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Does The American Jewish Community Really Want
A Large-Scale General War In The Middle East?

By John Scales Avery

13 May, 2013

A large-scale general war in the Middle East would be a catastrophe for everyone involved. It would be a catastrophe for Syria. Iraq and Iran; a catastrophe for the other Islamic states of the Middle East; a catastrophe for Pakistan and Russia, should they become involved; and a catastrophe for Israel and the United States. In fact, all of the peoples of the world would suffer.

How could such a general war come about? Several paths are possible. The United States has recently agreed to give Israel the sophisticated aerial refueling equipment that would be needed to attack Iran, making such an attack more likely.

What would be the consequences, if Israel should bomb Iran? Last September, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh. the commander of Iran's missile systems, stated that if there is a military conflict between Israel and Iran, “nothing is predictable...and it will turn into World War III.” He added that Iran would consider any Israeli strike to be conducted with US authorization, and so “whether the Zionist regime attacks with or without US knowledge, then we will definitely attack US bases in Bahrain, Qatar and Afghanistan.” Thus the decision on whether there will be a war involving Israel, the US and Iran seems to be in the dangerous hands of Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

Meanwhile, President Obama has stated that if Israel is attacked by Iran, “all options are on the table”. This is clearly a threat of US military involvement. But if Israel bombs Iran, how can Iran fail to respond?

The Middle East is already a deeply troubled region, filled with wars, proxy wars, revolutions and civil wars. It is a region in which Israel and the United States can hardly be said to be universally popular. What would be the reaction of the Islamic states to a military conflict between Iran, Israel and the United States? Would not all of them, including Pakistan, join the war on the side of Iran? Pakistan's government is very unstable, and it might be overthrown in such a situation, putting nuclear weapons into the hands of religious fanatics.

Russia has always been a staunch ally of Iran and Syria, and we read that Russia is preparing for the threatened war by massing troops and supplies in Armenia. It seems likely that Russia would enter a general war in the Middle East on the side of the Islamic states.

The bombing of Iran by Israel is one path by which a large-scale general war in the Middle East might start, but it is not the only one. There has been a massive buildup of US forces in the Persian Gulf, and also an incident in which a US Navy ship fired on an unarmed Indian fishing boat, killing one person and injuring three others. We must remember that in the past, small incidents have often escalated into general wars. As long as the presence of a US fleet in the Persian Gulf is maintained, there is a danger of incidents that will escalate into a large-scale general war in the Middle East.

At the entrance of the Persian Gulf is the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the Middle East's oil must pass to reach the outside world. Any large-scale conflict in the region would endanger or entirely stop this flow of oil, with the result that oil prices throughout the world would skyrocket. Just as the Middle East is already a deeply troubled region, so also the global economy is already deeply troubled. In fact we are balancing on the edge of a depression that might rival or surpass the Great Depression of the 1930's. A steep rise in oil prices might well push us over the edge.

In addition we must remember that a large-scale general war in the Middle East might escalate uncontrollably into a nuclear war, especially since Pakistan's nuclear weapons would be involved. A nuclear war would be the ultimate ecological disaster, inflicting great damage on global agriculture and making large areas of the world permanently uninhabitable because of long-lasting radioactive contamination.

Those who doubt that small wars can escalate uncontrollably into large ones should remember the events that started World World I: A small action by Austria, aimed at punishing Pan-Serbian nationalists, escalated uncontrollably into a nightmarish disaster that still casts a dark shadow over the world a century later.

Members of the Jewish community should ask themselves whether this is really what they want. Would not Israel suffer in the event of a general war in the Middle East? Would not not the United States also suffer? Would not all the peoples of the world suffer from such a war?

One hopes that these questions will be debated in liberal Jewish organizations devoted to peace, such as J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace. Perhaps the question of whether a general war in the Middle East is really desirable could even be debated at meetings of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Organizations such as AIPAC are currently pushing the United States government in the direction of what might turn out to be a global disaster of enormous proportions. It is time to pause for a moment and think. It is time to draw back from the precipice.

John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004. http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at avery.john.s@gmail.com






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