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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Obama Loses the Middle East

It's no coincidence that major revolutions against Western backed governments have occurred under weak American presidents. The Iranian revolution against the Shah happened on Jimmy Carter's watch. The current violence in Tunisia and Egypt is taking place under Obama. And the timing is quite interesting. Revolts which coincided with a new opposition congress almost suggest that they were scheduled for a time when Obama would be at his politically weakest.

Additionally the 2010 defeats would have indicated to the Iranian regime that they might only have a 2 year window in which to act before Obama is replaced by an unknown, but probably more conservative politician. A "Now or Never" moment. The Iranian Revolution might never have happened under Reagan. But Carter's weakness, left wing politics and contempt for the very notion of defending American interests made it possible. Similarly despite attempts by some Bush advisers to take credit for Tunisia and Egypt, it is unlikely that they would have taken place on Bush's watch. Not because the Bush administration was so omnipotent, but because it had regional credibility. The general perception was that the Bush Administration was on alert and supportive of allies. That is not at all the regional perception of the Obama Administration which doesn't seem to know what an ally is.

Obama's mistreatment of the UK, Israel and Honduras, the alienation of Karzai and continuing humiliation at the hands of China and Russia through diplomatic insults, showed weakness and stupidity. The Iranian takeover of the region is premised on that incompetence. Lebanon was a test. The next step was Tunisia. Then Egypt.

Iran has three major obstacles to regional dominance. Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Of these three, Egypt with its radicalized population, great poverty and limited influence in Washington D.C. was the most vulnerable. Any overthrow of Mubarak will move the Muslim Brotherhood closer to taking power. But for Iran the priority is to take Egypt out of the game. Whatever happens in Egypt, it will weaken the country. And what weakens Egypt, only strengthens Iran.

Turkey and Syria are part of Iran's regional coalition. Jordan appears to be leaning that way. Lebanon has been taken over. Iraq is set to fall when America leaves. If Egypt falls, that just leaves Saudi Arabia and Israel in the way. The Saudis will face domestic unrest, possibly from that alliance with Al-Qaeda that Bin Laden originally rejected. And there's a nuke with Israel's name on it somewhere in Iran. All this has happened because the Obama Administration has been too weak, confused and incompetent to stand for anything.

Iran is showing us its cards now, knowing that there's very little we will do about it. Its plans are moving forward. Ours are not only going nowhere, but actually helping the enemy.

Why did the Second Iranian revolution fail, while the revolts in Tunis and even Egypt seem to be gaining some traction? One element is foreign backing. No one outside the country provided support to the Iranian protesters. But the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt have not only Iranian backing, but also Western support. We provided training and political support to the "liberal" Egyptian pawns of the Islamists like El Baradei. And even now we're on the verge of endorsing a provisional government under a man who is allied to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Iran's backers in Russia and China did not in any way indicate a loss of support during the protests in its cities. But Obama has made it muddily clear that he doesn't really support Mubarak, certainly not Ben Ali. Rather than endorsing one side or the other, he tried to play both sides. A non-committal statement that communicates that we will support whoever wins. Which means that unlike Russia and China, we don't support the current regime. That withdrawal of support from our allies, translates into a win for the opposition. It's a tacit boost to efforts to overthrow the government.

The key determinant of whether a revolution will succeed in ousting a government is its staying power. The key players who make or break a revolution rarely go out into the street waving banners, at least not until they have an armed escort and the foreign photographers who conveniently snap photos of their best side. Those key players are the power brokers, tribal leaders, heads of the army and the intelligence services and leaders of various influential associations who don't choose sides until they have a pretty good idea which side will prevail.

The game of revolution is really about two sides trying to tote up how much support they each have. One side is the government, the other side is usually a coalition of factions who are pooling their resources in order to overthrow it. That leads to odd alliances and strange marriages between leftists and Islamists. Once the government is out, then the process will begin again with the coalition members playing the same game against each other.

The game takes place on several levels. Violent street protests are a show of force. Their purpose is to demonstrate that the government is weak and cannot control or subdue their protests. The riot police display dominance by trying to drive them away. These displays are common enough in the primate kingdom, but here they are dressed up in self-righteous rhetoric and riot gear. Whoever wins scores dominance points. If the riot police succeed, then they show that the government retains control over the cities. If they fail, then the protesters show that the government has lost control.

It doesn't matter how ruthless the government crackdown is. Brutality may create more enemies in the long run, but if it succeeds in controlling the cities, then the revolution cannot move forward. The politicians associated with the protests (and they're always there) become impotent and irrelevant. Men and women who gambled on a revolt and lost. They may become martyrs or they may find a way back into the government, depending on their own principles and whether the government is willing to have them. But brutality is also a sign of weakness. A last resort to maintain control. But it is also a sign of strength. A government that unleashes total violence on its own people demonstrates that it has staying power.

If the riots continue, the next step in this chess game is to call for the restoration of order. The politicians attached to the protest movements will claim to be the only ones who can calm the public's anger and restore order. The government will step up enforcement to show that it is perfectly capable of restoring order. Foreign diplomats will counsel the government to negotiate with the politicians representing the protesters. This is usually the last step in the dismantling of the government.

A government with staying power will refuse to negotiate and play the waiting game. A revolution runs off the energy of ongoing protests and street violence. But that energy is not a perpetual motion machine. Even with new government outrages, keeping the protests going takes dedication and resources. Eventually the casual looters and bored teenagers who fuel such protests go home. The working class men go back to work in order to feed their families. This leaves the protest core of middle-class and wealthy students exposed. They are the educated core of the protest movements, the ones who actually seem to know what they want. But they are also much easier to scatter and break than their poorer compatriots. Occasional protests will still go on, inspired by the events of that month, they may in time succeed in toppling the government, but only if it weakens significantly.

That means Mubarak might still survive, but our influence won't. The endorsement of Suleiman means that we won't see a dynasty of Mubaraks, which is probably a good thing, but also means that Egypt's secret police will call the shots in the future. The Cedar revolution has been swallowed up by Hezbollah. Lebanon will almost inevitably see another civil war, along with ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide. Jordan is falling under the Iranian umbrella. The days of the Hashemite kingdom are numbered. Imagine a Gaza four times the size of Israel. That's what we're on track for now.

Once Israel is bracketed in by enemies, an Islamist Turkey, a Muslim Brotherhood run Egypt and a Palestinian Jordan, and Iranian dominated Syria and Lebanon-- the game will move into its final stages. Iran needs to destroy Israel in order to prove its right to rule the region, but Israel is also one of the few points of agreement between Sunnis and Shiites. Iran's real foe is Saudi Arabia, but it can't act directly against it without bringing America into the game. If Iran can take Mecca, its leaders become the supreme authorities of Islam. Shiite control over Mecca might trigger a global Muslim civil war. Or a global accommodation.

If Iran can checkmate America in an armed conflict, it may have a chance. So it will try to initiate a limited conflict on its terms, once it has a nuclear deterrent to prevent the United States from escalating the conflict. A likely scenario is a regional version of the Korean War in a divided Iraq or Afghanistan, in which Iran plays the China role, overwhelming an undermanned US presence with a show of force and then negotiating an armistice. The goal will be for Iran to inflict enough damage on the United States to gain credibility as the ultimate Muslim superpower. And that would lead to some of the bloodiest battles since the Tet Offensive, with a courageous showing by American forces acting under severely restricted rules of engagement fighting a war that their government has already decided it can't win. Even if Obama is not in office by then, whoever is would be faced with a choice or prolonging a conflict against the Taliban/Mahdi Army to reclaim territory that the United States has already withdrawn from. It's not an enviable decision.

That is the path that Iran's leadership is following. We are being maneuvered into a tighter and tighter corner, with fewer and fewer allies left. The Middle East is being lost. And it's happening on Obama's watch.


  1. I don't get it. Islam is the enemy, but the ME can be "lost"? And how is the Obamination weak when he and Clinton calls for restraint from the Mubarak regime? That goes way passed weak into a passive support for the rioters.

    There is nothing to lose in the ME and nothing to gain either.

  2. Obama is clueless and completely mired down in the thinking that says, if only you are nice to your enemies they will love you and all will be well.

  3. Anonymous31/1/11

    Right now I'm in Israel where they follow the events all day. I watched Fox news a few times and I did not see the urgency in this situation. What are the American people, the conservatives saying? Your article is the only real analysis of the situation I have seen.

  4. mindRider31/1/11

    Israel shall surely not agree to being annihilated by an Iranian led Arab world but due to the weakening political and military support by the USA it shall have to restort to nuclear defense to survive an onslaught by combined armies of the Muslim fanatics, thereby trespassing the moral rules the Jews gave to the world. A very sad thing indeed.

  5. Paul,

    There is nothing to lose in the ME and nothing to gain either.

    Yes there is. America's independence in foreign policy decisions and trade.
    With Iran controlling all the ME oil, a strategic position at the mouth of the Red Sea, which it has already negotiated with Eritrea, it will control European trade and American energy resources, unless of course the US in the next two years, before Iran gets the bomb, can construct enough nuclear and coal fired power plants for all the electricity required for those wonderful chevy volts.
    Maybe you'll even end up paying $10 a gallon of gas.
    Just pray that China needs the US market sufficiently to reign in Iran's megalomania.
    As for the Russians, they will be only too pleased to blackmail the European Union with the supply of natural gas.

  6. Barry, what is that you think the Russians wish to blackmail Europe for?

  7. Eastern Europe, for one thing.

  8. The Russians are falsely posed as enemies of the US and Europe and they are justifiably angry at the way that the US and Europe has been treating them and Eastern Europe. Serbia, for example. NATO bombed Serbia and Serbia never did anything but defend itself against Muslim terrorists masquerading as nationalists. (Once again.) We can trust Russia more than we trust Turkey or Pakistan. Turkey is a NATO member and so is that Nazi monstrosity, Croatia and the gangster state of Albania which hosts the terrorists that plague Serbia.

    And Russia has every right to command whatever the market will bear for its natural resources.

    The same reasoning that suggest we should be strong and support "our" thugs in the ME, suggests we should defend the Russians who are more democratic now than any of the Muslim countries of the ME.

  9. While Yugoslavia did get a raw deal, most of the region is far more worried about the Russians than anything else. And with good reason.

    And Russia remains closely tied to terrorist states. It is an enemy and a dangerous one. And it is no more democratic than Egypt is.

  10. We can perfectly trust Russia to do what Russia does best - undermine the rest of Europe, and America.
    If they're a Democracy, then limestone is a vegetable.

    Technically, though, Tunis and the rest of those semi-barbaric, tourist-attracting filming locations are North African countries, so it's not just the middle east being lost here.

  11. Anonymous31/1/11

    im certian of one thing.

    team obama will continue to drive us over a cliff.

  12. Anonymous31/1/11

    Ehhh - At the rate the Russian Muslim population is growing, we will soon have to deal with a Muslim Russia. That will be time to worry truly about Russia.

    And Russia is having a difficult time retaining its borders, what with the increasing radicalisation in the Caucasus, and the Caspian coast. While Russia is hardly an exemplary democratic country, it is infinitely better than any of the tin pot dictatorships of the middle east, and infinitely more trustworthy. Also, while they may be opponents, they are not the visceral enemies that the Muslim countries are. I can hardly see the Russians invading Ukraine or Poland, or even demonising them and teaching their kids to blow them up, but I can easily see the Egyptians, Syrians, teaching their kids to blow up US, or Israel, or Russia or India.

  13. Ouderkirk31/1/11

    You assumes that Obama has the best interests of the US as his motivation.

    I do not think that is the case. Obama hates the USA, and that is in evidence with his Cloward/Piven attack on the finances of the US and the states. The forcing of homosexuals on a military establishment who clearly does not want them openly serving. For Obama to lend support to his muslim fellow travelers is not such a stretch as it works against the interests of the USA.

    The death of the USA is what Obama seeks, and ditto for Ahmadinijad, bin Laden, and countless others including Russia and China.

  14. If you can't tell the difference between Egypt and Russia, you are unqualified to comment. Seriously. The recent terrorist attack in Russia apparently never made it on your radar screen. And of course there is the expansion of NATO which bombed the innocent Serbians. More strangeness from the Sultan who expresses sympathy for the strictly socialist Yugoslavia which served as an incubator for the current advance of Islam in Southeastern Europe, the "Green Corridor".

    In Russia, like England, France and the US, Islam has legal protection that Christians will never get in any Muslim country, Egypt especially as, once again, recent events have proven with the Copts.

    Are you guys following the news, or what?

  15. Anonymous,

    Besides Daniel's, there's quite a bit of incisive commentary available, you just have to search for it.

    Clueless in Washington

    Tunisia Too: The “YMCA” Factor

    Egypt crisis worst disaster since Iran’s revolution

    Then there's some long-term perspective;

    Iran Cannot Be Contained

    The Other Existential Threat

    Read all of that for some in-depth perspective.

  16. Paul,

    If you can't tell the difference between an enemy who pretends to be an ally and an ally whose self-interest is their first priority... then you are the one unqualified to comment. Seriously.

    Which news would that be, FOX or MSNBC? If FOX, the depth of their analysis is seriously lacking and if MSNBC/PRAVDA...

  17. Anyonymous,

    Don't forget Russia is already a member of the OIC, that is the Moslem club of nations, so you need not wait till the future. Putin joined so that in a conflict he can count on Moslem support, something the Obamination may also be interested in. That may be the other side.

  18. Geoffrey Britain, are you talking about Egypt or Israel? A not insignificant number of Americans are questioning aid given to Israel and Egypt, and saying exactly that. What you said in your first line to Paul, who by the way was right. Why bother with the Mid East,

    It seems like youre the one not reading the news, or reading the news that is wishful thinking as opposed to facts.

  19. Anonymous31/1/11

    No matter how present events turn out, one thing is certain: only the dead see the end of war!
    One more time, the "peaceniks" who think that installing "enlightened" mores and governments will magically bring about peace will be proven wrong again and the war that results will be worse than anyone can imagine!
    One more time, an American president who tried to play up to domestic issues will be brought down by idiotic foreign policy!
    Go nukes! We're gonna need 'em!

  20. The Sultan makes a salient point. It is not necessary to rattle the saber, merely to keep it at your side.

    To wit, the Iranian hostages were released just prior to Reagan's inauguration. There was much speculation as to why. My own conclusion was that a message was delivered - he's really as crazy as some say.

    This was confirmed by Reagan's "open mike gaffe" about "the bombs will start falling in five minutes". Reagan had seen more microphones than the rest of the Washington crowd put together.

    Keep 'em guessing. Shake their sh**ters a bit. Get inside their OODA loop. Don't turn your swords into plowshares at the UN.

  21. Mark Matis31/1/11

    If one considers The One to really be the Muslim in Chief, this all makes sense rather quickly. Why is one so unwilling to do so?

    And the foul stench passed off as "Law Enforcement" continue to be the enablers for this illegal alien.

  22. Roy Lofquist, yes, I remember that about Reagan. I don't think that Reagan particularly scared anyone, really, besides many Americans. Like any Californian, I know a good performance when I see one. But any incoming president would have had both the obligation and the opportunity to do something dramatic. That Carter didn't do anything dramatic right away wasn't really significant. Carter was the former commander of a nuclear armed submarine. He was certainly more qualified than Reagan to do something about it, even if he was less offended about the situation, which I don't think he was.

    But Obama is something completely different. He is making veiled overtures to the political opposition in public. He warns the Mubarak regime not to mistreat the rioters, he urges restraint. But he might also urge restraint from the rioters and he isn't.

    Ari, there are people in Israel who are already questioning the value of aid from the US. If Egypt had to have the same political obligations and strings to pull that that Israel does they would probably have continued to deal with the Soviets. And the US gives all kinds of aid right around Israel that is not even twice removed from terrorists.

    Geoffrey Britain, if Israel is a "an ally whose self-interest is their first priority" then any ally in the US might suggest that Israel do just that. It should observe its own self interests first. Really, considering the attitudes expressed towards it from its enemies, nothing else will do.

  23. There is another possibility that comes to mind... that Saudi Arabia and Israel are a de facto alliance... It's a strange world out there... After all, few months ago there was talk about Saudi collusion with Israel re: airspace on the way to Iran.

    Sultan -- you are the best... even got me to get a Google account to write here...

    but pygmies

  24. Anonymous1/2/11

    If we get into a war with Iran, we will deal with it in the same manner as Saddam's Iraq was dealt with. In fact Iran is militarily weak.

    Even if Iran has a few nukes, it will not alter the situation, as Iran would dare not use a nuke without thinking of the retaliation that the US can make. They will never know what we have in mind, the destruction of Iran or the entire Islamic world - that is the way MAD works. We may even be allowing Iran towards developing a nuke, as a justification to knock it off. Remember WMDs.

    The Western way of war is one of brute force. Our current RoE in Afghanistan are in place for a reason - to prolong our presence in an Islamic country so that the humiliation Muslims feel, continues into the future. For Muslims, Islam is vehicle for victory in war, as allah has ordained it. The reality of seeing "Crusaders" nonchalantly brushing aside the forces of Islam, are galling in the extreme. This is the primary reason for the earthquakes taking place in the Muslim world.

  25. Paul,

    Carter went to nuke school. He left the Navy before the Nautilus was launched. He never served on, much less commanded a nuclear submarine.

    Reagan didn't intend to scare anyone. He did it to instill doubt.


  26. Iran on the ground won't be as easy as Iraq. Persians make much better soldiers and Iran actually has been formulating a strategy that they've shown off in bits and pieces. We'll win, but this won't be a turkey shoot.

  27. Anonymous1/2/11

    I disagree Daniel,
    We will not be invading Iran. No President could summon up the political currancy to launch that. If we found ourselves as you suggest fighting an Iranian invasion of Iraq or SA. That would be the end of Irans military as we would wipe them from the face of the earth. This is the desert. Our tactics and military capabilities are at there most effective in a desert environment. Its armor country and we are the top of that game. They will die in the 10's of 1000's. Thats why they wont do that.
    Iran will launch a proxy war with Israel via Lebenon or talk the Palestinians into ramping up another Intafada. Then launch an attack.
    Its not going to play out on a 3G battlefield because they will simply cease to exist. No this will be 4G all the way.

  28. Roy Lofquist, that's right, Carter resigned from the Navy as a lieutenant. He never commanded anything, much less a nuke armed submarine. I should have looked that one up first.

    Wikipedia: Carter's naval career

  29. Obama loses the Middle east, loses Europe, loses everywhere. That's because he's a loser - who never had it to lose it.

  30. Anonymous2/2/11

    Obama's "mistakes" are intentional; they should be considered his payback for the millions he received in "foreign" campaign donations.

    Make no mistake about it. This revolt got a nudge from BO and his marxist pals.

    It has been documented that Code Pink leaders have been to Egypt and in discussions with Egyptians. Bill Ayers and his wife Bernadette Dorhn have also been there. Does anyone think the WH didn't know about their visits?

    In typical Marxist style, the Egyptian protests have been made to look spontaneous rather than orchestrated. The community activist had his Marxist friends help the cause by leading Egyptians to the brink of a caliphate.

    See the ties:




    -American Woman

  31. Impeach Don't Wait4/2/11

    We're sunk.



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