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Looming in 2018, is the start of a general war in the Middle East. Seventeen years of endless and metastasizing fighting in the greater Middle East against terror, against radicalism, for our client states and against their enemies, who have become our enemies, is now unremarkable business as usual.
Almost no one, even the most dedicated citizen, has a complete and accurate understanding of the scope of U.S.military action in the Middle East spilling out into Africa and into Asia. The attack of the Afghanistan based al-Qaeda in 2001 replaced the Cold War as focus and motivation for U.S. attention, treasure, and military action. The Cost of War Project has identified 76 nations involving 39% of global population involved in this war. Bin Laden is dead, AL-Queda supplanted by Isis as the U.S. is resolutely involved in the Long War, our own multigenerational conflict. Donald Trump in his second year of power has become a new, increasingly enthusiastic recruit.
What has characterized the Long War so far has not been combat between nation states, but so-called asymmetrical warfare, a score of men with box cutters crashing planes into sky scrappers and unleashing holy hell. But current developments in the MiddleEast suggests that the Long War may be entering a new phase, of war between major Middle East states and their big power sponsors. What has been a drip, drip, drip of casualties and fighting, punctuated by occasional horrific slaughters, may be about to increase by several orders of magnitude.
The bad stars have now aligned and are in a position to unleash the regional war that U.S.and its co-conspirators consider it’s better to start sooner than later, war’s that become a necessity to be embraced, a war that will serve as relatively quick solution to long-term problems. The bigger problem, however, is that such a war between the major regional players once unleashed will almost certainly spin out of control and be anything but short.
On the one side we have a budding and deepening alliance of the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel with Al Sisi’s Egypt nodding ascent, and with qualified support of Syrian rebels and participation of most of the Gulf Emirates with the situation of Qatar being resolved in time, not just for resolving Kushner’s 666 Five Ave debacle, but for war.
On the other side, we have Iran, Syrian government, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthi with Iraqi’s Shite government and militias nodding ascent and Vladimir Putin standing by to play.
Caught in the Middle are those who will be forced to chose sides or try to find safe haven are the Kurds in Turkey Iraq and Syria, the Taliban in Afghanistan, who are Sunnis already fighting the United States, but have no apparent ambitions beyond Afghanistan and tribal border territories in Pakistan.
Watching closely and planning are Pakistan’s government and powerful Military Intelligence (MI) and the Turkish government, a Nato member with antipathy to both the Kurds and Israel. India watches Pakistan and the Taliban with concern. And, of course, the Palestinians stand to be a big loser, offered the choice of being abandoned to the tender mercies of the Netanyahu regime, or to accept an imposed US., Saudi, Egyptian administrated “peace”. Meanwhile, the Europeans watch President Trump in horror as he tries to destroy the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as they are attempting to maintain an Iran nuclear deal without the United States. China can hardly believe its good luck watching important new markets and resources being dumped into its lap by American sanctions and imperiousness.
Let’s assume, first, that Putin and Trump manage to avoid too much direct U.S. – Russian fighting that can lead to, you know, global nuclear annihilation. Let’s suppose we can trust President Trump to mange that. We can? There was that little Syrian dust up of a few hundred Russian mercenaries attacking a U.S. Syrian base and being killed with zero U.S. casualties. But mostly the boys work and play well with each other given their deep ties and common interests.
Lets assume, second, that the U.S, Saudi, Israeli plan is to attempt to foster regime change in Iran, not through direct invasion of many American divisions, but by a combination of economic, political,and military pressure. The unspoken intent of U.S., Saudi, Israeli war plans must involve the control of Iranian influence as regional power. This will be best accomplished by a new friendly regime, but, if not, by a combination of crippling economic sanctions and targeted military action by Israelis and Saudi clients designed to succeed in imposing limitations on Iranian nuclear and missile weapons and regional conduct opposing U.S., Saudi, Israeli designs. Israeli air attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities are certainly planned and ready to go. The implicit threat behind Trump’s withdrawal from Iranian nuclear deal is that Iranian resumption of nuclear development can serve as justification to attack.The playbook is clear, the U.S.will continue to escalate economic sanctions and threats to bring Iran to heal, and if it resists, begin the strategic bombing that Iran is likely to respond to in asymmetrical fashion in the Middle East and around the world with the help of its friends that will justify further military escalation by both sides, and so it goes.
The U.S. has managed through its endless war without end to put itself between two repressive theocratic regimes of the Saudi Sunnis and the Iranian Shia, and are now choosing to embrace the Sunnis not merely as oil producing clients but as allies. Historical realism should suggest to Presidents that Sunni and Shia conflicts have a deserved millennia long reputation for never ending well. The best that can be said for a regional war strategy is that there are more Sunni than Shia, and therefor it’s more likely there will be more Sunni than Shia left standing. It’s the same kind of logic that apparently was used in the unremitting slaughter of a generation in the First World War,
In any case, as they beat the war drums, we can have confidence in the sober wisdom of Donald Trump, John Bolton, and Mike Pomepo, Islamaphobes all, to somehow lead us to a peaceful resolution.
Why War and Why Now?
It may be argued that the control of oil and natural gas and pipelines and sea routes can certainly explain the attempt to grab Iraq’s oil, that Donald Trump has embraced, and now to go after Iran’s enormous oil reserves. The disastrous consequences of the Iraq misadventure should have been sufficient to convince politicians that a war with Iran is likely to end with even far worse consequences than Iraq given Iran’s size, geography, and seasoned military forces. Perhaps there is an appeal for a global economic spasm resulting from closure of straights of Hormuz and cutting off a substantial portion of global oil supplemented by attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman(MBS), pal of Jared Kushner, has already recognized that oil is not only a depleting asset, but that oil is rapidly becoming a stranded asset, better left in the ground, that can no longer compete with zero fuel cost renewables. But its hard to believe that MBS sees this war as a way to kick start Saudi Solar PV and clean tech transition. It’s a power play, a logical follow up to his brutal war against the Iranian supported Houthis in Yemen conducted with American logistical support.
Let’s say that President Donald Trump was seduced by his Saudi sword dance and perhaps also sees major distraction from his impeachment from war which, for a while. was good for George W.: Mission Accomplished. They would never impeach a war president would they? And at the same time Trump will impose Jared’s version of Middle East Peace. President Donald J. Trump, to global acclaim, will be awarded the Nobel Prize…
Ride the Peace Train
Countervailing peace efforts can be exerted in two areas. First, Americans should work quickly to deepen ties with Iran and Iranian groups in the U.S. and in Iran, calling for dialogue, trade, exchanges and peace. Second, Americans need to raise our voices and concerns loudly and insist on a Congressional declaration of war before a war begins. Donald Trump’s base, we may remember, was repelled by Hillary Clinton, the warmonger and attracted to Trump, in part, because of his isolationist America First-ism. There may be possibilities for coalitions between anti-war Democrats and anti-war Republicans sufficient to stop the rush for Middle East War without Congressional approval.
Will the platoon of Democrats seeking to replace Donald Trump advance the interest of peace or march in line off to war? They are clearly united by common hatred for President Trump. Beyond that, it remains to be seen. The far right has in the past spared no antipathy for both immigrants and meaningless foreign wars that distract them from working for their domestic concerns. Politics in the common interest of peace can create improbable partners. On that, the prospects, if not exactly for peace, but stopping regional Middle East war depends. That’s democracy.
If there was ever a time to insist on adherence to constitutional norms and prerogatives on issues of war or peace, to vote before the bullets and bombs fly, that time is now.