A massive explosion rocked the Beirut Port on Tuesday, August 4, killing 100 people and injuring nearly 4,000. Although the blast occurred in a storage facility containing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilizers and bombs, stored in the warehouse since 2013, a subversive attack cannot be ruled out, considering that regional spy agencies and their moles were well aware that highly explosive material was stored in the unguarded facility for nearly seven years.
In fact, US President Donald Trump has described the explosion
 as a “bomb attack.” In an opening statement at a news conference, Trump expressed solidarity with the people of Lebanon, and said: "We will be there to help. It looks like a terrible attack." When pressed by reporters about characterizing the incident as an "attack", Trump stood by his statement, saying US generals believe the explosion was caused by a "bomb of some kind."
Although Trump was likely pointing out the “bomb attack” was a handiwork of Lebanon-based resistance group Hezbollah, the fact is a joint American-Israeli program
, involving a series of short-of-war clandestine strikes, aimed at taking out the most prominent generals of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and targeting Iran’s power stations, industrial infrastructure, and missile and nuclear facilities has been going on since early this year when commander of IRGC’s Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani was assassinated in a US airstrike at Baghdad airport in January.
As the US presidential race is heating up, the pace and sophistication of subversive attacks in Iran and Iran-aligned countries, including Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, is picking up simultaneously. Since June, “mysterious explosions” were reported in a missile and explosives storage facility near a military base in Parchin, east of the capital Tehran, in power stations in the cities of Shiraz and Ahvaz, and the Natanz nuclear site on July 2 that has reportedly set back Iran’s nuclear program by at least two years.
Besides whipping up nationalist sentiment among America’s conservative electorate on the eve of US presidential election slated for November, another purpose of the subversive attacks appears to be to avenge a string of audacious attacks mounted by Iran-backed forces against the US strategic interests in the Middle East that brought the US and Iran to the brink of full-scale war last year.
In addition to planting limpet mines on oil tankers off the coast of the UAE in May last year and the subsequent downing of the US surveillance drone in the Persian Gulf by Iran, the brazen attack on the Abqaiq petroleum facility and the Khurais oil field in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia on September 14 was the third major attack in the Persian Gulf against the assets of Washington and its regional clients. That the UAE had forewarning about imminent attacks is proved by the fact that weeks before the attacks, it recalled forces from Yemen battling the Houthi rebels and redeployed them to man the UAE’s territorial borders.
Nevertheless, a puerile prank like planting limpet mines on oil tankers can be overlooked but major provocations like downing a $200-million Global Hawk surveillance aircraft and mounting a drone and missile attack on the Abqaiq petroleum facility that crippled its oil-processing functions for weeks could have had serious repercussions.
The September 14 attack on the Abqaiq petroleum facility in eastern Saudi Arabia was an apocalypse for the global oil industry because it processes five million barrels crude oil per day, more than half of Saudi Arabia’s total oil production. The subversive attack sent jitters across the global markets and the oil price surged 15%, the biggest spike witnessed in three decades since the First Gulf War when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, though the oil price was eased within days after industrialized nations released their strategic oil reserves.
Unless Iran got the green light to go ahead with the attacks from a major power that equals Washington’s military might, such confrontation would have amounted to a suicidal approach. Therefore, the last year’s acts of subversion in the Persian Gulf should be viewed in the broader backdrop of the New Cold War that has begun after the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 when Russia occupied the Crimean peninsula and Washington imposed sanctions against Russia.
The Kremlin’s immediate response to the escalation by Washington was that it jumped into the fray in Syria in September 2015, after a clandestine visit to Moscow by General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force. When Russia deployed its forces and military hardware to Syria in September 2015, the militant proxies of Washington and its regional clients were on the verge of drawing a wedge between Damascus and the Alawite heartland of coastal Latakia, which could have led to the imminent downfall of the Assad government.
With the help of the Russian air power, the Syrian government has since reclaimed most of Syria’s territory from the insurgents, excluding Idlib in the northwest occupied by the Turkish-backed militants and Deir al-Zor and the Kurdish-held areas in the east, thus inflicting a humiliating defeat on Washington and its regional clients.
Moreover, several momentous events have taken place in the Syrian theater of proxy war and on the global stage that have further exacerbated the New Cold War between Moscow and Washington:
On February 7, 2018, the US B-52 bombers and Apache helicopters struck a contingent of Syrian government troops and allied forces in Deir al-Zor province of eastern Syria that reportedly
 killed and wounded scores of Russian military contractors working for the Russian private security firm, the Wagner Group.
The survivors described the bombing as an absolute carnage, and Moscow lost more Russian nationals in one day than it had lost throughout its more than two-year-long military campaign in support of the Syrian government since September 2015.
A month after the massacre of Russian military contractors in Syria, on March 4, 2018, Sergei Skripal, a Russian double agent working for the British foreign intelligence service, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a public bench outside a shopping center in Salisbury. A few months later, in July 2018, a British woman, Dawn Sturgess, died after touching the container of the nerve agent that allegedly poisoned the Skripals.
In the case of the Skripals, Theresa May, then the prime minister of the United Kingdom, promptly accused Russia of attempted assassinations and the British government concluded that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a Moscow-made, military-grade nerve agent, Novichok.
Sergei Skripal was recruited by the British MI6 in 1995, and before his arrest in Russia in December 2004, he was alleged to have blown the cover of scores of Russian secret agents. He was released in a spy swap deal in 2010 and was allowed to settle in Salisbury. Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter have since recovered and were discharged from hospital in May 2018.
Nevertheless, the motive that prompted the Vladimir Putin-led government to escalate the conflict with the Western powers was that the Russian presidential elections were slated for March 18, 2018, which Putin was poised to win anyway but he won a resounding electoral victory with 77% vote by whipping up chauvinism of the Russian electorate after the war of words with the Western powers.
In the aftermath of the Salisbury poisonings in March 2018, the US, UK and several European nations expelled scores of Russian diplomats and the Trump administration ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle. In a retaliatory move, Russia also expelled a similar number of American, British and European diplomats, and ordered the closure of American consulate in Saint Petersburg. The relations between Moscow and Western powers reached their lowest ebb since the break-up of the former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in December 1991.
A month later, an alleged chemical weapons attack took place in Douma, Syria, on April 7, 2018, and Donald Trump ordered a cruise missile strike in Syria on April 14, 2018, in collaboration with the Theresa May government in the UK and the Emmanuel Macron administration in France. The strike took place little over a year after a similar cruise missile strike on al-Shayrat airfield on April 6, 2017, after an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun, though both cruise missile strikes were nothing more than a show of force.
But the fact that out of 105 total cruise missiles deployed in the April 14, 2018, strikes against a military research facility in the Barzeh district of Damascus and two alleged chemical weapons storage facilities in Homs, 85 were launched by the US, 12 by the French and 8 by the UK aircrafts demonstrated the unified resolve of the Western powers against Russia in the aftermath of the Salisbury poisonings in the UK a month earlier.
Finally, a word about the venerated commander of IRGC’s Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani who was assassinated in a US airstrike at Baghdad airport in January. He was the main liaison between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Kremlin. Not only did he invite Russia to strike at Washington’s Achilles heel in Syria’s proxy war but he was also the main architect of the audacious September 14 attacks at Abqaiq petroleum facility and the Khurais oil field in the oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.
Alongside deploying several thousand American troops and additional aircraft squadrons and Patriot missile batteries in Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the Abqaiq attack, Washington also took out its most fearsome nemesis General Soleimani in January, and now it can freely stage subversive attacks in Iran and its allies without the fear of reprisals.
It’s worth pointing out that Trump initially rejected
 the Pentagon’s option to assassinate General Soleimani on December 28 due to the fear of full-scale confrontation with Iran, and authorized airstrikes on an Iran-backed militia group in Iraq instead. But after the attack at the US embassy in Baghdad by Iran-backed forces, Trump succumbed to pressure from the American deep state, led by the Pentagon and the State Department, which had a score to settle with General Soleimani for giving the global power a bloody nose in Syria’s proxy war.
 Trump says Beirut explosion was an 'attack':
 Long-Planned and Bigger Than Thought: Strike on Iran’s Nuclear Program:
 Russian toll in Syria battle was 300 killed and wounded:
 Trump initially rejected the Pentagon’s option to assassinate General Soleimani:
About the author:
Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and Middle East regions, neocolonialism and petro-imperialism.