3 factions vie for the MidEast, Should we care? Yes but it looks like we’re on the sidelines…for now

Seems a clear eyed look at the Middle East, a mess as always, trending rapidly nuclear…what me Worry?

After the Pax Americana: Three factions vie for influence and dominance in the Middle East.

  • The Iranian block: Assad’s Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon– replace the U.S. as the dominant power Gulf area, build a contiguous alliance from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean and into the Levant. It is committed to acquiring a nuclear capability to underwrite and insure this process

  • The MB block: Turkey, Qatar, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood– the Sunni Islamist alignment that a year ago looked to be on the march across the region. They have lost power in Egypt and in Tunisia, the new emir in Qatar is not aggressive. And in Syria, al-Qaeda and Salafi-oriented units now form the most active pillar in a confused insurgency which shows signs of turning in on itself.

  • The monarchist block: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (excluding Qatar) and in the shadows Israel– they survived the recent wave of popular agitation in the Arab world, which instead took its toll on the “secular,” military regimes. But Saudi Arabia sees the MB as an existential threat and was infuriated by the Qatar-MB nexus. Nuclear Iran’s potential domination of the Gulf and the wider region is also an existential threat. Saudi support for and cultivation of allies in Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere should be seen in this light.

  • So the Saudis are engaged in a political war on two fronts, with an acute awareness of the high stakes involved.

    The Iranians and their allies have a clear-eyed view of the obstacles to their ambitions, ..

    The Turks and the Muslim Brotherhood also well understand the nature of the power political game. Their current dismay reflects their recent setbacks in it.

    NYT | power by the hour, Light by the cent

    The Next Wireless Revolution, in Electricity : By TINA ROSENBERG : September 11, 2013
    Great synopsis piece on how the spin offs of our mobile life is creating an underpinning for a financially, socially and ecologically sound human social revolution. Or at least that’s what we can hope for.

    Reagan’s ’86 Libyan strike is a reasonable model for a ’13 Syrian strike

    From Real Clear Politics: 86 Attack on Libya: A Template for U.S. Action Now

    Should we choose to demonstrate our resolve in this manner, we must also prepare for the counter-response of Syria and its confederates. While we should prepare for terrorist attacks, kidnapping, or military strikes against U.S., allied, or Israeli targets, we must be equally vigilant in the cyber-domain. The actions of the Syrian Electronic Army already indicate the ability to launch increasingly sophisticated cyber-disruptions, and Syria’s Iranian sponsors also have significant cyber-capabilities that could be used to disrupt key infrastructure, communications, or energy facilities throughout the region. Suspected Iranian cyber-attacks have already targeted Saudi Aramco and Qatari RasGas, and similar attacks could be part of any retaliation.

    Using the historical lesson of 1986’s Operation El Dorado Canyon, U.S. and allied forces can incur significant damage against Syria through a limited campaign and avoid the more deleterious outcomes of inaction or prolonged intervention. The bottom line: Like Reagan in Libya, Obama today has few good options — but the use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces requires a response, albeit a judicious one.

    It seems likely that ‘Syria’ will end up a patchwork of mini states, so we probably should encourage the regime to retreat to its bastion on the coast, perhaps with a loose network of the other small sects in mutual support. Once the players set up their own cores, hopefully they would settle into some kind of loose confederation. Of course the jihadis don’t want this, but if there comes a period of settling out, separating and then taking out the hard liners should become feasible, with local support…expect more drone war…

    This requires a basis for a future better time, right now the old regime has proven that the only peace they accept is that of subjugation and coercion. So degrading the regimes offensive capability and its ability to limit future intervention while not going for the jugular, in any more than a symbolic way, makes sense beyond mere face saving. Degrade the offensive forces enough and a defensive cordon is their only hope. It is going to be ugly, monstrous, utterly unfair, but there is no other solution given the situation as it stands today.

    Reagan had to live with Carter’s mess, Obama has to deal with his own, times have changed, bad outcomes are accelerating in a more densely populated and seriously degraded world…social and ecological degradation are at the root of this disaster and something was going to break. But the level of horror could have been reduced if action had been taken earlier.

    Walter Russell Mead // jobs jobs jobs

    As always lots of great thought at The American Interest read more at: http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/05/22/jobs-jobs-jobs-2/

    First, make hiring easy and cheap.
    Second, put the service economy and especially small business and entrepreneurship front and center.
    Third, we need to feed the state to the people even as we individualize its services.

    That third one had me puzzled till I read the explanation, which is a good description of what the statesmen of the past have done.

    A characteristic of American political economy going back to colonial times has been the use of the resources of the state to promote the welfare of what today we would call the middle class. For much of our history we “fed the state to the people” by turning over publicly owned lands at low and ultimately zero cost. The public lands, which once included virtually all of the continental United States, were a possession of almost infinite value, but it seemed wiser (and more politically sustainable) to the leaders of the day to make them cheaply available to the people rather than to hoard them or try to retain a larger share of their value for the public purse.

    One Two Three Four, We Could Get A Nuclear War

    One Two Three Four, We Could Get A Nuclear War.

    ARES a AWST blog….

    “money quotes:”

    Watts argued that many countries are no longer pursuing nuclear weapons as a direct counter to U.S. nuclear power, but to compensate for relatively weak conventional forces. That includes Russia, where Watts cites president Vladimir Putin’s emphasis on the importance of nuclear weapons, and post-Cold-War doctrinal writings that talk about using limited nuclear attacks as “demonstration and de-escalation” strikes, to deter or terminate a large-scale nuclear war.

    …it’s like a police department whose only force option is to blow up the entire block where the perpetrator lives.

    Indeed, U.S. extended deterrence is something that not enough people think about when they advocate further cuts in U.S. nuclear forces. The American “umbrella” covers nations such as South Korea, Japan and Turkey, which have the industrial and technological capability to go nuclear very quickly if they feel that they can no longer rely on the U.S.

    Watts warns, “limited use of low-yield nuclear weapons will become the new normal and give rise to a second nuclear age whose dangers and uncertainties will dwarf those of the first.”



    US Air Force = ‘hollow force’ ?








    This article on the USAirForce in The American Interest is part of a series, incomplete as of this writing, on the US Armed Forces, and the road forward in this period of draw back and draw down. The ones on the Army and Marines are worthy and insightful but don’t get to the nitty gritty level required for me at least. While this AF article could be argued to be in the same vein I think it’s stronger and that may be because the technology and mission of the AF are very tightly interwoven making it simpler to see the overall threat.

    The argument is that the AF has been all but static in the past 20+ years since Desert Storm. That a combination of victors-hubris along with techno-hubris and perhaps political ineptness have left us with a hollow force at the sharp end. The AF is arguably all over its technological mission in support of communication, reconnaissance, threat detection, navigation, etc, and has been shown to be king of battle in low intensity conflict (a turnaround of epic proportions from Vietnam.) But this camouflages the fact that if we had to do Desert Storm against a foe withe the modern equivalent of Saddam’s air defenses we would suffer vastly higher casualty rates, to the point of perhaps not being able to dominate the air space to anything like the same degree, perhaps pushing us back to an earlier era’s loss ratio’s.

    There is a call to back the F35 and the NGB (next gen bomber) which I agree with since all other platforms are wearing and aging out (aging out happens as old tech ( particularly electronic and electromechanical) gets impossibly expensive to support because the devices and materials used are obsolete and no longer available sometimes even illegal due to toxicity or country of origin.)

    I’m not bought in on the hollowness, yet. Yes the AF / DoD bolloxed the F35 and its now causing the above wear/age issue but does it matter? The first wave B2, B1 and cruise and strike missiles from B52’s etc would take down any known threat’s air defenses long enough for the channel to be cauterized by strike aircraft and special forces…which is what happened in DS. Yes some might have ability to hang tough with fighters, for a few hours, yes some might have backup lines and reserves, but having them and using them are two very different propositions once the AF is in their backfield.

    What about a peer / near peer you ask? What peer / near peer I ask? Not NorK NorK, not Iran, not Russia or China either…a limited war against either is essentially the scenario above. Anything more in those two cases and sheer area would provide a huge force multiplier on their side. Thats ignoring the fact that both are serious nuclear powers and serious world diplomatic players who we are Never Going to War With directly until nuclear weapons are off the table…though of course you have to game the doomsday scenarios…but in those cases the war can never expected to be winnable or lovable in a conventional way.