I have sat on this blog for a long time. With renewed calls for British military campaigning in the Middle East, perhaps now is the time to tell the story.
It was late 2012 and work must have been heavy that day for I fancied a beer straight after. Not in the hotel bar though. I would inevitably be joined by colleagues, one beer would turn into two, three and I would be lucky to get out of there by nine o'clock for something to eat. True, when compared to the UK, many restaurants in Haifa do open late. All I wanted was one beer. Slipping away, I walked around the corner and popped my head around the door of Charlie's Bar. Apart from a single customer, whom I did not recognise, the place was empty. Wonderful.
Charlie's Bar is the narrowest of strips so there isn't a lot of choice when it comes to seating. Parking myself a few stools away from the stranger, I nod to him and order a Carlsberg. It's true, a prospect of an Ice Cold In Alex can keep a guy going.
A bit to my surprise, the stranger starts talking. He asks my business and I tell him that I am part of the team for gas exploration offshore Israel. He seems satisfied. I ask him who he is and what bring him to Israel?
The guy hesitates then asks the question "You are not anyone are you?"
The question sends me a bit sideways. If I was just being polite previously, now he has my full attention. But I don't show it. After all, I had just told him what I do for a living. Really, I am not anyone. I therefore pull a long face downwards.
The gentleman is an American. He asks me what do I know about the US forces in Afghanistan. Not a lot but I know that the troops are there. He then tells me that his ship is in the harbour and it is part of resupply convoy destined for Turkey. I tell him that I have heard that supplies used to go via Pakistan but the Hindu Kush had been closed by the Taliban. He seems a little disconcerted but agrees. So I ask if the supplies now go overland from Turkey. He says that this is the case. The Silk Road has effectively been reopened.
Then I make the observation. "But we are not in Turkey are we?"
"No," he agrees. "We are not in Turkey."
There is a tension in the room.
I shrug. "Friends will help friends." I say.
He relaxes. "Yes." He takes a pull of his beer.
"Before I wasn't here, I wasn't in Egypt either."
Now my mind reeled. Earlier in 2012 Muhammad Morsi had been democratically elected president of Egypt. I knew that instant that if the Americans were still secretly supplying the Egyptian military, the Arab Spring in Egypt was screwed. Morsi was indeed overturned in a military coup the following year.
During 2004, I turned forty and was on a beach in Bulgaria with the family. My choice of reading that summer was Robert Fisk's Great War For Civilisation: The Conquest of The Middle East. In 1982, during Israeli invasion of Lebanon, a Hellfire missile was flown into the back of an Lebanese ambulance, killing six people. Local people gathered the fragments of the rocket and brought them to Fisk, who lives in the country. He did a routine check on the serial numbers and was surprised to find that instead of being issued the the Israeli Defence Force, the weapon belonged to the US Marine Corp. The question was therefore how was a Marine Corp Hellfire missile come to be launched from a IDF gunship into the back of Lebanese ambulance?
His research showed that the US military task forces active in the Persian Gulf was sail home via the Suez Canal. Instead of turning left and heading straight home through the Mediterranean, there would be a slight detour to the Northeast. Unused consumables, including weapons, would be offloaded in Haifa. The warships would return to their bases empty and would be resupplied at the expense of the US taxpayer. The process was a secret subsidy to Israel.
I knew that my encounter in Charlie's Bar not only confirmed Fisk's story but enlarged it. It seems that Israel is not the only nation to benefit from American largesse. Arms and supplies officially bound for US forces in Afghanistan were instead being sent to Egypt, Israel and goodness only knows what other US-backed nations en-route.
We come to today. The UK is facing calls to take part in the bombing of Syria. After the murderous outrages in Paris, the French have little choice. In the UK, we do have a choice. My experience in Israel has left me deeply cynical about the whole of the Middle Eastern wars. It seems that the US is backing, either openly or in secret, many sides in the region. Therefore adding to destruction will not in any way create peace. It seems to me that the wars are a profit-driven venture.
Britain could instead start to genuinely act as an honest broker in the region. This however would need a complete reversal to the policies currently being pursued. Make no mistake here: as I outlined in my previous blog Drones, Britain is deeply embedded into arms research with Israel and the US. This is wrong.
As such, I call upon my all friends and colleagues in the Liberal Democrats to have nothing further to do with these wars and not support the bombing of Syria.