Tag Archives: middle-east

A thought

The King of Saudi Arabia is dead. His successor is rumoured to be suffering from dementia. Saudi’s oil war is reducing revenue to the Kingdom. ISIS has already begun border attacks and there is rumour of fifth column activity in the Kingdom. Yemen is under Iranian backed Shi’te pressure with its capital overrun. In the Eastern province, where the oil is, there is a pro-Iranian Shi’te majority.

At this point the survival of Saudi Arabia in its current form is in some doubt. Certainly ISIS has no reason not to continue to attack. Running the table from Medina to Mecca looks like a stretch but that takes the loyalty of the Saudi Army and Air Force for granted. Are they loyal? And it is no stretch to note that the non-royal Saudis are not over enthusiastic about their lot in life. Less so when cuts to the Saudi welfare state occasioned by the reduction in oil revenues begin to bite.

ISIS is now in a stalemate in Iraq with the Iranian backed militias and the Iraqi army holding a line West of Baghdad. For ISIS to continue it needs to keep its momentum and wheeling south may be the best way to do that. Hitting the sacred territories of Islam could draw recruits and, weirdly, Saudi money from people who will back the perceived strong horse.

The derisory airstrikes of the anti-ISIS coalition have damaged but not destroyed ISIS. The logic of their strategic position combined with the politics of the Caliphate may make Saudi the right target at the right time. Which could make the entire situation radically more dangerous.

It might be time for the West to think more seriously about how and why it is conducting war in the Middle East. Air war is clean, low casualty and somewhat effective;it is not, however, decisive. Does it make sense to put boots on the ground and, if so, whose? Or are there other strategic options. China has a large Army. And buys a heck of a lot more Middle Eastern oil than the US.

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Good Guys

News of an impending chem weapons “deal” in Syria is a reminder of how surreal Middle Eastern politics can be. There is next to no chance the terms of the deal will have any reality but that does not seem to matter much.

Assorted rebel factions are shooting at each other while Assad, not quite believing his luck, keeps up the pressure. It’s a mess.

The only bright spot I can see is the quiet emergence of a Kurdish enclave in Syria just across the largely imaginary border from the semi autonomus Kurdish region of Iraq.

There are very few good reasons to support any of the facrions in Syria, Iraq, Iran or Turkey. In most cases the choice is between the bad and the awful. However, the Kurds – though Muslim – seem to avoid the fanaticism which infects so much od the Middle East. They would like their own country carved out of various other countries – and they have pursued low level wars to attain that; but they are more slaughtered than slaughtering.

From the West’s perspective, supporting Kurdish independence would weaken any number of bad actors in the ME and might establish a second, pro-Western nation in the region. At the moment the West, and paticularily the US, is playing a directionless, losing game. Changing that game by supporting Kurdish nationalist ambitions might establish a course toward a more stable Middle East.

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The crunch and clangs you are hearing is the sound of the car wreck which passes for American foreign policy at the moment.

Russia is not keen at this stage for a binding U.N. Security Council resolution that would provide a framework to control Syria’s chemical weapons’ stocks, France’s foreign minister said after talks with his Russian counterpart on Tuesday. reuters

There was never much chance that Syria and Russia would actually act to sequester the chemical weapons. In the middle of a civil war it is not all that terrifically easy to deal with the logistics leave aside the politics.

However, faced with certain defeat in the House and a good chance of defeat in the Senate and the American people 3 or 4 to 1 against the idy, biddy, no really, really small, attack on Syria, Obama needed a way out. Putin threw a lead life buoy and the very dim Obama and the even dumber Kerry grabbed it. (The laughter echoing through the halls of the Kremlin can be heard in Damascus.)

Hitting Syria, or, more accurately blowing a raspberry in its general direction, was not the credibility piece here. Everyone knows that the US has awesome raspberry blowing capacity. The credibility was all about the President’s ability to deal with a complicated international situation. While the Court Press will hail the Russian “deal” as proof Obama can wield the power of his office for a peaceful outcome, anyone paying attention will know just how badly he and his team have done.

The audience here is not the Washington tounge bathing media nor, in fact, the American people: rather it is the Iranian, North Korean, Syrian, Russian, Israeli, Egyptian and world strategic elite. People whose job it is to assess the resolve of the American President.

I rather suspect that, no matter what the Big Zero and his spinners say tonight, the universal verdict will be:


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At least Obama

retains the might of France…or, so far I have not seen any indication they are joining the rush to stand down.

Cameron will likely lose the Headboy position, what happens to the Big Zero now that he proposes to attack with no UN Resolution, no Arab League official support, no Anglosphere endorsement?

Well, nothing. His watery pinkish line in the Syrian sand is now not worth the death of a single American cruise missile because, without at least a tiny international fig leaf, the poor idiot will, in the eyes of progressives at least, be a war criminal.

He’s blown this from the day he decided to demand that Assad step down without being willing to get the job done himself.

The anti-American “rest of the world” has to be delighted that a President could be so completely out of his depth; those of us who are resolutely pro-American can only shake our heads at the stupidity of electing this doorknob.

(I suspect the Israelis are more than a little relieved. Fun as it would have been to whack Hezbollah under cover of the fog of war, the ineptness of American and international policy has allowed the accumulation of thousands of missiles in Lebanon and Syria. Those will not be fun but they are not likely to be fired this week.)

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The Deadly Crescent

David Goodman writes about Syria:

If we had a Syrian elite dedicated to modernization, free markets, and opportunity, we could have an economic recovery in Syria. But the country is locked into suppurating backwardness precisely because the dominant culture holds back individual initiative and enterprise. The longstanding hatreds among Sunnis and Shi’ites, and Kurds and Druze and Arabs, turn into a fight to the death as the ground shrinks beneath them. The pre-modern culture demands proofs of group loyalty in the form of atrocities which bind the combatants to an all-or-nothing outcome. The Sunni rebels appear quite as enthusiastic in their perpetration of atrocities as does the disgusting Assad government.david goodman

Which, I suspect, gets Syria about right.

Patrick Buchanan wrote up a bit of history in discussing Sykes-Picot which was the WWI treaty which carved up Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and such like.

I’ve just finished reading Philip Mansel’s brilliant history of the region, Levant, which gets the sweep of the history of the area very right indeed. The critical thing in Mansal’s book is the “black tide” of Islam sweeping up from the Gulf and destroying the cosmopolitan accommodation of Levantine culture. In Smyrna, Alexandria and Beruit the imposition of Islam has destroyed the mercantile, liberal cultures of the Mediterranean. It is a book of massacres, ethnic cleansing and a description of the corrosive effects of Islam.

There is a very good argument that we are looking at the first phase of a Thirty Year war in Islam. And those wars have never been anything but pure atrocity in the name of God.

For the West the best policy is, I think, to stay the Hell out and make sure that any of our “citizens” who participate are denied reentry to the West.

We might also, usefully, ensure that other than the Christians who are displaced, we prohibit immigration from any of the nations involved. Frankly, we have not the slightest idea which of them have blood on their hands. And, as we don’t, there is no reason at all to let mass murderers or their enablers into Canada.

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Springtime in Turkey?


Not Happy with Islamists

The general collapse of the old order in the Levant continues.

My bet is that these largely secular protestors will go the same way as the anti-regime protestors in Iran. They will be ignored by the great and the good in the West for fear of destabilization. Which is a shame but about what can be expected from the pussies who purport to be our political class.

Syria is in a full scale civil war with the traditional sectarian massacres – I am reading Mansel’s wonderful history of the Levant: Splendor and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean – and if history is any guide we are at the very beginning of a Rwandan level slaughter of the innocents.

The Turkish protests are a first shot. Syria started in much the same way.

The Levant is filled with fanatics, often under a thin veneer of a Westernized culture, who have a long history of rampage and amok. It is very sad but, I fear, it is a convulsion which needs to burn itself out.

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Arab Spring II

Springtime in Egypt and the potential for bloodbath just went through the roof:

Judges appointed by Hosni Mubarak dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament Thursday and ruled his former prime minister eligible for the presidential runoff election this weekend — setting the stage for the military and remnants of the old regime to stay in power.
The politically charged rulings dealt a heavy blow to the fundamentalist Islamic Brotherhood, with one senior member calling the decisions a “full-fledged coup,” and the group vowed to rally the public against Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak. reuters

I suppose that the Army and Establishment can fall back on Belloc’s delightful, “Whatever happens, we have got. The Maxim gun, and they have not.” But a quick look at Syria suggests that this will not last forever.

Egypt itself is a basket case and a coup and potential civil war are about the last thing it needs. However, with the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the so-called Arab spring, the alternative to a coup is an Islamist state with all the joy that would bring to secularists and Coptic Christians.

Barry Rubin runs some scenarios and considers the implications for US policy (not good).

But what I think this actually underscores is that nations with majority Muslim populations are not good at democracy. Probably because even moderate Islam makes very little distinction between civil and religious life. To be pious you have no choice but to vote a religious ticket. Which will almost always ensure that the politicians purporting to be most devout will run up the seat counts.

Which, in my view, is perfectly legitimate within those societies; but it certainly casts a shadow on the PollyAnna assumptions of Western secular liberals who thought the Arab Spring was, somehow, a liberation movement.

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