish Israelis in decades.

As it happened, however, the Netanyahu regime also inherited a potentially permanent solution to the problem. An immense field of recoverable natural gas was discovered in the Levantine Basin, a mainly offshore formation under the eastern Mediterranean. Israeli officials immediately asserted that "most" of the newly confirmed gas reserves lay "within Israeli territory." In doing so, they ignored contrary claims by Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, and the Palestinians.

In some other world, this immense gas field might have been effectively exploited by the five claimants jointly, and a production plan might even have been put in place to ameliorate the environmental impact of releasing a future 130 trillion cubic feet of gas into the planet's atmosphere. However, as Pierre Terzian, editor of the oil industry journal Petrostrategies, observed, "All the elements of danger are there... This is a region where resorting to violent action is not something unusual."

In the three years that followed the discovery, Terzian's warning seemed ever more prescient. Lebanon became the first hot spot. In early 2011, the Israeli government announced the unilateral development of two fields, about 10% of that Levantine Basin gas, which lay in disputedoffshore waters near the Israeli-Lebanese border. Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassil immediately threatened a military confrontation, asserting that his country would "not allow Israel or any company working for Israeli interests to take any amount of our gas that is falling in our zone." Hezbollah, the most aggressive political faction in Lebanon, promised rocket attacks if "a single meter" of natural gas was extracted from the disputed fields.

Israel's Resource Minister accepted the challenge, asserting that "[t]hese areas are within the economic waters of Israel... We will not hesitate to use our force and strength to protect not only the rule of law but the international maritime law."

Oil industry journalist Terzian offered this analysis of the realities of the confrontation:

"In practical terms... nobody is going to invest with Lebanon in disputed waters. There are no Lebanese companies there capable of carrying out the drilling, and there is no military force that could protect them. But on the other side, things are different. You have Israeli companies that have the ability to operate in offshore areas, and they could take the risk under the protection of the Israeli military."

Sure enough, Israel continued its exploration and drilling in the two disputed fields, deploying drones to guard the facilities. Meanwhile, the Netanyahu government invested major resources in preparing for possible future military confrontations in the area. For one thing, with lavish U.S. funding, it developed the "Iron Dome" anti-missile defense system designed in part to intercept Hezbollah and Hamas rockets aimed at Israeli energy facilities. It also expanded the Israeli navy, focusing on its ability to deter or repel threats to offshore energy facilities. Finally, starting in 2011 it launched airstrikes in Syriadesigned, according to U.S. officials, "to prevent any transfer of advanced... antiaircraft, surface-to-surface and shore-to-ship missiles" to Hezbollah.

Nonetheless, Hezbollah continued to stockpile rockets capable of demolishing Israeli facilities. And in 2013, Lebanon made a move of its own. It began negotiating with Russia. The goal was to get that country's gas firms to develop Lebanese offshore claims, while the formidable Russian navy would lend a hand with the "long-running territorial dispute with Israel."

By the beginning of 2015, a state of mutual deterrence appeared to be setting in. Although Israel had succeeded in bringing online the smaller of the two fields it set out to develop, drilling in the larger one was indefinitely stalled "in light of the security situation." U.S. contractor Noble Energy, hired by the Israelis, was unwilling to invest the necessary $6 billion dollars in facilities that would be vulnerable to Hezbollah attack, and potentially in the gun sights of the Russian navy. On the Lebanese side, despite an increased Russian naval presence in the region, no work had begun.

Meanwhile, in Syria, where violence was rife and the country in a state of armed collapse, another kind of stalemate went into effect. The regime of Bashar al-Assad, facing a ferocious threat from various groups of jihadists, survived in part by negotiating massive military support from Russia in exchange for a 25-year contract to develop Syria's claims to that Levantine gas field. Included in the deal was a major expansion of the Russian naval base at the port city of Tartus, ensuring a far larger Russian naval presence in the Levantine Basin.

While the presence of the Russians apparently deterred the Israelis from attempting to develop any Syrian-claimed gas deposits, there was no Russian presence in Syria proper. So Israel contracted with the U.S.-based Genie Energy Corporation to locate and develop oil fields in the Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by the Israelis since 1967.Facing a potential violation of international law, the Netanyahu government invoked, as the basis for its acts, an Israeli court ruling that the exploitation of natural resources in occupied territories was legal. At the same time, to prepare for the inevitable battle with whichever faction or factions emerged triumphant from the Syrian civil war, it began shoring up the Israeli military presence in the Golan Heights.

And then there was Cyprus, the only Levantine claimant not at war with Israel. Greek Cypriots had long been in chronic conflict with Turkish Cypriots, so it was hardly surprising that the Levantine natural gas discovery triggered three years of deadlocked negotiations on the island over what to do. In 2014, the Greek Cypriots signed an exploration contract with Noble Energy, Israel's chief contractor. The Turkish Cypriots trumped this move by signing a contract with Turkey toexplore all Cypriot claims "as far as Egyptian waters." Emulating Israel and Russia, the Turkish government promptly moved three navy vesselsinto the area to physically block any intervention by other claimants.

As a result, four years of maneuvering around the newly discovered Levantine Basin deposits have produced little energy, but brought new and powerful claimants into the mix, launched a significant military build-up in the region, and heightened tensions immeasurably.

Gaza Again -- and Again

Remember the Iron Dome system, developed in part to stop Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel's northern gas fields? Over time, it was put in place near the border with Gaza to stop Hamas rockets, and was tested during Operation Returning Echo, the fourth Israeli military attempt to bring Hamas to heel and eliminate any Palestinian "capability to bomb Israel's strategic gas and electricity installations."

Launched in March 2012, it replicated on a reduced scale the devastation of Operation Cast Lead, while the Iron Dome achieved a 90% "kill rate" against Hamas rockets. Even this, however, while a useful adjunct to the vast shelter system built to protect Israeli civilians, was not enough to ensure the protection of the country's exposed oil facilities. Even one direct hit there could damage or demolish such fragile and flammable structures.

The failure of Operation Returning Echo to settle anything triggeredanother round of negotiations, which once again stalled over the Palestinian rejection of Israel's demand to control all fuel and revenues destined for Gaza and the West Bank. The new Palestinian Unity government then followed the lead of the Lebanese, Syrians, and Turkish Cypriots, and in late 2013 signed an "exploration concession" with Gazprom, the huge Russian natural gas company. As with Lebanon and Syria, the Russian Navy loomed as a potential deterrent to Israeli interference.

Meanwhile, in 2013, a new round of energy blackouts caused "chaos" across Israel, triggering a draconian 47% increase in electricity prices. In response, the Netanyahu government considered a proposal to begin extracting domestic shale oil, but the potential contamination of water resources caused a backlash movement that frustrated this effort. In a country filled with start-up high-tech firms, the exploitation of renewable energy sources was still not being given serious attention. Instead, the government once again turned to Gaza.

With Gazprom's move to develop the Palestinian-claimed gas deposits on the horizon, the Israelis launched their fifth military effort to force Palestinian acquiescence, Operation Protective Edge. It had two major hydrocarbon-related goals: to deter Palestinian-Russian plans and to finally eliminate the Gazan rocket systems. The first goal was apparently met when Gazprom postponed (perhaps permanently) its development deal. The second, however, failed when the two-pronged land and air attack -- despite unprecedented devastation in Gaza -- failed to destroy Hamas's rocket stockpiles or its tunnel-based assembly system; nor did the Iron Dome achieve the sort of near-perfect interception rate needed to protect proposed energy installations.

There Is No Denouement

After 25 years and five failed Israeli military efforts, Gaza's natural gas is still underwater and, after four years, the same can be said for almost all of the Levantine gas. But things are not the same. In energy terms, Israel is ever more desperate, even as it has been building up its military, including its navy, in significant ways. The other claimants have, in turn, found larger and more powerful partners to help reinforce their economic and military claims. All of this undoubtedly means that the first quarter-century of crisis over eastern Mediterranean natural gas has been nothing but prelude. Ahead lies the possibility of bigger gas wars with the devastation they are likely to bring.