January 23, 2006


Why the West will attack Iran (Spengler, 1/24/06, Asia Times)

The same Europeans who excoriated the United States for invading Iraq with insufficient proof of the presence of weapons of mass destruction already have signed on to a military campaign against Iran, in advance of Iran's gaining WMD. There are a number of reasons for this sudden lack of squeamishness, and all of them lead back to oil.

First, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have the most to lose from a nuclear-equipped Iran. No one can predict when the Saudi kingdom might become unstable, but whenever it does, Iran will stand ready to support its Shi'ite co-religionists, who make up a majority in the kingdom's oil-producing east.

At some point the United States will reduce or eliminate its presence in Iraq, and the result, I believe, will be civil war. Under conditions of chaos Iran will have a pretext to expand its already substantial presence on the ground in Iraq, perhaps even to intervene militarily on behalf of its Shi'ite co-religionists.

Surprisingly, Spengler sounds as innocent as a pre-WWI Socialist, certain that the workers' shared ideology would unite them, when, in the event, nationalism proved a far stronger bond. Nothing would destroy Persia quicker than its intervention in an Arab state like Iraq or Arabia. Ahmedinejad may have forgotten how willingly Iraqi Shi'a fought the Islamic Republic, but Khamenei hasn't.

A Truce, But Why? (Lee Harris, 23 Jan 2006, Tech Central Station)

History is what no one ever expects to happen, and last week it happened again. A tape was released, purportedly from Osama bin Laden, in which he offered a truce “under fair conditions” with the United States, in order to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the sake of argument, I am going to assume that the tape from Bin Laden is authentic, and that he is sincere in offering a truce. I am aware that these are both bold assumptions, but neither of them affects the question that I want to address, which is, even if it is a ploy, why would bin Laden permit himself to be cast in the light of a suppliant offering a truce? The mere offer of a truce, after all, is an admission of weakness, if not defeat. So, if the tape is authentic, we have to ask the question, Why would bin Laden risk appearing either weak or, worse, defeated, in the eyes of his many followers and admirers in the Muslim world? [...]

[I] want to go out on a limb (quite far out on a limb) and to suggest [a] possibility, speculative though it may be: Bin Laden is scared, but he is not afraid of our drones hovering perilously close above his head. I want to suggest that bin Laden may be scared of what is currently unfolding in the Muslim world -- not afraid of the march of democracy in the Middle East, but afraid that the Muslim world may be on the brink of tearing itself apart, of plunging back into the feud-blood between Sunnis and Shi’ites that has been the theme-with-variations of all Islamic history; and worse, a blood-feud that might be won not by the Sunni Arabs, who have won virtually all such feuds in the past, but by the Shi’ite Persians, whose history has hitherto been that of the perennial loser.

As Mr. Harris correctly notes, the Shi'ites have been the big winners since 9-11. That's one of the reasons it's hard to believe Khamenei will let Ahmedinejad screw things up now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2006 4:50 PM

I disagree with Harris, although his insight concerning the Sunni-Shiite applecart that we upset by our invasion made me slap my head and say "D-oh!". Then again, it would not have made sense until the Sunni had proven how stubbornly they refused to step into the role of a minority.

Posted by: Ptah at January 24, 2006 11:21 AM