Coward Old Universe…

by Jeremy G.

Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Nuclear Iran: Plan B?

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on February 18, 2009

The Telegraph ran an interesting story today, indicating that Israel is targeting key Iranian scientists involved in the country’s quest for the nuclear bomb.  Granted, those who have followed this issue and those who know the existential fears that Iran’s nuclear program is causing in Israel will not find this surprising.

That said, Israeli efforts to disrupt the program hint at how difficult plans to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities are to implement.  Such plans are also likely to be highly inefficient.  Contrary to Osirak, Saddam’s single nuclear reactor whose location was not a big secret, it is highly probable that the Israelis and the West have very little information regarding the location of the Iranian facilities.  Launching an air strike against those involve two major and inter-related risks: 1) Failing to destroy all of the facilities and 2) allowing Iran to mobilize the “Arab Street” – if that actually still means anything – further.  The combination of those two factors would have far more disastrous consequences than the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.   Israel’s failure to clearly win the conflict allowed Hezbollah to claim full victory.  But Hezbollah is only a group, not a country with Iran’s resources.

So there is an alternative.  However, in the long run, efforts for a rapprochement with Iran – and not its regime – which shares far more with the West than any other country in the region, will be essential to establishing a solid peace and to addressing the major issues in the Gulf.

Advertisements

Posted in Israel, Nuclear Iran | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Iran has lost a battle

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on July 14, 2008

Sarkozy’s decision to invite Syrian President Bachar el-Assad has stirred great controversy in France.  Sarkozy had announced, in the minutes that followed his election, that he would end past French realpolitik practices and would not compromise with dictatorships.  After the sight of Qaddafi in Paris, el-Assad’s visit has come as a major blow to human rights activists.

I understand the disappointment of those who have a hard time seeing the logic in all of this, as I experienced the same difficulties, and was a great fan of Sarkozy’s more idealist proclivities.  It is worth noting, however, that Syria is not Libya.  Today’s handshake between el-Assad and Sarkozy is the proof that if the West will talk to Damascus, the Syrians, in turn will listen.  The latter feel uneasy, to say the least, with the way they’ve been treated since the Hariri assassination and the subsequent Cedar Revolution.  Their ties with Hezbollah and Tehran are very solid given the current situation, but Syria remains the weak link in this Shiite Axis.

As a matter of fact, whereas the el-Assad is alawite, that is a branch of the Shiite sect, the majority of the population in Syria is Sunni.  There is therefore nothing “natural” about the axis allying Tehran to Damascus and Hezbollah, though it remains very solid in practice.  The truth of the matter is that it this is an ad hoc alliance that the West has the ability to break.  If and once this occurs, this will constitute a major blow to Tehran, which will start lacking support in the region.   

Sarkozy is spending part of his political capital, but if his calculations are as wise as they appear, this may turn out to be smart spending… 

Posted in World Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Iran, the True Target at Annapolis

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on November 26, 2007

images1.jpg

 

The upcoming International Peace Conference in Annapolis has raised many questions  and has been a source of significant pessimism.  Those who follow Middle Eastern events may remember the 2000 fiasco  in Camp David.

The scenario I find more likely is a bit different: My expectation is that this summit will result in a common declaration, underscoring progress made and a common willingness to continue.  The 2000 violent outbreak will not occur – not for now at least.  Two major reasons motivate this intuition.  Both are related to the fact that all participants, Israel and Arab countries alike, face the same two threats.

The first threat is represented by Hamas.  The terrorist movement has already made threats against Israel, and has expressed deep disappointment towards a wide Arab participation at this summit, which is thus certainly not contributing to its interests.  Most observers agree that should Annapolis fail miserably and in a clear way, Hamas will likely be the true winner, and emerge even stronger.  A takeover of the West Bank, similar to the takeover of Gaza last June, is not excluded in this context.

The second threat relates to Iran.  The Annapolis Summit is a clear opportunity for America and for Arab countries, including Jordan, Egypt, and, most of all, Saudi Arabia, to isolate Tehran.  As a matter of fact, Iran represents as big of a threat for Israel as it does for the countries of the GCC and other Sunni countries of the region.  The “Shia Crescent” – expression that was coined by King Abdullah of Jordan himself – is headed by Iran, who has found valuable allies in Damascus and in Lebanon – Hezbollah being Tehran most significant resource. 

In this context, Syria’s participation at Annapolis is a huge blow to Tehran.  Syria, headed by an Alawite – a sect of Shiite Islam – family, has been a key component of the “Shia Crescent”.  Nevertheless, the majority of its population is Sunni.  In addition, there has been subsequent evidence of a rapprochement with Jordan, demonstrating, among many other things, the fragility of Syria’s adherence to the Shia axis in the Middle East.  Combined with America’s efforts to empower the Gulf countries in the region – best exemplified by last summer’s $20 billion deal in arm sales – against the threat coming from Tehran, the Annapolis summit constitutes additional evidence that Iran has become a new focal point for America, Israel and Arab countries alike.

Claiming that this will lead to an Entente Cordiale between Israelis and Palestinians, under the pressure of America and Arab countries, is a stretch that I will not make here.  However, the lower likelihood of a miserable and violent ending similar to 2000 should temper pessimistic views repeatedly expressed on this summit.

Posted in Middle East, US Foreign Policy | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

9-11: Six Years On

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on September 9, 2007

911.jpg

So much has been written on the subject.  Yet, what is remarkable about the event and the comments it has generated, is that whatever was written a little while ago is still relevant today.

The most significant of those comments is that, ironically enough, the U.S., which was attacked on 9-11, is paying today a heavy political price for those strikes.  I’ve offered here a methodology to assess how beneficial security spending since 9-11 has been at home here.  It seems that a cost-benefit analysis, based solely – by definition – on financial considerations, passes the test.  The same is certainly not true if political factors are included in the computation.  Hence this heavy political price.

One fundamental reason for this is that as a democracy, in a struggle with groups and countries with little consideration with principles related to liberty, the U.S. is not playing by the same rules.  The most recent and very cogent instance of this state of affairs was recently revealed by David Ignatius here: While Iran actively intervened in the January 2005 Elections in Iraq, the U.S. refused to adopt similar methods and did not back more moderate Iraqi politicians.  No American move to challenge Iran‘s $11 million challenge, although, as Ignatius reveals, the did provide some alternatives.

There is obviously nothing wrong with that choice.  There is also nothing wrong with the current criticism currently formulated against the Bush Administration for its poor handling of the post-Iraqi war.  There is something troublesome, though, with the way this criticism has been expressed.  It seems, at time, as if the only type of international violence that one can witness today emanates from the U.S., and that no one else is causing any harm.  Or, to use Mark Steyn’s words in his column today, as if there is no terrorism, only war.  

Moreover, this raises a paradox.  In a more extreme form, criticism against the Bush Administration put the emphasis on the Administration’s incompetence.  While there may be grounds to argue in favor of this thesis, the fact that the U.S. did not suffer any attack since 9-11 contradicts the very notion that this Administration is fully incompetent – luck as an explanation might be a bit of a stretch here.  But the paradox doesn’t stop here.  Steyn, in his column, raises the many contradictions of the most extreme form of criticism, expressed by conspiracy theories.  On the one hand, the Bush is very incompetent, but still smart enough to orchestrate, on its own soil, an operation like 9-11.  That’s an issue conspiracy theorists have not been able to solve yet.  Some even claim Bush rigged elections.  I would personally add, beyond Steyn‘s remarks, that interestingly enough, Bush failed to rig the last election of his mandate, that led to a Democratic landslide in Congress almost a year ago.  How weird.

I never cared for this systematic Bush bashing, caused, in my opinion, by a left lacking reason and a right lacking pragmatism.  Democrats would have dealt with this problem in a way that would have not been any different than Republicans – anybody remember the Clinton Administration‘s obsession with Saddam Hussein? Regime change was on the table as early as 1998.  Republicans have responded to the emergence of a new constellation of more pro-American leaders in Europe with a “So What?” that is as troubling as it is bewildering, given what is left to do today.

Six years on.  Same debates.  Little change.

images1.jpg

Posted in 9-11, Global War on Terror, US Foreign Policy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Effrayante Convergence

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on July 6, 2007

Que l’Irak soit le théâtre de violences abominables entre Chiites et Sunnites est désormais un fait connu et accepté de tous. Le pays concentre à lui seul toutes les tensions et les violences que le sectarisme engendre et va engendrer les prochaines années. Deux raisons expliquent cela: Non seulement c’est en Irak où se déroule la bataille entre Chiites et Sunnites pour la suprématie de la région, mais également parce qu’en dehors du pays, on observe paradoxalement une convergence aussi remarquable qu’effrayante entre les forces qui se font face dans le pays même.

L’Iran est décidée de gagner la guerre d’Irak en imposant sa suprématie et en s’assurant que les populations chiites du pays prennent définitivement le pouvoir. L’activisme iranien en Irak n’est d’ailleurs un secret pour personne – lire ceci également.

Cela n’empêche cependant pas les Iraniens de faire preuve d’un pragmatisme surprenant, bien au contraire. D’abord en utilisant le Hezbollah, force chiite libanaise, pour mener des combats par procuration, comme pendant l’été 2006 contre Israël. Il existe une grosse incertitude sur la nature du rapport de subordination. Le rapport est cependant incontestable. Le centre d’analyse Jane’s Briefings va même jusqu’à raconter que les Israéliens, lors des confrontations de l’été 2006, ont retrouvé parmi les corps des combattants, des individus avec des papiers iraniens et des documents prouvant leur appartenance aux Gardiens de la Révolution.

 

images3.jpg

 

Jusque là, cependant, rien de très surprenant au-delà du pragmatisme de Téhéran, puisque l’alliance entre l’Iran et le Hezbollah, deux entités chiites, s’explique aisément. La situation commence sérieusement à s’obscurcir dès lors que l’on apprend la possible implication de l’Iran en Afghanistan, aux côtés des Taliban, groupe sunnite proche d’Al-Qaida. Plus surprenante encore cette histoire, relatée par l’Orient Le Jour, quotidien libanais francophone, lundi dernier:

L’UE, en la personne de son représentant diplomatique, Javier Solana, paraît désormais convaincue de l’existence d’un lien entre la politique iranienne, la prise de contrôle de la bande de Gaza par le Hamas et les attaques récentes contre l’armée libanaise et contre la Finul au Liban.

L’attentat du jour précédent contre les casques-bleus espagnols, composant la force de la FINUL, a été attribué par Madrid à une “cellule terroriste composée de non-Libanais”, poursuit l’article, confirmant la thèse selon laquelle la présence étrangère au Liban continue, comme on avait pu le pressentir avec les événements de Nahr al-Bared le mois dernier.

Mais l’intérêt est encore plus global. Au fur et à mesure du temps se multiplient les preuves d’une alliance entre Téhéran et des groupes sunnites, en Afghanistan comme dans les territoires palestiniens, notamment avec le Hamas – voir par exemple cette info, ainsi que cette analyse de International Security Network et cet interview du Council on Foreign Relations. Un spécialiste britannique du terrorisme, Greg Copley, est même allé jusqu’à affirmer, le week-end dernier sur Fox News, que la responsabilité des récents attentats ratés de Londres et de Glasgow sont à aller chercher du côté de Téhéran, alors que le terrorisme qui a jusqu’à maintenant frappé l’Occident émanait essentiellement d’Al-Qaida, sunnite, et de groupes affiliés.

“Les ennemis de mes ennemis sont mes amis”. Si cette logique se confirmait, on devrait alors se préparer à la pire des réalités, à savoir l’alliance entre deux forces qui se combattent en Irak mais qui s’unissent en dehors, avec un seul objectif commun: continuer à semer le trouble en Europe et aux Etats-Unis et engendrer les plus grosses perturbations possibles.

Posted in Terrorisme, World Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »