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05 March 2015


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I wonder if it's occurred to the Israelis that if the Saudis and their various agents and allies do manage to get rid of the Shi'i that Israel is next on the list. I wonder if they believe they'd survive a concerted attack.


Hey, it'll take ages until IS runs out of Shia, Alawites, Christians and Kurds ... Insha'Allah ... or Be'ezrat Hashem.

It's the hail mary pass of strategy.

William R. Cumming

CP! Thank you very much for this terrific post.

One question? Instead of looking at their "covert" FP is there any explanation as why Egypt, Iran, SA. and Turkey are so cautious in their "overt" FP?

These are nation-states IMP not tribes [perhaps SA the exception]but since their formation and international recognition in the last century it seems all "fight" well below their actual weight based on their demographics, wealth, culture, history and geography!

Professor Paul Kennedy in the Nineties wrote about the evolving importance of some nation-states for the 21st Century with China and India most dominant. And Brazil and Mexico in the Western Hemisphere.Given the flow of history could you speculate where these entities might be in the early 22nd Century.

Again thanks for your many contributions to this blog.

As you may have guessed based on US leadership failures I think the USA will be lucky to be in the top ten by the 22nd Century but hopefully wrong!


Babak Makkinejad


There are only 2 states in the Levant and the Persian Gulf that can engage in a balance of power game(the favorite framework of Poli. Sci. types) against each other - US and Iran.

In Indo-China, there is no balance of power, Vietnam can overwhelm all her smaller neighbors; you could argue that China is balancing against Vietnam.

In Europe, there was balance of power between US and USSR; once USSR disappeared, the European wars resumed. I suppose now that Russia has re-asserted herself, wars will end and balance of power between US and the Russian Federation in Europe will be restored.

Turkey is not on the same par as with Iran - that country cannot financially be an independent power actor and crucially depends on EU for her finances and assertion of power and on NATO for her arms.

And if you look at the map, you will see that she cannot balance against Iran in the Persian Gulf. And she has no allies in the Levant either.

Friedman is wrong on the potential role of Turkey, in my opinion.


Reading this article, I'm reminded of Tom Paine's comment about it being unnatural for an island to control a continent. Island Israel has no business dominating the ME. Such a strategy merely builds a castle on a foundation of sand....

Kyle Pearson

Pepe Escobar's recent insightful article - about the merging alliance between Russia, India, and China, and the power each will gain by bringing Iran into the fold - suggests that Iran is only isolated with respect to the west, right now.

I agree with him that Iran's desire to get along with the U.S. has less to do with gaining access to the U.S. economic sphere, and much more to do with just calling off the dogs. Iran's economic and social options are vast, once the U.S. retreats from its belligerent stance against that country - and the simple fact is that the U.S. economy is entirely unable to sustain the level of aggression it has shown against Iran,these last 30 years.

Something must break, and so long as the U.S. doesn't commit to nuclear war against the place, I firmly believe that it will be the U.S. will to wage war (whether via economic isolation and sanctions, or open violence, as we see in the Middle East today) that first gives.

Once that happens, the New Silk Road will open, and the gradual shift of the world's economic focus will significantly speed up, all to the detriment of the U.S. economy.

Overland routes, linked by small communities each interested in doing trade with one another, are far more economically robust, with a much higher monetary velocity that goes on to affect the exchange of information and knowledge, as well.

Ships across the Atlantic and Pacific don't participate in any of that, and North America, these days, is having a lot of trouble even holding on to trade with the countries of the south.


The phrase "balance of power" got my attention for some reason. I don't think it is anything as grand as in the cold war, or the system of alliances in the Europe of old.

In the ME, trying to "establish balance of power" might be just a polite way of saying "go back to the strategy of providing support for our proxy-du-jour in each country", whether they be a country's cooperative regime (regardless of their sins) or the mujahideen trying to topple an uncooperative regime (also regardless of their sins).

Reason being super simple, and not even worth saying -- that directly use of US forces was such a disaster.

But really this actually isn't much of a change at all -- the underlying problem, IMO, that we routinely support the literally worst scumbags we can find-- that's untouched.

Oh and now everyone can openly acknowledge that Bibi has lost it.

Babak Makkinejad

I think if the world were to stand still then what you have described could be of very great importance.

But, the world does not stand still and US - and to a lesser extend, the old Western European states - remain for the most part the sources of new inventions, processes, businesses, ideas, scholarships and so on.

Until Japan and China and Korea could match or surpass US and EU in sheer volume and quality of innovation, the rerouting of world trade will not be as important.

Ultimately, people would pay for that which they desire and the new desires seems to be fabricated in North America and Western Europe and not yet - to that significance - in China, Japan, Singapore, or Korea.

I do agree that the development of East-West trade will make political non-alignment more practical and hasten the demise of the Unilateral Moment.



I think there is one more country whose behavior US needs to manage for a viable and sustainable strategy (any such strategy) in ME (or elsewhere, really) to work: US herself. With regards to Syria, any sign that US might be willing to live with the current Syrian gov't is subverted by further calls that "Assad has to gi" and more schemes for raising and arming unicorn armies. Much the same behavior have been repeated elsewhere--the big one being post Cold War promises to the Russians. Can US commit to its promises, to gov'ts not to its liking? Who could possibly prevent US from changing its mind willy-nilly?

different clue

Kyle Pearson,

If Europe is not very careful, Europe will find that the New Silk Road is designed to facilitate the removal of all well-paid thingmaking jobs from Europe to thousands of maquiladoras all along the New Silk Road.

And China would view AmeriCanada as its new Far Easter n Overseas Tibet . . . its Eastern Treasure House. We should watch out for that.

different clue


I think chunks of the Israeli Security and Intelligence establishment have privately acknowledged that to themselves for a while now.

The question is, do they have the desire, or even the power anymore . . . to do something about several thousand screaming Price Taggers and a million Price Tagger Sympathizers?


Iran got gassed by Iraq backed by the US, and still fought them to a standstill with children under tanks. Iran has been stiffed by the other side practically every time they've done a major purchase in the past 30 years; costly. Their main job has been staying alive vs. US and Israel. Israel gets away with its bullying because Iranians are too-patient theists and pacifists at heart (with the exception of Palestine), a problem. Plus they predict running out of oil in ~20 yrs. I offer these reasons as to why Iran has not been more aggressive.


Disagree. America (a REPUBLIC) was dumb enough to start the 2nd Iraq war and burn $6T. It is dumb enough to start a limited war with Russia. It will be dumb enough to start the next war. U.S. politicians never have vital skin in the game; so no real downside. And an economic collapse would then require a massive distraction. Add to this drunk power from next-generation Star Wars armaments, and you've got a recipe for WWIII: Israel, the US, Canada, and Micronesia, possibly England, against the general rest of the world. We'll see.


Bibi has not lost it. He got a 4-min final standing ovation from Congress, which means an effective green light, as far as he and AIPAC are concerned. Now much depends on whether the Congressmen are savvy enough to double-cross him while still clapping and smiling, and whether he gets re-elected. The second event would be the second green light. He'd then go to the mat with Mossad, for the bombing event as stakes. Whoever wins that one wins the outcome (think Georgia). Bibi eminently fulfills our criterion for full support.


Just as if to illustrate how complete Israeli control over Gaza, it's people and economy is, the Israelis have just allowed the import of fruit and vegetable into Gaza again, the first time since 2007.


That's 8 years or so without veggies, and incidentally, it means that Gazans have been without veggie imports since Hamas was elected into power.

As Dov Weisglass, adviser to then Prime-Minister Ehud Olmert, stated then: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

And being thorough, the Israelis then made studies and calculated just how much food is needed on holding the Palestinians on that desired not-quite starvation level and blockaded Gaza to make sure they won't get any more than that.


Considering that whole of Gaza is by area slightly smaller than the city of Cologne, with twice the population, one would assume the Gazans would need to cultivate every available strip of land to produce enough food to feed themselves, and that within the contraints of a built up area and arid climate.

And that turns out to be difficult to do in practice. The Israeli incursions of the last war have destroyed a lot of farms - tank tracks make quite a mess of your acreage (to say nothing of deliberate demolition), and to restore that costs farmers a lot of their own money (which they don't tend to have).

And then there is this, owing to the fact that a lot of the farmland is near the border:

"Before the war, we had lived here for 20 years. We were safe, the Israeli snipers shoot at anyone who comes near the limits of the wire, or [fire warning shots] in the air, but not on the houses"

Quite handy for a farmer to be safe inside the house. Probably the fields tend themselves. What the lady is saying is that near the border the Israelis fire at anything that moves, but usually not at houses, and calls that safe.

I guess one can get used to anything.


Someone who you can strangle like that at will is not, emphatically not, an existential threat, and never mind their rhetorical bluster and occasional rocket fire, Hamas is not going to push Israel into the sea, with or without Iranian suport.


Ben Norton did a careful calculation:

"If there is one word to describe Congress’ response to the affair, it would be “ecstatic.” In the drug-addled sense. A bit too ecstatic—verging on the delirious. Maniacal, almost.

To say it was just well received would be to commit the callous crime of understatement. In Netanyahu’s pep rally, rather speech before the US legislative branch, Congress interrupted to applaud 39 times. 23 of these were standing ovations. 10:55 of the 40:30 of Netanyahu’s exhortation consisted of applause. In other words, 27% was Congress applauding and doing standing ovations"
- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/03/netanyahus-consisted-standing#sthash.BZXYMSyO.dpuf

I am not in a masochist mood, thus i won't watch it myself, it's simply too depressing ...

Kyle Pearson

Japan is as much of a technological innovator as any western country, and in many social ways more of one.

China...is Japan, times ten. The only thing that's been holding it back, so far, is the hundred years of war that colonialism unleashed upon it.

For the last 30 years, China has had an unblemished record of steady progress - often phenomenally fast, mostly just...steady. During that time, the only thing that's held it back has been canny OPEC interventions.

The only reason OPEC has had such an effect on China is because it has followed, assiduously, the NATO strategy.

Venezuela and Iran will change that, and China is quietly peeling them off. In addition, all of Central Asia's and Russia's oil is potentially open to them - with US wars ensuring that those countries will turn east, rather than west.

Kyle Pearson

The removal of all thing-making jobs is complete, in the US. Europe...i'm not so sure the removal of "thingmaking" jobs is such a worry, there - mostly, they have a still-effective social net, so they don't need to worry so much about angry poor people getting violent. Greece and Spain, of course, are great counter-examples, but even there, each of those countries is seen as a dire warning, and there isn't so much of a call for "put 'em in prison!" and "ungrateful for their freedoms!" going on, now.

In contrast, the EU is faced with an existential crisis - which it may, or may not weather - but even if it doesn't, "Europe" - as a whole - will be far better off, economically and socially, than the US currently is.

Germany is already making googly-eyes at Russia; so, too, is France. Frankly, the country i see coming out worst of all, in that re-alignment, is the UK -

Meanwhile, the 50's "golden era" myth of the American Dream is well and truly entombed, these days. We already have sections of the US that have been chronically unemployed - effectively relegated to outlaw status - for thirty years, or more.

American can never be China's "new Tibet" - that's just an absurd idea.

But it could easily become China's "Soviet Bloc" - if we're not careful.

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