|Attacks on Syria and Iran risk a much wider conflagration|
The US economy has long been in a relative economic decline when compared with the Eurozone and especially the hugely expanding China - a nation frequently labelled "the sweatshop of the world". For the last fifteen years, the American ruling class has responded with an attempt to use its overwhelming military supremacy to offset its production-based profitability crisis. Wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and most recently Libya have all cut across the material interests of Chinese empire-building. But the global economic turmoil has pushed this imperative into overdrive, creating the strong possibility of a final showdown with China itself, plus Chinese allies such as Russia.
The past couple of months have seen a sustained effort to create a pretext for attacking Syria. The Syrian government - like the Libyan Gaddafi regime before it - is currently undertaking a brutal crackdown on the "rebel" movement which emerged from last year's 'Arab spring'. Of course, the same could be said of the Bahraini government for example, but Bahrain is an American ally. So the Obama administration is using its Arab League proxies - each of which receives large foreign aid and military assistance from US imperialism - to give the coming military intervention a regional popularist colouring. In truth however, each regional government is deeply unpopular with broad layers of its population.
The Arab League is reprising its craven role in the run-up to the bloody overthrow of Gaddafi. In particular, Qatar and Saudi Arabia - both of whom are ruled by venal despots - are pushing for a United Nations resolution to lay the basis for a Libya-style military intervention. In such an event, the US would likely be joined by the United Kingdom and France amongst others in bombing the Syrians from the air, allowing the 'rebel' forces a clearer path to the capital.
The US and its allies have no particular interest in the natural resources of Syria. Unlike Libya, it is a relatively small player in terms of oil production and reserves. But it is seen as being a friend of Iran - Obama's ultimate military target for 2012.
The drums of war against Iran have been growing louder again for a couple of years now. On the one hand, this is due to pressure from Israel, which fears a challenge to its regional dominance. But on the other - and more significantly given America's virtual veto over Israeli policy - the US wants to get its hands on Iran's oil. Having dramatically failed with a similar adventure in Iraq, the US is playing a deadly game of 'double or quits'.
For imperial policymakers, China not having Iran's oil to aid its expansion is almost as important as America having it. Under the Ahmadinejad government, Iran has increased its links to China, and supplies it with a large proportion of its oil.
|The Strait of Hormuz is a potential flashpoint|
The US is looking to tighten the net on Iran by imposing further sanctions on its oil industry amongst other key economic sectors. In retaliation to this relentless provocation, Iran has threatened to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, through which one fifth of the world's oil routinely passes. In response, the US has declared this possibility a "red line", as if Iran was the primary aggressor. A military buildup is well underway, with the Pentagon modifying its bunker-buster bombs for use on Iranian facilities, and there are discussions about kitting out a transport and docking ship as an "afloat forward staging base" for troops and air assaults. In maybe the grimmest irony in human history, the Wall Street Journal straightfacedly reported a tactical debate amongst US military brass over using a nuclear weapon.
From the perspective of the Chinese ruling class, the US cannot be allowed to continue chipping at its influence. Each time they allow the Americans to get away with it, they come to believe they can get away with more. Iran's oil is of huge strategic importance to two imperial rivals, and without decisive intervention from the international working class, it could conceivably be the prize which beckons a fight to the death of billions.