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Middle East Central Asian region is on a war footing

Michel Chossudovsky

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The entire Middle East Central Asian region is on a war footing.


US-NATO naval deployment is taking place in two distinct theaters: the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.


The naval armada in the Persian Gulf is largely under US command, with the participation of Canada. Both the USS Enterprise and Eisenhower Strike groups have been dispatched to the Persian Gulf in a a massive display of US military might.


The militarization of the Eastern Mediterranean (on land and sea) is under the control of several NATO member countries including France, Germany and Turkey. This military build-up is conducted under the façade of a UN peace-keeping mission (UNIFIL) pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1701.


In this context, the war on Lebanon must be viewed as a stage of the broader US sponsored military road-map, which targets Syria.


In September, Germany dispatched a fleet of eight ships including 2 frigates, with up to 2,400 personnel aboard. The German navy will be in charge of the multinational naval force, which has, under its official UNIFIL mandate "to prevent arms shipments to Hezbollah". The German naval force will operate out of the Cyprus port of Limassol, located within less than 100 km. from the Lebanon-Syria coastline. The Cyprus based multinational naval force could eventually be used to encroach on maritime trade with Syria.


In early October, Turkey dispatched several warships, which will join the multinational naval force under German command. While Turkey is formally part of the UN international force (UNIFIL), it is also a close military ally of Israel. Greek, Bulgarian and Italian warships have also been dispatched to the Lebanese coast.


France has dispatched armored vehicle and infantry units.


The nature of the military equiipment and weapons systems being deployed has little to do with "peace-keeping". Moreover, NATO established a close military partnership with Israel in 2005, which in practice binds NATO member countries involved in Lebanon to fully cooperate with Israel.


The naval buildup has been coordinated with the planned air attacks on Iran. The latter were outlined in mid-2004, following the formulation of CONCEPT PLAN CONPLAN 8022 (early 2004). The air attacks on Iran would involve a "shock and awe" blitzkrieg on a scale similar to the 2003 air war on Iraq.


In November 2004, US Strategic Command conducted a major exercise of a "global strike plan" entitled "Global Lightening". The latter involved a simulated attack using both conventional and nuclear weapons against a "fictitious enemy" [iran]. Following the "Global Lightening" exercise, US Strategic Command declared an advanced state of readiness.


CONPLAN is the operational plan pursuant to the Global Strike Plan. It is described as "an actual plan that the Navy and the Air Force translate into strike package for their submarines and bombers,'


CONPLAN 8022 is 'the overall umbrella plan for sort of the pre-planned strategic scenarios involving nuclear weapons.'


'It's specifically focused on these new types of threats -- Iran, North Korea -- proliferators and potentially terrorists too,' he said. 'There's nothing that says that they can't use CONPLAN 8022 in limited scenarios against Russian and Chinese targets.' (According to Hans Kristensen, of the Nuclear Information Project, quoted in Japanese economic News Wire, op cit)


The use of tactical nuclear weapons is contemplated under CONPLAN 8022 alongside conventional weapons, as part of the Bush administration's preemptive war doctrine. In May 2004, National Security Presidential Directive NSPD 35 entitled Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization was issued. While its contents remains classified, the presumption is that NSPD 35 pertains to the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in the Middle East war theater in compliance with CONPLAN 8022.


War Preparations


Iran is in an advanced stage of readiness in the eventuality of a US attack.


In response to the US-NATO sponsored military build-up, Iran has conducted extensive war games throughout its territory.


Moreover, barely acknowledged by the Western media, both China and Russia have conducted war games in Central Asia, in collaboration with their coalition partners. In late September, Russia conducted air war exercises over a large part of its territory, extending from the Volga to the frontiers of Alaska and North America. These war games prompted the scrambling of NORAD fighter planes.


Military exercises involving the participation of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan under the Collective Security Treaty Organization, (CSTO) were launched in August. These war games, officially described as part of a " counter terrorism program", were held barely a week before those conducted by the Iranian military.


Broadly coinciding with both the Iranian and CSTO military exercises, China and Kazakhstan also conducted military exercises in August under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Iran is an observer member in the SCO.


In late September, China and Tajikistan held a joint military exercise, code-named "Cooperation-2006", according to a memorandum of understanding signed between the two governments. Tajikistan has a 500 km. border with Afghanistan. These war games directly address US-NATO military presence in neighboring Afghanistan.


In early October, in the latest round of Central Asian war games under CSTO auspices, joint Russian-Kyrgyz war exercises were held (starting on October 2nd) at Russia's Kant airbase located some 30 km. from the Kyrgyz capital. Officially described as an "anti-terror drill", these high profile exercises involved the deployment of Russian and Kyrgyz special forces units. Russia's top brass and defense minister Sergei Ivanov were in attendance for the launching of the event:


"About 350 servicemen from special forces units, combat vehicles, artillery, Su-25 Frogfoot ground support aircraft and Mi-8 Hip multipurpose helicopters are participating in the active phase of the maneuvers, which include the firing of live ammunition at the Osh practice range.


Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is currently on a visit to the Central Asian state, Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Felix Kulov and Defense Minister Ismail Isakov are attending the exercises.


Russia and Kyrgyzstan are both members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a post-Soviet security grouping that also includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. They are also in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security body in Central Asia that includes China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan." (Novosti 5 0ctober 2006)


Meanwhile, in late September, Russia also conducted military exercises in Dagestan, involving the 136th Brigade. The exercise held at the Buynakskiy training ground involved an unnamed "foreign State" which was attacking Russia. According to one Russian press report: "Given the scale [of the simulated enemy attack], this can be compared with WWII. The [unnamed] enemy is artful, well armed and well trained."


Also in early October, Belarus and Russia announced that they will be hold training sessions for the two countries' command and control bodies, with a view to coordinating their military activities. (Belarus TV, October 1, 2006)





Consistent Pattern


The overall significance of these military drills must be assessed in relation to the sequence of Russian, Chinese and Iran war exercises conducted since late August.


There is a consistent pattern. These war games are not isolated events. They are part of a carefully coordinated endeavor, in response to the US-NATO military build-up. They should also be considered as acts of deterrence, intended to display military capabilities to deter military action by US led coaltion.


The issue of war preparation has been carefully avoided by the Western media. The sequence and interrelationship between these war games is not mentioned.


While the war exercises are casually acknowledged in separate wire service reports, the Western media fails to address the broader implications of these military exercises.


Military Alliances


The SCO and CSTO war games must also be examined in relation to the structure of military alliances. Both China and Russia are allies of Iran, involved in extensive military cooperation agreements.


China and Russia are major actors in Central Asian oil. They have significant strategic and economic interests in the Central Asian region and the Caspian sea basin. They also have economic cooperation agreements with Iran's State oil company.


US Sponsored Military Build-Up


The Cold War although officially over has not quite reached its climax.


The US military agenda is not limited to gaining control over Iran's oil and gas reserves, (using the "campaign against international terrorism" as a pretext). Reminiscent of the Cold war era, the objective of US military intervention also consists in weakening and ultimately displacing China and Russia from playing a significant role in Central Asia.


Most Western press reports have failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the US-NATO- Israeli military build-up. Underlying what is normally understood as a Middle East war, the conflict could evolve towards a clash between former competing super powers of the Cold War era.


Directed against Iran and Syria, the US sponsored military operation, if it were to be launched, could result in a broader conflict marked by the indirect involvement of Russia and China and their central Asian allies. In fact that indirect involvement is already established through Iran's observer status to the SCO, various bilateral military cooperation agreements as well as the sale of Chinese and Russian weapons systems to Iran.


The US is involved in covert operations throughout Central Asia with a view to essentially displacing Russia. The tensions in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are the direct result of US geopolitical encroachments within what used to be within Moscow's traditional sphere of influence. Georgia and Azerbaijan have become de facto US protectorates.


In the recent showdown between Russia and Georgia, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili "pledged to continue Georgia's efforts to join NATO as well as secure the speedy withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgian territory.


Moscow responded by putting Russian forces inside Georgia on high alert, following the accusation by Tbilisi that Russian military officers inside Georgia were involved in spying. The withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia opens the way for the stationing of NATO forces, which are already present in neighbouring Azerbaijan.


Meanwhile, in relation to the issue of NATO enlargement, Moscow warned the Atlantic Alliance in early October that it would take "appropriate measures" if Poland were to deploy "elements of the missile defense systems of the United States or NATO on its territory", (Interfax News Agency, 4 Oct 2006)


“We continue to treat these plans critically. Our opinion is that [these plans] along with the possible deployment of NATO’s European missile defense system can produce a negative effect on strategic stability, security in the region and relations between the states,” Kamynin said. “A new situation like this one will objectively require us to take appropriate measures because we cannot rely in such matters solely on statements that the missile defense systems of the U.S. and NATO in Europe ’are not aimed’ against Russia,” the official added."(Ibid)


Known and documented, China is also supporting Iran in the development of its air defense system. Moreover, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph (5 October 2006), Washington has acknowledged that China has been involved in


"secretly fired powerful laser weapons designed to disable American spy satellites by "blinding" their sensitive surveillance devices, it was reported yesterday.


The hitherto unreported attacks have been kept secret by the Bush administration for fear that it would damage attempts to co-opt China in diplomatic offensives against North Korea and Iran.


Sources told the military affairs publication Defense News that there had been a fierce internal battle within Washington over whether to make the attacks public. In the end, the Pentagon's annual assessment of the growing Chinese military build-up barely mentioned the threat. (Daily Telegraph, 5 October 2006)

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