It’s Friday the 13th, spring is in the air, and SXSW crowds are flocking into downtown Austin. Here’s a LinkSwarm:
Posts Tagged ‘Iran’
Over on Ace of Spades HQ, DrewM is pessimistic that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech accomplished anything. While his central premise is correct (the deal won’t prevent the Obama Administration from making a criminally stupid deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran that will actually make it easier for them to obtain nuclear weapons), the speech actually did accomplish several positive things:
Here’s the complete video of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking before the United States Congress (minus a handful of petulant Democrats) today:
Skip to four minutes into the speech to miss the thunderous applause/walking in portion…
“The remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States has always been above politics. It must always remain above politics.”
I’m standing here in Washington, D.C. and the difference is so stark. America’s founding document promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Iran’s founding document pledges death, tyranny, and the pursuit of jihad. And as states are collapsing across the Middle East, Iran is charging into the void to do just that.
Iran’s goons in Gaza, its lackeys in Lebanon, its revolutionary guards on the Golan Heights are clutching Israel with three tentacles of terror. Backed by Iran, Assad is slaughtering Syrians. Back by Iran, Shiite militias are rampaging through Iraq. Back by Iran, Houthis are seizing control of Yemen, threatening the strategic straits at the mouth of the Red Sea. Along with the Straits of Hormuz, that would give Iran a second choke-point on the world’s oil supply.
Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.
In this deadly game of thrones, there’s no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don’t share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone.
The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs. We must always remember — I’ll say it one more time — the greatest dangers facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle, but lose the war. We can’t let that happen.
But that, my friends, is exactly what could happen, if the deal now being negotiated is accepted by Iran. That deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them.
Ladies and gentlemen, history has placed us at a fateful crossroads. We must now choose between two paths. One path leads to a bad deal that will at best curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions for a while, but it will inexorably lead to a nuclear-armed Iran whose unbridled aggression will inevitably lead to war.
The second path, however difficult, could lead to a much better deal, that would prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclearized Middle East and the horrific consequences of both to all of humanity.
A Monday LinKSwarm to kick off your week with:
“Obama says what he has to say to make reporters stop asking about it.”
#ExplainAFilmPlotBadly Respected archaeology professor has secret life where he indulges his taste for wearing leather and using whips.
— BattleSwarm (@BattleSwarmBlog) September 6, 2014
Just a quick note to compliment Israel on a perfect sense of timing in picking this week to kick Hamas’ incompetent ass (yet again) in Operation Protective Edge:
Hamas has done more harm to the Palestinian movement in the past two decades, than any opponent of the Palestinians could have done. It has sabotaged relations with a sympathetic media through muddled press conferences and moronic bombastic statements about “opening the gates of hell.” It has driven out international supporters, managed to decrease the support it did have among various “free Gaza” committees and “shot its bolt” in its various ill-conceived wars with Israel.
It gained a respite with the election of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt in 2012. But like Morsi, it over-reached and overestimated its military chances against Israel. It must have gained hope from Turkey’s Islamist government AK party and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s strong messages of support. But the Gaza flotilla incident of 2010 seems like a high point of Turkish resolve. Hamas’ other erstwhile friends in Iran and Hezbollah; although Shi’ite extremists, seemed like they might bolster the organization. The 2006 Lebanon War, which was roundly seen as a blunder for Israel, was a by-product of Hamas’ own kidnapping of Gilad Schalit that year. But Hezbollah and Iran were drawn into the Syrian quagmire and Hamas was left alone. The overthrow of Morsi by General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in Egypt put another nail in the blockade around Gaza as Sisi sought to root out terror in Sinai. Pro-Gaza activists from the West were roughed up routinely in Egypt.
Whereas Hamas could once propagate stories about flour or electricity shortages in Gaza, the international media and activists began to shrug their shoulders. Another perennial sewage problem? In June of 2014 Reuters noted, “sewage at the beach, piles of garbage mar Gaza’s summer.” Various alarmist UN statements, such as a 2008 claim that the “blockage [by Israel and Egypt] is putting Gaza at risk of starvation” were met with a yawn. Hamas’ Gaza policy, with its need for international attention, has been marred particularly by the mass atrocities that have been taking place throughout the Middle East. Media outlets like the BBC caught on to the fact that images from Syria are routinely passed off as being from Gaza and there is less international outrage at Israel than in previous years as the European public is inured to suffering in the region.
This latest round of violence is indicative. Al-Jazeera cobbled together various world leaders’ reactions to the conflict. The usual suspects were there – but were markedly tepid in their criticism of Israel.
All that said, I bet we go through the whole thing again another two years from now…
Since Iraq and Syria are now all part of the same greater Sunni/Shia conflict, let’s take a look at recent developments in the broader theater:
The War Nerd pinpoints the biggest reason for ISIS’s rapid Iraq advance: the flat geography of the area they’ve taken: “It’s the Bonneville Salt Flats of insurgency, the place you go to set new speed records.” He also thinks the Kurdish Pesh Merga will slaughter them if ISIS is foolish enough to make a big push into the northern hill country.
Read the whole thing.
A look a Syria’s Christians, who are getting it from both sides.
Here’s a piece that suggests that moderate Sunnis are just using ISIS to get Maliki out. (Well, what are a few Shia mass graves anyway?) Yeah, not buying it. It’s the guys with guns who use “moderates,” not the other way around. Also argues for a de jour rather than merely de facto partition of Iraq.
For those who haven’t been following every twist and turn of the Syrian Civil War, the sudden rise of Islamic State of Syria and Iraq probably came as quite a shock. Yesterday you’d never heard of them, and today they’re capturing Mosul and Tikrit and advancing on Baghdad. No terrorist or guerrilla force grows that quickly without some sort of major financial backing. My suspicion that they were bankrolled by the Saudis and some of the other Sunni oil sheikdoms appears to have been more or less accurate.
Over at The Daily Beast, Josh Rogin says that wealthy donors in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are funding ISIS.
Under significant U.S. pressure, the Arab Gulf governments have belatedly been cracking down on funding to Sunni extremist groups, but Gulf regimes are also under domestic pressure to fight in what many Sunnis see as an unavoidable Shiite-Sunni regional war that is only getting worse by the day.
“ISIS is part of the Sunni forces that are fighting Shia forces in this regional sectarian conflict. They are in an existential battle with both the (Iranian aligned) Maliki government and the Assad regime.”
And therein lies the rub. The Syrian Civil War had already undertaken the character of a Sunni/Shia conflict that was drawing in Iran and Lebanon (and, by financial proxy, Saudi Arabia); their swift success in Iraq widens the scope of the war, but not the essential nature. Sunnis and Shiias have hardly needed an excuse to slaughter each other at the drop of a hat; indeed, the far more difficult task has always been to keep them from slaughtering each other.
For what it’s worth, the exceptionally cynical and always-entertaining War Nerd says that ISIS has already peaked:
This is one of those dramatic military reverses that mean a lot less than meets the eye. The “Iraqi Army” routed by ISIS wasn’t really a national army, and ISIS isn’t really a dominant military force. It was able to occupy those cities because they were vacuums, abandoned by a weak, sectarian force. Moving into vacuums like this is what ISIS is good at. And that’s the only thing ISIS is good at.
ISIS is a sectarian Sunni militia—that’s all. A big one, as militias go, with something like 10,000 fighters. Most of them are Iraqi, a few are Syrian, and a few hundred are those famous “European jihadis” who draw press attention out of all relation to their negligible combat value. The real strength of ISIS comes from its Chechen fighters, up to a thousand of them. A thousand Chechens is a serious force, and a terrifying one if they’re bearing down on your neighborhood. Chechens are the scariest fighters, pound-for-pound, in the world.
But we’re still talking about a conventional military force smaller than a division. That’s a real but very limited amount of combat power. What this means is that, no matter how many scare headlines you read, ISIS will never take Baghdad, let alone Shia cities to the south like Karbala. It won’t be able to dent the Kurds’ territory to the north, either. All it can do—all it has been doing, by moving into Sunni cities like Mosul and Tikrit—is to complete the partition of Iraq begun by our dear ex-president Bush in 2003.
Also this: “Insurgent groups go through leaders like Spinal Tap went through drummers.”
This analysis of the situation strikes me as just cynical enough to possibly be true, especially given his thoughts on our non-friends the Saudis. But the fact that ISIS probably won’t be able to take Baghdad doesn’t mean they won’t try. And there’s no reason the Sunni/Shia civil war can’t widen and drag even more countries into it.
Which is not to argue that we should be intervening at this point. Indeed, someone who was especially cynical might suggest that years of Sunnis and Shias killing each other might be just the thing to distract them from killing us…
(Note: This headline is only slightly factitious.)
The problem with George W. Bush’s Middle East policy is that there’s no political gain there, no matter how great the price or resounding the achievement, that Obama can’t throw away through his manifestly gross incompetence. Al Qaeda in Iraq’s successor organization, the Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) “consolidated and extended their control over northern Iraq on Wednesday, seizing Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, threatening the strategic oil refining town of Baiji and pushing south toward Baghdad, their ultimate target.”
That’s the same ISIS that captured Mosul, where they seized $429 million worth of Iraqi dinars from the local bank, making them the richest terrorist army in the world.
Remember when Obama declared that “al Qaeda is on the run”?
Obama was right. Al Queada IS on the run…straight into Baghdad.
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) June 12, 2014
And remember when Obama pulled out of Iraq and walked away without a status of forces agreement there?
Now two battalions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds forces have deployed to Iraq, ostensibly to support Maliki’s Shiite government. So now, in theory, we’re allied with the Mullahs in Iran in Iraq against the Isalmists we’re supporting in Syria against the Iran-aligned government of Bashar Assad.
About the only good news out of the region is that the Kurds are holding their own. An independent Kurdistan would be far from the worst development in the region, and would probably freak out both Iran and Turkey enough to distract them from further mischief elsewhere.
The current situation highlights the age-old truth that the Middle East is filled with people whose deepest desire appears to be to kill and gain power over members of rival clans/tribes/factions/confessions/etc. This has been true for pretty much all of recorded history save when a strong power (Ottoman, British, Baathist) is able to keep those tendencies in check through heavy policing, military occupation, or a brutal security state apparatus. The presence of our troops there gives the natives a distraction and a target, allowing them to temporarily stop killing each other in preference to killing us. The exceptions to this rule, such as multicultural Lebanon circa 1946-1974, have proven frustratingly ephemeral.
Israel provided a temporary target of unifying hatred, but the Jewish state’s defensive measures have made it increasingly difficult to get close enough to any Jews to kill them, hence back to the old internecine pursuits.
Bush43’s foreign policy in the Middle East and the decision to invade Iraq stems, in large measure, from Bush41’s decision not to let Schwartzkopf take Baghdad in The Gulf War. Whether doing so would have brought all on all our Iraqi troubles two decades earlier is debatable. There is much to say for toppling a totalitarian thug like Saddam, not least of which was liberating the children’s prison, where children as young as 5 were tortured to make their mothers talk. Perhaps the ideal strategy would have been to depose and execute Saddam and his top regime supporters in 1991, then immediately leave and let Iraqi factions kill each other rather than our troops. But I doubt anyone put forward that idea as a serious suggestion at the time.
Bush43 ultimately succeeded in largely pacifying Iraq, but the cost was high and, as recent events proved, the gains were temporary. The problem with interventionist policy in the Middle East is that there is no gain safe from the feckless impulses of surrender and appeasement that dominate the Democratic Party’s thinking today. The Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party is dead, and Obama and Kerry perfectly embody the combination of naivete, hubris, multilateralist, and hostility to the military that dominates today. They love signing treaties and “the peace process,” even though it’s all process and no peace.
It turns out that Ron Paul may be right for the wrong reasons. Because no foreign policy gain in the Middle East is safe from Democratic incompetence, Republicans should not pursue any interventionist foreign policy there, especially in the name of impossible “stability”. No interventionist accomplishment there can endure long past the end of a Republican President’s term, because there is no gain safe from the likes of Kerry and Obama. And since there is no indication the nature of the Democratic Party will be changing any time soon, a military interventionist foreign policy there, no matter how well-intentioned, well-planned, and well-executed, must be doomed to ultimate failure.
In hindsight, the liberation of Iraq turns out to be a tragic mistake, because Bush underestimated how decisively his hard-won gains could be undone by the incompetence of his successor.