Wednesday, October 23, 2013

New Strategic Realities in the Middle East

Jim Lobe (IPS) provides nicely researched overview of the new strategic realities facing the US in the Middle East.  And it's especially nice to see him quote Chas Freeman, an experienced and well-informed former diplomat whose views on US-Israeli relations and on US Middle East policy in general got him into hot water with the D.C. establishment.  Both Lobe and Freeman point out that the US ties with two long-term allies - Turkey and Saudi Arabia - are on the skids.  The Saudis are more than irritated by the US's attempts at detente with Shi'ite rival Iran; Erdogan's Turkey has decided to buy its new missile-defense system from China, even though its technology doesn't jive with the ordnance of NATO - of which, of course, Turkey is one of the militarily more powerful members.

Freeman sums it up very well indeed:

“The simple world of colonial and superpower rivalries is long vanished. . . .  The notion that one is either ‘with us or against us’ has lost all resonance in the modern Middle East. No government in the region is prepared now to entrust its future to foreigners, still less to a single foreign power. So the role of great external powers is becoming variable, complex, dynamic, and asymmetric, rather than comprehensive, exclusive, static or uniform.”

On the other hand, one of the people whose views REALLY count - because he forks over huge sums of money to support politicians who actually influence policy decisions - continues to speak of the US's evidently rightful prerogative to throw its weight around in the Middle East as it pleases, especially when it comes to Israel.  I speak of Sheldon Adelson, Newt Gingrich's sugar-daddy and political life-support during the 2012 campaign.  Mondoweiss reports (with video) on Adelson's comments at a forum at Yeshiva University after the moderator (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach) raised the issue of US negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program:

What are we going to negotiate about? What I would say is, ‘Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.’ You pick up your cell phone, even at traveling rates. You pick up your cell phone, and– what are they called– [Boteach: roaming charges] Roaming charges. You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK let it go.’ So there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever.


And then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development. [Applause] You want to be peaceful? Just reverse it all, and we will guarantee you that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes.’

Adelson goes on to say that American strength "is the only thing they understand."

That, of course, is the same kind of assumption of US military omnipotence that brought us Afghanistan, Iraq, and the knee-capping of America's economic future and global credibility.

On the other hand, Adelson's comments reportedly received fulsome applause.

Betcha Bibi would have been clapping right along, had he been there.

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