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10 February 2017

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phodges

Great overview.

I would just suggest that Iran does not "control" any of these proxies- it can not order them to act against their own interests, as the US does with Europe for example.

When Hezbollah or various groups would respond is when they calculated they were about to lose their benefactor, and had nothing else to lose. I am not sure how much my distinction would alter the strategic calculus.

I would also consider it a good sign that Trump is going after a proxy on the periphery that can't really harm us, rather than directly assaulting Iran, which would bring a rapid end to US hegemony and political stability, at home and abroad.

Ishmael Zechariah

Phodges,
re: "I would also consider it a good sign that Trump is going after a proxy on the periphery that can't really harm us, rather than directly assaulting Iran,..."
??? Why is it a good sign?
I wish DT and his team would stop going off half-cocked. As PB has indicated above, as Col. Lang has indicated many times before, and as we, Turks, remember quite well from more than a century ago, it is not a good idea to get involved in Yemen unless you must. IMO KSA is going to get its ass handed to it in this fight. Wait and see.
Ishmael Zechariah

Lemur

"When Hezbollah or various groups would respond is when they calculated they were about to lose their benefactor, and had nothing else to lose"

good point. the nodal structure of the 'Shia crescent' increases resilience and ensures resentments from overt control from the 'metropole' (Tehran) don't get in the way of securing common interests.

Lemur

Great article Mr Bahzad. Objective, analytic summation of the situation. Learned a lot.

If Trump gets America into a war with Iran, he will have betrayed the spirit of his campaign, irreparably damaged Western power, and hurt the prospects of the conservative revolutionary project.

Larry Kart

Mattis is Secretary of Defense, Tillitson is Secretary of State.

Kooshy

PB, IMO you are very correct the structure of resistance front ( mainly Shia moinority of west Asia under Iran' umbrella ) is a natural formed community based on self interest. Is not necessarily an economic based community. For this reason (security) IMO, since it is a communally maintained, collective security structure, it is hard to brake up or eliminate ( even in case of Iraq and Afghanistan' Shia) unless all threats to all groups are eliminated. I have wrote here many times, from what I understand historically the major existential threat this naturally formed security alliance feels, and recives, is from the extrimist sunnis and not necessarily US or Israel, they do not see US or Israel as existential or permanent threat.

Kooshy

I can't see nor I believe presisdent Trump will have a war with Iran, or most likely with anybody else. I still think it's his (president Trump) ask for sky and negotiate down style of business negotiation that now includes showing state of art gunboats, if it can help to get something more. I don't think this kind of threats will work or is a good policy with nation states, likes of Iran, China, Russia, India, etc.
At the end of the day, like in business negotiation, if the threats and walking away from the deal don't work, you will be left at a disadvantage, like what just happened with one china policy. IMO, the recent rhturic coming out of The administration on thier Iran policy,US has positioned herself in more disadvantageous position than before. She basically doesn't have too many good cards in this game.

Thirdeye

Is Hamas really aligned with Iran? I always thought it was a Sunni-supported Muslim Brotherhood project.

Patrick Bahzad

You're right of course !

kooshy

just Strategically, and IMO more tactically for both sides

Valissa

Thanks for the overview! Great job of putting all the pieces together in an intelligible form.

OT, but I think many ehre wil be glad of this news...

Trump rejects veteran GOP foreign policy aide Elliott Abrams for State Department job https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-rejects-veteran-gop-foreign-policy-aide-elliott-abrams-for-state-department-job/2017/02/10/52e53ce6-efbd-11e6-9973-c5efb7ccfb0d_story.html

Brunswick

"They certainly are not doing themselves a favour if they want to avoid confrontation with the White House, but those within the administration who have been looking for an excuse to step up military efforts, certainly have one now. In this regard, sending in the "USS Cole" down there is probably not a coincidence either."

There are no "favours" that the Revolutionary Commitee can do for themselves, vis a vi, with the US, as long as they continue to resist Saudi domination of Yemen.

They have nothing to lose by continuing to fight, and nothing to gain in accomodation or surrender.

BraveNewWorld

Hamas used to be 60% aligned with KSA/Qatar and 40% aligned with Iran. The missiles mostly came from Iran and the money from KSA/Qatar. A couple of years ago when things started to heat up between Iran/KSA the King went all GWB and told them your either with Iran or you are with us. Hamas mostly cut ties with Iran at that time which has cost Hamas. They still have some contact but not that much. Mind you Bibi still describes Gaza like it is downtown Bagdad.

Missing in the article is that if Iran was attacked in a major way Iran would attack Israel. There are a number of reasons for that. First every one in the region would be in a position where they have to choose side with Israel or Iran. Iran has lost that one in the past but it it would be more complex now.
The other reason they would hit Israel is that they see all the hostility pointed at them from the US being at the urging of Israel and the Saudis.

"The test firing of missiles is certainly one way for the Iranians to probe American limits and red lines, should there be any. "

With no real airforce, nuclear weapons and many other weapons available to them, Iran is mostly butt naked against many players armed to the teeth by the US. There is nothing that will stop them from developing their missiles as this really is an existential matter. It would be useful for Washington to keep that in mind.

Henshaw

Timely article on Trump and Iran by Patrick Cockburn in the Independent
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/donald-trump-middle-east-isis-about-to-start-a-war-a7572891.html

Takeaway quote is probably
'This administration is so heavily loaded with crackpots, fanatics and amateurs, that it would be optimistic to imagine that they will pass safely through the political swamplands of the Middle East without detonating a crisis with which they cannot cope.'

Bill Herschel

This enormously readable and enlightening article, not its main intent, can be read to answer the question, "Why is there a single American soldier in the ME?"

What is not directly said by the article is perhaps though the most important. The word "proxy" comes up again and again. The U.S. doesn't seem to have any reliable proxies in the ME. KSA and IDF aren't helping us. What is the ratio of American service personnel deaths to IDF deaths over the past 10-20 years? KSA?

And now we have Trump telling us that the most recent death of an American soldier was a "victory". How long will the American public buy this nonsense? Forever?

In closing, I award the Edward Bernays award for 2017 to Congressman Eliot Engel, high school guidance counselor, liberal paragon, and ravening war monger outside our borders. He has a street named after him in Kosovo's capital.

MartinJ

Thirdeye

Last I heard was that the political wing of Hamas was under Qatari sponsorship but the military wing inside Gaza (the Izz al-Din Qassam Battalions) had deep links into Iran dating back to the early 90s.

MartinJ

PB

the Huthis are a very naive group and IMO still very much at the mercy of Saleh. In fact I suspect all the attacks on shipping off Bab al-Mandab were carried out by Saleh under the Huthi "flag". Ditto for the missile attacks on the Saudis. The message from the old rogue being (to the Saudis) to deal with him and he will deal with their "problem" with the Huthis.

In this way its similar to how Saleh bigged-up the AQ threat in order to gain US support and money. He pulled the strings and even had his men acting as AQ in this grand charade. This era has now come to a close as the US no longer wants to play that game, nor needs to.

I believe, like you, that Trump is going to use Yemen as an "easy" means of serving notice on Iran. There are more tools at the disposal of the Saudis and US, and a freer hand than it has in Lebanon, Syria or Iraq.

kooshy

Yes i also think if there is an attack on Iran, this time it will not be isolated to iran borders, the reason is not just iran is all the other actors that their security is tide to Iran or all the actors that relay on KSA, Gulf financial support, Israel will be attacked just because of street propaganda of it to force Sunnis side with israel and loose street level support, and shia be the victims fighting Islam' war. As per ME's long history and usual politics god damned complicated, a complicated chess board.

Castellio

Good news, yes. But what an odd article.

It makes the rejection of Abrams both petulant and personal, and against the wishes of Tillerson. I have doubts that is the case.

It also conveniently ignores Abrams role in both Latin America and the Iraq war, but does mention the Iran-contra scandal. Mind you, his guilty plea is saved for the second to last paragraph, immediately countered by the Presidential pardon.

In my estimation, the mainstream media's attacks on Trump are a function of his acceptance, or not, of neo-con influence and policies.

kooshy

You mean Tillerson

kooshy

It is a good news but at the end of the day I am afraid Borg will inject in, someone else of equal value.

AriusArmenian

If Trump tries to buddy up to Russia while attacking Iran it will not break the Russia/China/Iran alliance. They know what the US is about and what it does. Russia and China will not allow the US to bring down Iran.

A US attack on Iran will lead directly to WW3. Unfortunately Trump and his people seem to be taking us in that direction.

The US should be standing with the people of Yemen against the Saudis. It is sad to see the US acting more like the Germans in WW2.

Pundita

This is just a great briefing, best available to the public that I've seen, at a time when the road ahead is fogbound. Thank you.

My largest concern is that Trump's defense advisors are fanatically anti-Iran and wouldn't mind sacrificing Syria in order to block Iran in the country and of course also Hezbollah.

I will go further -- my concern is fast becoming a fear that there is no reasoning with the factions in the defense/fp establishment that want to take down both Russia and Iran, with Syria as collateral damage.

The problem is that the bench isn't just thin; it does not exist yet for establishing a Trump Doctrine, as Trump sketched it during his campaign.

Pundita

This was the best news I'd had all week, but if Trump picks Dobriansky for the No. 2 slot, this would be going from the frying pan into the fire.

Old Microbiologist

Personally, I see nothing to gain in any ME interventions. I felt Ron Paul's idea of bringing home all the troops closing every overseas base, and cutting off all foreign aid to everyone were the right way to go. We are supposedly completely oil independent so there is no economic reason to be involved at all in the Middle East. Israel needs to learn how to live on it's own and how to get along with its neighbors without American dependence. We are $20 trillion in debt which is only tolerated as we inserted ourselves as the world's reserve currency. Arguably, every country we have toppled for the past 20 years are those which abandoned the dollar as the trading currency. Iran has recently done it as well. Both Russia and China are making rapid inroads towards developing alternate currency trading using local currency and avoiding the dollar altogether. Most Americans are unaware that every currency transaction in the world is handled through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York which is the leverage we use to make all the secret accounts open to the US. The SWIFT system is completely controlled by the US and is the choke point for all currency transactions. These alternatives are already functional and some countries like Japan are already transitioning to it. https://socioecohistory.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/long-time-u-s-vassal-state-japan-to-bypass-dollar-and-swift-to-transact-using-chinas-cips-system-in-inter-bank-settlement/ I will add that this move was forced due to the sanctions against Russia and China. The US has been actively attempting to destroy all the BRICS countries and we see the effects with the demonetization in India, the replacement of the government in Brazil, the escalation of conflicts with both Russia and China etc.

What always baffles me about Iran is we caused the removal of a democratically elected President and replaced him with a monstrous king. Then we went all in to try and keep him on the throne then declared war against the Islamic Republic that replaced the Shaw. All that time, beginning with the oil embargo, and the 9/11 terrorist acts, Saudi Arabia has clearly been acting as our active enemy. Funding jihadists including Al Qaeda and ISIS should be enough to prove we have been backing the wrong sides in the ME. If that is intolerable then we should depart the region. The world would be a lot better off.

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