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22 December 2006


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Is there not the risk of the development of two opposing power blocs in the Middle East? - Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Sunni/Christian Lebanon on the one hand, Iran, Shia Iraq, Allawi-Shia Syria and Hezbollah Lebanon on the other. Of course, neither the Israelis nor the Saudis/Jordanians would openly acknowledge their common interest and readiness to work together; nevertheless effectively they are likely to operate in tandem when confronted by the reality of the growth of a Shia axis around the Gulf and across to the Levant. The Middle East could become like Europe in 1914 - two sets of intermeshed alliances awaiting that trivial Sarajevo incident that initiates the mobilisation of nations across the region. Where would Turkey's loyalties lie? and where Kurdistan's? In the meantime, the US encourages the Shia dominated gobernment of Iraq in its war against the Sunni, antagonising its Sunni aliies in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.


Colonel Lang,

With this US blocking of Syrian-Israeli talks and the recent news of deployment of a second carrier to the Gulf, I would be very curious to read your thoughts on the probability of a US war with Iran in the next two years. Is the push for a UN resolution on sanctions a sincere attempt to halt the Iranian nuclear program or merely an effort to increase public support for the military option?

Best Regards,

W. Patrick Lang


The present administration in the US uses international legal procedure skillfully to establish "guilt" on the part of its adversaries. pl


Mike writes: "Is there not the risk of the development of two opposing power blocs in the Middle East?"

I don't think it's a question of "risk" as much as it's an issue of "what's already happening."

The difficulty for us is that we are being governed by an administration that is in too far over its head; one that is incapable of guiding us through the volatile political terrain in the ME.



It's worth stepping back from the spin that gets put on these reports of carrier movements into and out of the Persian Gulf region. If you think about the hysteria that a routine rotation in the October-November pre-election time-frame induced you'll note that some in the "left blogosphere" can be as guilty of this as the MSM.

At present, according to the Navy website, there are in fact only three carrier groups on deployment - one in the Atlantic, one in the Pacific and one in the Persian Gulf; this is about as minimal a deployment of these assets as you get. The reports regarding "possibly deploying" an additional carrier group to "somewhere near" the PG "some time after the new year" are actually somewhat hedged. I would expect to see a carrier group in the Indian Ocean by the middle of February - this will fulfill all of the conditions that the reports outline.

The timing of these things is not accidental - the UNSC is, depending on which news source you believe, either going to vote on a minimalist sanctions package on Iran today, or, as has been the rule for months now, is still unable to reach any agreement that China and Russia can sign up to; the veiled military threat is usually indicative of an inability to bring diplomatic pressure to bear.

As regards the current US diplomatic "strategy", it is purely instrumental, and has little to do with substantive security concerns; Iran is not even vaguely close to developing nuclear weapons, and may have very "soft" intentions in this respect.


It sure does make them allies, PL....it sure does. As least of some Saudis...if the Turki resignation is any indication. Evidently there are some in the Kingdom that are less than enthusiastic about the logic that propels them into said alliance. Now the question I have is this: is the Turki faction hesitation’s (to the limited extent my mere speculation is correct) because of the policy itself? Or does it reflect a lack of faith in Bush’s competence to pull ANYTHING off correctly?

And that spectacular, nearly unprecedented incompetence in ALL aspects of national security (at least in American history) will give pause to many potential allies. And give hope to many potential enemies. Yes, the chickens are coming home to roost now. The extent of the loss we have suffered is going to make its way to Americans even in the deepest depths of denial.

Duncan Kinder

Just to refresh people's memory, during the Cold War, it was a standard procedure for the United States to build up its military and assets in order to "negotiate from a position of strength."

To further refresh people's memory, the pre-Iraq War US military build-up in the gulf sufficed to force Saddam to resume the inspections and could have extracted other concessions. Despite this, the United States attacked anyway.

Apparently, negotiating from a position of strength no longer is one of the United States' stratagems. Rather, the Bush administrations apparent vision is only to attack those who it does not like.


Wow! Arms being delivered by Israeli ships to fuel a new civil war in Lebanon. I guess we are in for a very turbulent and violent period ahead. I wonder how the blowback to all this will manifest itself?


Throw in the Saudis spanking Cheney last month and threatening to (openly) fund Iraqi Sunnis. It looks like it's shaping up as everybody versus the Shia.


The Saudi's have always been in bed with Israel. That is the reason for the existence of Osama bin Laden. He got fed up with it.

The irony, of course, and it is more than irony: it is tragedy; the irony is that the Sunni's who are killing Americans in Iraq are allies of Saudi Arabia, too. As Colonel Lang has pointed out, Cheney was summoned by the Saudi King to warn him to not allow the Sunni's in Iraq to be defeated.

So, Saudi Arabia and Israel are backing the Sunni insurgents in order to prevent Iran from gaining enormous influence in Iraq...which it has already done.

And then we have this, "“They do have some concrete plans in mind, and putting flesh on those bones is exactly what General Casey and his team and the Iraqis will be doing in the days ahead,” Mr. Gates said, according to Reuters."

Mr. Gates is a grotesque monster whose flesh should be stripped from his bones in front of the families of our fallen soldiers.

Yes, impeachment is much too good for Bush and Cheney. Do you think James Webb would vote to convict? I do.


Where is this information about Israel arming Lebanese factions from?

That is a very stupid thing to do. The 'March 14' forces right now are defending themselves in the court of public opinion against charges that they collaborated with the Israelis during the July war. So something like this reaching the news would be a blow for them. I'm not saying they're not arming - they are trying to distribute arms to households 'just in case' -Those don't have to come from Israel!

Also, the Opposition stations here in Lebanon are literally grabbing anything they can to use as propaganda. So I am sure I would have heard this. Today they would not shut up about a 'mystery plane' purportedly carrying 11 Israelis that landed in Beirut the day Pierre Gemayel was assassinated. It turned out they were Portugese, but they're still harping on about it.

Also, I am surprised you have not yet mentioned the large cache of weapons belonging to the Syrian National Socialist Party (or whatever it is in English) which was discovered yesterday, and the arrests made.

The cache contained:

-All manner of handguns and machine guns, RPGs and rocket launchers, floor to ceiling shells and rockets. No big deal. The heavier pieces looked like they were left over from the civil war.

-TNT, det cord, timers, etc. The TNT was still 95% effective. This is important: The party head claimed everything was left over from 20 years ago. The TNT was sitting in a sack in an abandoned building. I don't think TNT would last 20 years in that condition and still be 95% effective.

The rumor is that the bust is related to Pierre Gemayel's assassination.


Where does one get the Shia Syria Shxt. The Alawi rulers of Syria are nominally Shia by the grace of a fatwa by a senior cleric of Lebanon which was a stretch. Alawi is a very esoteric sect where humans descend from stars and return to stars, has elements of Xtianity and NeoPlatonism. But that is for the initiated. The common man or woman in the street knows little of the higher secrets but would say that Ali has a high place hence the name Ali-wite. Another religion, like the Druze, left over from the Egyptiian Fatimid Caliphate that the Abbasids, Mamelukes, Crusadaders, Saladin, and Osmanalis (Ottamans), could not stamp out. They usually prefer worshipping in private. But the Assads have tried to mainstream them and encourage worshipping in Mosques. Ali, Mohammed's son-in-law had famously preferred private prayer rather than ostenatatious displayes of piety but he also forbade those that elevated him to Godhood.

It is important for the Assad family to be some form of Musllims, even if Shia, because the Syrian constitution demands that the President must be a Muslim.

But a Syrian Shiate axis. Keep dreaming. Syria is overwhelmingly Sunni. The Alawi are a minority, even though they are the rulers.

for insight into syria
read Professor Joshua Landis' blog syriacomment.com

W. Patrick Lang


So, you think I didn't know that the Alawi are not real Shia?

Hell. I don't think they are real Muslims. pl

W. Patrick Lang


You don't really think I am going to give you my source, do you?

The thing about the Qawmiyeen is interesting. You think they did ---what? pl


Or the Bandar Bush fraction of Saudi politics as Israeli allies? Others would rather blow up the place. Interesting to see Eliott Abrams working with his old pal from the Iran Contra scandal again. No arms deals this time though.

John hammer

Is there not a general suspicion that the Alawi are stealth Christians?



I thought your info came from a news outlet. I would not expect you to reveal the other kind of source.

And the Qawmiyye - I think they are behind some of the assassinations which came after Hariri's. News travels fast in Lebanon and what I've been hearing is that this is part of the investigation into the gunning down of Gemayel.

I am also speculating that they were behind the bomb blasts which were going off in shopping centers in the middle of the night around a year ago. Those were TNT on timers, if I remember right.

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

Everyone is a Muslim since there is only one True Religion: Islam. Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad were all Muslims.

Now having said that I have to state further that different manifestations of the True Religion have been comprehended by our extant religions; thus we have Judaism, Christianity etc.

Additionally, since there is no central authority in Islam (or in Christianity, or in Judaism) that can state who is and who isn't a Muslim then one has to accept at face value the claim of others. So if some one states that he iu a Muslim, then one is obliged to accept that confession as true.

I would agree that by the standards of the scholar classes of contemporary Islam, the Alawaites, the Druze, the Bahai, the Ali-Allahi, etc. are not true Muslims. But by the same standards, Summayah and Hamza Seyyed Al Shuhadah would not be Muslims either.

Moreover, if Abu Sufian could be a Muslim I cannot find fault will the Alawaites being the same.

Islam is a very simple religion: you only need to profess the Shahadatin and you are a Muslim.

Different Clue

A better President would
not instruct an Israeli government to turn down a Syrian offer to negotiate about how to achieve peace.

A better President would
privately encourage Israel
to respond to the offer, and
move to take Public Credit
for it on behalf of America,
if peace were successfully

I wonder if the Israeli
governing classes have their
own divisions between NeoConservatives and



so much for our u.s foreign policy, now we know that the insane asylum is run by a pack of madmen that the voters errantly put on pedestals.

one has to wonder what our forefathers would be saying if they could see mess the jokers have caused.


Olmert, this past week, also mentioned Israeli nukes didn't he? I guess he is the first Israeli PM to confirm that Israel is a nuclear power. It will be a Trifecta if he also goes on to confirm that Israel killed the USS Liberty. Remember the Liberty?

mark safranski

"Does this make Saudi Arabia a de facto ally of Israel?"


No permanent allies. Just permanent interests. Ahmadinejad, however, deserves some credit here.

John Hammer

Babak Makkinejad

"Islam is a very simple religion: you only need to profess the Shahadatin and you are a Muslim."

So one who does not profess the Shahadatin is not Muslim.

Simple enough for me.


Where does Israel get its oil from?

In the late 60's I can remember seeing Iranian oil tankers unloading in Eilat. Perhaps since '79 Saudi Arabia has quietly been supplying that market?


I been having real trouble with the Concert of Nations idea of the preceding post. Its a great idea but I cannot see the regional and wider conditions as being appropriate anytime yet. This post points out some of the conflicting and contriving cross currents at work (and we have not yet even considered the interests of China and Russia, et al). Napoleon created chaos and revolution from from the Urals to Haiti and after a generation of this Europe was prepared to harness itself to a balance between nations (and remember France had been decisively defeated - these things get along much better when the big man in the room has been kneecapped and his nuts put in a vise).

As an aside, Metternich spent a lifetime trying to destroy the forces of social revolution and Europe's monarchies were the winners of these efforts (compare and contrast Bush's efforts to kindle democracy while seeking to maintain alliance with the forces dedicated in the region to suppressing such social revolution).

My gut feeling is that the current world order must experience a great catastrophe on the order of Napoleon's romps through Europe before fear and exhaustion amongst nations force an willingness to meet and act in concert. We are not there yet. Right now I am inclined to see the US as France and the great humbling is not yet upon us. And who will bring this congress about? I suspect China and Russia, they are perhaps more like Metternich (in both social and economical thinking) than anyone else in this new age.

As it is, America's friends and all the others who have an interest in the security of the world are simply waiting for the end of the Bush presidency - with a fervent wish that America comes back to its own again and Bush's America does nothing too stupid or criminal in the interim.

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