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The Nuclear Negotiations and the Sunnis
The Dangers of a Rebalancing Act
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  • Pete

    Everyone wants america to defend them, to fight their wars.

    Those days are over.

    The U.S. might be reverting to its traditional foreign policy of putting America first.

    Wow, that would be something. Good for us but perhaps bad to the world. What do you think?

    • JR

      I don’t disagree with a word you wrote. Divesting ourselves from ME mess and its oil? Sounds hunky dory to me. But that also assumes that the Obama administration will be doing all it can to increase energy extraction here in the US on federal lands (nope), making it easier to get permits for off-shore drilling (nope), improve overall energy infrastructure in North America (nope), and pressure states to give fracking a chance (looking at NYS, answer is nope). Pursuing a geopolitical strategy of disengagement with a major energy producing part of the world because you are sick of their sh!t is fine as long as you are consistently building up your own energy independence here at home. But that’s not what’s happening.

      • Dale Fayda

        Good point.

      • Blackbeard

        That would make perfect sense if the policy goal was energy security and GDP growth. But that would just lead to increased CO2 emissions, increased extractive industrialism and generally unsustainable and undesirable growth.

        The policy goal IS higher energy prices. Much, much higher. When Hillary is president she will ban fracking nationally.

      • fastrackn1

        And let’s not forget Keystone denial….

    • fastrackn1

      Everyone also wants America to fix their problems, feed them, change their despot regimes, lend them money, give them money, send them humanitarian aid, welcome them in with open arms, educate them, give them our technology, exterminate their drug lords,….

    • Fred

      Those days are over.
      At least until the next Pearl Harbor/Iranian hostage crisis/911. Unfortunately, the isolationism you are so happy about will facilitate that event, just as it always has. We Americans never learn from our isolationist history any more than a dog learns to leave a skunk alone no matter how many times it gets sprayed. I mean, I get it. The dream of letting the rest of the world go to hell while we devote our resources to keeping house here is extremely seductive. The problem is that the mess never stays “out there.” Problems that are preventable with a forward posture and “interference” in world affairs, in their absence, will inevitably metastasize until they result in a catastrophe like the aforementioned attacks. That seems to be an iron law of geopolitics, and as the world gets more interdependent and networked, that law will apply even more rigorously. That’s why the Tea Party’s isolationism is one of the primary beefs I have with them.

      • Pete

        You present false choices. America is not going to lead in fighting everyone else’s war, including Europe’s.

        We can assist keeping the heretofore freeloaders, but we must let those who are the main protagonists carry the brunt of their own defense, especially when it comes to taking the causalities. In a way, Obama is already doing this in Iraq and Syria.

  • Dan Greene

    “One can’t tell from outside the White House, but it really does seem as if the national security team was caught by surprise by the ways in which what they thought would be a nice, stabilizing nuclear arms deal is raising tensions, boosting arms races and generally destabilizing the Middle East.’

    The pursuit of the nuclear deal is not the source of destabilization in the Middle East. The causes of that are:

    1. The economic degeneration and population increases of the non-hydrocarbon-rich countries of the region.

    2. The failed US attempt to impose a cultural/religious/political reformation on the region in the decade after 2003 that led to Saudi panic over the “Shia crescent.”

    3. The implementation of Plan B after the failure described in 2 above which has aimed at using the resulting Sunni fear to generate a Sunni-Shia conflict and creating a de facto Israeli-Sunni alliance.

    4. The creation of strategic space in Iraq and Syria as a result of US policies in which IS and AQ affiliates could reach break-out capability.

    5. Allowing Israeli policy to become US policy, i.e., the aggressive and quixotic attempt described in 2 above to make the region “Israel-friendly” and the targeting of the Assad regime (part of 4 above) because of Israel’s pathological fear/hatred of Iran and anything connected to it.

    6. The artificial creation of the Gulf States thereby in effect separating oil revenues from the bulk of the Arab population and redirecting the surpluses from investment in the Middle East to petrodollar flows into western banks and contributing to the current situation described in 1 above.

    The idea that it is the negotiations with Iran that are the driver of instability in the Middle East is absolutely ludicrous.

    • Dale Fayda

      Responding to your points in numerical order:

      1. True enough, but that has been the case for some time now. It is, however, the wealthier oil-rich countries in the Middle East who are panicking about Obama giving Iran the bomb – Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc. You may also throw Jordan into that mix. They’re the ones with the money to purchase the arms (Saudia Arabia possibly acquiring nuclear weapons from Pakistan) and they’re the ones with the most to lose.

      2. The only place US seriously attempted to “impose a cultural/religious/political reformation” was Iraq and there wasn’t any attempt to touch their religious culture at all. The “political reformation” there was in the process of being created, abeit with backsliding and mis-steps. Obama proceeded to throw it away by cutting & running from Iraq and by his utter incoherence in Syria and Libya.

      3. What is the “Plan B” to which you’re referring? Obama inherited a relatively quiescent Iraq, referred to by him and by Joe “Vice-President Dementia” Biden as a “shining achievement”, a relatively peaceful Syria and an Iran reeling from decades of sanctions. Which specific steps did the Obama regime take, which may be construed as a “Plan” at all, much less a “Plan B”?

      4. “The creation of a strategic space in Iraq and Syria…” You mean Obama bailing out on Iraq and dithering for (2) years on Syria before drawing a worthless “red line” and then slinking back into inactivity until ISIS started to cut Americans’ heads off on video? Who campaigned on AQ being “decimated and on the run” and then pointedly ignored ISIS until they captured an area the size of the UK and then responded with a Potemkin air campaign during which ISIS-held area of Syria actually increased.

      5. “Allowing Israeli policy to become US policy…” What? When had any of this taken place in the last 6+ years? Which specific steps did the Obama regime take to align its ME foreign policy with that of Israel? Has there been a US administration more overtly hostile to Israel than Obama’s?

      6. “The artificial creation of the Gulf States…” An even bigger “what”? When putting state borders around tribal societies, a large degree of artificiality is inevitable. After all, the Bedouin tribes in the interior of Saudi Arabia have never felt any particular affinity with the Maronite Christians of Syria or with the Kurds of Iraq – they’re not even in the same geographic areas! Why would/should they be compelled to share their oil wealth, especially considering that its existence wasn’t even known at the time of the drawing of these said borders?

      The prospect of Obama acquiescing to Iran on the bomb is definitely one of the drivers of ME instability, although they’ve had a big head start on that for quite a while now.

      • Dan Greene

        >>”The prospect of Obama acquiescing to Iran on the bomb is definitely one of the drivers of ME instability,’

        What evidence do you have that the Iranians are even trying to pursue a bomb?

        >>”The only place US seriously attempted to “impose a cultural/religious/political reformation” was Iraq’

        2. The Iraq intervention led to a series of second and third order effects in Syria and Lebanon. No, the idea was to create an environment in which Islam could be modified so that it would no longer be a primary resistance ideology. It was definitely meant to be a religious reformation. This was part of its basic insanity.

        3. Plan B is the ongoing attempt to manipulate Sunni-Shia hostility in the wake of the failure of the Iraq intervention and the empowerment of Iran.

        4. The creation of strategic space in Syria and Iraq started with the destruction of Saddam–on Bush’s watch. The Obama administration was forced out of Iraq under the agreement that Bush made with Maliki. What were the alternatives to leaving when the legislature of the government that we put in place would not agree to the Status of Forces agreement that is our standard operating procedure?

        5. “When had any of this taken place in the last six years.”

        The sources of destabilization in the Middle East are not tied to “the last six years.” They go back for many years before that. Why are you so obsessed with the Obama administration? The point is that most of the destabilization factors predate Obama! We invaded Iraq in large part to make the Middle East Israel-friendly and the attempt to salvage some strategic value by coming to an agreement with Iran is being threatened by the Israel Lobby. Israel is and always will be a strategic net negative.

        6. The point is that, left to itself, the Arab Middle East would never have produced UAE, Kuwait, and probably even Saudi Arabia. The large-population countries–Egypt, Syria, Iraq–would have carved up the Arabian peninsula and inherited the oil and gas. That certainly would not have solved all problems, but it would have meant that the revenues would have gone into the region and not into Western banks to shore up the reserve currency status of the US dollar. It’s true that the oil deposits were undiscovered when Britain carved out the Gulf states, but that makes no difference. The point is that their creation effectively sundered the vast majority of Arabs from what turned out to be the primary wealth generator in the region. Later, when Britain “granted” these countries, at that point known to be rich with oil, independence in the 1960s and 1970s, they became providers of petrodollars rather than local revenue.

        >>”Why would/should they be compelled to share their oil wealth”

        Why should native Americans have been compelled to “share” their wealth with Europeans?

        • Dale Fayda

          1. “What evidence do you have that the Iranians are even trying to pursue a bomb?”

          Because Barack Hussein Obama, Allah’s praise be upon him, Nobel Prize winner, the smartest man to ever hold the Presidency, “Captain Transparency”, healer of the earth and stopper of the tides said numerous times that he’s trying to keep Iran from getting the bomb. Which means Iran is trying to get the bomb. Full stop. Ha, ha, ha, ha!

          2. “No, the idea was to create an environment in which Islam could be modified so that it would no longer be a primary resistance ideology. It was definitely meant to be a religious reformation.”

          Show me a single Bush administration policy initiative the purpose of which was to reform Islam as practiced in Iraq. Just one.

          3. “Plan B is the ongoing attempt to manipulate Sunni-Shia hostility in the wake of the failure of the Iraq intervention and the empowerment of Iran”.

          Utter bosh. Once again, point to a single policy by either Bush or Obama administrations to manipulate Sunni – Shia hostility. Failure in Iraq is squarely on Obama’s head. As recently as 2011, he and Joe Biden were hailing Iraq as a great success of their policies (that took some balls!). Were they lying? Would they still call it a “success” now? If not, why not now?

          4. “The creation of strategic space in Syria and Iraq started with the destruction of Saddam–on Bush’s watch. The Obama administration was forced out of Iraq under the agreement that Bush made with Maliki.”

          More utter bosh. At the end of Bush’s term, Syria was stable and Iraq was stabilized, despite maniacal opposition to the surge by the Democrat party, which was praying that the US lose the war (see Harry Reid on the floor of the Senate). Bush would have got a Status of Forces agreement from Maliki with one phone call, if the circumstances on the ground called for it. Obama couldn’t wait to bail out of Iraq, consequences be damned. Once again, was he or was he not lying when he called Iraq a “stable democracy” at the time of the US troop withdrawal?

          5. “Why are you so obsessed with the Obama administration?”

          Why “obsessed”? I was commenting on the crux of this article, which specifically talks about the shortcomings of Obama’s ME policies, not indulging in a historic overview. Everything is predated by something and nothing happens in a vacuum. That is not the point of this discussion. A politician is judged by how he/she deals with the challenges on their watch. As I wrote in response to one of your recent comments, someone else may have also failed in the ME, were he or she in Obama’s shoes, but we know HE failed. As of right now, virulently anti – American jihadists hold more territory, have more fighters and more money than at any time in modern history and in my opinion Barack Obama is a big reason for that.

          6. “The large-population countries–Egypt, Syria, Iraq–would have carved up the Arabian peninsula and inherited the oil and gas.”

          “And if I was 7 feet tall and black, I’d be making millions playing in the NBA”. There, now both of our statements are randomly made up and utterly unfit for serious discussion. The difference is that I don’t pass mine off as red-hot Gospel, like you do. In fact, mine has more validity, because with a lot of effort and a little luck, I may have made it to the NBA, but you have no idea, none, zero, zilch, nada about what would have happened had the Western powers not drawn up the current borders as they are.

          7. “Why should native Americans have been compelled to “share” their wealth with Europeans?”

          And my next door neighbor’s daughter’s goat has too heads. What does either one of these statement have to do with the topic of discussion in this article?

          • Dan Greene

            1. OK, now what’s your serious answer?

            2. We consistently pushed, under Bush and Obama, to create a secularized state that subordinated the power of religious parties and movements, and we had every intention of using Iraq as a strategic platform for overthrowing the Islamist government in Iran, had we been able to stabilize Iraq. Islam has clearly replaced secular nationalist leftist movements as the main resistance ideology of the region. We wanted to create states that marginalized Islamism AND maximized compliance with our strategic goals. Saddam, Qaddafi and Assad were, of course, already secular in general outlook but failed to meet the second qualification. What we pursued, in effect, was an attempt to create the basis for a post-Muslim Middle East that corresponds to the post-Christian West and in which regional states would take strategic direction from us the way Europeans do. There are no signs of success so far, and the self-destructiveness of the policy under both administrations is palpable. If you are looking for some explicit policy that says “Our goal is to eliminate uncooperative Middle Eastern leaders and set the stage for the gradual de-Islamization of the regional culture,” you will of course not find it. But the goal of the Bush administration was a “new Middle East” and that necessarily meant a cultural, and consequently religious, reformation.

            Our failure to put in place the conditions for such a reformation in Iraq, much less Syria and Iran, led to a temporary volte face and expedient use of Islamism in Syria and current support for it in Yemen in order to counter the imagined threat of Iran (even as we tacitly supported the overthrow of the elected MB government in Egypt.) Our policies in practice are so delusional and chaotic that it’s not surprising you find them difficult to decipher.

            3. Point to one instance? We have constantly supported the hyping of the “Shia crescent” and the Iranian “threat.” We have supported or created false narratives about Assad’s supposed use of chemical weapons to generate outrage in the Sunni world. We have actively supported the Saudi intervention in Yemen designed to humiliate and/or draw in Iran. We have hyped the probably non-existent Iranian nuclear weapons program, feeding Saudi paranoia. We have armed Sunni rebels in Syria. We have tacitly supported Israel in its targeting of Hezbollah and Syrian government forces in tacit backing of jihadists, and we have condoned Turkey’s becoming a support corridor for anti-regime forces. We have also tacitly supported Israeli and Saudi backed terror attacks in Iran (by MEK and Jundallah respectively).

            What have we NOT done to foment Sunni-Shia hostility and violence?

            4. No, Syria was already in the early stages of destabilization due to Sunni anti-GoI forces operating on both sides of the border. Yes, we temporarily disrupted Sunni and Shia insurgent operations in 2009-11. But Bush did NOT get the SOFA because Maliki didn’t want an open-ended loss of sovereignty to occupation forces. You are simply imagining the “one phone call would have done it” business. What makes you think that?

            I don’t know whether Obama was lying or simply deluding himself any more than I can distinguish between the two with respect to Bush. What he lying when he said “Mission Accomplished”? No, probably not. He almost certainly believed what he was saying. I think “wish fulfillment” would be more accurate than “lying” for Obama, but I can’t say for sure.

            5. “Why obsessed?”

            “Barack Hussein Obama, Allah’s praise be upon him, Nobel Prize winner, the smartest man to ever hold the Presidency, “Captain Transparency”, healer of the earth and stopper of the tides said numerous times that he’s trying to keep Iran from getting the bomb.”

            You ask why I use the word “obsessed”??? Bush’s policies were delusional and self-destructive. Obama’s merely alternate between bad and almost passable.

            If Saddam had not been overthrown, we would not be in the position we are in now. Obama bears the blame for trying to overthrow Assad and Qaddafi; Bush for overthrowing Saddam. All so stupid, but reducing it to “Hussein Obama” is beyond ridiculous.

            6/7. One of the topics of the article was a claim about the reason for the destabilization of the Middle East. I disagreed with Mead’s nonsensical attribution of that destabilization to the Iran negotiations. Just as major European powers took control of key resource and geographical areas, so too would the major countries in the Middle East have done so without the artificial establishment by the British of colonies along the Gulf coast and their recognition as states so that their hydrocarbon flows could be channeled advantageously. If the hydrocarbon revenues from the GCC fields were directed to where the bulk of the Arab population is, then that would tend to have a stabilizing effect in those countries. The fact that those revenues have been directed elsewhere removes that potential economic stabilizer. You asked rather irrelevantly whether the Gulf Arabs should have been compelled to “share” their wealth. The point is not whether they SHOULD have shared their wealth any more than whether native Americans should have shared their “wealth.” But had that wealth been linked to the major population centers, as it naturally would have been absent British imperial control, it would have tended to have a stabilizing effect. We can see that economic disintegration in Egypt and Syria has had a profoundly DE-stabilizing effect. What is it that you don’t grasp in that elementary point?

          • Anthony

            Not to interfere but reading through brought to mind concept: Equilibrium Fictions – “Individuals process information that is consistent with their prior beliefs differently from how they process information that is inconsistent. Information that is consistent is remembered, seen as relevant, and reinforces beliefs. Information that is inconsistent is more likely to be ignored, discounted, or forgotten. This distortion is called confirmatory bias.” Resulting from this process sometimes is beliefs that are maintained strongly because the evidence that people see (processed and perceived) is fully consistent with those beliefs. Your patience Dan Greene is remarkable.

          • Fred

            In your completely unbiased opinion. Someday you really must share how you manage to be the sole exception to the “fact” that “Individuals process information that is consistent with their prior beliefs differently from how they process information that is inconsistent, etc.” Because if you’re not, then nothing you say should be taken any more seriously than what anyone else says. You’re just processing information according to your biases.

          • Anthony

            See Oct. 23, 2014 reply and Dan Greene’s solicitous suggestion.

          • Fred

            See 26 February, 2015 reply to your reply (Isn’t this game fun? And it’s ever so much easier than supporting an argument and answering counterarguments. Why, it hardly takes any brains at all!).

          • Anthony

            No game and no Feb. reply but you parrot well; take Dan Greene’s advise and read carefully Oct. 23, 2014 reply and recognize your “Behavioral Triggers”. Do us all a favor!

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