Sunday, November 13, 2011

Syria & Iran

Underneath all of the news about the European debt crisis and the Penn State mess, there were a couple of events in the Middle East that warrant some attention.

The first was in Syria, where there has been large, mostly peaceful protests for the last six months. The regime of President Bashar Assad has met these protesters with tank and artillery assaults and arresting and torturing thousands of its own citizens. During these attacks, dozens of soldiers have deserted the army and have turned to fighting the Army. These deserters refused to mow down their own people. Lately, the number of deserters has risen to the hundreds. There are also rumors that the Saudis, Turks and Jordanians are beginning to arm some of the deserters and protesters. This is how the Libyan civil war began, with foreign powers arming civilians. A significant event took place this week as the Arab League, a collection of Arab nations, threw Syria out of it's little club. Ominously, they also threatened to "take steps to protect the citizens of Syria". It did'nt outline these steps of course. But this is a dangerous step indeed, one that was under reported here in the west but was widely reported in their region.

Meanwhile in Iran, {Syria's most ardent ally} there was a series of explosions that apparently killed Iran's top missile expert as well as 32 Revolutionary Guards. The blasts shook the capital Tehran, with many wondering if it was an Israeli or American attack. Foreign businessmen were fleeing the country after this. There was also a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency that essentially said Iran would have the ability to build a nuclear weapon by the end of next year. War rumors increased, and the blasts in Iran seem likely to have been caused by foreign powers, further rattling nerves.

About two weeks ago, the US announced that they had foiled an Iranian plot to blow up the Saudi Ambassador to the US, who is also a prince of the royal family. The Saudi's are known to despise the Iranians and would be most happy to see Iran attacked, perhaps even participating in it themselves. The Saudis are very afraid of Iran getting nukes as well as having Iran's brand of Islam {Shia} spread to other nations in the area.

It's my guess that Israel's hard line leader Netanyahu is also looking for a way to attack Iran-- he is very adament about not letting Iran get nukes. But his military is probably not up to the task of attacking a nation some 1500 miles away. He would need US support to pull it off. Problem is, he and President Obama have a testy relationship. Another thing that came out last week in the news was a comment by French President Sarkozy to Obama, in which Sarkozy said that Netanyahu was a liar and a cheat, and Obama responded with something like "you don't have to deal with him every day like I do". At the end of the day, the last thing Obama wants is a war in the middle east; it risks sending oil prices rocketing up in an election year. He is also personally friendly with a number of Arab leaders.

But since 2012 is an election year, Obama needs the Jewish vote solidly behind him. A wholesale turnaround by Jewish voters {and campaign contributors} could mean important swing states like Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania might swing to the GOP. A large Jewish voter abandonment would be a serious blow to Obama's re-election chances. If Netanyahu were to launch an attack on Iran on his own, Obama would have to support him. Failure to do so would not only alienate the Jews, but many middle of the road voters would compare him to Jimmy Carter during the hostage crisis. Americans hate a wimp.

These tensions have existed for a while, and no regional war has occured in the last 30 years. There is a good chance that none will occur anytime soon. But recent events are certainly ratcheting up the chances of a war. 


  1. A war between Israel and iran will be different from any of the recent wars & uprisings in 'The Sand Box.'

    For one thing, ordinary citizens in ALL of the Middle Eastern countries will be incensed, which threatens their leaders. These leaders may feel the need to bend to the wlll of their people and make war against Israel.

    The millions of muslims living in Europe will also be angry, and having more freedom there than in their own home country - this will definitely have an effect on day-to-day life in Europe, as if the debt problems there weren't enough. Expect immediate rioting as soon as the news is heard in Europe.

    The price of oil would likely double overnight, throwing additional weight upon those already struggling to make ends meet in these difficult economic times.

    Then again, if iran's nuclear weapons capability is not eliminated and they do have a bomb within a year - it is possible that it will be detonated in Israel. This will trigger an immediate response, which would precipitate all of the actions that I have listed above.