Posts filed under “War/Defense”
Fault Lines: Ride of the Valkyries
1 February 2011
The following was written by Jawad Mian, Portfolio Manager based in Doha, Qatar
The script hasn’t changed. It always begins with an economic crisis that weakens social and political orders. People erupt into violent protests as problems surface to an extent that can no longer be ignored. The demonstrators direct their ire against unemployment, tyranny, and the general lack of dignity and justice in their own society. Meanwhile, the government operates in denial and tries to control the situation by establishing curfews, enforcing military rule, and cutting local access to news media. The public doesn’t seem to care: demonstrators grow in numbers, vehicles are burnt, lives are lost, and international coverage of the situation explodes. The President decides to reform his government and address the public. It makes no difference. The situation on the ground gets worse. In the meantime, a new leader is “imported” and the public rallies behind the opposition. It is only a matter of days now. The President wakes up one morning to this palpable fact and negotiates his survival with political actors on the world stage. The “key players” have lost interest and are busy carving out plans for the country’s future. They offer him a safe exit: a parting gift for being a loyal servant during his tenure. Democracy wins again – and history records it to be a momentous time.
It’s over. In little time, the Mubarak era will come to a decisive end. The advocates for a Western-style liberal democracy will claim victory and Mohamed ElBaradei will emerge as the new Egyptian leader. One need only look at the international news coverage of the Egypt unrest over the past week (and the attention specifically drawn to ElBaradei) to draw that conclusion. No crystal ball needed. I have no doubt the former UN nuclear inspector will bring ‘democratic reform’ to the country – whatever that means anymore. It is a widely known fact that the economic and security interests of Egypt are tied to the United States and the broader global economy. The country cannot afford to sink into political chaos. Nor will it. There can be many potential outcomes but only one stark reality: Americans will remain part of the region’s security architecture for the foreseeable future and Egypt is of strategic importance to their Middle East strategy. The more things change the more they stay the same. So, while the people of Egypt are ready for “change”, the geopolitical arrangements (US strategy since the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war) will remain unchanged. Egypt is one of those countries whose internal politics matter to more than its own citizens. The other is Iran.
In a 2009 paper titled The Revenge of Geography, Robert Kaplan wrote: “The instability Iran will cause will not come from its implosion but from a strong, internally coherent Iranian nation that explodes outward from a natural geographic platform to shatter the region around it. The security provided to Iran by its own natural boundaries has historically been a potent force for power projection. The present is no different. Through its uncompromising ideology and nimble intelligence services, Iran runs an unconventional, postmodern empire of sub-state entities in the greater Middle East: Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Sadrist movement in southern Iraq. As with Russia, the goal of containing Iran must be to impose pressure on the contradictions of the unpopular, theocratic regime in Tehran, such that it eventually changes from within. The battle for Eurasia has many, increasingly interlocking fronts. But, the primary one is for Iranian hearts and minds, just as it was for those of Eastern Europeans during the Cold War. Iran is home to one of the Muslim world’s most sophisticated populations, and traveling there, one encounters less anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism than in Egypt.”
Viewed in this light, the rise of The Green Revolution during the 2009 Iranian Presidential election and its emphatic failure is better understood. People need to wake up to the fact that Iran is the only natural geopolitical power in the Middle East. This is something that the West is unwilling to accept for obvious reasons. The Persian Gulf possesses 55 percent of the world’s crude-oil reserves, and Iran dominates the whole gulf, from the Shatt al-Arab on the Iraqi border to the Strait of Hormuz in the southeast – a coastline of 1,317 nautical miles, thanks to its many bays, inlets, coves, and islands that offer plenty of excellent places for hiding tanker-ramming speedboats. No doubt, this is of utmost strategic importance to world powers. It is no surprise then that Iran is being wooed by both India and China, whose navies will come to dominate the Eurasian sea lanes in the 21st century, according to Kaplan. Rest assured, the Americans are not twiddling their thumbs. They aren’t happy bystanders. American ’diplomacy’ (read: arm-twisting) in the Arab world is about to become even more intricate. The regime change in Egypt is just the first step.
Alfred Thayer Mahan, a US naval captain and author of The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783, coined the term “Middle East” in 1890 to denote the area between Arabia and India that held particular importance for geopolitical strategy. The area falls within the inner core of Eurasia which is inherently unstable and registers all the primary shifts in global power politics. The rising tensions in the Middle East and proxy wars between Israel and Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the United States and Iran, and the slow-motion civil war in Iraq are taking place in a very different milieu than is generally assumed. These events are not happening in isolation. Rather, these incipient fractures are part of a vast network of unstable fault lines at the interface of colliding geopolitical interests. They threaten to interact in a very destructive way as rising economic stress accelerates the radicalization of politics. The most important political fault line in the Middle East currently lies between Iran and the rest of the Arab world – oil producing and oil importing regimes supported by US weight. That is to say, between Iran and America. Who can coerce whom?
The final score will be orchestrated by Wagner’s classic tune – Ride of the Valkyries.
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Yahoo Tech Ticker Jan 31, 2011 01:06pm EST
As the markets slid south 1-3% on Friday, I got a phone call from a journalist looking for a quote about Egypt: “What does this mean to the markets?” My honest answer was “I have no idea.” While Egypt isn’t an oil nation, maybe there is a contagion effect of regional destabilization. I have no…Read More
My friend (and Washington State money manager) Carl writes about our three trillion dollar war post: The biggest reason the U.S. is marching towards receivership—-the U.S. refused to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of raising taxes like we did to pay for WW 1 —we lowered them. Instead of having a…Read More
Speaking of costly wastes of money: This colorful graphic via Perceptual Edge, shows the outrageous costs of war in Iraq: > click for truly ginormous infographic > Whenever I hear a a congress critter discussing deficit spending, the first thing I do is check their vote on the Iraq war to see if they are…Read More
“Exclusive rough-cut of first in-depth documentary on WikiLeaks and the people behind it!
From summer 2010 until now, Swedish Television has been following the secretive media network WikiLeaks and its enigmatic Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange.
Reporters Jesper Huor and Bosse Lindquist have traveled to key countries where WikiLeaks operates, interviewing top members, such as Assange, new Spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson, as well as people like Daniel Domscheit-Berg who now is starting his own version – Openleaks.org!
Where is the secretive organization heading? Stronger than ever, or broken by the US? Who is Assange: champion of freedom, spy or rapist? What are his objectives? What are the consequences for the internet?”
VIDEO Part I
Ironic quote of the day, from Kazakhstan, via Wikileaks:
The Ambassador asked if the corruption and infighting are worse now than before in Kazakhstan. Idenov paused, thought, and then replied, “No, not really. It’s business as usual.
They’re confused by the corrupt excesses of capitalism. “If Goldman Sachs executives can make $50 million a year and then run America’s economy in Washington, what’s so different about what we do?’ they ask.”
Too bad we don’t have a category labeled “Irony.”
Full release after the jump . . .