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After the Afghanistan exit, could the US ramp up aggression against Iran?

August 21, 2021 at 11:02 am

This image made available to AFP on August 20, 2021 by Omar Haidiri, shows a US Marine grabbing an infant over a fence of barbed wire during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 19, 2021 [Courtesy of Omar Haidiri/AFP via Getty Images]

The Afghanistan debate in Parliament this week was nothing less than nauseating.

Ministers, MPs and shadow ministers all united to ratchet up a bizarre form of rhetoric that somehow managed to be both war-like and totally impotent at the same time.

They seemed to think that British occupation forces should be re-deployed back into Afghanistan, despite the exit of US occupation forces. Twenty years of war and occupation there was not enough for them, it seems.

A few dissenting voices aside, such as now-independent MP Jeremy Corbyn, all seemed to agree that “we” in the West are the paragons of virtue and that the mysterious “Brown People” wanting to live without imposed, hostile foreign imperial domination of their countries are nothing less than savages and barbarians.

Keir Starmer’s Labour Party – safely purged of Corbyn and other undesirable elements – was, if anything, even worse than the Conservative government, which they have been criticising from the right. The Labour Party is once again the War Party, it seems.

Labour’s post-Corbyn Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Lisa Nandy used her appearance on the dreadful BBC programme Question Time to agitate for more war in Afghanistan.

She said the US and its British puppet regime (led at the time by evil ghoul Tony Blair) had been “absolutely right” to invade Afghanistan in 2001 – a sovereign country – which had attacked neither Britain nor the US.

READ: What can the Taliban offer the women of Afghanistan?

The invasion was always totally unjustified. After the bombs began to fall and the boots hit the ground, propagandists among the political and media classes began retconning a “human rights” pretext.

But now, 20 years later, with the US out and the Taliban back in, we’re back to square one.

It’s true that much of the Al-Qaeda network – including its leader Osama Bin Laden – were at the time resident in the country, protected by the Taliban government. The initial pretext for the invasion, you may recall, was that the US was demanding Afghanistan’s rulers hand over Bin Laden, whom it blamed for the 9/11 terrorist attacks – or else they would invade the country by force and directly seize him.

But what is usually now forgotten – and was consciously covered up by much of the corporate media at the time – is that, in fact, the Taliban repeatedly agreed to expel Bin Laden from the country, and even to hand him over should evidence be produced against the Al-Qaeda leader. According to one former Taliban minister, they had offered to put Bin Laden on trial in a third country even before the 9/11 attacks happened, but the US was not interested.

But President George W. Bush arrogantly rejected these offers, insisting the invasion go ahead. The war was always about US imperial control. A slightly wounded gangster regime had to make an object lesson out of a small, impoverished country – its rule would be imposed no matter what.

Untold thousands have been killed in Afghanistan as a direct result of what Labour’s Lisa Nandy downplayed as US-UK “intervention”. A decade ago, one cautious estimate put the figure of civilian deaths alone at 40,000.

With the US pull-out this month, imperialist warmongers on both sides of the Atlantic are wringing their hands at the prospect of the decline of the US empire. Nowhere more so than in the US’ regional client regime at the heart of the Arab World: the racist settler-colony of Israel.

My colleague at The Electronic Intifada Ali Abunimah this week wrote an essential analysis piece about reactions in Israel to the US’ Afghanistan collapse.

It’s worth reading the whole thing. But in it, he outlines Israel’s fears, which are, after all, so reliant on US military aid to impose its will on the indigenous peoples of the region.

Policymakers inside the Zionist entity have been reacting in a predictably cynical manner, laying out what they see as the opportunities for Israel.

One such opportunity is the potential to leverage the US defeat there into pushing the US into more aggressive action against Iran – which Israel has seen as an impeccable foe since 1979, when the Islamic Revolution came to power.

READ: Women mark Afghanistan Independence Day under Taliban rule

Or as one anonymous former senior Israeli intelligence official put it: “It’s possible to leverage events” in Afghanistan “in our favour” and that the “humiliating surrender to the Taliban” could prompt US President Joe Biden to “decide to flex US muscle toward Iran.”

As Abunimah explains in his article, one Israeli army colonel and senior think-tanker, Eran Lerman, says it is now “vital for the US to demonstrate – elsewhere, since the Afghan case is clearly beyond salvation – that it is not a spent force,” in order to demonstrate that it still has military hegemony the world over.

There is a certain logic to all of this: the logic of the gangster. For the same reason that criminal gangs administer punishment beatings and reprisal attacks, the US sometimes just feels it has to bomb a country to make some sort of point about its control over the world.

But as events in Afghanistan show – with Iraq possibly next – the US military, despite its vast resources, is not omnipotent and can be defeated.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.