Monday, November 12, 2012

Middle Eastern snakes exceed ladders for the US

Obama wasn't challenged over America's plans in Syria and Iran in the election. But conflicts in the region could proliferate in his second term

By Patrick Cockburn
The Independent

".....Could Israel bamboozle the US into joining it in an attack on Iran? I have always thought it likely that the Israelis are bluffing. Forever being on the verge of attacking Iran suits them nicely, giving them much leverage in a world that wants to prevent such a war. Israeli threats have provoked devastating economic sanctions against Iran and marginalised the Palestinians as an issue. But an actual military attack is unlikely to achieve much and would probably provoke Iran into building a nuclear device. Tales of how it was only the Israeli chief of staff and the head of Mossad who have prevented such a war being launched in the past serves Benjamin Netanyahu's purposes well, by making his threat of imminent Israeli air strikes more credible.
For the moment, the Middle East and west Asia is probably a good place for the US and other foreign powers to keep out of. Libya is a recent example of what can go wrong. Up to a few months ago,

Washington thought its behind-the-scenes role in Gaddafi's overthrow was a model of foreign intervention. It forgot that the war effort by the rebel militia brigades was something of a propaganda sham, the real war being fought by Nato air power. But, come the assault on the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September this year, the local CIA detachment was reportedly pleading in vain to local militiamen to come to their aid.

The new political map of the Middle East has more snakes than ladders for the US, but it is not that there are no ladders at all. Obama was swift to abandon Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia during the first days of the Arab Spring. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the ruling AKP in Turkey do not want a confrontation with the US while they seek to Islamise their societies. They need to deprive their domestic opponents of any prospect of US backing. With so many conflicts cross-infecting each other, we may be entering an era of conflicts in the region exceeding anything seen since the 1960s." 

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