The Middle East: Are Ominous Clouds Forming?

 

It’s no surprise that disruptive situations are developing in the Middle East; that seems to be the normal state of affairs. Lately I’ve noticed some situations that independently would barely raise eyebrows; collectively, however, I’m concerned that the area is heating up more than usual, and I believe these events will affect not only the region, but will have implications for the US.

It’s been widely reported that Qatar supports terrorism, but you may not be aware of the level of that support.

As for the Qatari regime itself, it has massively financed jihadist groups for more than 20 years. Qatar is a major bankroller not only of al-Qaida and Hamas but of militias associated with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In a State Department cable from 2009 published by WikiLeaks, US diplomats referred to Qatar as the largest funder of terrorism in the world.

According to the Financial Times, the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Saudis and their allies was their discovery that in April, Qatar paid Iran, its Iraqi militias and al-Qaida forces in Syria up to a billion dollars to free members of the royal family held captive in southern Iraq and 50 terrorists held captive in Syria.        Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah

As a result, the Saudis, UAE and Egypt have slapped economic sanctions on Qatar, demanding that it sever ties with Iran. President Trump has condemned the Qataris, only to have his comments soft-pedaled by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The most obvious difficulty is that Qatar spent more than $1 billion constructing the Al Udeid Air Base outside of Doha. The Qataris have assured us that base operations will not be interrupted and that the 10,000 US service members will not be affected. Time will tell.

Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon suggest that Iran’s response to these actions might push Iran to abandon the nuclear agreement and resume its efforts to “acquire a nuclear option.” The US now finds itself directly in a conflict between Sunni and Shiite factions.

Dealings with Qatar aren’t the only complications developing in the Middle East. Reports on the growing strength of Hezbollah are raising alarms. Ron Prosor, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, points to the military strengthening of Hezbollah and the relationship between Lebanon and the terrorist organization

Hezbollah is sponsored by Iran and has become increasingly brazen in the last decade. It is now more militarily powerful than most North Atlantic Treaty Organization members. It has 150,000 missiles and could launch 1,500 of them a day. From the ground, air or sea, it can strike anywhere in Israel. Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, hasn’t distanced the Lebanese army from Iran’s proxy. Rather, he has embraced it. ‘Hezbollah’s weapons do not contradict the national project,’ he said in February, but are ‘a principal element of Lebanon’s defense.’

Prosor is calling on the US to stop Hezbollah by sponsoring the revision of the ineffective U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which does nothing to stop Hezbollah from building up its military infrastructure. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon or Unifil must be empowered to disarm Hezbollah and demilitarize South Lebanon. I’m not optimistic that this will occur but if it doesn’t, the entire Middle East, not just Israel, could be at serious risk.

President Trump’s announcement that he would once again waive the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was greeted outside of Israel with shoulder shrugs; his decision, however, was seen as a betrayal by some in Israel. I suspect that the president sees this decision as a tactic to persuade the Palestinians to come to the negotiation table. He may also try to persuade Israel to stop building in the settlement areas (which was a useless strategy the last time this was done). This pressure will only create greater resentment by the Israelis.

Just following the President’s announcement, John Bolton spoke at an event in Israel. He was awarded the Guardian of Zion award, and in his acceptance speech, shared his vision  for resolving the Palestinian-Israel conflict, as described by Caroline Glick:

Bolton began his discussion Monday evening by rejecting the ‘two-state solution.’ The two-state model, he noted, has been tried and has failed repeatedly for the past 70 years. There is no reason to believe that it will succeed now. This is particularly true, he said, given the lack of Palestinian social cohesion.

Hamas controls Gaza. The PLO, which is supposed to be Israel’s peace partner, barely controls parts of Judea and Samaria. At a time when more cohesive Arab societies are unraveling, the notion that a Palestinian state would survive and advance regional peace and stability is laughable, Bolton argued.

Bolton then turned to his preferred policy for resolving the Palestinian conflict with Israel, which he dubbed ‘the three-state solution.’ Under his plan, Egypt and Jordan would work with Israel to solve the Palestinian conflict. Egypt would take over the Gaza Strip and Jordan would negotiate the status of Judea and Samaria with Israel.

At least John Bolton has a realistic view of the area’s conflicts. Although the president has said that Israel and the Palestinians must be the ones to decide the outcome of a resolution, I think he is unrealistic to think that negotiation is an option. I hope that he will eventually realize the intransigence of the Palestinians, and finally support Israel’s approach, whatever that may be. At some point, Israel will need to commit to a resolution strategy and require the Palestinians to comply, since the Palestinians are only interested in destroying Israel. Ironically, the president may be pushing Israel to finally act on their own. As Caroline Glick says:

The time has come, at the outset of the second 50 years of Israeli control over Judea and Samaria, for Israel to take matters into its own hands. Our leaders must stop beating around the bush. They need to use the powers they have to secure Israel’s military and civilian interests in Judea and Samaria for the next 50 years as best they can. And they need to stop waiting for someone else to solve our problems for us.

These are only a few areas of major concern. I haven’t mentioned Saudi Arabia’s fighting in Yemen, the Islamic State attack on Iran, the Syrian civil war, and Syria’s use of deadly sarin gas. We need to be paying close attention to the Middle East, because our own safety and security may be at greater risk than ever.

Published in Foreign Policy
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  1. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Right now we have to persuade the Saudis to get out Yemen;

    I don’t see it.

    I understand that is not a civil war as much as the rise of alQaeda.

    Actually it’s both:

    The purple bits are the Houthis – basically Shias who are supported by Iran as part of their and Saudi’s proxy war.  You will agree, I think, that an established Iranian presence along one side of the Bab al Mandab would freak both the Saudis and the West out a bit.  Which is what is really driving the Saudi intervention, imho (along with nervousness re their own Shia population).

    The dark bits are Al Qaeda – who would as soon slaughter the Houthis for idolators as look at them – and they aren’t too impressed by Saudi supported forces (green bits) either – so you can see, spoiled for choice wrt agents of chaos.

    This puts Saudi signing that $110 billion arms sales agreement in context, yes?

    • #31
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Zafar (View Comment):
    This puts Saudi signing that $110 billion arms sales agreement in context, yes?

    The chart is very helpful (as well as your assessment), Zafar. It sounds like our best option might just be to stay out of the way, do you think?

    • #32
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’m also wondering if others are concerned about the overall Middle East situation, or do you think I’m too concerned?

    • #33
  4. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    This puts Saudi signing that $110 billion arms sales agreement in context, yes?

    The chart is very helpful (as well as your assessment), Zafar. It sounds like our best option might just be to stay out of the way, do you think?

    Well the Saudis are your dogs in this fight, so it’s probably a good thing to keep them from doing anything too stupid. And perhaps at least pretend to yank the chain when they use ancient weapons to subdue an enemy. (Not moving the embassy to Jerusalem is related to this imho – it’s the fig leaf the Saudi [and Egyptian, and UAE] authorities need to keep on playing their part. jmho.)

    As has been noted elsewhere, a low level of continuous conflict in the Middle East is the real normal – which the region’s elite and the rest of the World are used to managing and profiting from.  Ratcheting the conflict up to less managable would be almost as destabilising as resolving its basic causes.

    • #34
  5. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):
    Then, as now the Qataris are a minority in their own country (it is full mostly of guest workers: Filipinos, Indians, Nepalese, Westerners, etc., etc.).

    Which suggests that their “country” is a consensual fiction.

    The interesting thing about Qatar’s support of all the aggravated Jew-haters: they also bankroll Al-Jazeera, which was, for a while, the darling of the Left. Because it was so modern! Why, it was a counter-narrative, an authentic voice bereft of Orientalism.

    One of the reasons it got good press, I think, was because many in the media eyed it as a bolthole. If you were bouncing down the media staircase on your tailbone, cut loose and looking for work,  Al-Jazeera would take you in. I knew a few who worked for them, and they said they never had any pressure, but yeah, it’s like the gardening columnist for Der Sturmer saying he only wrote about roses and slug-remedies. Probably right.

    But still.

    • #35
  6. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Zafar and others who know the region

    Most political/economic movements, problems, chronic issues have some analytical core that one can understand. So is belief in an Islamist future driving this?  Is it being driven by entropy, the belief that the monarchies have no future and  yet so many different interests abound with  nothing to cohere around other than the same old anti Israel anti west psychoses.  Are the different terrorists networks competing for being the group that comes out on top, do they have some rational vision and knowable interests or is it some social psychosis?  Why do the billionaires related to the ruling monarchies play along?  I don’t understand what is driving all this insanity?  Does the US have a policy?  Should it? What could it be?  It reminds me of the revolutionary groups in the Life of Brian, or the not so funny ones in Vargas LLosa’s Maytay.   The only thing they had in common was their  adolescent fantasies of a marxist future.

    • #36
  7. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Susan Quinn: The US now finds itself directly in a conflict between Sunni and Shiite factions.

    Only because we are walking on the Sunni side of the street.

    Does Qatar finance terrorism? Sure. So they are our enemies. But we have a military base in Qatar. So they are our friends.

    Do the Saudis finance terrorism? Sure. But they’re our friends, our allies, we kept being told.

    Are the Qataris in league with the Iranians (the Shia)? Sure. They share gas reserves together. Hard not to be in league together. Are the Iranians our enemies? Sure. So are the Qataris our enemies too?

    This is the problem with trying to understand the Middle East in terms of friends and enemies. They are all both and neither. So extract the highest price we can from them to do what it is that we want to do. Problem is: Do we know what we want to do?

    • #37
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Zafar (View Comment):

    out of the way, do you think?

    Well the Saudis are your dogs in this fight, so it’s probably a good thing to keep them from doing anything too stupid. And perhaps at least pretend to yank the chain when they use ancient weapons to subdue an enemy. (Not moving the embassy to Jerusalem is related to this imho – it’s the fig leaf the Saudi [and Egyptian, and UAE] authorities need to keep on playing their part. jmho.)

    As has been noted elsewhere, a low level of continuous conflict in the Middle East is the real normal – which the region’s elite and the rest of the World are used to managing and profiting from. Ratcheting the conflict up to less managable would be almost as destabilising as resolving its basic causes.

    Many good points, Zafar. I didn’t know the Yemenis were starving–horrible, in these times. Yes, I know that not moving the enemy placates everyone else, but that doesn’t make it acceptable–at least not to me. Regarding increasing the conflict, we’re in the middle of it anyway. It’s hard to know at what point it really becomes destabilizing. Sigh. Thanks for the input, Zafar.

    • #38
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    The interesting thing about Qatar’s support of all the aggravated Jew-haters: they also bankroll Al-Jazeera, which was, for a while, the darling of the Left. Because it was so modern! Why, it was a counter-narrative, an authentic voice bereft of Orientalism.

    I thought to include their investment in Al-Jazeera; thanks for noting it, James. Just another part of the ugliness they’ve helped to create.

    • #39
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I Walton (View Comment):
    Zafar and others who know the region

    Most political/economic movements, problems, chronic issues have some analytical core that one can understand. So is belief in an Islamist future driving this? Is it being driven by entropy, the belief that the monarchies have no future and yet so many different interests abound with nothing to cohere around other than the same old anti Israel anti west psychoses. Are the different terrorists networks competing for being the group that comes out on top, do they have some rational vision and knowable interests or is it some social psychosis? Why do the billionaires related to the ruling monarchies play along? I don’t understand what is driving all this insanity? Does the US have a policy? Should it? What could it be? It reminds me of the revolutionary groups in the Life of Brian, or the not so funny ones in Vargas LLosa’s Maytay. The only thing they had in common was their adolescent fantasies of a marxist future.

    Great questions, I. I’ll take a stab at some of them, and I hope others will chime in. First, you have a basically tribal society throughout the Middle East. The Saudis were nomadic until they discovered oil, and then those who controlled it gave themselves titles. The elite live questionable lifestyles, but they support Wahhabism and those folks turn their heads to maintain their Islamic power. If the area looks like a mishmash, in some ways it is. Tribal leaders (calling themselves kings and emirs) control the oil, and therefore hold the purse strings. Most of them don’t support re-establishing a caliphate, but they do appreciate having Israel as a scapegoat so they don’t have to face how they do a poor job of running their countries: blame the Jews. Although most of the rulers are western-educated, it hasn’t influenced their desire for power; that’s why democracy is so difficult to establish. In terms of the large terrorist networks, they are competing with each other; smaller networks align with the big ones for the military and financial support. And I’d say most terrorists want sharia law worldwide.

    Our policies tend to be a mishmash, too. That’s why so many people are pleased to see our efforts to align with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE. I’m not sure why Jordan isn’t in there, but we have a decent relationship with them. And who knows how we’re defining our relationship with Iraq.  As long as we’re willing to sell them weapons, or supply them, they seem not to fight with each other. They focus on fighting the terrorists. I could comment on Iran and Syria, but it’s too depressing. I’ve probably not done a very good job here, I, but them’s my thoughts.

    • #40
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Hang On (View Comment):
    This is the problem with trying to understand the Middle East in terms of friends and enemies. They are all both and neither. So extract the highest price we can from them to do what it is that we want to do. Problem is: Do we know what we want to do?

    Ah, the crux of the dilemma. I suspect we really have no idea, Hang On. Well said.

    • #41
  12. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (View Comment):
    Bolton is unrealistic as usual. Why would Egypt want to take on the headache of the Gaza Strip? And the last thing the Hashemite monarchy in Jordan wants is to absorb more perpetually dissatisfied Palestinians into its state and increase that country’s instability, placing the monarchy into further jeopardy.

    If Egypt controls Gaza they would have more control over Hamas’ activity. My hope is that Palestinians will realize, as many already do, that living under Israel’s governance is a pretty good deal.

    Why would Israel ever want to govern the palestinians? Everywhere they go trouble is around the corner: Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza, Kuwait. It’s sad but it’s there own doing. If Israel attempted assimilating those Arabs, there soon would be no Israel. What @gumbymark said seems correct to me. I don’t see Egypt or Jordan wanting anything to do with the migraine that is the palestinian arabs. Maybe they could move to Germany. Angela Merkel seems to endorse multiculturalism to the max.

    • #42
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    cdor (View Comment):
    Why would Israel ever want to govern the palestinians?

    There are a couple of ways to look at the situation. (I’d read Caroline Glick’s book if you want the details–The Two-State Solution). First, many of them may choose to leave, although as you point out, I don’t know who would have them. It also turns out that the information that the Palestinian population would dominate Israel eventually is false; they inflate their population numbers to scare people. (Studies have been done to show the level of inflation.) Palestinians are actually decreasing in number, and the Israeli families are growing larger. The Palestinians that are currently under Israeli governance (in the Golan Heights, for example) are proving to be pretty good residents. They like having good schools and a modern infrastructure. Yes, there will always be radicals, but I think the Palestinians are tired. They might be more prepared for living in an Israeli state than you think.

    • #43
  14. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    The Palestinians that are currently under Israeli governance (in the Golan Heights, for example) are proving to be pretty good residents. They like having good schools and a modern infrastructure. Yes, there will always be radicals, but I think the Palestinians are tired. They might be more prepared for living in an Israeli state than you think.

    Well Susan that is a much more positive outlook than I put forth. I honestly hope you are correct and the seed is forming for coexisting.

    • #44
  15. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    This is the problem with trying to understand the Middle East in terms of friends and enemies. They are all both and neither. So extract the highest price we can from them to do what it is that we want to do. Problem is: Do we know what we want to do?

    Ah, the crux of the dilemma. I suspect we really have no idea, Hang On. Well said.

    You want to have your cake and eat it too.

    You want to support Israel and Democracy and women and religious freedom and the struggle against racism and colonialism and Peace, Liberty, Justice and the American Way.  And you need to control the Middle East to maintain your position as the sole Superpower.  And you want consistency.

    It’s just not possible, dear.

    • #45
  16. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    It also turns out that the information that the Palestinian population would dominate Israel eventually is false; they inflate their population numbers to scare people.

    They just include Gaza. Which is part of Palestine.

    • #46
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Zafar (View Comment):
    You want to have your cake and eat it too.

    You want to support Israel and Democracy and women and religious freedom and the struggle against racism and colonialism and Peace, Liberty, Justice and the American Way. And you need to control the Middle East to maintain your position as the sole Superpower. And you want consistency.

    It’s just not possible, dear.

    Well, dear, your first sentence is mostly correct. I don’t think colonialism applies to Israel or to this country, nor do I want to impose the American Way on them (unless you’re alluding to motherhood and apple pie). I have said nothing at all about controlling the Middle East, and have no interest in doing that. I’m certainly interested in helping them to have more stability, though. Nor do I want us to be the sole Superpower. And what do you mean by “consistency”? Where? How? Zafar, I think you’re putting words in my mouth that I’ve never said. So now I ask you to clarify, please.

    • #47
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Zafar (View Comment):
    They just include Gaza. Which is part of Palestine.

    There is no Palestine. And even including Gaza, the numbers are wildly inflated.

    • #48
  19. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Well, dear, your first sentence is mostly correct. I don’t think colonialism applies to Israel

    I know, Susan, but to the rest of the world (and the Palestinians) that’s what it looks like.  It flies like a duck, it quacks like a duck, ergo…

    or to this country, nor do I want to impose the American Way on them (unless you’re alluding to motherhood and apple pie).

    I am pro both.  Also what’s wrong with peace, liberty and justice?  Most people want that, it doesn’t need to be imposed.

    I have said nothing at all about controlling the Middle East, and have no interest in doing that.

    Really?  You’re okay with Egypt electing whomever they want to run their country?  You think Jordan can decide on their own foreign policy wrt Israel?  You reckon that Saudi and the Gulf should be run be whomever their people select, to implement whatever policies their people believe in?  Ditto Iran?  The Palestinians?

    That’s a bit of a break from history, but okay.

    I’m certainly interested in helping them to have more stability, though. Nor do I want us to be the sole Superpower.

    America is the sole superpower.

    And what do you mean by “consistency”?

    Some of these positions are contradictory without some heavy lifting re when a duck isn’t really a duck, etc.

    (‘Dear’ can be so ambiguous without tone – was it snarky? Was it genuine? It was genuine, not snarky : – )

    • #49
  20. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    They just include Gaza. Which is part of Palestine.

    There is no Palestine. And even including Gaza, the numbers are wildly inflated.

    Besides, I like Apple pie!

    • #50
  21. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    They just include Gaza. Which is part of Palestine.

    There is no Palestine.

    And therefore no Palestinians.  And therefore no conflict.

    Logical, if one accepts the premise, but of limited real world value.  Jmho.

    • #51
  22. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I haven’t looked for a recent update on our progress in extricating ourselves from dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Still, if the area goes up in flames, the world will be affected. Thanks, Trink.

    Why do you think this would make any difference in a world market for oil? There’s no such thing as “dependence on Middle Eastern oil.”  All the oil gets dumped into the world market to set the world price.

    • #52
  23. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Zafar (View Comment):

    You want to have your cake and eat it too.

    You want to support Israel and Democracy and women and religious freedom and the struggle against racism and colonialism and Peace, Liberty, Justice and the American Way. And you need to control the Middle East to maintain your position as the sole Superpower. And you want consistency.

    It’s just not possible, dear.

    Who doesn’t want their cake and to eat it too?

    It’s just that you have the list wrong.

    I don’t buy into the liberal utopia for everyone because I realize it is totally unworkable. It is a relic of western history. Personally, I like it, but different people have different pasts that they remember differently.

    I have no desire to support democracy in the Middle East. It is a sure fire way of bringing anti-American religious fanatics to power. Neocons are nuts.

    And as far as controlling the Middle East – it is a fool’s errand. But there are lots of fools – especially in high places.

    • #53
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Hang On (View Comment):
    And as far as controlling the Middle East – it is a fool’s errand. But there are lots of fools – especially in high places.

    Thanks, Hang On. I agree. But I’ll address this further in my response to Zafar.

    • #54
  25. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I Walton (View Comment):
    Zafar and others who know the region

    Great questions, I. I’ll take a stab at some of them, and I hope others will chime in. First, you have a basically tribal society throughout the Middle East. The Saudis were nomadic until they discovered oil, and then those who controlled it gave themselves titles. The elite live questionable lifestyles, but they support Wahhabism and those folks turn their heads to maintain their Islamic power. If the area looks like a mishmash, in some ways it is. Tribal leaders (calling themselves kings and emirs) control the oil, and therefore hold the purse strings. Most of them don’t support re-establishing a caliphate, but they do appreciate having Israel as a scapegoat so they don’t have to face how they do a poor job of running their countries: blame the Jews. Although most of the rulers are western-educated, it hasn’t influenced their desire for power; that’s why democracy is so difficult to establish. In terms of the large terrorist networks, they are competing with each other; smaller networks align with the big ones for the military and financial support. And I’d say most terrorists want sharia law worldwide.

    Our policies tend to be a mishmash, too. That’s why so many people are pleased to see our efforts to align with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE. I’m not sure why Jordan isn’t in there, but we have a decent relationship with them. And who knows how we’re defining our relationship with Iraq. As long as we’re willing to sell them weapons, or supply them, they seem not to fight with each other. They focus on fighting the terrorists. I could comment on Iran and Syria, but it’s too depressing. I’ve probably not done a very good job here, I, but them’s my thoughts.

    That’s the lay of the land and I think that’s a good sweep.  What is it that is different now, the cause of the clouds?  Clearly oil prices transformed and set disintegration in motion even though our political leadership missed it entirely. But that was forty years and several wars ago.   It’s an example of what I call an analytical core.  There are political and cultural inertia that people talk about, and since things don’t change radically they capture relevant reality, but sometimes there  are transformative events  that turn such political talk into meaningless chatter.   The kind of things Charles Hill wrote about in “strategic visions”  Things journalists and political pundits  miss, historians write about many years latter but some artists capture in inchoate ways.     You believe something else is going on now, new and ominous.   That is a very interesting statement.

    • #55
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Well, dear, your first sentence is mostly correct. I don’t think colonialism applies to Israel

    I know, Susan, but to the rest of the world (and the Palestinians) that’s what it looks like. It flies like a duck, it quacks like a duck, ergo…

    or to this country, nor do I want to impose the American Way on them (unless you’re alluding to motherhood and apple pie).

    I am pro both. Also what’s wrong with peace, liberty and justice? Most people want that, it doesn’t need to be imposed.

    I have said nothing at all about controlling the Middle East, and have no interest in doing that.

    Really? You’re okay with Egypt electing whomever they want to run their country? You think Jordan can decide on their own foreign policy wrt Israel? You reckon that Saudi and the Gulf should be run be whomever their people select, to implement whatever policies their people believe in? Ditto Iran? The Palestinians?

    That’s a bit of a break from history, but okay.

    I’m certainly interested in helping them to have more stability, though. Nor do I want us to be the sole Superpower.

    America is the sole superpower.

    And what do you mean by “consistency”?

    Some of these positions are contradictory without some heavy lifting re when a duck isn’t really a duck, etc.

    (‘Dear’ can be so ambiguous without tone – was it snarky? Was it genuine? It was genuine, not snarky : – )

    Okay, first things first. My “dear” to you was snarky, so I take it back. ;-) As I look at your comments, Zafar, I’m wondering why you project beliefs on me that I don’t hold? Just because the rest of the world calls it colonialism doesn’t make it true. And the “duck quacking” thing doesn’t hold water, either. At least not for me, in this case.

    I don’t think that most people want peace, liberty and justice; if they don’t have it, and don’t have a concept of it, why would they want it? And I don’t want to impose that on them. It doesn’t work, as @hangon suggested. You can’t make people want things, and you can’t force them to accept something they don’t want.

    Really? You’re okay with Egypt electing whomever they want to run their country? You think Jordan can decide on their own foreign policy wrt Israel? You reckon that Saudi and the Gulf should be run be whomever their people select, to implement whatever policies their people believe in? Ditto Iran? The Palestinians?

    Yes I am. I may have preferences about the outcomes of these situations, but I don’t think it’s my job/our job to control them. I think you’re assuming that I personally believe things that aren’t even true for the US anymore. I thought you knew me better than that. I guess you don’t (and I’m sincere in saying that).

    • #56
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I Walton (View Comment):
    That’s the lay of the land and I think that’s a good sweep. What is it that is different now, the cause of the clouds?

    Well, some of it is intuitive, I. So let’s see if I can articulate my thoughts beyond that response. For one, getting into the middle between Shia and Sunni causes me concern. That animosity has been there a long time, but we’ve kept our distance. Iran will be very unhappy, and I don’t trust if and how they will respond. Especially since they likely have a nuclear threat. Hezbollah has never been so well-armed, to my knowledge. They are feeling their oats. They already have made headway in So. America, and we’ve arrested a few people here from their ranks. That does not bode well. Between Hezbollah and Islamic State, I think we should be very nervous in this country. And finally, no matter what outcome you want for Israel and the Palestinians, I’m not comfortable with Trump inserting himself into that process. I know we’ve tried to intercede many times before, unsuccessfully, but I’m concerned that the great negotiator may expect too much, especially from Israel. That country is always the one to have to give up something, and Trump knows that. He won’t get squat from the Palestinians. What will happen? I don’t know. But I’m concerned. Is all this different from the usual perturbations that continually move through that part of the world. I don’t have the answer to that question. Thanks, I.

    • #57
  28. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    First off, the discussion on this thread is so disturbing it’s difficult to know where to begin. Far too many have buried them head in the sand.

    To start, the nuke agreement with Iran is absolutely worthless. We the American Public weren’t even told what’s in it – I don’t care what the State Dept says – and the whole process to it’s signing was an end run around the Constitution. Trump should pull out of it immediately just out of  respect of our Constitution alone.

    Iran is still pursuing arming missiles with nuclear weapons. The ‘agreement” has not stopped that and the Mullahs have even told the Iranian people as much.  They surely already have the simple type of atomic weapons we used at Hiroshima.  That is easy. To miniaturize nukes sufficiently to put them on a missile is a much more difficult effort which we already know they are still moving forward on.

    The Shites have been under the thumb of the Sunnis since 662. There is a whole lot of bad blood between the two going back way over a thousand years. This is the first time in history that the Shites are on a par with the Sunnis militarily. A Sunni/Shite  Civil War under these circumstances was inevitable, and neither side will give up easily because the loser will suffer horribly. This is a fight to the death.

    The Iranian regime is under the influence of the “Twelver Cult” hoping for the return of the Twelve Iman which allegedly by some results in a nuclear conflagration. There are many, like former ruler Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in the regime that are other worldly insane who believe in this cult and are not afraid of a nuclear war.  Because of this fundamentalist insanity,  an Iran with nuclear tipped ICBMs will quickly lead to a huge nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. The Sunni’s will try to defend themselves.  A nuclear way is a highly probable.

    In a way the rise of ISIS is a result and a counter to the rise of Iran.  The only way out is force regime change in Tehran, either by force of by assisting a rebellion.  Otherwise, sooner or later Iran will use it’s nukes.

    For those who worry about “Neocons’  pulling us into another mideast war – get a grip – we are already in it. As the leader of the Free World and a thorn in the side of all Islamists we have a bullseye on our back. We may not be interested in a war with Fundamentalist Islam, but Fundamentalist Islam is interested in a war with us, and it takes only one side to start a war.

    ISIS is extending it’s  influence around the Arab world and Iran is countering that effort as well. Both sides are getting more powerful and it’s only a matter of time before that attack us in a big way.

    • #58
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Unsk (View Comment):
    First off, the discussion on this thread is so disturbing it’s difficult to know where to begin. Far too many have buried them head in the sand.

    I’m sorry to cause you such distress, Unsk. First off, most of your comments are about Iran and its nuclear threat. I don’t think anyone would disagree with you. My only comment was that they might break out its use sooner rather than later. I think most on this thread would agree with the fact that the Iran deal was a travesty and unacceptable. I agree that ultimately Iran and ISIS will likely fight directly; ISIS has already struck in Iran. One possible area of disagreement (I think) is that you think we are already fighting a war over there. We are certainly fighting in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and although they aren’t “our” wars, we are clearly engaged. Finally, I don’t know if I’m prepared to agree it is as dire as you predict. But we can disagree.

    • #59
  30. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I Walton (View Comment):
    That’s the lay of the land and I think that’s a good sweep. What is it that is different now, the cause of the clouds?

    Well, some of it is intuitive, I. So let’s see if I can articulate my thoughts beyond that response. For one, getting into the middle between Shia and Sunni causes me concern. That animosity has been there a long time, but we’ve kept our distance. Iran will be very unhappy, and I don’t trust if and how they will respond. Especially since they likely have a nuclear threat. Hezbollah has never been so well-armed, to my knowledge. They are feeling their oats. They already have made headway in So. America, and we’ve arrested a few people here from their ranks. That does not bode well. Between Hezbollah and Islamic State, I think we should be very nervous in this country. And finally, no matter what outcome you want for Israel and the Palestinians, I’m not comfortable with Trump inserting himself into that process. I know we’ve tried to intercede many times before, unsuccessfully, but I’m concerned that the great negotiator may expect too much, especially from Israel. That country is always the one to have to give up something, and Trump knows that. He won’t get squat from the Palestinians. What will happen? I don’t know. But I’m concerned. Is all this different from the usual perturbations that continually move through that part of the world. I don’t have the answer to that question. Thanks, I.

    So part of what’s different is us,  we’re back in the middle of a a lot we can’t control and will never understand and wont stick to? Hezbollah more highly armed,  the Iranian government stronger  and more aggressive and we’re aligning ourselves with weak states that are also actively hostile to us.  Iran more consolidated at least in part because we did not do anything for the opposition when  an opportunity presented itself.  Obama  washed our hands of Iraq and even Syria, so just getting out of the way doesn’t work for us.   Is there enough to get a hold on in that part of the world so we could craft a coherent policy we could actually carry out?  Turning to the  peace process seems  to mean when in doubt join the purposeless aimless process   because it looks like we’re doing something  when we don’t know what to do.  On the other hand are we actually trying to destroy ISIS?  If so that’s about all that might be open to us and if successful puts us into a position to have influence again which, if we had some notion of what to use it for would be a good thing.

    • #60
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