Saturday, September 02, 2017

Middle Eastern complications for the US

As the confused foreign policy of the Trump Family Business Administration lurches forward, there are a number of places where things could go really badly. The Middle East being obviously one of them. Or even several of them.

Alastair Crooke writes about the shifting options at Israel's disposal in The Reasons for Netanyahu’s Panic Consortium News 09/01/2017:

Belatedly, Israel has understood that it backed the wrong side in Syria – and it has lost. It is not really in a position to demand anything. It will not get an American enforced buffer zone beyond the Golan armistice line, nor will the Iraqi-Syrian border be closed, or somehow “supervised” on Israel’s behalf.

Of course, the Syrian aspect is important, but to focus only on that, would be to “miss the forest for the trees.” The 2006 war by Israel to destroy Hizbullah (egged on by the U.S., Saudi Arabia – and even a few Lebanese) was a failure. Symbolically, for the first time in the Middle East, a technologically sophisticated, and lavishly armed, Western nation-state simply failed. What made the failure all the more striking (and painful) was that a Western state was not just bested militarily, it had lost also the electronic and human intelligence war, too — both spheres in which the West thought their primacy unassailable.
And he discusses Israel's current high-risk collaboration with Saudi Arabia:

The “new” corrective strategy from Tel Aviv, it appears, is to focus on winning Iraq away from Iran, and embedding it into the Israel-U.S.-Saudi alliance.

If so, Israel and Saudi Arabia are probably too late into the game, and are likely underestimating the visceral hatred engendered among so many Iraqis of all segments of society for the murderous actions of ISIS. Not many believe the improbable (Western) narrative that ISIS suddenly emerged armed, and fully financed, as a result of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s alleged “sectarianism”: No, as rule-of-thumb, behind each such well-breached movement – stands a state.
But that last phrase is also a bit of a red flag for me. One of the biggest strategic failures in the neoconservative theory of terrorism after 9/11 was the idea that terrorism was always a function of state sponsorship. And that can lead to some serious misreadings of the phenomenon.

Juan Cole reminds us how tangled the alliances in Syria have been in Turkey-Backed fundamentalist Militias attack US Troops in Syria Informed Consent 08/31/2017:

The US has tried to persuade rebel groups to concentrate their firepower on ISIL (IS, ISIS, Daesh) rather than on the Syrian regime of president Bashar al-Assad. It hasn’t been particularly successful. The Arab fighters, many of them linked to the old Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, still desperately want the regime to fall, and they’ve expended far more energy attacking it that they ever did in attacking Daesh.

The US troops are closely allied with the Syrian Kurdish YPG or People’s Protection Units, a leftist paramilitary that favors women’s rights and cooperatives. As leftists, these Kurds are relatively secular-minded, though they are nominally for the most part Sunni Muslims (some are Yazidis).

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