Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Iran's folly sees not only the destruction of the Assad regime but the beginnings of a Sunni - Shia war

Iran awash with petrodollars and secure in the knowledge that Obama has no intention of clipping its wings (despite the US gunboat diplomacy in the Persian Gulf) as to its nuclear ambitions has committed a fatal error. It is however hard to see what else Iran could do under the circumstances.

It is now being reported that  Iran is actively intervening in the civil war in Syria, using its Revolutionary Guards to prop up the Assad regime.

Iran can not afford to let Assad fall and be replaced by a sunni regime in Syria as Hezbollah's position amongst a sea of hostile sunni muslims would then become untenable in Lebanon. Iran's main front against Israel would collapse should Hezbollah's contact with the Iranian hinterland by way of Syria be broken.

Recently 48 Iranian 'pilgrims' werre arrested in Syria by the FSA rebels, amongst them an Iranian IRG general.

Now Iran's Commander General Salar Abnoush has this week told volunteers that, “We are involved in fighting every aspect of a war – a military one in Syria, and a cultural one as well.”

That Iran has now committed troops to Syria means that the fault lines are now drawn between Sunni muslims and Shia islam.

With foreign jihadis flocking to Syria and with islamist Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia as well as Jordan all giving their support to the rebels the terrible reality first enunciated by David Goldman ('Spengler') of a new 30 Years War in the middle east is becoming ever clearer.

Israel has in the last two years been facing ever increasing state threats and terror. Islamist enemies surrounding Israel from Egypt's Sinai desert, Lebanon, Gaza, the Palestinian Territories have constantly re-iterated their goals of the destruction of Israel.

But as always, the harder they try, the nearer they get to their goal, the further away they find themselves. Before the islamist Caliphate can be established, the sunnis and shiites will have to decide who will lead the caliphate. And this will necessarily take place on the battlefield between opposing adherents of fanatical islam.

President Obama has been responsible more than anyone for the forces that are now squaring up. He has seen to it that the Muslim Brotherhood from being a thorn in the side of Mubarak has become the ruling party of Egypt. Obama has supported the Turkish islamist ruling party and helped it in its support of Syrian islamists. Obama has expressed his fondness for Turkey's PM Erdogan as a good friend and he has supplied Saudi Arabia and UAE allies with tens of billions of dollars worth of armaments including hundreds of modern war planes such as the F15 and F16. Only this year Obam agreed to sell $30billion more arms to Saudi Arabia alone. Turkey will get 100 F35 fighters.

Obama having built up the sunni alliance against what seemed to be the best interests of the USA and of Western civilisation (which includes moderate muslims, the silent millions forced to comply on pain of death with the dictates of barbaric sharia imposing clerics ) has in fact formed the battle lines that will now give way to untold misery and death for many millions of muslims and minorities who happen to find themselves in the way.

The only silver lining in all this is that Israel will most likely be able to continue to sit this one out, to let the mass killings, the genocide, the ethnic cleansing happen all around it, and be affected only tangentially, by the seemingly constant small scale terror attacks and rocket launchings at Israeli towns. Even if Israel is forced to attack Iran's nuclear industry, the ramifications will not divert from the overall pattern of sunni-shia hostilities for more than a few months at most.

Israel's arab citizens and its christian population should see what is happening all around in the middle east and thank their lucky stars that they were born in a modern, democratic and tolerant, Jewish State, a state where everyone's interests are protected, where discrimination against minorities is outlawed.

When the genocidal frenzy of killing has abated, muslim societies in the middle-east might just begin to turn away from the cult of hatred and of killing. As with Germany which needed 4 million dead in WWII before it would give up on its desire for "Lebensraum" and "Total Krieg", and which is now a country whose people have a mostly pacisfistic nature, the middle-east will lose its love of war only through the barrel of a gun and through similarly enormous suffering.

An imaginary conversation with Cardinal Richlieu:
"We are a bit confused about Syria," I began. "Its leader, Bashar al-Assad, is slaughtering his own people to suppress an uprising. And he is allied to Iran, which wants to acquire nuclear weapons and dominate the region. If we overthrow Assad, Sunni radicals will replace him, and take revenge on the Syrian minorities. And a radical Sunni government in Syria would ally itself with the Sunni minority next door in Iraq and make civil war more likely."

"I don't understand the question," Richelieu replied.

"Everyone is killing each other in Syria and some other places in the region, and the conflict might spread. What should we do about it?"

"How much does this cost you?"

"Nothing at all," I answered.

"Then let them kill each other as long as possible, which is to say for 30 years or so. Do you know," the ghastly Cardinal continued, "why really interesting wars last for 30 years? That has been true from the Peloponnesian War to my own century. First you kill the fathers, then you kill their sons. There aren't usually enough men left for a third iteration."

"We can't go around saying that," I remonstrated.

"I didn't say it, either," Richelieu replied. "But I managed to reduce the population of the German Empire by half in the space of a generation and make France the dominant land power in Europe for two centuries.

"Isn't there some way to stabilize these countries?" I asked.

Richelieu looked at me with what might have been contempt. "It is a simple exercise in logique. You had two Ba'athist states, one in Iraq and one in Syria. Both were ruled by minorities. The Assad family came from the Alawite minority Syria and oppressed the Sunnis, while Saddam Hussein came from the Sunni minority in Iraq and oppressed the Shi'ites.

It is a matter of calculation - what today you would call game theory. If you compose a state from antagonistic elements to begin with, the rulers must come from one of the minorities. All the minorities will then feel safe, and the majority knows that there is a limit to how badly a minority can oppress a majority. That is why the Ba'ath Party regimes in Iraq and Syria - tyrannies founded on the same principle - were mirror images of each other."

"What happens if the majority rules?," I asked.

"The moment you introduce majority rule in the tribal world," the cardinal replied, "you destroy the natural equilibrium of oppression.

"The minorities have no recourse but to fight, perhaps to the death. In the case of Iraq, the presence of oil mitigates the problem.

The Shi'ites have the oil, but the Sunnis want some of the revenue, and it is easier for the Shi'ites to share the revenue than to kill the Sunnis. On the other hand, the problem is exacerbated by the presence of an aggressive neighbor who also wants the oil."

"So civil war is more likely because of Iran?"

"Yes," said the shade, "and not only in Iraq. Without support from Iran, the Syrian Alawites - barely an eighth of the people - could not hope to crush the Sunnis. Iran will back Assad and the Alawites until the end, because if the Sunnis come to power in Syria, it will make it harder for Iran to suppress the Sunnis in Iraq. As I said, it is a matter of simple logic. Next time you visit, bring a second bottle of Petrus, and my friend Descartes will draw a diagram for you."

"So the best thing we can do to stabilize the region is to neutralize Iran?"

"Bingeaux!" Richelieu replied.

"But there are people in the United States, like the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who say that attacking Iran would destabilize everything!"

"Such fools would not have lasted a week in my service," the cardinal sniffed. "Again, it is a matter of simple logic. If Iran's capacity to build nuclear weapons is removed by force, upon whom shall it avenge itself? No doubt its irregulars in Lebanon will shoot some missiles at Israel, but not so many as to provoke the Israelis to destroy Hezbollah. Iran might undertake acts of terrorism, but at the risk of fierce reprisals. Without nuclear weapons, Iran becomes a declining power with obsolete weapons and an indifferent conscript army."

Richelieu's shade already had lost some color. "What should the United States do in Syria?" I asked.

"As little as possible," he replied. "Some anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles from Gaddafi's stockpiles, enough to encourage the opposition and prevent Assad from crushing them, and without making it obvious who sent them."

"And what will become of Syria?"

The cardinal said sourly, "The same thing will happen to the present occupants of Syria that happened to the previous occupants: the Assyrians, and the Seleucids, and the Byzantines before them. You seem to think the Syrians are at existential risk because they are fighting to the death. On the contrary: they are fighting to the death because they were at existential risk before the first shot was fired. They have no oil. They do not even have water. They manufacture nothing. They cling to ancient hatred as a drowning man grasps a stone."

"Isn't there anything we can do about it?" I shouted.

But Richelieu had turned back into a cardinal-shaped jellyfish, and if he gave an answer, I could not hear it. 

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