April 21, 2009

Steve Collins

As readers know, the Mideast is a region where national interests can be chaotic, conflicted, overlapping, volatile and enigmatic. South-Central Asia is now becoming increasingly linked to Mideast geopolitics. I think we are approaching a point where major realignments and developments could take place at any time. This blog will review some of the trends which indicate that some major shifts may be at hand. Various readers have contributed to this blog by sending some of the links cited below.
The Mideast was long dominated by Cold War politics. The Israelis were the American surrogates and the Arabs were the Russian surrogates and that was all you needed to know. However, it was never that simple even in the Cold War era, and today’s Mideast alignments are beginning to shift. Previous blogs have documented that American-Israeli relations are in a growing schism in the wake of the elections of President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. While both sides will paper over the split (Netanyahu will do it due to national necessity and Obama will do it due to domestic political necessity because American public opinion is overwhelmingly pro-Israeli). This split is likely to grow. Obama’s high officials gave a severe cold-shoulder to the top Israeli general when he was in Washington, DC recently. The Israelis are existentially threatened by the imminent Iranian nuclear bomb and its missile program. With Obama’s administration turning against the Israelis, Netanyahu needs to find new allies.
The first link indicates that the Israelis thought they had an ally in Eritrea, but that nation is now apparently also sliding into the Iranian orbit. However, this report also states that the Israeli Mossad is providing valuable assistance to the Egyptian intelligence services to protect the Mubarak regime from Islamic fundamentalist rebels and it opines that “Cairo is likely to become a staunch Israeli ally.” Such an alliance may remain “behind closed doors” for a time. The truth is that the Israelis need Egypt as an ally and Egypt needs the Israelis just as much.
The second link reports on the growing likelihood that Pakistan may become a failed state with “loose nukes” that may not be controlled by a central government. Would the Taliban, Al Queda or Kashmiri Islamicists then have nukes? This is a horrific scenario for Israel, the USA and India. If Pakistan slides toward disintegration, will these nations launch a preemptive raid to seize or disable Pakistan’s nukes? If Pakistan disintegrates, how much of Pakistan might China claim? China is an historic Pakistani ally, and it is a nuclear power which might suddenly assert control over Pakistan nukes. China is also building a large seaport on Pakistani soil which could give the Chinese navy a base on the Indian Ocean. Ezekiel 38:5’s prophecy that “Cush” (some versions of the Bible translate Cush as “‘Ethiopia”) is destined to be an ally of  Russia, China and Iran at the end of this age reveals that much, if not all, of Pakistan and Afghanistan will eventually enter the Gog-Magog orbit. That region of the world is descended from Cush, a son of Ham (Genesis 10:6). The Hindu “Kush” Mountains in Afghanistan and Pakistan attest to Cush’s primary location in the modern world. Pakistan is the only land route to the very isolated US forces Obama is sending into Afghanistan. When Pakistan slides into the anti-American orbit, the USA’s war in Afghanistan becomes untenable. Obama may have a major foreign policy disaster on his hands when/if he is compelled to do a Dunkirk-like withdrawal of the over-extended and increasingly-isolated US forces in Afghanistan.
India and the Israelis are like two bookends in the Mideast map with lots of mutual dangers between them. This argues for an ever-closer alliance between Israel and India. The third link below reports a poll indicating that India is perceived by many Israelis as their best friend in the world right now. The nations are sharing technology and India has launched Israeli spy satellites. The fourth link reports that the Israelis have built an Indian spy satellite which was just launched into orbit. India and Israel are mutually threatened by developments in Iran and Pakistan so it is logical to expect ever-closer relations between these two nuclear powers.
The fifth link reports in some detail possible ways in which the Israelis could attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. I think it is also possible that Israeli submarines could be placed in the Arabian Sea (west of India) from which they could launch cruise missiles at Iranian sites. Given the Indian-Israeli alliance, Indian naval vessels could provide military cover for Israeli subs. I’ll bet many readers have heard reports of “imminent attack plans” by Israel vs. Iran for several years now. So have I. It is getting to where additional reports of an “imminent” Israeli strike are like “crying wolf” to a world weary of such reports which haven’t yet happened. Someday the “wolf” may come. The Israelis may be laying the groundwork for a new regional alliance to provide support for such a strike. The Israelis also have to prepare their defenses to handle simultaneous attacks by Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria if  the Israelis strike Iran.
The previously-cited Israeli-Egyptian relationship is important. Egypt is a leader in the Islamic Sunni world and it and the Arab Sunni region are very  threatened by a nuclear-armed, Shiite Iran. Remember the old adage: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Iran is pursuing hegemony over the entire Mideast region. It has armed and supported Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria and now seems to be co-opting Eritrea. The Sunni Arab/OPEC nations have to be increasingly worried. Iran is becoming a threat to the Sunni regimes as well as to the Israelis. It is possible that a new regional alliance could emerge in the future in which Israel and India openly ally themselves with Egypt and the Arab Sunni nations due to their common fear of a nuclear-armed Iran and the nuclear-armed but unstable Pakistan. If India and the Israelis offer a nuclear shield to the Sunni Arab nations, the energy-rich and geographically strategic Sunni Arab nations could be very valuable to Israeli and Indian interests. An Israeli-Palestinian settlement is possible in this kind of realignment.
Turkey is an enigma at present. It is a member of NATO but it is feeling rejected by European opposition to it joining the EU. Turkey and the USA had strained relations during the Bush administration due to Iraqi issues, but Obama’s visit to Turkey pays tribute to Turkey’s strategic role. That should improve American-Turkish relations. But Turkey is also being courted by Russia, China and Iran. The Israelis did have a good relationship with Turkey, but Turkey’s current leader has made very anti-Israeli statements. Turkey’s military gets along better with the Israelis than does Turkey’s government.
Have you noticed that the above analysis doesn’t include much of a role for the USA? After Bush wore out the US military in Iraq, Obama intends to wear it out even more in Afghanistan pursuing who-knows-what national goals. Obama’s Secretary of Defense was Bush’s Secretary of Defense. Americans voted for “change” in electing Obama. There doesn’t seem to be much “change” in the USA’s self-dissipating policies in the Mideast. The USA is also now the world’s biggest debtor and the days of the US dollar’s role as the global reserve currency seem to be numbered. The USA is not upgrading its military forces as Russia and China remilitarize. The USA is in geopolitical and economic decline, but Americans are far too busy watching “American Idol” (well-named from a biblical point of view) and the endless parade of erectile-dysfunction ads on TV to care about what is going on in the real world. They don’t realize that the rest of the world is preparing for a new reality where America’s influence could be greatly diminished. Americans could be in for a rude awakening in the future.