“Israel, Syria and Bush’s Veto”

Storybusholmert "Israel’s worst-kept diplomatic secret became public knowledge this week when its prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told his Cabinet that he was against taking up a dramatic new Syrian offer for peace talks — because doing so would undermine President Bush."  Forward


Well, there you have it.  The government of the United States is effectively impeding peace talks between Israel and Syria because President Bush says the Syrians are "evil doers" who should be punished, and not allowed to wiggle out of the traps he has laid for them in Lebanon and in the matter of the UN tribunal over the sainted Rafik’s death. 

At the same time rumor runs in Washington that Bandar bin Sultan and Elliot Abrams are busy constructing a web of alliance and money that will seek to undermine Iranian allies wherever they are found.

Weapons have been landed from Israeli ships on the Lebanese coast for the purpose of arming the enemies of Hizbullah.

Does this make Saudi Arabia a de facto ally of Israel?

Pat Lang


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44 Responses to “Israel, Syria and Bush’s Veto”

  1. Mike says:

    Is there not the risk of the development of two opposing power blocs in the Middle East? – Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Sunni/Christian Lebanon on the one hand, Iran, Shia Iraq, Allawi-Shia Syria and Hezbollah Lebanon on the other. Of course, neither the Israelis nor the Saudis/Jordanians would openly acknowledge their common interest and readiness to work together; nevertheless effectively they are likely to operate in tandem when confronted by the reality of the growth of a Shia axis around the Gulf and across to the Levant. The Middle East could become like Europe in 1914 – two sets of intermeshed alliances awaiting that trivial Sarajevo incident that initiates the mobilisation of nations across the region. Where would Turkey’s loyalties lie? and where Kurdistan’s? In the meantime, the US encourages the Shia dominated gobernment of Iraq in its war against the Sunni, antagonising its Sunni aliies in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

  2. The Agonist says:

    Peace, We Don’t Need No Stinking Peace

    When Dr. Fanning and I spoke on the Chris Duel show earlier this week he mentioned that the Israeli’s and the Syrian’s might be tentatively reaching out to one another. He was right. But I was also very dubious that it would last long once the White House

  3. Kevin says:

    Colonel Lang,
    With this US blocking of Syrian-Israeli talks and the recent news of deployment of a second carrier to the Gulf, I would be very curious to read your thoughts on the probability of a US war with Iran in the next two years. Is the push for a UN resolution on sanctions a sincere attempt to halt the Iranian nuclear program or merely an effort to increase public support for the military option?
    Best Regards,

  4. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The present administration in the US uses international legal procedure skillfully to establish “guilt” on the part of its adversaries. pl

  5. JM says:

    Mike writes: “Is there not the risk of the development of two opposing power blocs in the Middle East?”
    I don’t think it’s a question of “risk” as much as it’s an issue of “what’s already happening.”
    The difficulty for us is that we are being governed by an administration that is in too far over its head; one that is incapable of guiding us through the volatile political terrain in the ME.

  6. dan says:

    It’s worth stepping back from the spin that gets put on these reports of carrier movements into and out of the Persian Gulf region. If you think about the hysteria that a routine rotation in the October-November pre-election time-frame induced you’ll note that some in the “left blogosphere” can be as guilty of this as the MSM.
    At present, according to the Navy website, there are in fact only three carrier groups on deployment – one in the Atlantic, one in the Pacific and one in the Persian Gulf; this is about as minimal a deployment of these assets as you get. The reports regarding “possibly deploying” an additional carrier group to “somewhere near” the PG “some time after the new year” are actually somewhat hedged. I would expect to see a carrier group in the Indian Ocean by the middle of February – this will fulfill all of the conditions that the reports outline.
    The timing of these things is not accidental – the UNSC is, depending on which news source you believe, either going to vote on a minimalist sanctions package on Iran today, or, as has been the rule for months now, is still unable to reach any agreement that China and Russia can sign up to; the veiled military threat is usually indicative of an inability to bring diplomatic pressure to bear.
    As regards the current US diplomatic “strategy”, it is purely instrumental, and has little to do with substantive security concerns; Iran is not even vaguely close to developing nuclear weapons, and may have very “soft” intentions in this respect.

  7. jonst says:

    It sure does make them allies, PL….it sure does. As least of some Saudis…if the Turki resignation is any indication. Evidently there are some in the Kingdom that are less than enthusiastic about the logic that propels them into said alliance. Now the question I have is this: is the Turki faction hesitation’s (to the limited extent my mere speculation is correct) because of the policy itself? Or does it reflect a lack of faith in Bush’s competence to pull ANYTHING off correctly?
    And that spectacular, nearly unprecedented incompetence in ALL aspects of national security (at least in American history) will give pause to many potential allies. And give hope to many potential enemies. Yes, the chickens are coming home to roost now. The extent of the loss we have suffered is going to make its way to Americans even in the deepest depths of denial.

  8. Duncan Kinder says:

    Just to refresh people’s memory, during the Cold War, it was a standard procedure for the United States to build up its military and assets in order to “negotiate from a position of strength.”
    To further refresh people’s memory, the pre-Iraq War US military build-up in the gulf sufficed to force Saddam to resume the inspections and could have extracted other concessions. Despite this, the United States attacked anyway.
    Apparently, negotiating from a position of strength no longer is one of the United States’ stratagems. Rather, the Bush administrations apparent vision is only to attack those who it does not like.

  9. zanzibar says:

    Wow! Arms being delivered by Israeli ships to fuel a new civil war in Lebanon. I guess we are in for a very turbulent and violent period ahead. I wonder how the blowback to all this will manifest itself?

  10. ikonoklast says:

    Throw in the Saudis spanking Cheney last month and threatening to (openly) fund Iraqi Sunnis. It looks like it’s shaping up as everybody versus the Shia.

  11. arbogast says:

    The Saudi’s have always been in bed with Israel. That is the reason for the existence of Osama bin Laden. He got fed up with it.
    The irony, of course, and it is more than irony: it is tragedy; the irony is that the Sunni’s who are killing Americans in Iraq are allies of Saudi Arabia, too. As Colonel Lang has pointed out, Cheney was summoned by the Saudi King to warn him to not allow the Sunni’s in Iraq to be defeated.
    So, Saudi Arabia and Israel are backing the Sunni insurgents in order to prevent Iran from gaining enormous influence in Iraq…which it has already done.
    And then we have this, ““They do have some concrete plans in mind, and putting flesh on those bones is exactly what General Casey and his team and the Iraqis will be doing in the days ahead,” Mr. Gates said, according to Reuters.”
    Mr. Gates is a grotesque monster whose flesh should be stripped from his bones in front of the families of our fallen soldiers.
    Yes, impeachment is much too good for Bush and Cheney. Do you think James Webb would vote to convict? I do.

  12. Nabil says:

    Where is this information about Israel arming Lebanese factions from?
    That is a very stupid thing to do. The ‘March 14’ forces right now are defending themselves in the court of public opinion against charges that they collaborated with the Israelis during the July war. So something like this reaching the news would be a blow for them. I’m not saying they’re not arming – they are trying to distribute arms to households ‘just in case’ -Those don’t have to come from Israel!
    Also, the Opposition stations here in Lebanon are literally grabbing anything they can to use as propaganda. So I am sure I would have heard this. Today they would not shut up about a ‘mystery plane’ purportedly carrying 11 Israelis that landed in Beirut the day Pierre Gemayel was assassinated. It turned out they were Portugese, but they’re still harping on about it.
    Also, I am surprised you have not yet mentioned the large cache of weapons belonging to the Syrian National Socialist Party (or whatever it is in English) which was discovered yesterday, and the arrests made.
    The cache contained:
    -All manner of handguns and machine guns, RPGs and rocket launchers, floor to ceiling shells and rockets. No big deal. The heavier pieces looked like they were left over from the civil war.
    -TNT, det cord, timers, etc. The TNT was still 95% effective. This is important: The party head claimed everything was left over from 20 years ago. The TNT was sitting in a sack in an abandoned building. I don’t think TNT would last 20 years in that condition and still be 95% effective.
    The rumor is that the bust is related to Pierre Gemayel’s assassination.

  13. Will says:

    Where does one get the Shia Syria Shxt. The Alawi rulers of Syria are nominally Shia by the grace of a fatwa by a senior cleric of Lebanon which was a stretch. Alawi is a very esoteric sect where humans descend from stars and return to stars, has elements of Xtianity and NeoPlatonism. But that is for the initiated. The common man or woman in the street knows little of the higher secrets but would say that Ali has a high place hence the name Ali-wite. Another religion, like the Druze, left over from the Egyptiian Fatimid Caliphate that the Abbasids, Mamelukes, Crusadaders, Saladin, and Osmanalis (Ottamans), could not stamp out. They usually prefer worshipping in private. But the Assads have tried to mainstream them and encourage worshipping in Mosques. Ali, Mohammed’s son-in-law had famously preferred private prayer rather than ostenatatious displayes of piety but he also forbade those that elevated him to Godhood.
    It is important for the Assad family to be some form of Musllims, even if Shia, because the Syrian constitution demands that the President must be a Muslim.
    But a Syrian Shiate axis. Keep dreaming. Syria is overwhelmingly Sunni. The Alawi are a minority, even though they are the rulers.
    for insight into syria
    read Professor Joshua Landis’ blog syriacomment.com

  14. W. Patrick Lang says:

    So, you think I didn’t know that the Alawi are not real Shia?
    Hell. I don’t think they are real Muslims. pl

  15. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You don’t really think I am going to give you my source, do you?
    The thing about the Qawmiyeen is interesting. You think they did —what? pl

  16. ckrantz says:

    Or the Bandar Bush fraction of Saudi politics as Israeli allies? Others would rather blow up the place. Interesting to see Eliott Abrams working with his old pal from the Iran Contra scandal again. No arms deals this time though.

  17. John hammer says:

    Is there not a general suspicion that the Alawi are stealth Christians?

  18. Nabil says:

    I thought your info came from a news outlet. I would not expect you to reveal the other kind of source.
    And the Qawmiyye – I think they are behind some of the assassinations which came after Hariri’s. News travels fast in Lebanon and what I’ve been hearing is that this is part of the investigation into the gunning down of Gemayel.
    I am also speculating that they were behind the bomb blasts which were going off in shopping centers in the middle of the night around a year ago. Those were TNT on timers, if I remember right.

  19. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    Everyone is a Muslim since there is only one True Religion: Islam. Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad were all Muslims.
    Now having said that I have to state further that different manifestations of the True Religion have been comprehended by our extant religions; thus we have Judaism, Christianity etc.
    Additionally, since there is no central authority in Islam (or in Christianity, or in Judaism) that can state who is and who isn’t a Muslim then one has to accept at face value the claim of others. So if some one states that he iu a Muslim, then one is obliged to accept that confession as true.
    I would agree that by the standards of the scholar classes of contemporary Islam, the Alawaites, the Druze, the Bahai, the Ali-Allahi, etc. are not true Muslims. But by the same standards, Summayah and Hamza Seyyed Al Shuhadah would not be Muslims either.
    Moreover, if Abu Sufian could be a Muslim I cannot find fault will the Alawaites being the same.
    Islam is a very simple religion: you only need to profess the Shahadatin and you are a Muslim.

  20. Different Clue says:

    A better President would
    not instruct an Israeli government to turn down a Syrian offer to negotiate about how to achieve peace.
    A better President would
    privately encourage Israel
    to respond to the offer, and
    move to take Public Credit
    for it on behalf of America,
    if peace were successfully
    I wonder if the Israeli
    governing classes have their
    own divisions between NeoConservatives and

  21. J says:

    so much for our u.s foreign policy, now we know that the insane asylum is run by a pack of madmen that the voters errantly put on pedestals.
    one has to wonder what our forefathers would be saying if they could see mess the jokers have caused.

  22. Lightflyer says:

    Olmert, this past week, also mentioned Israeli nukes didn’t he? I guess he is the first Israeli PM to confirm that Israel is a nuclear power. It will be a Trifecta if he also goes on to confirm that Israel killed the USS Liberty. Remember the Liberty?

  23. “Does this make Saudi Arabia a de facto ally of Israel?”
    No permanent allies. Just permanent interests. Ahmadinejad, however, deserves some credit here.

  24. John Hammer says:

    Babak Makkinejad
    “Islam is a very simple religion: you only need to profess the Shahadatin and you are a Muslim.”
    So one who does not profess the Shahadatin is not Muslim.
    Simple enough for me.

  25. johnf says:

    Where does Israel get its oil from?
    In the late 60’s I can remember seeing Iranian oil tankers unloading in Eilat. Perhaps since ’79 Saudi Arabia has quietly been supplying that market?

  26. Lightflyer says:

    I been having real trouble with the Concert of Nations idea of the preceding post. Its a great idea but I cannot see the regional and wider conditions as being appropriate anytime yet. This post points out some of the conflicting and contriving cross currents at work (and we have not yet even considered the interests of China and Russia, et al). Napoleon created chaos and revolution from from the Urals to Haiti and after a generation of this Europe was prepared to harness itself to a balance between nations (and remember France had been decisively defeated – these things get along much better when the big man in the room has been kneecapped and his nuts put in a vise).
    As an aside, Metternich spent a lifetime trying to destroy the forces of social revolution and Europe’s monarchies were the winners of these efforts (compare and contrast Bush’s efforts to kindle democracy while seeking to maintain alliance with the forces dedicated in the region to suppressing such social revolution).
    My gut feeling is that the current world order must experience a great catastrophe on the order of Napoleon’s romps through Europe before fear and exhaustion amongst nations force an willingness to meet and act in concert. We are not there yet. Right now I am inclined to see the US as France and the great humbling is not yet upon us. And who will bring this congress about? I suspect China and Russia, they are perhaps more like Metternich (in both social and economical thinking) than anyone else in this new age.
    As it is, America’s friends and all the others who have an interest in the security of the world are simply waiting for the end of the Bush presidency – with a fervent wish that America comes back to its own again and Bush’s America does nothing too stupid or criminal in the interim.

  27. Will says:

    Israel get Egyptian Oil, inter alia. That was part of the Camp David Accords.
    That was a contributing factor to the start of the modern Sunni-Shii conflagration and the Iran-Iraq war– the Shah’s coziness with Israel. In the Shah-in Shah’s latter stages he began to retract and established closer ties with Sadat.
    Because the Palestinians are overwhelming Sunni w/ a strong Xtian presence (note PLF Dr. George Habash), the Palestinian cause had been till lately a Sunni project This began the modern enmity and also helped bring down the Persian king.

  28. Matthew says:

    johnf: The United States guarantees Israel’s oil supply; Exxon, I know, sells them oil. As you probably remember, part of the deal on giving up the Sinai involved providing Israel with oil.
    Col. Lang: I thought the original neo-con plan was to enable the rise of the Shia. Now it seems that we want to prop up all the tottering Sunni kings. Do you think this will succeed, or has the sand permanently shifted?

  29. Eaken says:

    More is going to happen in the M.E. in the next 3 months than has happened in the past 3 years.
    And it is going to be ugly.

  30. Got A Watch says:

    “Now it seems that we want to prop up all the tottering Sunni kings.”
    Why would today be any different? America has a long history of supporting local dictators as long as they are “US YES” men – democracy, human rights and doing the right thing be damned. There are too many to list here. A historian recently released a book draft which listed some 60 instances of this since WWII, and the outcome was the exact oppoite of the intended in 59 out of 60, IIRC. Not sure if the book was actually published yet, but it was discussed in UK newspapers. These policies nearly always backfired, within 10-20 years the nation would overthrow the dictator and become anti-US. Go figure.
    There were over 200 total USA interventions in foreign nations listed post WWII, from diplomatic support to assassinations to full on invasion, and final outcomes were not in favor of America in almost every case. The Cold War can be blamed for most, but not all, and certainly none since 1989 fit that category. Of course no MSM in the USA would dare mention these facts – too many illusionary bubbles might be popped. You might think such a sterling success rate would require a serious re-think of existing policies, but apparently rear-view mirrors have been banned in Washington. The American public remains blissfully unaware of all this. Apply these past experiences to Iraq? Of course not – why do you love the terrorists so much?

  31. Got A Watch says:

    On Israel, Oil/Gas and arms:
    I read a while back on an energy website that Russia is by far the largest supplier of oil/gas to Israel. The oil may be purchased/re-sold by Exxon or whomever. This is why Russian, Turkish and Israeli interests are pushing for a new undersea gas pipeline from Turkey to Israel, at multi-billion dollar cost. This project will be the world’s longest and most expensive underwater pipeline, and would be somewhat vulnerable to attack by interests opposed to Israel IMHO. Also the Russians could conceivably shut off the valves if Israel irritates them enough. Turkey likes it because they get to collect a transfer fee on every unit.
    Oil production in the Sinai or Egypt is statistically insignificant in world terms – Egypt is usually considered to be a country with very little resources, and does not show up in petroleum statistics and charts that I have seen. If they do produce oil/gas, their production seems to be lumped in under “Africa, Other” at a very small total amount.
    I believe this puts Israel in a precarious position, because their primary (almost sole) energy supplier is also the main arms supplier to Syria, Iran, Egypt, Libya etc. Debkafile (somewhat unreliable) has Syrian Pres. Assad in Moscow this week spending the equivalent of $500M US$ (given him by Iran – nice Christmas present) on Russian arms. Add arms export credits given by Russia to “friendly” nations to increase sales, and sounds like Syria is getting a large upgrade. Items mentioned were Tor anti-aircraft systems and upgrading Syria’s existing 4,500 tanks, as well as logistics and communications. Russia is also moving in to a large scale (fleet) naval base on the Med. coast of Syria. The AA zone of that base will cover a large portion of Syria, it has been speculated. I would guess Russia supplies Israel for money and significant intelligience help against Muslim fundamentalists like the Chechens. If it was only a matter of money, Russia could more easily sell the resources elsewhere – there is no shortage of nations looking to import more oil and gas.
    The canny Russians are working all sides of the street, as usual.

  32. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Got A Watch:
    You are misjudging the effectiveness of these policies. The election cycles in US are 2, 4, and 6 years. A policy that can give dividends for 10 to 20 years is considered pretty effective policy. The backlash is considered just cost of the policy. I further think that for policy makers the idea was that even in cases of a backlash – the new governments had no place else to go. In fact, Ambassador Sullivan, the last US Ambassador to Iran, said as much.
    I think because of globalization etc. now these states have some place else to go – it will not be as efficient but it works for them.

  33. walrus says:

    I note ominous developments over the last three or four days:
    1. Condoleeza Rice’s comments about the deaths of American troops and the treasure expended on Iraq as “investments” in “transforming” the middle east.
    2. The forthcoming “testing” of the draft Board apparatus, which has got some liberals overly worked up.
    3. The LA Times is reporting that Generals Casey and Onieda(?) are now in favor of “surging” 20,000 troops in Baghdad.
    4. The passing of Iran sanctions by the UN Security Council.
    I know I seem to be a doom and gloom merchant, but it appears to me that Bush and his inner circle are holding with their fantasy of “transforming” the Middle East.
    I now believe that Bush’s repeated claim to have “superior knowledge” to others that is informing his Middle East strategy does not relate to conventional intelligence sources at all. I have reached the frightening conclusion that this “superior knowledge” is some sort of religious mania.
    Bush is going to attempt to destroy the Shia militias and large areas of Baghdad in the process in a deliberately bloody and public manner, killing every Shia male of military age in the process.
    The purpose is to either to destroy the militias and/or provoke Iran into an attack – that will justify the bombing of Iran. Israel will probably attack Syria at the same time since Syria has a mutual defence pact with Iran.
    The “mission” if one can call it that, is to destroy Israel’s enemies for the forseeable future (say 20 years) while securing the oil supplies of Iran and Iraq and make sure they keep flowing south, freezing out China. It would also satisfy the “millenium – ist” armageddon nuts among his supporters by having a gigantic battle between the forces of good and evil – at least that is how Bush sees it.
    The draft Board exercise is a test all right – a test of the first stage of a general mobilisation that will be necessary if the Iranians don’t cave in so easily.
    I also expect the last of American civil rights and excellent blogs such as this will dissappear about the same time.
    The “transformation” is going to be a transformation into a wasteland.

  34. Will says:

    just a thought. It doesn’t matter how much oil Egypt (Masr) produces. Israel has a right to “Egyptian” oil. It is easy enough to tranship it from Jedda across the Red Sea and relabel for a huge profit.

  35. babak Makkinejad says:

    I cannot credit all of that – yoe see – there are not that many smart people in the world.

  36. Matthew says:

    Walrus: read Thucydicles. Empires expand or die. Since we didn’t have the natinal will to maintain our manufacturing base, war-making is our ecnomony now. Of course, Bush is fighting a “twilight” struggle. It’s called our national economic policy. If he removed the troops from Iraq, America would sink into a recession just in time for the ’08 elections.

  37. Mo says:

    The Saudis (the family that is rather than the country) have always got into bed with whomever kept them in power and in oil money. The Wahabis were strong enough to destroy them early on. So they let Wahabism become the de facto religion in return for their support. The Saudis have seen the writing on the wall or been told explicitly what the White House intends for the Middle East. So they have picked the side they think is going to win.
    The web being built is becoming more apparent by the day. It is becoming more and more obvious that Israels war on HA this summer was part of the much bigger plan. The push now is to bring civil war to Lebanon and to the Palestinians, play the now century old game of divide and conquer among the easily led Arabs.
    It is NOT an attack on the Shia (the bogey Muslims of the 80’s) in support of the Sunnis (the bogey Muslims of today).
    It is a plan to eliminate or at least emasculate those opposed to Israel. Its really no surprise that Assad is reaching out to Israel. He is (amateurishly) trying to play the game, trying to call some non-existent bluff. But the plan is going ahead non-the-less. In Lebanon, the war failed so they are going to plan b and try and incite some civil discord.
    In Palestine, ditto.
    In Iraq ensure that a pocket govt. continues to rule.
    And the big fly in the ointment, Iran. They have successfuly pushed the nuke myth enough now to get a resolution, a resolution that will down the line probably be used as the basis for justfying an attack (even though there is no mention of military action in it and it isn’t chapter 7).
    So how will it go?
    Lebanon: HA will not allow a civil war, much to the frustration of the March 14th group, who are busy using every secterian sneaky trick in the book. The March 14th group is made up mostly of those who were involved in the civil war. They are also part of the ruling elite that have borrowed $44 billion dollars in the last decade but can only account for $4 billion. Therefore losing power isn’t profitable so going back to the days of war were they made their fortunes in drugs and arms is prefferable to standing in court on charges of embezzelement.
    Nasrallah however has made it clear. You can kill 1000 of us and we will not fight back with weapons he has said.
    So in Lebanon, we will see what plan c is.
    In Palestine: The plan is going much better here, for 2 main reasons:
    Hamas and those opposed to it are matched in numbers but while Hamas are the legitimate govt. Fatah are better armed.
    Secondly, both groups have poor disciplne, esp. in comparison to the Lebanese militias.
    My prediction for the Palestinians and the Israelis?
    If Abbas gets his elections and Hamas stand, they wil win again and all hell will break loose. If they don’t stand, they will withdraw to the shadows and any chance the world had at politicizing them will be gone.
    In Iraq, it is becoming clear that administration has to ensure that they protect the Sunnis, the very people most vehemently against the occupation, to keep the Saudis happy. You got to love the irony. So now they are busy trying to prove to the Sunnis how much they love them by taking on the Shia. This of course has the added benefit of reducing Irans influence in the country. Its all too painfully obvious to all of us but the close minded dumb asses sitting in the White House that this is a very short sighted plan that will inevitabley go wrong. The Shia haven’t begun any kind of insurgency or ressistance to the US presence. If they do they will do so with better equipment then their Sunni compatriats and better training thanks to Iran. The trickle of losses the US is suffering will increase and if the British losses increase massively expect them to cut their losses quickly. The only relief will be that since the Sunni insurgency is now almost entirely Al Qaida funded and run, there is no chance of the two working together.
    And Iran. Attacking Iran is most obviously the dumbest, most foolhardy thing Bush could do. Which is probably why he is going to do it. The consequences of such an attack are so unpredictable that the wildest prediction today could seem like small fry when the brown stuff hits the whirling blades.
    Who is going to stop all this? Not the Europeans. Not the UN. Not Russia or China. In fact the only people that can stop this are the Arab people themselves. Only if they wake up to the threat hanging over their heads, only if they rise to the challenge and tell their leaders that if the region is engulfed in Bush’s campaign to make Israel feel secure they will take them down.
    Will this happen? Well we go back to Lebanon. If people power brings he govt. down, it may, possibly, just strengthen the resolve of other nations.
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you. Forever the optimist, heres to a new year that sees the world a happier and safer place where our respective peoples can discuss issues like this and not be forced to resolve them on the battlefield.

  38. zanzibar says:

    This NY Times story and this WaPo story add credence to PL’s scoop on this thread.
    If Bandar bin Sultan and Elliot Abrams and the Israelis are concocting another covert operation to combat Iranian influence in the ME isn’t it likely the Iran-Syria-HA alliance would try to destabilize Saudi Arabia?
    This all seems quite dangerous as each side tries to destabilize the other. The situation may not turn out the way these “strategists” expect as we saw in the case of Iraq and now also Afghanistan. A major concern ought to be that the Decider and his “Rasputin” have demonstrated consistent poor judgment and execution ability. So the probability is higher that whatever scheme they come up with is likely to fail in further catastrophe for the people in the ME and for America. These ill-conceived actions could unleash the same sectarian forces regionally making the whole ME Iraq on steroids. Is the destiny of the ME to become fragmented warlord controlled territories that become havens for those that despise the US?
    Now that we have some inkling what the Saudi-Israel-Neo-Con axis are up to anyone have ideas what the Iran-Syria-HA-Hamas axis are planning to do in return? Are all sides arming themselves in preparation for a massive new conflict with US and Israeli firepower arrayed towards regime change in Tehran and Damascus and a new occupation of Southern Lebanon? Will not these covert operations create situations where the American people and Congress get bamboozled once again into an adventure that will be even worse in terms of outcomes? This speculative note adds to the conspiracy theories that may have nuggets of truth in them.

  39. VietnamVet says:

    There is no doubt that George W Bush and his advisors view Hamas, Hezbollah, the Mahdi Militia, and Iranian Mullahs as evil and want them all dead. George W proved it when the US refused to stop Israeli bombing of Lebanon last summer. The only question is if the military has told the President that the Middle East War is lost and the horrendous costs of prolonging it.
    For counterinsurgency [the oil spot theory] to work in Baghdad, the Sunni have to be ethnically cleansed, the slums flattened to kill the Shiite Mahdi Militia, and the survivors placed in concentration camps. If the US does not undertake these proven methods of pacification, it will all be for nothing.
    If Baghdad is ever pacified, America will deserved the world’s contempt for participating in these horrors. If Iraq is ever pacified, many millions of American Boys and Girls will have had their tour of Iraq.

  40. rowdy says:

    nothing would suprise me anymore – but there is definately movement within saudi circles – ex: Saudi Prince Bandar leaving his post suddenly and is selling his Aspen,Co property, with >56,000 square feet on a 95-acre site. It even has its own gas pumps.
    all you need is a cool $135 million….

  41. Got A Watch says:

    Babak: Yes, I agree – as the historian found, these policies often work for 10-20 years before being reversed. However, my point is that when you look at the cumulative effect globally of such, it is not so beneficial for the USA. Ref. the recent Pew polling which found around 2/3 of all citizens of the globe (varies by region) regard America as the greatest threat to world peace. Thus, USA election schedules, as you mentioned, will tend to undermine the long term good of the nation for a short term gain which does not last. American voters may forget such matters after the next election, but the populations of countries so affected will not for probably 2 generations at least.
    In the modern multi-polar world with the BRIC nations holding the economic and energy cards, there is indeed “somwehere else to go”, and re-calling negative past experience with America, there is little reason for those nations to “come back”. See excellent posts from Lightflyer, Mike, Arbogast,Zanzibar, Mo, Walrus,Vietnam Vet etc. above – all point out other facets of this problem.
    Over 60 years of practising such policies leads America to the place where it is now – widely distrusted, disliked by most and hated by many. Remember the USA never ceases to preach the benefits of democracy and human rights in public speeches – but the actions belie the words, so a perception of utter hypocrisy is widely held. This leads to other nations not supporting America when that support is called for in a time of real crisis, not the phony Bush style manufactured ones. See the “No. 1 Ally”, UK where politicians and commmentators now vow to not rush to war with Bush again – and a government which would do so will quickly face electoral defeat. The same situation exists in Australia, and Canada and most other NATO countries.
    Which leaves America with a rump of a few loyal allies who will always fight no matter what: Israel, ummmm, running out of names here. Thus, Israel is the only American ally with significant military capability who would support America in almost every case. Regional factors may bring others in for specific one-off actions, maybe – do you see Saudi Arabia actively warring with Iran at the side of America, for example? Seems unlikely to me. The proof will be when Bush attempts to form a coalition to attack Iran, and the rest of the world fails to show up.
    Credibility and positive perception are like virginity – once gone it won’t be repaired anytime soon. Ask any young person outside of Israel about their perception of America today, and reflect they will be in government in their respective countries in a few more years. Being seen to be “too close” to America is a political liability almost everywhere.

  42. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Got A Watch:
    I was only trying to point out that in the Western representative republics the election cycles mitigates against long range planning – “long range” would mean 5 years.
    I agree that US activities over the last 60 years have been less than sterling – both in motivation and in the actual results. And many US activities were rather capricious – like bombing of a former ally called Yugoslavia in support of (Muslim) terrorists supporting Saddam Hussein in using of chemical weapons etc. Moreover, US influence has not always been benign – I agree with you. One can certainly make a case that the reason that Manila is not city like Singapore or Hong Kong has had a lot to do with the greed & stupidity that US exercised her influence there.
    I do however think that many countries still welcome US either as an ally or a counter-weight for security purpose: countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines among others. And some of these countries have no place else to go either except US. (In fact, I would venture to say that even Iranians probably prefer US to be engaged in Persian Gulf – not against Iran – but against any outside powers that might one to move in; such as Pakistan, India, China. Its cheaper for Iran to have US carry the burden there than for Iran to spend tens of billions of dollars to build its armed forces to the level required to carry that burden herself.)
    And to answer your question – no I do not see Saudi Arabia going to war against Iran unless Iran attacks them first. And I do not see US attacking Iran since I do not see any strategic gains in it for US. I also suspect US has had to make promises in this regard to other states to get this latest SC resolution passed. I do, however, believe that US has been trying to create a Cold War like anti-Iran alliance in the Levant and the Persian Gulf. I cannot judge the success of these efforts but I suspect that it has not been very successful to date. But I might be wrong.
    I agree with your point about credibility and perception. But it only applies to ordinary states and not such hyper powers as US. I think the best case that you can make is that because of Iraq, US has received a black-eye and will need to put some stake meat on that eye. But I do not believe that other international actors will permanently mistrust US credibility (but perhaps not GWB’s).

  43. blowback says:

    Weapons have been landed from Israeli ships on the Lebanese coast for the purpose of arming the enemies of Hizbullah.
    Unless this is being done with the consent of the Lebanese government, this is in direct contravention of UNSC 1701. I hope that the US will immediately demand that the UNSC impose sanctions on Israel. Since the Germans are monitoring the Lebanese coast for illegal weapon imports, I am sure they will be happy to provide the necessary evidence.
    BTW, this story in the New York Times seems like a crock of manufactured shit to me.
    The US arrested a couple of accredited Iranian diplomats and their armed Iranian bodyguards. The bodyguards are probably the two members of the IRG mentioned elsewhere in the article. If I was an Iranian diplomat operating in Baghdad, I would want some one protecting me who was prepared to die to do so, not some mercenary. Big deal.

  44. confusedponderer says:

    I think Babak has a good point here. I doubt Bush will attack Iran, at least not now.
    The determination to deny evil international recognition by insisting on not-talking with them is the hallmark of the Bush men. I find it actually quite striking that Bush hasn’t moved an inch from his declared goal of regime change in Iran and Syria. He not only stays the course in Iraq.
    I tell that everyone who states with relief that, luckily, the neo-cons are in full retreat. I don’t think so. Some are, but those at the core still wield power and do have unitary executive presidential and vice-presidential support.
    I found that interview with Ms. Wurmser remarkable where she said that the Bush men expected Israel to attack Syria and would have given it backing and are now angry about Israel ‘not getting it’. Probably they’re now pressuring Olmert’s motley crew not to ‘screw up again’. Israel serves a function in the neo-con schemes to re-shape the region.
    What I expect is that Bush tries to ‘regime change’ (nice verb) Syria. I think what the Bushies are up to in Syria will resemble another color coded revolution. If Bashar al-Assad falls, the next step would then be increased heat on Lebanon, in an attempt to roll back Hezbollah, maybe, but not neccessarily, in form another Israeli attack (which is IMO inevitable considering that they seem to believe to have to ‘restore the effect of Israeli deterrence’).
    If it fails, or better, is crushed on the street, it will paint Syria as an evidoer wich is good also, and they will dig out an expatriate crew labeled as ‘Syrian Opposition ™’. I wonder how many of them will be Muslim Brotherhood types. My best bet: Zero.
    With these two steps, and the expected effect of the surge – eliminating the threat from Shia militias in Baghdad (read as: Iranian proxies) – the Bush men will probably conclude that Iran is isolated and has been denied allies, and is ripe for the taking. I don’t think it will work, but it is as close as a strategy gets under Bush. It has several steps, and looks great on power point.
    What happens then is an open question. It is entirely possible that Bush orders the air attack on Iran anyway, only to ensure delivering his ‘heritage’.
    Everything is part of a larger struggle. Hezbollah and Sadr and Iran and Syria can’t just happen to co-exist individually. They are all against the US and Israel! Now that can’t be an accident! Sure there is a deeper, more sinister purpose behind it! There is no such thing as coincidence, unless, say, shit happens, and you go to war with the army you have and not the army you want, or things surprisingly take a very different direction than originally imagined (as in: no rose petals).
    Someone has burned the idea that all wars are proxy wars in a wider struggle in their brains. In Bush’s case it’s the divine struggle against evil. In the neo-con’s case it is the ‘stare long, hard and stark enough you’ll ultimately see things’ vision, which is an intellectual disguise for paranoia, and making it up as you go along.
    The idea of a deeper meaning behind things can even lend the hallucinations of a village idiot a degree of sophistication. Ironically paranoia gives you security. You know where the enemy is – everywhere. Best part: In case of doubt, just say you’re suspicious, or refer to secret-intel-that-I-can’t-tell-you-without-killing-you.

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