Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Desperate Middle East Regimes
The world hasn’t seen this much turmoil since the years leading up to World War II. By contrast even the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991 did not cause this much uncertainty.
The Middle East currently holds the greatest prospect for a hot war as Iran and its close ally, Syria, struggle to maintain control over their populations. Iran’s proxies in Syria and Lebanon, Hezbollah, and, in the Gaza, Hamas, are being told to get ready for a war on Israel. Meanwhile, the Arab League has turned on Syria and is hostile to Iran. Turkey is stationing troops on its border with Syria.
The Syrian dictator, the second generation Bashar Assad, is fighting for his life in much the same way as Libya’s former dictator, Moammar Gadhafi did. In Egypt, the people are occupying Cairo’s Tahir Square demanding that the military step aside for a government composed of elected representatives. An election is being held with the likely outcome that the Muslim Brotherhood will acquire political power there. This pattern will be repeated elsewhere.
The dictatorial regimes of Iran and Syria are using Israel in an attempt to divert the attention of their people from their efforts to remain in power. Anti-Semitism in the Middle East is as rabid as anywhere on Earth; but it is not working its old magic. An all-out war on Israel could, in fact, bring the regimes down, but these are desperate men in charge.
The real news is the covert efforts being used to undermine the military power of Iran and Syria. Iran just claimed it had captured twelve CIA spies. Additionally, Israel’s famed covert service, the Mossad, it also being blamed for recent events that must surely terrify the mullahs and the Assad regime.
DEBKA File, an Israeli news agency, in a November 25 analysis noted an “explosion which wiped out Iran’s entire missile command, including Maj. Gen. Hassan Moghaddam, at the secret Revolutionary Guards base in Aghadir near Tehran on October 12.” Apparently it was not so secret!
On November 27 there was a tremendous explosion that rocked Isfahan, home to one of Iran’s main facilities for refining uranium for its nuclear program and Iran’s largest facility for research and development of ballistic missiles. Some reports say neither was affected, but speculation persists that one of them was.
On November 23, an illegal Hezbollah arsenal in Siddiqin housing Iranian-made missiles was blown up. These missiles were intended to be used in a war against Israel, but the explosion was credited to the anti-regime Free Syrian Army. “Graffiti left at the scene of the blast said it was revenge for Hezbollah’s aid to the Assad regime’s crackdown in Syrian cities and promised more.”
The DEBKA analysis concludes that “Both Iran and Hezbollah are gearing up for war” noting that Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Basji military units “began organizing in battle array in the various theaters assigned to them in the country.” The old order in the Middle East has been overthrown in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and is under attack in Syria. There is unrest in Bahrain and Yemen as well.
Both the U.S. and Russia have positioned aircraft carriers off the coast of Syria. A U.S. carrier fleet stands at the ready near the Persian Gulf. It is doubtful Russia wants to be drawn into a conflict. The drubbing it took in Afghanistan led to the downfall of the former Soviet Union. The U.S., bleeding money in all directions, withdrawing from Iraq, and isolated in Afghanistan, is unlikely to engage militarily in a land war, though air power remains an option.
As the DEBKA File analysis makes clear, the U.S. and Israel are having considerable success with covert attacks in Iran and Syria, either directly or by proxies receiving intelligence and other assistance.
When Syria falls—as it surely will—it will leave Iran further isolated. Any admission that it has nuclear-equipped missiles would seal its fate. Its desperation is seen in a recent threat to unleash hundreds of missiles against Israel and, indeed, a northern Israeli city sustained a brief rocket attack from southern Lebanon on Monday, perhaps in an effort to lure it into a response.
The news of the day is an Iranian attack on the British Embassy in Tehran which mirrors the 1979 attack on the U.S. embassy that put the ayatollahs in command and led to the present crisis sparked by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran is running out of friends and its Islamic tantrums only speed the process. This is a rogue nation that does not play by the rules. It seems to be inviting an attack and that fits its apocalyptic view that includes the sacrifice of large portions of its population, chaos, to secure the return of the mythical Twelfth Imam.
No matter how this plays out, it will have a serious affect on the price of oil, a global commodity. It may remind Americans of the failure and refusal to permit access to our own vast reserves of oil and natural gas in Alaska, North Dakota’s Bakken area, and of course the offshore reserves along our Eastern and Western coasts. The delay of the Canadian Keystone XL pipeline will be felt. And then there is the Obama administration attack on coal producers and users.
The fact that a new U.S. oil refinery has not been built since the 1970s is testimony to a massive national failure to anticipate and prepare what is occurring in the Middle East. We are a decade or more behind the curve.
It is a common error to believe that the leaders of Iran and Syria think like their western counterparts. Baghdad is beginning to have more bombings. Pakistan is in a state of panic. In Turkey, a group of NATO and Arab officers have quietly established a command post for possible intervention in the Syrian crisis.
No one in the West, nor Russia or China, wants to participate, but the rabid dogs of war are loose and history has a nasty way of repeating itself.
© Alan Caruba, 2011