« "... today's SpaceX rocket landing attempt" Vox | Main | "The Marquis de Lafayette Sails Again" - TTG »

15 April 2015


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Obliquely related thought:

Is it just me or have the Obamaites changed the "leadership from behind" approach in the Middle East of late and had local states run against a wall to have them see how far they get without US help - and then offer help in order to drive home to them their dependency.

I mean that is what they appear to have been telling the Iraqis and Iranians in Iraq (That siege of Tikrit didn't work out so well until we intervened, did you notice? Need a hand?), the Saudis (It appears that offensive of yours in Yemen didn't work so well? Need help?) and the Israelis (Oh, you dislike the Iran deal? Too bad. Now, how was that about you handling Iran on your own?) lately.

Obama's approach appears to be more effective in shaping the behaviour of the various actors than the neocon idea of the US using power directly.

To the neocons, having power, and not using it is, for all practivcal purposes, not having power. That's why they are so compulsively assertive.

William R. Cumming

Hoping CP has correct analytic framework. Mine is different. The USA has worn out its BOOTS ON THE GROUND forces and they will not be rebuilt anytime soon. Like the doctrine of MASSIVE RETALIATION the real deficiencies of US conventional forces will cause the US HARD POWER to continue to wither for the next several decades IMO.

If you consider the Armed Forces as an investment then like the Hampton Mansions of the Hedge Fund managers its under investment will allow the Chinese Condominium to expand and thrive.

But like most of the rest of the world's oligarchs, the Saudi Royal Family and the Chinese oligarchs will continue to see the USA as a SAFE HARBOR for their personal wealth.

The 5,000 key US oligarchs will continue to exploit the US political class to try and avoid the aphorism--three generations shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves.

IMO of course.


WRC, I think we are one massacre inside the CONUS for 'make radioactive glass beads'. Have a Charlie Hebdo in the US and there will be blood.

Also, as a wise SST member reminded me, when we build these 'investments', our leaders seem to find reasons to use them. As Patrick observed, Neocons can't seem to go to bed at night without planning some military intervention, somewhere.

It must really suck to have your rent-a-army and chattel tell you to go bleep yourself, as the Pakis did to everyone who wanted them to be slaughtered in a fight they have no dog in.

William R. Cumming

Mostly in agreement. A NUDET anywhere in USA could collapse US government.

The Twisted Genius

Another clear, concise analysis. Thanks Patrick. The Pakistani refusal to send troops to Yemen at the behest of the Saudis certainly raised my eyebrows. It strikes me as a "What are you gonna do now, Ranger?" moment for the house of Saud. I'm sure there are quite a few in Pakistan who are regretting the largesse of the madrassas and longing for the influence of sufism.

FB Ali

A few comments on PB's wide-ranging post:

Security policy, especially covering external security, is firmly in the hands of the Pakistan army (not military). The main foreign power that Pakistan depends on for its external security is China. The Chinese indicated they do not want Pakistan to get involved in Yemen and spoil their plans for establishing the economic land corridor that PB has mentioned. That was decisive in determining Pakistan's stance.

The leaders of the ruling political party, the Muslim League, and of the main opposition, the People's Party, are thoroughly corrupt, and would 'sell' Pakistan to the Saudis and the GCC without hesitation. However, public opinion was strongly against getting involved in Yemen.

The "shield of Sunni Islam" stuff that PB refers to is mostly political and media rhetoric, and plays little or no role in determining policy.

No one who matters in Pakistan is concerned about (or believes in) an "Iranian nuclear bomb". This is mainly a fantasy of the US, encouraged by Israel and the Saudis.

My guess is that the Saudi military campaign against Yemen was sponsored by the King's son, Prince Salman, to bolster his prospects in the succession stakes. As Patrick says, its failure would deal a serious blow to his chances. Thus one can foresee its prolongation beyond any worthwhile limits.

A small correction on the historical side: The "coup" that removed Nawaz Sharif and installed Musharraf was in fact a counter-coup. The coup that failed was Sharif's attempt to remove Musharraf.


Yes, Patrick's contributions are great.
One point: those 1.5 billion dollars are not exactly a Marshall plan. A pittance, in fact. Don't think it took the Pakis more than a minute to get over it. Perhaps they were asking for a major increase which the Saudis were not willing to grant.


It is natural to seek strategic design and systematic logic in the behavior of states - especially when major interests are at stake and military action impends. I suggest that in this instance it may profit our attempt at understanding the Yemen imbroglio to consider an alternative: i.e. that the decisions taken are the outcome of a more diffuse, perhaps disjointed process dominated by emotion, impulse and parochial internal or personality concerns than it is by strategic calculation.

Patrick Bahzad's excellent, well-informed analysis does refer to those latter elements in Saudi thinking. Perhaps even more emphasis should be placed on them. The Saudis may well have aimed at laying down a marker indicating that they are now a power to be reckoned with beyond their borders which is prepared to do more than write checks - in addition to preventing a disagreeable turn in Yemenese politics. If so, they sure picked a lousy way to do that. Their appraisal seems to have been based on a combination of wishful thinking (e.g. Pakistan and Egypt), visceral hatred of Shi'ite Iran, and a gross underestimation of the opposition. The only assumption they got right was that the ever pliable and timid Barack Obama could be drawn into this harebrained scheme by offering to remain silent on the Iran nuclear deal (while joining the Israelis behind the scenes in an all-out campaign against it)and by playing on the "hard-nosed" Washington consensus that the KSA as currently constituted is absolutely critical to American aims in the region (whatever those aims are this week).

As for Obama et al, if there is rational design behind our war on the Houthis it is so subtle as to be invisible to all but those who are privileged to have access to the magic lemon juice that can reveal it.

I think we had better get used to the uncomfortable fact that post-modern foreign policy-making will bear only a faint resemblance to what we all studied and thought we knew about how the world works. Frankly, the only people who seem to know what they are doing and are able to think clearly are the "mad" mullahs in Tehran.


Robert Parry introduces another dynamic in the Saudi/Yemen humanitarian crisis in the making: https://consortiumnews.com/2015/04/15/did-money-seal-israeli-saudi-alliance/

FB Ali


"...who seem to know what they are doing and are able to think clearly are the "mad" mullahs in Tehran".

I would add to them Putin and the Chinese leaders. The latter are slowly but surely creating a bipolar world, while engaging and trading normally with the US so as to avoid creating hostility.

The key element will be an alternative financial system to the one the US now controls.


It seems that the Saudis have been trying to buy the US upper management through an expensive mediator, Mr. Netanyahu of Israel: https://consortiumnews.com/2015/04/15/did-money-seal-israeli-saudi-alliance/

Patrick Bahzad

FB Ali, Correct about sequence of events regarding coup and counter coup. Tried to keep things simple on complicated issues, I admit to cutting a bit of a corner there. But thx for putting the records straight, as I believe details do matter :-)

Patrick Bahzad

In all fairness, one has to admit that countries like Russia China and Iran have an advantage over democracies when thinking in terms of long term strategy and goals: they don't need to worry as much about the next election, but that doesn't excuse everything of course !

William R. Cumming

P.L. and ALL: Will the supplicant status of Pakistan to KSA help either in the long run of next few decades?

I assume there is NO FDI [foreign direct investment] in the KSA but who invests the most in Pakistan?

IMO FDI is the most effective financial indicator of relations between nation-state.

Could be wrong!

The Beaver

According to the Iranian FNA:

Major General Fahd bin Turki bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a senior commander of the General Staff of Saudi Arabia's Armed Forces, was killed during a mission in Northwestern Yemen, sources disclosed on Tuesday.

{The Saudi major general was killed, while he was on a mission in Al Majda village in Quatabir district of the Sadah governorate in Northwestern Yemen on Saturday, a member of his entourage during the visit to Majda, who asked to remain unnamed, told an FNA correspondent in Riyadh on Tuesday.

The source added that two other senior officers accompanying General Fahd were also killed during the attack."

Babak Makkinejad

They are just no rich enough to think that they can afford to indulge in the same hare-brained policies that a richer country could indulge in.

UK, for example, has been very cautious.

Switzerland and Sweden are also counter-examples.

Babak Makkinejad

"The Shield of Sunni Islam" is not even a canard; those espousing it or seriously giving it any consideration need to have a visit by those men in white uniforms.

May be Bellevue Hospital could be induced to house them.

Larry M.

Relations between Iran and Pakistan may not be as close as in the time of the Shah, but they have been remarkably stable. Both have a common internal enemy in Baluchi separatism, and after the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, both felt threatened by the Soviet Union to their north. With the U.S., even Pakistan's relations were problematic at best.

I think many of us had a tendency to overestimate governments and their ideology (Shia vs. Sunni), especially after 1979, and to underestimate geopolitics and permanent interests. When leaving Pakistan via Karachi Airport on 10 February 1981, I was surprised to see a navy-blue Boeing 747 cargo jet with the logo "Islamic Republic of Iran Navy" parked near a hangar.

This was a year into the Iraq-Iran war where both sides were desperately trying to maintain supply links to the outside world. The Iranian navy jumbo may just have been in transit, but nevertheless seemed to signal that a certain "business as usual" between Pakistan and Iran was still working, even after the fall of the Shah.

FB Ali

Pakistan (its government and the vast majority of its population) considers itself to be a Muslim nation, NOT a Sunni Muslim nation. Shias, Christians and others serve in government departments and the military. In the well-educated, well-off social strata they live as equal citizens. Discrimination probably exists, but it is covert and unacknowledged.

The only groups that flaunt their Sunni Islam are fringe religious parties and terrorists.

One of the reasons behind the army turning down the Saudi request was that it would raise the Shia/Sunni issue within its ranks, as well as among the people at large. There are reports that the Saudis wanted Pakistan to send a Sunni-only force; this was obviously a total NO-NO.

FB Ali

The Saudis announced that three of their officers were killed near the border by a Houthi mortar attack in Najran province on 10 April.


Patrick Bahzad

Pakistan is - with Israel - the only state that was built on purely confessional basis, ie either a Muslim or a Jewish state.
And you know what they say about PAkistan ? Every state has an army but in Pakistan it's the army that has a state ...

FB Ali

No, that is wrong. It was a political separation of the Muslim-majority provinces from the rest of India. It was based on a people with a shared identity not wanting to be subsumed within a much larger country whose majority ethos they did not share. Part of that shared identity was a common faith, but it was NOT the faith that motivated the Pakistan movement. In fact all the Muslim religious parties in British India bitterly opposed the Pakistan idea and movement.

It was clearly enunciated in the founding documents of the new state that all its inhabitants, irrespective of their religion, would be its citizens, with equal rights and privileges. This is still the law in Pakistan.

It is true that various politicians from time to time sought political advantage by advocating various Islamic trappings, but these were largely cosmetic. It was only when Gen Zia-ul-Haq ruled the country that the laws were tinkered with to introduce some religious elements; many of these remain on the books but are not implemented.

The only people in Pakistan advocating a religious state are the Jihadis, whom the government and military are fighting to eradicate.


FB Ali: Every morning I awake expecting the Fall of the House of Saud. Every evening I go to bed disappointed.


FB Ali: the Chinese are using our own hubris against us. See http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-04-15/china-takes-aim-dollar-reserve-status-promotes-yuan-new-bank

They really know how to boil a frog in an open pan. Slow, incremental movements, without much fanfare or bombast.

Patrick Bahzad

I think that is playing with words. Pakistan was established in the areas where muslim populations were clearly the majority and Islam became or was the defining feature that United its people. What did east Pakistan have in common with west Pakistan ? Different language, different culture, only thing in common was Islam ... In various versions I should add ! So Pakistan was and is a confessional state, I'm not saying it was meant as a religious state, there's a difference. Besides there are also Christians, Muslims and Druze who are citizens of Israel so the comparison is not that far fetched.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad