Posts filed under “War/Defense”
Today’s quote of the day is my attempt to thwart a wrongheaded meme. It is terror variant of the CRA argument. Did torture help find OBL? From the CIA: “Torture [at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp] didn’t provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information. Everyone [at the CIA] was deeply concerned and most felt it was un-American…Read More
Punch “Osama Bin Laden’s Hideout Compound” into Google maps. Hilarity ensues. There are over 1100 comments — they keep changing constantly — but my favorite has to be “No Street View? Lame!” > click graphic for larger version; click here for an updated version (unless Sergey and Larry lose their sense of humor): Hat tip…Read More
President Obama announced tonight that U.S. special forces killed Osama Bin Laden. That’s great … but we could have killed him years ago. As I noted in 2009: According to the U.S. Senate – Bin Laden was “within the grasp” of the U.S. military in Afghanistan in December 2001, but that then-secretary of defense Rumsfeld…Read More
Today’s news of Osama bin Laden being brought to justice was long overdue. It brought up bittersweet feelings of closure regarding that fateful day a decade ago. For those unfamiliar, my office was headquartered on the 29th floor of 2 WTC. (I was in the Long Island office). On 9/11, I managed to get my…Read More
Here is a quick roundup on the news of Osama bin Laden killed in a Pakistan firefight by US Special Forces: -Stocks and U.S. equity-index futures rose; -the Dollar Index snapped a nine-day slump -oil dropped the most in two weeks; -Silver futures plunged as much as 13% -Oil lost 2.4% More to come later…Read More
Standard & Poors Cuts U.S. Outlook to Negative Because Both Parties Keep Throwing Money at Endless Wars, Endless Bailouts and a Ponzi Financial System
Washington’s Blog strives to provide real-time, well-researched and actionable information. George – the head writer at Washington’s Blog – is a busy professional and a former adjunct professor. ~~~ As I’ve been warning for years, America’s irresponsible financial policy will lead to a credit downgrade. Today, S&P cut its U.S. outlook to negative, warning of…Read More
I always look forward the beginning of a new quarter, because it gives me a chance to read STRATFOR’s update of their annual forecast, which I shared with you in January. Their quarterly forecast explores developing geopolitical trends in each region of the world. In recent months and quarters I’ve noticed a much wider recognition in published discussions of “geopolitical risk” as it relates to investments. Of course geopolitical risk is nothing new to my long-time readers who’ve been plugged into STRATFOR for years.
This Q2 forecast is a long read, but it addresses everything from China’s battle with inflation, to Russia’s economic opportunity, to the stalemate in Libya’s civil war. They do a fantastic, and usually spot-on, job of telling you what to look out for. (And when they aren’t spot-on, they’re up-front about what they missed and why).
I hope you enjoy the forecast below, and take advantage of STRATFOR’s current special offer – a free copy of my book, Endgame, to any of my readers who <<subscribe to their intelligence service here>> at a steeply discounted price. I suggest you check it out.
John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box
STRATFOR’s 2011 Second Quarter Forecast
In our 2011 annual forecast, we highlighted three predominant issues for the year: complications with Iran surrounding the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, the struggle of the Chinese leadership to maintain stability amid economic troubles, and a shift in Russian behavior to appear more conciliatory, or to match assertiveness with conciliation. While we see these trends remaining significant and in play, we did not anticipate the unrest that spread across North Africa to the Persian Gulf region.
In the first quarter of 2011, we saw what appeared to be a series of dominoes falling, triggered by social unrest in Tunisia. In some sense, there have been common threads to many of the uprisings: high youth unemployment, rising commodity prices, high levels of crony capitalism, illegitimate succession planning, overdrawn emergency laws, the lack of political and media freedoms and so on. But despite the surface similarities, each has also had its own unique and individual characteristics, and in the Persian Gulf region, a competition between regional powers is playing out.
When the Tunisian leadership began to fall, we were surprised at the speed with which similar unrest spread to Egypt. Once in Egypt, however, it quickly became apparent that what we were seeing was not simply a spontaneous uprising of democracy-minded youth (though there was certainly an element of that), but rather a move by the military to exploit the protests to remove Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose succession plans were causing rifts within the establishment and opening up opportunities for groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
As we noted in our annual forecast; “While the various elements that make up the state will be busy trying to reach a consensus on how best to navigate the succession issue, several political and militant forces active in Egypt will be trying to take advantage of the historic opportunity the transition presents.” In this quarter, we see the military working to consolidate its control, balance the lingering elements of the pro-democracy movement, and keep the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist forces in check. Cairo is watching Israel very carefully in this respect, as Israeli military actions against the Palestinians or against southern Lebanon could force the Egyptian leadership to reassess the peace treaty with Israel, and give the Islamist forces in Egypt a political boost.
In Bahrain, we saw Iran seeking to take advantage of the general regional discontent to challenge Saudi interests. The Saudis intervened militarily, and for now appear to have things locked down in their smaller neighbor. Tehran is looking throughout the region to see which levers it is willing or capable of pulling to keep Saudi Arabia unbalanced while not going so far as to convince the United States it should keep a large force structure in Iraq. Countering Iran is Turkey, which has become more active in the region. The balancing between these two regional powers will be a major element shaping the second quarter and beyond.
We are entering a very dynamic quarter. The Persian Gulf region is the center of gravity, and the center of a rising regional power competition. A war in or with Israel is a major wild card that could destabilize the area further. Amid this, the United States continues to seek ways to disengage while not leaving the region significantly unbalanced. Off to the side is China, more intensely focused on domestic instability and facing rising economic pressures from high oil prices and inflation. Russia, perhaps, is in the best position this quarter, as Europe and Japan look for additional sources of energy, and Moscow can pack away some cash for later days.
Regional Trend: Iran’s Confrontation with the Arab World
The instability in the Middle East carrying the most strategic weight is centered on the Persian Gulf, where Bahrain has become a proxy battleground between Iran and its Sunni Arab rivals. Iran appears to have used its influence and networks to encourage or exploit rising unrest in Bahrain as part of a covert destabilization campaign in eastern Arabia, relying on a Shiite uprising in Bahrain to attempt to produce a cascade of unrest that would spill into the Shiite-heavy areas of Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province. Saudi Arabia responded by sending military forces into its island neighbor.
Continued crackdowns and delays in political reforms will quietly fuel tensions between the United States and many of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states as Washington struggles between its need to complete the withdrawal from Iraq and to find a way to counterbalance Iran. The Iranians hope to exploit this dilemma by fomenting enough instability in the region to compel the United States and Saudi Arabia to come to Tehran for a settlement on Iranian terms or to fracture U.S.-Saudi ties, thereby drawing Washington into negotiations to end the unrest and thus obtain the opportunity to withdraw from Iraq. So far, that appears unlikely. Iran has successfully spread alarm throughout the GCC states, but it will face a much more difficult time in sustaining unrest in eastern Arabia in the face of intensifying GCC crackdowns.
Iran probably will have to resort to other arenas to exploit the Arab uprisings. In each of these arenas, Iran also will face considerable constraints. In Iraq, for example, Iran has a number of covert assets at its disposal to raise sectarian tensions, but in doing so, it risks upsetting the U.S. timetable for withdrawal and undermining the security of Iran’s western flank in the long term.
In the Levant, Iran could look to its militant proxy relationships with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories to provoke Israel into a military confrontation on at least one front, and possibly on two. An Israeli military intervention in the Gaza Strip would put pressure on the military-led regime in Egypt as it attempts to constrain domestic Islamist political forces. Syria, which carries influence over the actions of the principal Palestinian militant factions, can be swayed by regional players like Turkey to keep this theater contained, but calm in the Levant is not assured for the second quarter given the broader regional dynamic.
In the Arabian Peninsula, Iran can look to the Yemeni-Saudi borderland, where it can fuel an already-active al-Houthi rebellion with the intent of inciting the Ismaili Muslim communities in Saudi Arabia’s southern provinces in hopes of sparking Shiite unrest in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. This represents a much more roundabout method for trying to threaten the Saudi kingdom, but the current instability in Yemen affords Iran the opportunity to meddle amid the chaos.