America’s Suez moment?
The war provoked by the US back in 2014 is being lost. Russia says the outcome is existential, as victory for the US/NATO would begin the breakup of the Russian federation...but the US and NATO also see the conflict as existential.
In July 1956, Egypt’s President Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal. This was not a random, impulsive event, but one preceded by years of unpunished attacks on the Gaza Strip (then under Egyptian control) by the colonial settler entity in Palestine, resulting in the killing of hundreds of Palestinian refugees, and the refusal of the ‘West’ to supply Egypt with arms to defend itself.
Of necessity, Egypt turned to the Soviet Union and arms were supplied through Czechoslovakia. To punish Egypt, the US withdrew its financial support for the building of the Aswan high dam. Responding, Nasser took over the canal, run since the 19th century by an Anglo-French consortium.
The nationalization was perfectly legal. Egypt was acting within international law by taking over a waterway running through Egyptian territory, but Anthony Eden, the British Prime Minister, was furious. He wanted Nasser killed and, to take the canal back, plotted with France and the settler entity implanted in Palestine. The outcome was the ‘tripartite aggression’, the land and air attack on Egypt by the three partners in this conspiracy.
The US was deliberately deceived by its great transatlantic ally. Double-crossed, President Eisenhower threatened Britain with an end to the financial aid on which it was dependent unless it withdrew its forces. In a matter of days, it did. France followed suit. The Zionist settler entity held on as long as it could, but also finally withdrew.
Eden had said he would rather Britain go down fighting than be reduced to the level of a second rate power, which in fact it already was, behind the facade of empire. The writing had been on the wall in large script ever since 1945: the acceptance of Indian independence in 1947 and the abrupt withdrawal from Palestine in 1948 were recent milestones.
Submission to the US ultimatum not only ended the war but signalled the end of empire: the withdrawal from the ‘east of Suez’ by 1966 left only territorial fragments (Hong Kong) whose future was still to be resolved.
France had already had one Suez moment in 1954 when its garrison at Dien Bien Phu was finally overwhelmed by besieging Vietnamese forces. The second moment was delivered in 1962 when de Gaulle ordered the French withdrawal from Algeria, conceding victory to the Algerian nationalists after a long war of resistance stretching back to 1830. Disgruntled army officers tried to kill de Gaulle but the French empire was over too, not by choice, like Britain, but because financially and politically there was no option but withdrawal. The loss of teeth did not mean the loss of appetite, as both Britain and France continued to intervene in the affairs of other countries, but now as sub-imperial tribunes to the US.
In Ukraine, is the US facing its own Suez moment? Its decline as an imperial power has been developing over decades. It has won small wars (Panama, Grenada) but has lost the big ones. Afghanistan ended as a victory for the Taliban. The wars on Iraq caused enormous damage, if that can be called a victory, but Iraq is back on its feet, demanding the withdrawal of US forces, with strong internal support having developed for the ‘axis of resistance’, especially since the assassination of Qasim Suleimani by the US in 2020.
In 2012 Libya, the wealthiest and most developed country in Africa was destroyed and Qaddafi was murdered. His crime was his long-term attempt to release Africa from the chokehold of the IMF and the ‘West’ in general but any idea that he represented an immediate threat to the US would have been laughable.
In the chaos that followed, thousands of Libyans or Africans pouring through Libya, now that the country was broken, crossed the Mediterranean in rickety boats to seek refuge in Europe. Many drowned, a tragedy that has to be laid directly at the door of the US. Warlords battled over territories with rival governments claiming authority. If destruction, chaos and murder can be called a victory, only then could Libya be called a victory for the US.
The war on Syria rebounded badly. Against powerful enemies - the US, the UK, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey - Syria still managed to hold on until 2015, when Russian intervention turned the military situation around. Russian - not American - air power broke the back of ISIS and Russian air surveillance exposed the large-scale theft of Iraqi and Syrian oil. The US still occupies the northeast and Turkey the northwest, with Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham still controlling Idlib, but only in the shadow of the Turkish presence.
The Arab League and the states that funded the war against Syria are now engaged in reconciliation with Syria. Turkey has pledged to withdraw its troops - but without setting a timeline - and is making its own overtures to Damascus. Even worse from the US/Israeli point of view, Saudi Arabia has crossed the floor and is busy restoring diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran, a development which will have a long-term strategic and political impact across the Middle East and North Africa.
Having suffered all these setbacks, the US/NATO is now facing defeat in Ukraine. The US began cornering Russia the moment the USSR collapsed. It broke the assurances given to Gorbachev that it would not move NATO further east. On its western borders, Russia is now ringed by NATO states.
Ukraine was the patsy in the latest stage of the US attempt to cut an emergent Russia down to size. In 2014, its president was overthrown in another color revolution orchestrated by the US. Refusing to accept the coup, breakaway regions were targeted with armed attacks by the Kiev military that left thousands dead. ‘Peace’ negotiations were a fraud, as admitted by Angela Merkel: their only purpose was to give the US/NATO time to arm Ukraine for confrontation with Russia. US politicians like Hillary Clinton and neocon plotters like Victoria Nuland could not care less for the Ukrainian people: Ukraine was no more than a piece on their chessboard, to be moved around to suit US interests.
Zelensky was the ideal figurehead, literally a clown plucked from a television studio, Jewish (thus presumably drawing attention away from Ukraine’s deeply anti-Semitic past and present and the presence of neo-Nazi brigades in the Ukrainian military), plays the part scripted for him, and will last only as long as the US wants him to last, as many US puppets have in the past. If he says he wants the war to continue, that’s because the US wants it to continue.
He said repeatedly that the Russians would be defeated at Bakhmut: Instead Bakhmut finally fell - or was liberated by - the Russians. He has been saying since the beginning of April that the counter-offensive would soon be launched, stretching the meaning of ‘soon’ beyond dictionary limits: given the scale of destruction of Ukrainian troops, arms and ammunition by Russian missile strikes, denied or ignored by Kiev and the ‘Western’ media, it has to be doubted whether the counter-offensive can be launched any time ‘soon’ if at all.
In short, the war provoked by the US back in 2014 is being lost. Russia says the outcome is existential, as victory for the US/NATO would begin the breakup of the Russian federation; but the US and NATO also see the conflict as existential, if not in quite the same way. NATO’s value as a military alliance would be seriously tarnished and downgraded, while for the US, a Russian victory in Ukraine would do mortal damage to its already weakening global standing.
China, India, Russia and the BRICS countries are closing ranks strategically and commercially. Eurasia and a multi-polar world are on the rise, and the US and its assumed exceptionalism as the standard bearer of ‘Western values’ are on the wane. The Russia-Ukraine war now appears as the crucible in which the global future will be determined.
This is why the war is America’s Suez moment. It can choose to raise the ante still further, at the risk of triggering off an open war with Russia, or it can react more pragmatically, accept its reduced status in a more balanced world order and concentrate on solving its own severe domestic problems rather than creating problems for other people.
This does not necessarily mean isolation, but interaction in a more peaceful and productive way. Life in semi-retirement from the role of hegemonically-inclined global power might even turn out to be more enjoyable.
The risks for the US and the world are far greater than they were in 1956. Pushing the Ukraine war still further in the face of impending defeat - as it would be seen in Washington - heightens the risk every day of open war with Russia and a global nuclear catastrophe, in other words, a war with losers but no winners.
Surely the US does not intend to go that far, but so far it shows no signs of backing off. The choices to be made are now very fateful ones for the US and the world.