The New Middle East

By Ted Belman

The Lebanon War II was a watershed event. It has lead to a realignment of forces and a New Middle East. A coalition of “moderates” is forming to contain the “radicals”. This is more than talk. It is taking shape before our eyes.

Bush has decided to win. He will continue to escalate until he does. Winning means to succesfully contain Iran and its proxies. It means keeping Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan from falling to the radicals.

He is planning to be replaced in Iraq by a UN mandated Arab League force to be organized to keep the peace in Iraq and in reality to prevent Iranian influence. This force will enable the US to substantially withdraw. Iraq has agreed to the exclusion of Iranian influence and to fighting all insurgents or terrorists be they Shiite or Sunni. Oil revenues are to be shared with all Iraqis. Iraq will not splinter.

I am not expecting that Iran will be invaded or massively attacked. I am expecting that the noose around them will be tightened until they crack. I can foresee a blockade on the export of oil by Iran with Saudi Arabia replacing the lost production. I can foresee the odd bombing run to show them the US means business. I can also foresee a gasoline embargo. The US is already enforcing a financial blockade.

China has decided to be in the moderate camp and will help the US apply pressure on Iran. It has already started to do this. From their point of view, choking Iran is better than the US attacking Iran. China will not make trouble in Formosa and is helping to deal with N. Korea.

Russia has been making trouble by supporting Syria and Iran. I doubt that Russia will go down with the ship. With China taking the side of the moderates, Russia will have their moment of truth. It may in the end prefer cooperation to confrontation.

In the last three months, Olmert has met with China, S. Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the US. These meetings are a prelude to joint action.

Lebanon is to be protected from the radicals. Saudi Arabia has recently met with Lebanon and will be financing much of the reconstruction. Israel will be called upon to defeat Hezbollah.

On the other hand, Israel is not cooperating with Syria and accepting “peace” talks. Not yet at least. That will come later when Syria is ready to change sides.

Now how does “Palestine” fit into all of this? It is clear that everyone including Israel has decided to create Palestine and soon. Abbas is clearly being built up to lead the charge. He is being supplied with weapons and money. He is committed to defeating Hamas one way or the other. Israel is cooperating in this endeavour. Abbas is totally controlled by Saudi Arabia and the US and will do their bidding.

That’s the plan anyway. Let’s see how it turns out?

January 14, 2007 | 3 Comments »

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3 Comments / 3 Comments

  1. Ted, I’m sorry but anything short of a series of powerful air strikes will do nothing to hurt Iran– the effect of all these “soft attacks” on Iran by the US has been greatly exaggerated. Iraq has not at all agreed to the “exclusion of Iranian influence”– Iraq’s most powerful political party in fact, is the SCIRI and its Badr Brigades wing, which was founded, trained and funded in Iran and still takes marching orders from the mullahs. Through them, the Iranians effectively rule southern, oil-rich Iraq, including Basra, and effectively Baghdad as well. The Mahdi Army under Sadr is ironically less pro-Iranian at its core, but still has a number of Iranian loyalists in its ranks.

    IOW, Iran is powerfully increasing its presence in Iraq, not diminishing it.

    Also, the USA is not “enforcing” a financial blockade in any form against Iran. The US has long pressed sanctions, financial and otherwise against Iran since 1979, but the main Iranian bank still does an enormous amount of business with Asia, Europe and crooks and criminals worldwide. The US at present has no power to halt that, and if anything Iranian banking transactions have been on the rise lately.

    As for Russia and China, Bill is on the money here. Russia in particular is not drawing its support for Iran down at all. You misread Russia if you think that they’re worried about “going down with the ship.” Russia, frankly, just doesn’t care– whatever happens with Iran, Russia stands to make a pile of money and poke the US in the eye with Russia’s continuing investments in Iran’s oil, natural gas and nuclear sectors.

    China? They’re basically neutralist here. I’ve found individual Chinese to be among the most sympathetic people worldwide with the Jewish people (the Chinese are the “Jews of Indonesia and Malaysia”– economically successful minorities bitterly resented by the majority populations), plus even China’s government has elements that are sympathetic to Israel. But China has a 2,000-year tradition of staying out of big fights and working with both sides. So, yes, China is warming to Israel in many areas, but it’s simultaneously warming to Iran. Lest anyone forget, the Pars natural gas field in Iran is now a done deal, with China providing the vast majority of the funding. China also has oil deals in the works with Iran– China isn’t siding with anyone here.

    Also, don’t forget the one country that really is most closely interlinked with Iran these days and is providing most of the economic support– India. India in particular, desperately needs a natural gas pipeline, and due to the instability in Afghanistan and the rotten infrastructure in Azerbaijan, Iranian gas is the only realistic option for India over the next 20 years. India is therefore strengthening, not weakening ties with Iran.

    Europe and Japan may join with the US on the recent toothless sanctions on Iran, but they’re the largest buyers of Iranian oil.

    Ironically, the Gulf Arab oil states especially Saudi Arabia are the closest Israel has to allies against Iran, but both their power and their intentions are very limited. Even if Saudi Arabia wanted to replace Iranian oil to meet demand, it couldn’t– Saudi oil is already peaking, especially at Ghawar. Moreover, the recent rumor that the Saudis have been boosting oil production in OPEC to undercut Iran’s regime is dreadfully false. At the recent OPEC meeting, it was the Saudis who pushed hardest for a production cut and then followed suit– it was Iran and Venezuela who continued to supply more oil, to boost their own profits, which has been helping to keep the price of oil down (though it’s going up due to the frigid weather in the US and Europe). The Saudis also do a significant amount of business with Iran and have little interest in seeing the regime fall, potentially opening up a massive Persian Gulf civil war. Thus the Saudis are indeed afraid of Iran, almost as much as Israel, but they’re not going to make significant moves against the mullahs.

    And Iran’s economic troubles are way overstated. They’ve never been a rich, first-world country to begin with– poverty is a given there, and in fact it’s a big reason Ahmedinejad won support in the first place, even though he’s never been a very powerful figure in Iran (the mullahs have the power there). In fact, Iran’s recent exports of both petroleum and non-oil products has been increasing, not decreasing, due to US efforts.

    I’m bothered by the tendency among so many otherwise level-headed Iranian opponents to buy into the wishful thinking that we could avoid a strike against Iran if we just try enough minor things at the margins. We can’t.

    Iran has the advantage of both time and momentum here. The push for the nuclear weapon isn’t coming chiefly from Ahmedinejad, whose power is overstated– it’s coming even from moderates in Iran and from the mullahs. The Iranians are headlong toward becoming a nuclear power, period.

    And Iran doesn’t actually need to use a nuclear weapon to destroy Israel, only to possess one. Iran is such a destabilizing factor, with so much menace and messianic madness, that it deters Jews from wanting to come to the Jewish state.

    Israel must have significant aliyah from North America to survive as a Jewish state, otherwise we lose our homeland and suffer worldwide as our population is whittled down both by attacks and meek assimilation. With Iran’s push to becoming nuclear, and Jews’ understandable fury at Ehud Olmert and Kadima for their incompetence and idiotic appeasement policy toward Iran, aliyah is already on the wane and diminishing further, and Jews resident within Israel– especially recent olim– are increasingly pushed away.

    Remember, in 1938, Neville Chamberlain and many others all hoped they could do things at the margins to keep Hitler at bay, and they failed to strike early when they could, and nip that gathering storm in the bud.

    Iran today is a far more dangerous threat to our survival, and we have to accept that there is no alternative to striking Iran militarily, and hard. They are far too determined, with far too many resources and support from the outside, to reduce their threat against us. Iran is also blessed with among the world’s best uranium reserves– even without much in the way of outside help, Iran can become a deadly nuclear power using its own resources alone. It doesn’t have to be a major war, only a series of powerful air strikes– backed by naval and ground forces where needed– to hit Iran’s major nuclear sites and effectively shut their program down, while teaching them a lesson to deter them from starting such a program again.

    Anything short of this is a dangerous abdication of responsibility and action. We have only a few months to act.

  2. The comment bhy Bill Narvey is both perceptive and intelligent. American should begin a massive campagin to support the Shiites and at the same time the Sunnis…and may they both lose.

  3. The Lebanon War II may have been a watershed event, however so too was 9/11, America’s limited engagement of the radicals in Afghanistan and Iraq, Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza, Hamas’ election, and Iran’s continuous march towards full nuclearization.

    There have been many watershed events, but when it comes to the Middle East, they are watersheds of consequence lasting only until the next event that twists and turns the path of history in the region. The odds are very good that there will be more watershed events.

    Bush’s new plan to put 20 thousand more troops in place in Iraq might not be held up by the democratic Congress, but the battle between Democrats in Congress and the President increase chances of the bush administration being only further weakened at home and abroad.

    While China and Russia might be shifting positions regarding Iran, there is no evidence that such shifts are major. Don’t forget that those two nations have been instrumental thus far in blocking any effective UN resolutions and measures being taken against Iran, that both China and Russia armed to the teeth.

    The West and America simply cannot trust anything China and Russia say or do as regards Iran and the Middle East that is seemingly supportive of Western positions and wishes, without proof positive of their bone fides and the absence of any ulterior motives to set things up so that they are the beneficiaries and the West pays the price for their gains.

    One must be very wary when suggesting that a coalition of Muslim Middle East moderates are lining up against Iran. These moderates can just as easily be described as Islamic radical states that fear that if radical Iran is allowed to realize its dreams of power in the Middle East, that would be at the expense of the moderates.

    Further, the Iraqi government has a one vote majority and is as weak as al-Malaki is weak as a leader. Iraq is in a civil war which is on cruise control right now but at any moment one side or the other will be the first to put the pedal to the metal and the other will respond in kind. What will the Iraqi government do then? Al Malaki might even be a good man, but he is the one who went cap in hand to Ahamadinejad and it was he and his government that condemned Israel, just like all the other Jew hating leaders in the Middle East.

    PM Siniora might be considered a moderate, but so what? He was powerless to do anything to stop Hezbollah from igniting Lebanon WAR II and he and his government are daily at risk of being unseated by Hezbollah that enjoys substantial support in Lebanon.

    As for Jordan, it has perhaps the best veneer of moderation in the Muslim Middle East, but considering some of King Abdullah’s comments that surface from time to time, his views reflect the thinking of those Muslim states that make little pretence of hating Jews and blaming Israel for all ills in the region. Add to that the fact that King Abdullah has done little if anything to stem or stop the Jew/Israel hating propaganda and anti American propaganda that is propogandized almost daily in the media and from many mosque pulpits.

    The evidence is there to make a case that there are no Muslim Middle East moderate nations, but rather some nations that make the effort to give impressions of moderations so as to disguise their own radical natures when it comes to Israel and even America.

    It has been clear for decades that Wester and American policy vis a vis Israel and Palestinians has been to bring a Palestinian state into existence as part of a peace settlement with Israel. There is nothing new in making this statement today or that Israel has been going along with that objective, though it is not the Israelis, but rather the Palestinians who have prevented that from happening, for the independent Palestinian state objective conceived of by the Western roadmap has never been the objective of the Palestinians who, including Abbas and Fatah still dream of the independent Palestinian state being all of Israel. Abbas and Fatah may be influenced by the Saudis, but hardly controlled, just as Arafat could not be forced by the Saudis to accept Barak’s peace offering 5 years ago.

    The more things change, the more they remain the same is the best way to describe the many new Middle Easts of past years, the new Middle East today and the new Middle East of tomorrow.

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