“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Truth or Consequences in Iraq. Another point of view.

Geopolitical nightmares of the Middle East

1 February 2007

THE geopolitics of the Middle East has mutated into a lethal sectarian virus, as Shia and Sunni militias slaughter, bomb and maim at random in Iraq, Pakistan and now Lebanon.

The ancient wounds of Kerbala and the Ottoman – Safavid sectarian wars that engulfed the Middle East for centuries have now reopened in a region where war, to borrow Von Clausewitz’ words, is just diplomacy by other means. The demagogues, zealots, princes, dictators, warlords, terrorists, secessionists and theocrats in the Middle East are now on a collision course to Armageddon, towards a Sarajevo style endgame to all the interlocking, incidentiary web of alliances, rivalries and ethnic hatreds that could well plunge our region into generations of bloodshed.

The axis of evil lies in the heart of the pitiless assassins, who view the world through the prism of a pathological fanaticism and an existential paranoia lubricated by their Great Power patrons who are turning cities from Beirut to Baghdad, Gaza to Kirkuk, Mosul to Karachi into slaughterhouses, Francisco Goya’s surreal hells on earth. Iran tests its Zelzal and Fajr – five missiles in the Dasht-i-Kavir, the USS John Stennis and its carrier strike force sails to join the USS Eisenhower and the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. American combat troops in Iraq are given a hunting license to kill Iranians, the US Treasury tightens the draconian financial sanctions that bought down the Afrikaner apartheid regime in South Africa. Patriot missile batteries and killer submarines with nuclear warheads are deployed within the Gulf of Hormuz. The countdown to the fourth Gulf war has already begun. As in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1988, 1982, 1990 and 2003, history is moving fast forward and the Middle East is once again convulsed with the prospect of war.

Iraq is the flashpoint for the imminent regional war. Three years after Saddam’s statue was toppled in Baghdad’s Firdous Square, Iraq has degenerated into yet another failed Middle Eastern state, with Sunni jihadi enclaves in Anbar and Diyala provinces matched by Shia statelets in Basra and Najaf, a de facto sovereign Kurdistan, a Baghdad gutted by multiple civil wars and an unpopular American military occupation that barely controls events in the Green Zone. Murderous insurgents, jihadists, mercenaries, warlords and terrorists have replaced the thuggish Baathist dictatorship the United States overthrew in 2003. Iraq’s pain has only been exploited by the cynical spymasters of Damascus and Teheran, whose agents have funded militias, smuggled arms, financed massacres, instigated sectarian violence, done their best to derail George W Bush’s imperial adventure in Mesopotamia, as have foreign Sunni jihadists and local Baathists from the Sunni Triangle.

The Turkish Armed Forces, who fought a bitter guerilla war in the 1990’s against the Kurdish secessionists of the PKK, are on alert and carrying reconnaissance missions into northern Iraq. There is an anti–war consensus reminiscent of Vietnam in Washington as the sons and daughters of Middle America return home in body bags. Even General David Petraus calls the situation in Baghdad “dire”. Lebanon’s elected government is on the verge of collapse as Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy in the Levant, challenges the power status quo in Beirut. Gaza and Somalia are the new failed states of the Arab world, mired in civil wars between Fatah and Hamas, the invading Ethiopian Army and the Mogadishu warlords. Sunni and Shia terrorists murder each other in mosques and streets in Iraq and Pakistan. Egypt’s military regime, with an 85 year old President, faces replacement by the virulently anti–Western Muslim Brotherhood. Hashemite Jordan, home to an Iraqi refugee tide, has lost all hope for an Israeli–Palestine settlement. The Pakistani military junta faces civil war in Baluchistan and the prospect of a Pakhtun insurrection against General Musharraf’s pro-West regime. The Oslo/Madrid peace process is dead, a cruel joke of the past as the IDF is poised to strike Hezbollah and Iran’s nuclear assets. Saudi Arabia and Iran have escalated a regional arms race, with ballistic missiles and nuclear proliferation the new reality in the Gulf. The Armageddon clock has begun its fateful tick-tock in the Mideast.

The Pax Americana in the region, whose apogee was Desert Storm, the liberation of Kuwait, Clinton’s Camp David peace accords and dual containment policy in the Gulf that failed to box both Baathist Iraq and the Ayatullah’s Iran, is now history. Bush rolled history’s dice in Iraq and has now irrevocably lost the gamble. America will never again dominate the politics of the Arab world, the Levant and the Gulf, as it did in the 1990’s. Hezbollah, Hamas, the failure of the White House’s democracy project, the violent jihadi and sectarian warlord challenge to allied Arab regimes, Israel’s Likud–Kadima disengagement from peacemaking, the gory images of Arabic satellite TV and the Internet all spell doom for Pax Americana. The unmistakable imperial ambition of Iran, expressed across the centuries from Cyrus the Great to the Sassanid Shapur, Shah Abbas to the Pahlavi Shahs, to be the new gendarme of the Gulf, boosted by international black markets in arms, terror and uranium centrifuges, coupled with China and India’s quest for oil, is a classic template for war.

The twilight of empire has always proved traumatic in the Middle East. When the Mongols sacked Abbasid Baghdad in 1258, when the Ottoman Sultan succumbed to the Arab Revolt in 1917, when France abandoned Algerie Francaise in 1962 and Britain withdrew from its Arabian colonies after Suez, Yemen and the 1968 sterling devaluation, rival pawns in the geopolitical chessboards in the region escalated the calculus of violence at once.

It will be no different this time. When America withdraws from Iraq, the Shia–Sunni schism will tear apart virtually every state in the Arab east, Pakistan and Iran. Lebanon and Palestine could become mere geographic expressions like Somalia and the Republic of Iraq. Terror, sabotage of oilfields, palace coups, massacres, ethnic cleansing will metastasise into a permanent, cancerous “arc of crisis”. It is fashionable to be anti–American, with good reason, in today’s Arab milieu. But remember the ancient Persian sage. “Never wish too badly for something. You may just get it”.

Matein Khalid is a Dubai based investment banker


  1. Mr Khalid, now he don't walk on the sunnyside!

  2. On topic...

    Palestinians: 'Ethnic cleansing' in Iraq (By KHALED ABU TOAMEH)

    Another Palestinian who fled Iraq and was recently reunited with his family in the northern West Bank described the campaign against the Palestinians in Iraq as "genocide." The Shi'ites, particularly the pro-Iranian Mahdi Army, are waging a war to eliminate the entire Palestinian population in Iraq, he told The Jerusalem Post. "This is a real genocide. Why isn't the international community doing anything to stop this? How come none of the Arab countries has even issued a statement condemning the atrocities?"

    He said Palestinians who were still living in Baghdad are so afraid that they are using forged documents to conceal their true identity. "It's very dangerous to be a Palestinian in Iraq," he said. "The murderers stop you in the street and ask you to say a few sentences. If they see that you have a Palestinian accent, they make you stand against the wall and shoot you. These are ruthless murderers."

  3. no rat, he does take another less optimistic view on things.

  4. You know, you brought up Ms T in conversation and the next thing you know they are posting photos of Costa Rican women on my mirrored avatar.

    Lurking in the background, watching...

  5. You know, you brought up Ms T in conversation and the next thing you know they are posting photos of Costa Rican women on my mirrored avatar.

    Lurking in the background, watching...

  6. US ex-generals reject Iran strike

    Gen Hoar was one of the signatories of the letter
    Three former high-ranking American military officers have warned against any military attack on Iran.
    They said such action would have "disastrous consequences" for security in the Middle East and also for coalition forces in Iraq.

    They said the crisis over Tehran's nuclear programme must be resolved through diplomacy, urging Washington to start direct talks with Iran.

    The letter was published in Britain's Sunday Times newspaper.

    It was signed by:

    Lt Gen Robert Gard, a former military assistant to the US defence secretary

    Gen Joseph Hoar, a former commander-in-chief, US Central Command

    Vice Adm Jack Shanahan, a former director of the Center for Defense Information
    "As former US military leaders, we strongly caution against the use of military force against Iran," the authors said.

    They said such action would further exacerbate regional and global tensions.

  7. I liked their Civil War analogy, Jefferson Davis and the British Army securing Washington & New York.

    Sending Quantrell and his Raiders up to secure the Boston area.

  8. U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph P. Hoar (ret.), a four-star general, was Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Central Command (1991-94), commanding the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf after the 1991 war. He also served in the Vietnam War, as a battalion and brigade advisor with the Vietnamese Marines

  9. They assume we'd start small and incrementally escalate. Which would lead to "... further exacerbate regional and global tensions. ..."

    We'd have to knock 'em out of the game, right from the get go, not to. It's not our style, we have to give the Enemy a chance to surrender, even when he has no desire to.

    Always looking for reconciliation and the maintainence of the status que.

  10. It is tracked down through the web site linked to "barry" that you posted yesterday in our search for Ms T.

    I looked again and here it is
    has it as the only post
    He did put it up here at the Bar, somewhere.

  11. Would a Reaganesque Republican post such a negative post. I don't think so. This is what Rufus (and Habu) referred to regarding the excessive negativity on this site. It tires me, too. If I want to read this shit, I can go to the BBC.

  12. Rufus,

    No, you weren't the only one.

    You can't help but chuckle when you listen to the melodramatic whining of these jackals as they always blame others for their greedy savagery.

    The twilight of empire has always proved traumatic in the Middle East..

    Notice there's no mention of muhmud's casual wanderings thru the Middle East.

  13. Mat!

    How did you miss this: "Gaza and Somalia are the new failed states of the Arab world..."? Why, it was only yesterday that both were shining beacons of hope and prosperity. The author proves himself to be of average Arab IQ, i.e. at the same level as C4.

  14. Talking out his ass at the BC, the always errant C4 "misunderestimates" Ashkenazi IQ. When your adversaries, the sons of pigs and monkeys, have such IQs, it must hurt to be an Arab, Muslim, and/or C4. Indeed, what does that say about these folk?

  15. Allen,

    You really need to read BBC's Jeremy Bowen deep analysis of the root cause of the problems in Gaza!

  16. Iran is working to increase the strike range of its air force to deliver "more powerful strategic weapons systems," including through cooperation with Syria, Jane's Defence Weekly reported Thursday. Citing Western defence sources, the Jane's military information group publication also said Tehran was seeking ways of delivering nuclear payloads other than by missiles.
    The weekly said the Islamic republic had been conducting night-time refueling exercises and has increased training of pilots for long-range missions, which it implies could involve a target in the Mediterranean.

    "Iran is pursuing a longer-range strike capability for its air assets to support the delivery of more powerful strategic weapons systems," the weekly said.

    Tehran "is investing considerable resources in generating enhanced operational aerial refuelling capabilities to support strike assets capable of delivering such systems," notably involving the Sukhoi Su-24MK strike aircraft, it added.

    Refuelling exercises have been conducted over Syria, under a November 2005 agreement granting Iran access to Syrian air space.

    "A clause in the agreement provides for Syria to serve as a 'rear base for Iran' where 'Damascus will allow (Iranian) aircraft, returning from a mission (the implication being a target in the Mediterranean) to land at a Syrian air force base in case of emergency,'" it said.

  17. Gentlemen allow me to join you for a nightcap at the bar.....

    C4 lives on his own little cloud, wonder what it looks like?

  18. We need to introduce Cedeafart to some Israeli farmers. And then show him some of their agri patents and manicured fingernails.

  19. Mat,

    Would the problems in Gaza, according to Mr. Bowen, have anything to do with the Joooos?

  20. jake,

    Drinks are on the house.

  21. But Jake you provide the fried corn to munch on.

  22. Of course, I meant jake's house.

  23. No, Allen. Mr Bowen is much more subtle than that. The problems in Gaza are there, because those stupid idiots stopped watching the BBC!

  24. Ol' Khalid may be right.

    The states of the Middle East are largely artificial, and the boundaries between potential nations hopelessly tangled by empires past.

    It took WWI and WWII to shake Europe into nations and sort out Europes borders.

    Islam has kept the lid on, but as we saw in Jugoslavia that can just make for higher pressures and an eventual explosion.

    Hmmm, a sunni/shia crossed with arab/persian/azeri/kurd/turk/pashtu/baluch/sindhi/punjabi bloodbath. The number of possible permutations are nigh endless. The traditional (Roman) aproach may be sell weapons to the losing parties to y'know, be fair and even the fight.

    Nothing so bloody and brutal as a evenly matched fight.

    But will it blow? Thats the 640 billion dollar question.

  25. Go to next post, drinks are on the house.