EVOLUTIONS AND DEVOLUTIONS
More Reasons Why a US Attack on Iran is Unlikely
Military/Veterans’ Affairs Editor
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May 25, 2006 3:25 PST – (FTW) - In August 2004, I wrote two lengthy monographs: one for Sanders Research Associates entitled “The War for Saudi Arabia,” and one for From the Wilderness entitled “Persian Peril.” Respectively, I asserted that the Energy War embodied in the conflict between Osama bin Laden and the House of Saud had pulled the United States into the Iraqi politico-military quagmire, and that that same quagmire had resulted in a dramatic amplification of Iranian power in the region that would make it extremely unlikely that the US administration could attack Iran.
Now it is May 2006, and the evidence for each case has substantially strengthened.
The essence of the former claim is that the Wahabbist para-military movement is expressed religiously, is decidedly political, and carried on a narrative that was originally supported by the US and its imperial allies to sabotage secular nationalist movements in the region; and that Osama bin Laden is first and foremost a serious Saudi political actor who is aimed at seizing political power in his home country. The essence of the latter claim is that the Iranians have managed to reposition themselves within the American dilemma of Iraq to break out of their US-imposed isolation, forge new regional and national alliances, and to insulate themselves from the original intent of the US to have them second on the target list for “regime change.”
As this is written, there is a great panic being generated by Chicken Littles of various political stripes in the US who have convinced themselves that a US attack on Iran is right around the corner. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has fallen completely off our New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, Fox radars.
The Saudi National Security Assessment Project, an extremely well-paid security consultancy in the employ of the House of Saud, recently concluded that large sums of money originating in Saudi Arabia were now being aggressively sought after – almost like non-profits competing for grant-funding – by various insurgent forces within Iraq. The interests of Saudi “investors” in this case has less to do with liberating Iraq from Anglo-American infidels than with sustaining a training environment for Saudi fighters to gain experience. While estimates differ, most agree that no more than five percent of fighters in Iraq are foreign; but among that fraction, the predominating nationality is Saudi. Even that seemingly small fraction amounts to around 3,000 Saudi Arabian fighters in Iraq at any given time.
The US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and continued US support for Zionist expansionism have served as a recruitment tool within Saudi Arabia, where these issues are intensely polarizing. It has created a situation where the limitation on the numbers of potential Saudi fighters willing to go to Iraq to engage in direct combat with Americans is determined not by willingness but by the tricky logistics of infiltrating them into the theater of combat.
The Saudi social conditions I described in “The War for Saudi Arabia” have only worsened, and those Saudi combatants in Iraq who survive will be experienced and battle-hardened, ready to aim their newfound experience at their own corrupt and venal leadership.
Abdullah accession to the throne in the wake of the previously incapacitated Fahd’s death is no change at all. He was already the de facto ruler. His problems—aside from his continuing power struggle behind the scenes with Sultan and Nayif—have been exacerbated by the worst possible news for him among his own social base—the wealthy Saudi middle-class of investors. In March, the Saudi stock market plunged from 21,000 to 14,000. What had they sunk their investments into? Real estate…mostly American.
Abdullah cheered them on as they invested, identifying himself as much as possible with the giddy intoxication of an overheated market. When this bubble broke, he could not escape from that identification—and now he is seen as being to blame, along with the whole Royal family.
Saad al-Faqih, an exiled Saudi democracy advocate, said in a recent interview:
Saudi investors have long had a preference for investing in real estate (as opposed to stocks and shares). But then the big companies specializing in real-estate investments were taken over by the regime, so the people had no option but to invest in the stock market. This sudden enthusiasm boosted the stock market as share prices rose. Many people even abandoned their jobs to devote themselves fully to investing in stocks and shares. But as the liquidity of the market reached record highs, the stock market collapsed, ruining the lives of many people. To give you a better picture of the situation, the investment market mirrored a very tall building with a weak base. There was bound to be a collapse.
The regime enjoyed this stock market mania. It wanted to keep people busy and distract them away from politics, but this has now backfired. The investors now believe the regime tricked them into losing their money. The collapse of the stock market has been the most important event in the past eight months, but to my surprise, many people in the Western media are not even aware of it.
In the political struggle between Mohammed bin Nayif (the Saudi Interior Minister) and Abdullah, Abdullah is seen to be closer to the west (more liberal); and Nayif’s well-founded fear of Abdullah gives him a very powerful motivation to seek ways to support the Wahabbist resistance.
Nayif is responsible for Saudi security, and there are rumors that he turned a blind eye until the last minute to a recent “al Qaeda” attack on a key oil facility as a way to embarrass Abdullah. In February, Nayif’s security forces “foiled” an apparent suicide bombing attack against the Abqaiq Refinery, which processes two-thirds (!) of Saudi’s total output. The prospect of a successful attack sent shock waves through every financial market in the world.
While the Saudi-Iraqi border is heavily patrolled and monitored, neither the US nor the Saudis have figured out how to cope with the large population of Bedouins who ebb and flow over that frontier, many of whom are sympathetic to the jihadis, and many more who are open to monetary negotiations with these often well-funded Saudi fighters. This porous is permeable both ways, and the Saudi government—as well as the United States—knows it.
It should not be lost on anyone that the December 2004 attack on the US Consulate in Jeddah was conducted by an armed element that called themselves “The Fallujah Brigades.”
In April 2005, Saudi national Hadi bin Mubarak Qahtani killed himself in a suicide operation near Qaim, Iraq. According to the Washington Post, “Five other Qahtanis have been reported killed in Iraq, including Muhammed bin Aedh Ghadif Qahtani, a captain in the Saudi National Guard who allegedly used his guard identification badge to help gain entry into Iraq when he was stopped for questioning.” (from “Saudi Arabia caught in an Iraqi jihad,” Christopher Boucek, Asia Times, May 3, 2006)
The mainstream media continues to reinforce the American orientalism that ascribes these links between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and between the US and Osama bin Laden, to some Islamic predisposition to violence and shared hatred of the Great Satan. But the political struggle within Saudi Arabia and between bin Laden’s movement and the House of Saud is very real; it has been embedded in the whole evolution of the regional situation since before 9-11.
The House of Saud sits atop the powder-keg of population explosion, water depletion, a steadily-falling standard of living, and the accumulated resentments of decades of autocratic brutality. It also sits atop a quarter of the Earth’s proven petroleum reserves; and that makes it everyone’s problem, especially the United States—whether the general population of the US knows a damn thing about it or not. Osama bin Laden has never been closer to his dream of stripping away the power of the House of Saud; and the United States—the House of Saud’s only real hope—has become leashed to Iraq like the mast of a sinking ship.
As the grinding and increasingly lethal resistance continues and US troops are being held to the extent possible behind the concertina wire and the earthen berms, Bush touts the recent resolution of the crisis around Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari with replacement PM Nuri Maliki (Jaafari’s lieutenant) as “another milestone.” How many more milestones, we may ask, can anyone stand?
Maliki is confronted with forming a parliament no later than May 22, with answering the conflicting demands of Kurds and Sunni for key ministerial portfolios, and with resolving the emerging tactical alliances between Kurd and Sunni, Sunni and Sadrist, Iranian and Kurd…as the country itself devolves further and further into chaos.
The US bases, the principle reason for the invasion, are in place; but the task of supplying and operating them is deadly dangerous and wicked expensive. The US cannot politically extricate itself; yet at the same time, it cannot militarily prevail. Within this miasma, there is only one tentative Iraqi ally, the so-called United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the title itself increasingly a grotesque misnomer. The only value shared across the board within the Shiite UIA is the affinity for their co-religionist neighbor, Iran. No one disputes that an American attack on Iran would precipitate a replay writ large of April 2004, when a dual Shia-Sunni rebellion almost burned the whole shithouse to the ground.
Still, the Nervous Nelsons of American liberalism wring their hands and wail about the looming American attack on Iran. They’ve listened to themselves talk for so long that they have begun to confuse repetition with verisimilitude. Ahmedinejad is insane, they say. Bush is insane. Cheney is insane. It is the insanity plea. They are pleading with us to recognize that the nation-states of the world are populated with raving loonies.
The Bush “lunacy”—think, now, because playing crazy is a well-respected old geo-political tactic—is directed at the United Nations Security Council in a desperate bid to curtail Iran’s growing influence not just in the region, but in the world. Bush wants very much to persuade Security Council members Russia and China—both real nuclear powers—to sue the UNSC to isolate Iran as a softer alternative to this “presumed” attack. It is not working. China and Russia have very good trade relations with Iran—thank you very much—and they haven’t the slightest intention of giving them up because the US has gotten itself cornered in Iraq. Quite the contrary. With Iran supplying five percent of the world’s total oil exports, and oil hitting $75 a barrel, there won’t be a big line-up anywhere in the international community or financial markets to support another US quagmire that would surely disrupt those supplies.
The most serious opposition to war with Iran is not coming from Democrats either. It is coming from Generals, who know that Iran has not been crippled by a decade-plus of attacks and sanctions, is not driven by politico-ethnic rivalry, is three times the size of Iraq, and is politically unified around its distaste for the Israel-supporting United States. Former CIA Middle East analyst Reuel Marc Gerecht told the Washington Post that “the Pentagon is arguing forcefully against [attacking Iran].” This comes at a time when Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is facing a growing resistance from his own officers on Iraq.
The generally obedient UK is not along for this ride either. Nor will Turkey co-sign it. In fact, Turkish-Iranian military cooperation against Kurdish nationalists may already be in progress; and the likelihood of a Turkish invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan, in the event of a Shiite uprising in response to an attack on Iran, is high. These are not insignificant disincentives. Moreover, the Israelis themselves are urging a political solution to the non-existent Iranian “nuclear crisis.” (Iran is at least a decade away from even constructing, much less delivering, a nuclear weapon. Sharon was thought to be considering it, but he is—practically speaking—dead.)
If the only defining characteristic of the administration (since all the devotees of great-man/great maniac theories of history have discarded the notions of social systems and ruling classes) is that it is “insane,” then someone needs to explain why Condi Rice just gallivanted through Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. What was this crazy woman doing (or this tool of the mad leader in the Oval Office)?
Those just happen to be the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—an oil state consortium in which each country there is one thing they have in common aside from oil and a fluent command of Arabic: they have all hosted American military forces. Seems a pretty good bet that Secretary Rice was asking for diplomatic assistance with two thorny problems—the quagmire in Iraq and the consequent rise of Persian influence. The Iranian response was to send former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani to several of the same countries with proposals for regional security cooperation and soothing their US-jangled nerves over the bogus “nuclear weapons issue.”
Kaveh Afrasiabi, writing last month for Asia Times’ Middle East section, noted:
In a sense, the GCC states are caught between the rock of US hegemony and the hard place of Iranian power, and that means a constant juggling act that simultaneously has to satisfy the antagonistic powers of the US and Iran, in light of the fact that with the vacuum of Iraqi power, the pendulum in terms of regional balance of power has shifted in Iran's favor.
According to some GCC policy analysts, the United States is exploiting the nuclear crisis over Iran to scare the GCC states away from Tehran’s influence and more and more into the protective power of the US. This is why there has been no great alarm on the part of the GCC states about Iran's alleged nuclear-weapons drive.
Of course, these states and their conservative leaderships remain jittery about the nuclear standoff and the potential for another war in the war-weary region, but we have yet to see them, or the Saudi leadership, echoing the United States' alarmist attitude with regard to Iran's so-called “nuclear ambitions”.
Ahmadenijad’s counter-belligerence in the face of American threats have not weakened him; he has been substantially strengthened in precisely the GCC states, where the so-called “Arab street” cheers this display of chutzpah against the deeply unpopular Americans. Ahmadenijad has surrounded the leadership of the GCC states with their own populations—blocking American attempts to build an Arab anti-Persian bloc. Hardly insane.
Local populations inside the US as well, need only be reminded that when the first Tomahawk Cruise missile is launched at the Natanz enrichment facility, the price of oil could easily jump over the magic $100 a barrel figure. Progressives who want to guarantee against an attack against Iran should be telling people this, not sounding frantic alarms about crazy people in Washington DC.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Iran’s newfound leverage makes it less likely by orders of magnitude that the Bush administration or any Democratic administration after them will now abandon Iraq, barring a widespread domestic uprising against the war inside the US.
It’s about oil, not insanity.
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