Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Will he won't he in Iran

American and Israeli animosity towards Iran is at the heart of Middle East politics. It has nothing to do with Iran's nuclear program, which is obviously for peaceful purposes only. The IAEA has found no Iranian violations of the NPT. Anyone with any doubt on this score should read Gordon Prather's articles. So what's going on? To be sure, the US has been hostile to Iran ever since the Iranian Revolution knocked Iran out of Washington's orbit. They encouraged the Iran-Iraq war, in part, to get it back. But that has been a simmering pot for some time. What is the saber-rattling now about? Obviously, the aftermath of the Iraq invasion.

It's not entirely clear what the US intended in Iraq. If the intention was to overthrow Saddam Husein and install a compliant puppet they seem to have intentionally botched the job. The dismantling of the Iraqi army and governmental apparatus at the very beginning guaranteed the disintegration into the present factions. Perhaps that was the real intention all along, a brainless application of the principle of divide and conquer. In any case, Iraq is what Iraq is, a US caused mess and abomination coming apart at the seams. The US, having dragged itself from Iraq, has taken its last shreds of influence with it. Iraq, though destroyed, defeated it. There will be no more US invasions in the Middle East, though the US is not above trying to control the region with drones and proxies.

In the north of Iraq the Kurds vie for what looks like an ever less viable independent state. The American presence, and Iraqi central weakness have allowed the Kurds to get this far. But the Iraqi Prime Minister,  Nouri al-Maliki, has warned the Kurds not to make oil deals. Also, Turkey seems no longer reluctant to cross the Iraqi border to war with the Kurds now that it need not fear bumping into the US military. If the Kurds did form a separate state it is not likely Turkey, given the Kurdish uprising within Turkey itself, would allow the Kurds to use their oil wealth to buy weapons They would need to invade and gobble Kurdistan up. They couldn't sit idly by. So Maliki's warning might not be so unpleasant to the Kurds. Better pro-forma subservience to a weak Baghdad than real subservience to a strong Ankara. Realism should tell them that they cannot break from Iraq without being engulfed by Turkey. And Iran might also invade if it weren't for the United States threatening it with Atomic weapons.

In the south the Shi'ites have beaten the Sunnis and control the government, but which Shi'ites have power? Al Maliki, the Prime Minister, is not westernized like our man Ayad Alawi, or in an case did not spend long periods in the secular west. He seems to be an intellectual who worked his way up in the al-Dawa party. Now Americans think political parties are just people who have grouped together as a strategy for gaining power with no reason for wanting power other than to have it. Yippee, power! That's the American way. But political parties can also be alliances for a way of life, for example, Shi'ism. What kind is al-Dawa? The “Dawa” is the “summons to allegiance” in Shia Islam. It is not a political party though our media call it one to give Americans the wrong impression, or out of sheer ignorance. It is a call, a call to allegiance to Shi'ism. Are they serious when using it? How could they not be? Shi'ism is a pretty much all or nothing thing. That Muqtadā al-Ṣadr can ally with Maliki suggests that Maliki is a “real” Shi'ite. Alliances of convenience can be part of Shi'ism. but, at this point, such an alliance would seem superfluous, and anyway, no al-Ṣadr's style . Both Maliki and al-Ṣadr have spent a long time in Iran and are probably loyal, not to the government of Iran, but to the clerical hierarchy. So Shi'ism, probably real Shi'ism, will be in control both in Iran and Iraq.

Now Shi'ism is, in principle, a rigid hierarchy of clerics culminating in an Imam. Twelver( Iranian and Iraqi) Shi'ites hold that the Imam is in seclusion, but they still have a rigid hierarchy of clerics. This is a very solid structure that does not promise material wealth. For this reason, it is worth mentioning, it is hard to see how sanctions can hurt it.

The US lingers on in Shi'ite Iraq in the world's biggest bunker. The mercenaries who remain in it are mercenaries. They are careful not to hurt themselves and have equipped themselves with a shitload of firepower. They will enjoy hunkering down within the bunker, but they will not venture out . They are not capable of organized military operations. Fear not. They will have plenty to do --they probably have WiFi. Hunkered down with a big mac or two, this apparently large force in the huge compound will have a political influence of zip. It will just be left there to rot so American presidents can look like they still have some sway in the Middle East. Over whom? You tell me.

The only military leverage, or leverage of any kind, remaining to the United States is atomic weapons. A ground invasion of Iran, impossible with the worn out American army, would, in any case, be catastrophic. The world has learned a lot about how to fight invading armies since 2003. Let them in, then slice them up. Pick them apart with IED's, and make them pay beaucoup health care for soldiers with permanent brain damage. Armies are obsolete. Other than executing sponsored assassinations and lighting an occasional carefully-deniable bomb, the US can do nothing against Iran except launch atomic war. For once Iran and the United States are at war, Iran will close the straits of Hormuz and quickly capture the oil fields of Kuwait and probably Saudi Arabia. Oil will stop flowing, and the world economy will spiral down like a smoking jet. A war, even of a few months, will demolish the world economy, and it will never rise again. The US must annihilate Iran immediately, launching WW III, or do nothing.

So after the dust settles, assuming no atomic war, Iraq and Iran will be Shi'ite dominated states and the US will have no leverage other than what it can get from continuing to threaten, less and less convincingly, species annihilation. This does not mean that Shi'ite Iraq and Shi'ite Iran will be tempted to attack Sunni Saudi Arabia and Sunni Kuwait. That might send the US goobermint over the top. But the Shi'ites already within these countries are not likely to remain peacefully in their second class position either. The west, not the natives, made the Middle Eastern boundaries and the Shi'ites in Iraq and Iran will certainly think of other (Twelver) Shi'ites across western made borders as part of their own “body of the faithful.”

Since Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are Sunni family fiefdoms, any yielding to the Shi'ites in these countries is likely to intensify demands from the ordinary Sunnis, too. The ordinary Sunnis wouldn't join the Shi'ites, but might try to turn a chaotic situation into a Sunni “Arab spring” revolution. This is doubly true because Saudi Arabia's burgeoning Sunni population, ever more impoverished, is likely to embrace the “democracy” movements sweeping the area. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the little kingdoms around them are not so much afraid of Iranian invasion as of the simple crumbling of their regimes. They must either continue to repress or yield to their own populations, and they are terrified that any yielding will be a sign of weakness. Maybe they are right, but with the US gone they will have no choice.

If they don't, what will they do when IED's start blowing up along Saudi roads? If not for Americans threatening everybody, the Saudis would likely already be in a civil war, and their own Shi'ites would be getting aid from the Shi'ites in Iraq and Iran. The US has several times accused Iran of aiding Shi'ites in Iraq and have threatened to use such cross border supplying as a causus belli. The threat is always atomic war, or in dippy speak, “leaving all options on the table.” The image is apparently of a warlike bureaucrat who has lost his filing cabinet. But how many times can you make the same threat? For that is all the US can threaten now that exhausted, suicidal armies can't scare the Iranians, and Russia, China, and Japan, at least, refuse to employ further sanctions which, even if employed would not shake the hierarchy of Shi'ite clergy that extends down to everybody— in theory, but a long way into the population in reality. For them such suffering is part of the religion.

Saudi Arabia thinks that if it pulverized Iran it might be able to eliminate the domestic Shi'ite threat. Of course they dream they would then go back into Iraq and make it Sunni again. They know that now in any war they will have to face Iran, Iraq, and their own Shi'ites. They would certainly lose without US help, which is no longer there. They, like the US, need the mother of all blitzkriegs, for an Iraq or Iran that would remain intact even for a few days of war would destroy them. Since they haven't the tools, they are jumping up and down demanding that the US blow Iran away. They must imagine that would solve their problem.

Because the US is not quite ready to end the world, they have settled for the destabilization of Syria, a gesture of war with Iran. Since war with Iran, other than world ending atomic war, is impossible, the US must go to war with Iran using gestures. Presto-chango, you have undermined an ally of Iran. Maybe, just maybe, the Iranian government will fall? But it will not fall because Shi'ism promises no walk on easy street. On the contrary, they flay themselves. Suffering will only strengthen them, as anyone who knows anything about Shi'ism could tell you.

We pretend secretly that destabilizing Syria is the first step to war with Iran, as if war needed steps. Of course it does need steps if you want to approach war but not ever fight it. For war with Iran is species threatening and absolutely nutty. On the other hand perhaps the US, knowing the war is nutty, and also that the Empire is kaput without it, hope to be pushed into it so they don't have to choose a nuttiness they want in spite of its species annihilating implications. The layers of denial we hide under are piled high. Then again, perhaps this is part of O'bama's clever wait-a-little-longer before doing anything policy? On the horns of a dilemma, he just settles in. But every day he waits will make pulling out look more and more like an act of weakness. And we wouldn't want that. Rather torch the world.

There are, no doubt, people with real grievances in Syria. Bashar Assad's rule is no doubt harsh, maybe as harsh as it is said, but anyone who has been paying attention to Iraq, Lybia, and Afghanistan knows Syria is letting itself in for a lot of murder, mayhem, torture, humiliation, and destruction if they ever open that can of worms called NATO. Then after that there will be foreign domination or a fight against it. Syria is right next door to Iraq. Many of the Iraqi refugees streamed into Syria. The Syrians saw first hand what happened— girls becoming prostitutes, boys, thieves and beggars, men sinking into despair, women, into street whores, everyone fleeing even worse things. Could any Syrian patriot want that?

Will Assad hold on in Syria? If not NATO backed stooges will vie for power. I am inclined to think they would fail. Anyone tainted with connection to the west in an Arab country will be vilified. We will see what happens in Libya, but that is my feeling. The great plums of US stoogedom have all been picked. Hunger will overcome fear in these populations and they will not tolerate another Muburak. I tend to think Assad will not fall but be strengthened, whatever his faults, given the enormous revulsion at American incursions of the recent past. But if the bomber boys of NATO man their consoles, and keep their cups of ketchup off their keyboards, watch out.

Without being able to eliminate Iran, the US will prove itself useless and unthreatening to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia, with turmoil growing, will look for help elsewhere. They might think of liberalizing their regime and launching a program of public works, especially in the realm of water desalination. For that they would turn to China, and so will be inclined to sell oil in, who knows, yuan, but anyway in something other than American dollars. For everyone knows dollars are about to blow in the wind and certainly will if Saudi Arabia refuses dollars for oil. Now they selling oil for what is soon certain to be dry leaves they can use only to buy war toys the US makes them buy to protect them from Iran and palace coups. Since the US can't eliminate Iran, and no longer can afford a palace coup, why should Saudi Arabia keep taking dollars? Arms are the last thing they need. Why buy them if the US is no longer a threat to them or Iran, and the only hope is an expensive liberalization? No arms, no need for dollars. The US is a friend to Saudi Arabia the way a mafia Don is a friend to a restauranteur paying him protection. When the Don loses power, the friendship ends.

Without the US hold on Saudi Arabia, “dollar hegemony” is gone. With “dollar hegemony” goes the dollar and with the dollar goes the United States. With the exception of its atomic weapons, the US is now impotent in the Middle East, as it is elsewhere. It's hold on Saudi Arabia is relaxing fast. The Saudis, were they rational, would do very well to stop buying arms and instead use the oil wealth to improve the lives of their people.

The US threat to Iran is no more than the ability to sneak a drone or two (without missiles) into Iran, or to sponsor a saboteur here, an assassin there, or a terrorist group crawling under the wire. They will not overthrow the Ayatollahs like that and Shi'ite strength will grow. The American Sixth Fleet, based in Bahrain, is not really a threat but rather a chip set out on the Imperial shoulder. Knock one of these ships off and prepare for atomic incineration. But why wear such a chip and demand that your enemy knock it off? It is a way to threaten but not go to war, or, again, a provocation to spark a nutty war you want to fight but not to choose. Madness.

In threatening atomic war the US in employing Nixon's “madman policy,” known elsewhere as a temper tantrum. “If you don't give me my way I will destroy everything.” The US government is a two year old. But the threat of atomic war does not compel people to do what you want them to do. It is simply not credible, and even if it were, why acquiesce?The US is no longer able to threaten anyone into obedience. Saddam Hussein acquiesced to everything, but the US invaded him anyway. So why would anyone now give in to US threats? Iran, clearly, has learned this lesson well. We threaten them with atomic war and they go right on doing what they are doing. They only refrain from any overt act of war, that is, knocking off the chip. But why should they go to war? Time is on their side. The threat of atomic war will not influence the Shi'ites and disgruntled Sunnis in Saudi Arabia not to organize politically, and it will not stop Iran and Iraq from aiding them. If Iran stands, Saudi Arabia will fall —to its own people.

In short, to maintain the US relationship with Saudi Arabia, the US must remove Iran, which will offer aid and a refuge for Saudi Arabia's own disgruntled Shi'ites. The US is incapable of removing Iran without initiating world atomic war. So the US hold on Saudi Arabia is broken. Saudi Arabia will turn from the US, and, if they act rationally, from the US dollar, which until now they poured into US arms. Sovereign states, now using dollars to buy oil, will want to unload them. Hyperinflation would then destroy the United States.

What about Israel? Israel really does believe Hezbollah is a threat to it, and Hezbollah has fired missiles into Israel during the most recent Lebanon war. Hezbollah is an Iranian client. So Israel could want to get at Hezbollah through Iran, or at Iran through Hezbollah. But Hezbollah is not capable of invading Israel other than with a secret incursion and immediate retreat, has always acted defensively, and, anyway, Israel has atomic weapons. They could incinerate Lebanon, wiping out Hezbollah and much else. So Israel could, if it had no designs on Lebanon, live with Hezbollah on its northern border in peace with a treaty entered in good faith by both sides. For neither could gain from invading the other. Faced with Israel's nuclear weapons, Iran would not think of invading Israel either. Israel does not border Iran. Iran could gain nothing from a war with Israel. In reality, Iran is not a serious military threat to Israel and Hezbollah, though it is an annoyance and certainly could kill some people, is not a reason to threaten to blow up the whole world. So you don't get along with your neighbor. That's life.

But the Israeli government, with its holocaust thinking, sees any threat, even the smallest, as “existential.” I have no doubt that in Netanyahu's mind Iran truly is a military existential threat. But Israel knows that any attack from it will be considered an American attack and will unleash Shi'ite hell on the Sunnis who control Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. They would be looking at a Shi'ite giant. So he knows Israel, like the US, must attack Iran with nuclear weapons or not at all. That makes human life on earth hang on Netanyahu's sanity or Obama's strength in restraining him. Good luck to us.

However, it is in its questioning of the holocaust that Iran offers Israel the real existential threat. They sponsored a conference about the holocaust and now represent, in their existence, the legitimacy of holocaust questioning. And if holocaust denial, or holocaust revisionism, or even holocaust scholarship were to catch hold, Israel, the Jewish baby that the horrible birth pangs of the holocaust produced, might look illegitimate. The raison d'etre of the Jewish state would be brought into question. What will the Germans feel after having apologized and paid reparations all those years? They had to sit in school to learn how bad they were? What kind of trust will they have in a government that would make them do that if the premise becomes questionable? Holocaust revisionism is a political earthquake just waiting to happen in Germany. Such an earthquake would likely delegitimize a government that had tried to prevent studying it. How far behind would antisemitism be? Denial thrown off would erupt into an orgy of holocaust scholarship that will reveal what it reveals, and nobody can know ahead of time what that will be. The shock would shake Israel all the way back to the patriarchs. Israel might do well to take a step toward making peace with this rather than continuing to war with it.

Iran is an existential threat to Israel and the United States, but not a military existential threat. Iran, unlike Iraq, is a spiritual threat. Iran can make war against neither Israel or the US, has no motive for doing so, and would be a fool to try. Conversely, militarily, the US and Israel can do nothing against Iran but use atomic weapons. But to use military force against a spiritual threat is to declare ones own defeat.

The US and Israel cannot eliminate this threat without WWIII. China and Russia both hope the US will keep its internal disintegration to itself, instead of blowing the world up in an hysterical panic. For the American encirclement of both of them is surly an hysterical panic at a rapid loss of all moral, economic, cultural, indeed all sources of power other than military. What is the point of this encirclement? Are we intending to threaten or actually attack Russia and/or China? Is the US creating of itself the 'doomsday machine” straight from Dr. Strangelove? Is this not hysterical panic?

Both Russia and China, it seems, have decided against further appeasement. Probably the Libya War persuaded them. The UN resolution 273 that the US twisted so violently as to disprove once and for all the possibility of written law, probably made it unmistakable, even to the very last wheeler-dealer wannabe in Russia, that the US intended to retain its world ruler-ship with force. American warships are also strutting up and down China's coasts, and the US is tweaking the Taiwan question. China has a raft of dollars it can float to swamp the US into deep recession any time it chooses. So far it has had no reason to unload them, and continues trade with the US, especially for scrap metal it seems better able to use than we can. But China cannot afford to be cut off from Middle East oil. Were the US to seriously threaten Iran, China could send the US economy down simply by outbidding us for oil with all those dollars.

The US military is right now riding on borrowed money, and we can't really borrow any more. Threatening to make the dollar worthless would be a very effective strategy for China. Since the US keeps threatening and pulling back from war with Iran, Chinas restraint must come not from confidence that they can read the tea leaves of overt US intentions, but some back door assurances. Even so the Libya double cross must make them leary of back or front door US assurances. The desire to hold things together for a little longer, and perhaps fear of an itchy American finger on the nuclear trigger, has kept the Chinese playing their inscrutable game. But the US is going down so fast both Russia and China might fear it will attempt an outright rule by force, and that would mean destroying Iran with atomic weapons.

Russia has put an aircraft carrier at Tartous, Syria that is, like all aircraft carriers, indeed all warships, a chip on a shoulder. An aircraft carrier, easy prey for missiles, is a message that says, “touch this and it's atomic war.” So the threat now goes both ways. China is supplying Iran with surface to air missiles that make any “conventional” attack even more problematic, for they really work but are also a similar chip. Make no mistake. An attack on Iran, and even Syria, will not be contained.

Hope seems to rest upon the United States finding someone intelligent and brave. He won't come out of next year's elections, that is for sure. Since Iran's threat is, neither for the US nor Israel, military, and any military action against Iran is suicide, the US and Israel, rather than ending the world in atomic war, might best consider Iran a reality, and turn their attention to the earthquake this sets off.

The US will lose control in the Middle East and the rest of the “empire of bases.” They will have to abandon them. Dollar hegemony will vanish, and the dollar will hyper-inflate, making it impossible to continue our military adventures all over the place. That's the good news. The bad news is that the American economy is over. We won't be able to afford the gas. With all this clearly in view perhaps we can eliminate the superfluous military-industrial complex and Department of Defense to leave some resources for preparing for the austere future. If we follow the usual American methods we will just let the chips fall where they may, excuse me, I mean, let the markets handle the problem. It cannot work, and will exhaust the resources desperately needed elsewhere. As the economy doggedly fails to reinflate through yet one more debt bubble, a society of desperate street children will challenge every cop in the country. Many of them will have guns, and guns take the manhood out of fighting. But the hope of finding someone with half a brain and two balls who sees this is slim.

As the US withdraws from Europe, Germany's government, throwing off US domination, will find it impossible to suppress holocaust scholarship. Holocaust denial will percolate, and percolate more openly the more Israel tries to suppress it. German children are now taught to be ashamed of the past in school. How could they resist re-examining this humiliating episode if they have some hope it wasn't so? You can be sure this process is already well advanced. I have no idea what the real opinion of the German people is about the holocaust, but repression of all thought and expression can only have inflamed a curiosity hope already fed. There must be an enormous underground distribution of holocaust denial literature. Israel must allow holocaust scholarship to emerge into the open. Whatever the truth here is, let it be revealed. If the holocaust deniers are crackpots, prove it, not with repression and violence, but with scholarship. Any lie about history or suppression of the truth is a blasphemy against or repudiation of the creative God. For what is the creation but what is and was? Anyone who would, with lies, reshape the past into what he thinks ought to be is tinkering with the creation, thinking he knows better than God, and putting himself in God's place. Reshaping history has no place in Judaism, and suppression of discourse flies in the face of the principle of free thought that governs civilized life. Holocaust thinking has turned Israel into a non-Jewish state.

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