What’s Wrong with This Picture?

Both the U. S. and our enemy Shiite Iran are on the same side in Iraq — supporting Shiite al-Maliki against Sunni Al Qaeda.

To a large extent, our frenemy Maliki brought his Anbar province troubles on himself by mistreating the Sunnis there and creating an opening for Al Qaeda.  Now he’s struggling to get the Sunni tribal leaders to turn against Al Qaeda and turn back to him, hoping they hate his guts a little less.

The violence spreading out from Syria shows that the Mideast right now is just fighting the Sunni-Shiite battle that’s been going on since the seventh century.  At this moment, it’s led by Saudi Arabia and Iran fanning proxy wars, just as the U. S. and Russia had their client states during the Cold War.  The Sunni Saudis are trying to fight both the Shiites and Al Qaeda, a monster they helped create.  Good luck with that.

We have to fight Al Qaeda and its affiliates, and we have to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, which would lead to Saudi Arabia’s getting nuclear weapons.  Resolving the Sunni-Shiite thing? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Saudis Warned Us about Tamerlan

Saudi Arabia claims that they warned our Department of Homeland Security about Tamerlan Tsarnaev last year.  This was independent of the Russian warning, and was based on intelligence out of Yemen.

Tamerlan tried to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, but the Saudis refused to let him in their country.

New Maps for a New Middle East

I have long believed that there should be a Kurdistan.

From “Letter from Syria,” Thomas Friedman, NYT:

“Syria is the keystone of the Middle East.  If and how it cracks apart could recast this entire region.  The borders of Syria have been fixed ever since the British and French colonial powers carved up the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.  If Assad is toppled and you have state collapse here, Syria’s civil war could go regional and challenge all the old borders — as the Shiites of Lebanon seek to link up more with the Alawite/Shiites of Syria, the Kurds of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey try to link up with one another and create an independent Kurdistan, and the Sunnis of Iraq, Jordan and Syria draw closer to oppose the Shiites of Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.”  Emphasis added.

Certainly a messy and difficult process, but one that’s worth going through to try to get it right a hundred years later.

Helping the Wrong Guys in Syria

From “Rebel Arms Flow Is Said To Benefit Jihadists In Syria,” David E. Sanger, NYT:

“Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.

“That conclusion…casts into doubt whether the White House’s strategy of minimal and indirect intervention in the Syrian conflict is accomplishing its intended purpose of helping a democratic-minded opposition topple an oppressive government, or  instead may be sowing the seeds of future insurgencies hostile to the Unites States.”

We keep pretending that countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are our friends, but when are we going to finally acknowledge that they’re not and behave accordingly? 

Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran

There is much speculation that Israel may be close to bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.  Israel can certainly delay or disrupt Iran’s nuclear capabilities with airstrikes, but it can’t completely destroy them.  It doesn’t have the ability to bomb deeply enough or to carry out the sustained campaign it would take.   The only country that has a chance, and even then it’s not a certainty we could get everything, is — you guessed it —  the United States.

We and the Israelis have bought some time with the Stuxnet virus and targeted assassinations of Iran’s nuclear scientists.  But the grains left in that hourglass are running out.

President Obama is pursuing options to contain Iran if it goes nuclear, much as we contained the Soviet Union.  The better analogy is not our successful containment doctrine of the 1950’s, but Britain’s failed appeasement doctrine of the 1930’s.  I know that’s the Israeli view.

Bombing Iran is a daunting task militarily and politically.  The short-term consequences won’t be pretty.  But they won’t be as ugly as the longer-term consequences of letting Iran proceed.

When India got nuclear weapons, Pakistan had to have them too.  Now we are dealing with an unstable nuclear Pakistan, which is much tougher than dealing with an unstable non-nuclear Pakistan.

If Iran goes nuclear, so will Saudi Arabia.  Another unstable regime threatened by terrorists.

If we don’t act, eventually the Israelis will do as much as they can.  But if you’re going to remove a cancer, you should do your utmost to remove it all.  The United States has the best –and only — shot at doing that.

Mr. President, ’twere well it were done quickly.  You’ve done so much to keep us safe, do this.