Friday, May 5, 2017

The Middle East: Problems Real and Fake - Bassam Tawil




by Bassam Tawil

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has shown with sophisticated leadership that he understands the danger his country is in. Iran has its sights set on Saudi Arabia.

  • We have also found ourselves with a ruthless, expansionist Iran, the preeminent objective of which is to exploit the disarray to take over the Saudi oil fields and the Middle East.
  • Thus the question of to whom Abu Musa [an Island seized by Iran] belonged was effectively answered, not in an international court of law, as the situation demanded, but by Iranian effrontery and American weakness.
  • More globally problematic, if America no longer wants to be the "world's policeman," Sunni countries will be cozying up to Russia or China or whatever country looks as if it will fill the ghastly vacuum into which America's allies have been thrown. There is, dangerously, no shortage of candidates for the position of word hegemon; they are all, however, expansionist, authoritarian and anti-democratic.
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has shown with sophisticated leadership that he understands the danger his country is in. Iran has its sights set on Saudi Arabia.

The problem is that just as U.S. President Barack Obama was incapable of admitting that extremist Islam is what drives global terrorism, his administration seemed totally incapable of recognizing the true objectives of the Iran's military buildup, missiles and nuclear program. Instead, the Obama Administration toadied up to Iran, lavishly bankrolled the leading state sponsor of terrorism and permitted it, in a deceptive, agreement still unsigned by Iran, to build a nuclear weapons capability. Meanwhile, as Iran's leaders threaten to destroy Israel and the United States, what they are actually planning is the complete control of the Arabian Peninsula.

The lowest clerk in the CIA knows that for years Iran has been doing its utmost to subvert and destabilize the Arabian Peninsula, take Shi'ite control of Islam's shrines in Mecca and Madinah, to dominate the sea lanes and oil reserves, and, following a plan of "today the Middle East, tomorrow the world," to expel both the Americans and Saudis from the Hijaz: the western part of the Saudi Peninsula, formerly an independent kingdom, and where the Shi'ites and the major oil fields sit.

Iran also continues to pull the strings of its proxies, Qatar and Oman. From combination of self-interest and fear of Iran, they acquiesce to Iranian control. Others will follow. The entire region is increasingly anxious lest the Americans abandon the Arabian Peninsula altogether.


The lowest clerk in the CIA knows that for years Iran has been doing its utmost to subvert and destabilize the Arabian Peninsula, take Shi'ite control of Islam's shrines in Mecca (pictured) and Madinah, and to dominate the sea lanes and oil reserves. (Image source: Ariandra/Wikimedia Commons)

More problematic, if America no longer wants to be the "world's policeman," Sunni countries will start cozying up to Russia or China or whatever country looks as if it will fill the ghastly vacuum into which America's allies have been thrown. There is, dangerously, no shortage of candidates for the position of word hegemon; they are all, however, expansionist, authoritarian and anti-democratic.

If American thinks it can just retreat into isolationism and be left alone, it has a rude surprise coming.

On the surface, Qatar and Oman represent interests identical to those of the Sunni Arab states, but they do nothing to support their Sunni Arab brothers, and even stab them in the back. Qatar, or instance, which finances the Muslim Brotherhood, subverts the Arab regimes, and uses its Al-Jazeera TV to promote Iranian incitement and hate propaganda.

Oman, for its part, conspires with Iran and will eventually sacrifice the entire region to Iranian hegemony.

Iran's activities in the Arabian Peninsula are invasive: it is attempting to dismantle the region piece by piece. In 1971, Iran took control of three islands belonging to Bahrain -- Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb -- and has now turned them into military bases that threaten the Strait of Hormuz and control naval traffic in the Gulf. In 2012 Iran's former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, provocatively went to the island of Abu Musa to prove it belonged to Iran. Thus the question of to whom Abu Musa belonged was in effect answered, not in an international court of law, as the situation demanded, but by Iranian effrontery and American weakness.

Since then, Iran's daring and America's stupidity have known no bounds, not in the Arabian Peninsula and not in the Persian Gulf. Iran continues to challenge the U.S. Navy, take its sailors hostage and swarm its ships. Iran is openly trying to take over Yemen to establish itself on Saudi Arabia's southern border for a future ground assault.

Iran has also repeatedly declared, in yet another potential takeover, that Bahrain is its 14th province. Years ago Iran was fortunately prevented from doing so by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, before he was abandoned by the Americans and dumped from office in favor of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.[1]

The Iranians are also behind the terrorism and slaughter in Syria and Iraq.[2] The result has been a tidal wave of refugees from Syria and Iraq. About half a million Syrians have been killed in the Syrian civil war so far and about five million refugees have left, effectively emptying the country.

In Syria, the Iranians are behind the terrorism and murder through Hezbollah in Lebanon, and are also active in Libya, Egypt and the Gaza Strip, where they finance and arm terrorist organizations such as the Sunni Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The Arab states, at odds with one another, are unprepared for Iran. To control the Arab masses protesting the corrupt regimes ruling them, attention has usually been deflected away from the real issues and turned instead toward a no-cost target, Israel -- a cheap way to channel justifiable rage and avoid actually resolving the basically comfortable Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinians are, in reality, a "fake problem." The "dirty little secret" is that the only reason the Palestinian cause is a problem is because the Sunni Arab and Muslim states and Europe want it to be one. The current situation, while not perfect, is, actually one with which both sides are relatively happy, but unable to admit it. The Palestinian leaders would, as their maps clearly show, prefer to overrun Israel. Short of that, our leaders know they have all the benefits of claiming to be "victims" without the tedious responsibility of actually running anything. Showered with money from Europe, they do not even have to grow an economy. This way they are free to use the hundreds of millions of euros to reward terrorism, buy Israel's destruction, and plan greater attacks.

Our leaders seem only to be upset about not being in the headlines as much as before, but they no doubt realize that if they were governing a state, the world would pay as much attention to them as it does to Andorra.

It would be easy enough for the Sunni and Arab states to absorb the Palestinian refugees in the Arab countries, where they live now anyway. In reality the problem could go away in a minute. If the problem were solved, the Arabs and Muslims, to distract their public from rotten governance, would just have to find a new problem, so it is probably just as easy to keep the old, comfortable one.

The Israelis apparently find the problem manageable; so both sides are, in truth, quietly content and have no intention of changing anything.

Thus after the so-called "Arab spring" we have found ourselves not with democratic Arab countries, but faced with the ruins of former Arab countries. We have also found ourselves with an a ruthless, expansionist Iranian monolith whose preeminent objective is to exploit the disarray to take over the Middle East.

The tragedy of the Sunni states is that our demographic, geographic military and economic superiority do not seem to faze the Iranians in the least.

Our weak and feckless allies in the West encourage Iran to continue its aggression and military buildup. Thus ironically, the only thing protecting us is the military capability of our supposed enemy.

We allowed ourselves to be tempted by empty American promises of defense -- a trust in an ally that turned out to be a grave mistake. The Russians and the American-led alliance are now fighting ISIS, which, again ironically, is the only organization capable of confronting Iran and stopping it and its Shi'ite proxies. If the Muslim Brotherhood's Sheikh Qaradawi, the most influential Sunni ideologue in the Middle East, who sits in Qatar, had the sense to realize that Iran was the real enemy, and that military efforts have to be directed against Iran, not Israel or the West, the situation of the Sunni states would quickly skyrocket.

In view of Iran's regional threat, the Arabs are beginning to understand that the Palestinian cause is marginal; that Israel is not a rival, and -- as just about everyone knows by now except possibly France, the main instigator of problems in the region -- Israel is not responsible for our problems. We are.

While the West tries to decide who it will or will not support, and the Iranians are busy subverting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE by fomenting local Shi'ite rebellions, any pretext could now be used by Iran to attack Saudi Arabia or, for that matter, anyone, through the enormous opening left by a supine American administration, before a new one can take its place.
Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.

[1] In 2011, using its Shi'ite proxies in Bahrain, Iran almost managed to subvert the country and overthrow the ruling Sunni family. Its ultimate objective was a putsch that would bring Bahrain under Iranian control and make it a bridgehead to the Arabian Peninsula. The plan was foiled when Saudi Arabia and the UAE provided. Bahrain with military support. When it became obvious that the Americans preferred Iranian hegemony, the Saudis and Gulf States, to protect themselves, formed the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Saddam Hussein, the only leader who dared to challenge Iran, kept it busy for years with a war which resulted in an untold number of casualties on both sides and froze progress in both countries. Unfortunately, since he was overthrown and eventually killed, Iran's influence, violence and terrorism have been on the rise throughout the Middle East and are now spilling into Africa.
[2] They are exploiting the Shi'ite regime of Haidar al-Abadi and, with the support of their IRGC and Shi'ite militias, the Shi'ites in Iraq have been slaughtering the Sunnis in Fallujah.


Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.

Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/8960/middle-east-problems

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