Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 26, 2013

Crystal-ball gazing ain’t what it used to be

Filed under: Iran,Syria — louisproyect @ 3:41 pm

Eric Draitser: no Nostradamus

Eric Draitser, “The war on Iran begins…in Syria”, August 28, 2013

In the decades since the revolution of 1979 which created the modern Islamic Republic of Iran, the US policy toward that country has been antagonistic and belligerent to such a degree that Iran has been forced, out of sheer necessity, to rely very heavily on its few regional and international allies. And so, given the political posture of Bashar Assad, like that of his father before him, Damascus has been viewed as Iran’s key political partner, providing Iran with a crucial ally along the border with Israel and a bridge to the Hezbollah organization in Southern Lebanon. Additionally, a multi-ethnic society like Syria with a dominant Shiite-Alawite demographic presents itself as a natural friend to Shiite Iran. However, the importance of this relationship does not stop at mere similarities.

When one looks at the players involved in the war in Syria, it becomes clear that the Sunni monarchies – Saudi Arabia and Qatar primarily – have committed to the war in order to ensure their own continued hegemony, especially in terms of energy production. Qatar, being one of the world’s wealthiest gas exporters, views the growing relationship between Iran and Syria, especially the gas pipeline deal, as an existential threat to their own standing. The Saudis, long since mortal enemies and rivals of the Shia Iranians, also have come to view Syria as merely a battleground in the larger proxy war with Iran.

And then of course, there’s Israel. Perched comfortably on Syria’s border, Israel has played a key role in stoking tensions and fomenting unrest on the other side of the Golan Heights. Not only did Israel carry out a number of blatantly illegal bombings inside Syria’s borders, there have been dozens of mainstream accounts, including videos, of Israeli Special forces commandos inside of Syria. Naturally, Israeli intentions are to further their own interests which for decades have been centered on the destruction of Iran, their main regional competitor and rival.

 * * * *

NY Times November 25, 2013

U.S. and Saudis in Growing Rift as Power Shifts


WASHINGTON — There was a time when Saudi and American interests in the Middle East seemed so aligned that the cigar-smoking former Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was viewed as one of the most influential diplomats in Washington.

Those days are over. The Saudi king and his envoys — like the Israelis — have spent weeks lobbying fruitlessly against the interim nuclear accord with Iran that was reached in Geneva on Sunday. In the end, there was little they could do: The Obama administration saw the nuclear talks in a fundamentally different light from the Saudis, who fear that any letup in the sanctions will come at the cost of a wider and more dangerous Iranian role in the Middle East.

Although the Saudis remain close American allies, the nuclear accord is the culmination of a slow mutual disenchantment that began at the end of the Cold War.

For decades, Washington depended on Saudi Arabia — a country of 30 million people but the Middle East’s largest reserves of oil — to shore up stability in a region dominated by autocrats and hostile to another ally, Israel. The Saudis used their role as the dominant power in OPEC to help rein in Iraq and Iran, and they supported bases for the American military, anchoring American influence in the Middle East and beyond.

But the Arab uprisings altered the balance of power across the Middle East, especially with the ouster of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, a close ally of both the Saudis and the Americans.

The United States has also been reluctant to take sides in the worsening sectarian strife between Shiite and Sunni, in which the Saudis are firm partisans on the Sunni side.

At the same time, new sources of oil have made the Saudis less essential. And the Obama administration’s recent diplomatic initiatives on Syria and Iran have left the Saudis with a deep fear of abandonment.

Full: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/26/world/middleeast/us-and-saudis-in-growing-rift-as-power-shifts.html


  1. As I have aged, I have moved farther and farther away from this kind of pseudo-geopolitical analysis. To the extent that I do it, I focus primarily upon the US, because, after all, I live here. Speculating about why the Saudis, Iranians or Syrians do things is a pretty comical endeavor for me.

    From my limited field of vision, it has been evident for quite some time that the emerging Saudi-Israeli entente, and their support of Sunni terrorism across the Middle East is a threat to US interests. The US refusal to intervene in Syria was a signal that the Obama administration recognized this peril. Yet some leftists kept bleating about US military intervention in Syria as if it takes 6-9 months for planes and warships to make their way to the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Now, we know that the administration considered it so serious that it opened back channel negotiations wtih Iran, much like Kissinger did with the PRC in 1971.

    Think about that for a moment. While some leftists and anti-Zionists were sounding the alarm about a US intervention in Syria for the purpose of provoking a war with Iran, the US was actually secretly negotiating with the Islamic Republic! My guess is that the administration had knowledge of Israeli/Saudi preparations for an attack upon Iran without US approval, an attack designed to force the US into a war with Iran. But it need not have been so dramatic and conspiratorial. The lack of any of diplomatic, intelligence community and military hostility to the accord is telling, and suggests that a consensus had developed over time that a sea change in US policy towards Iran was urgently necessary. Contrast this with US military anger about the Nuclear Test Ban treaty that the US entered into with the USSR in the early 1960s.

    There is also a domestic aspect. Occupy revealed serious discontent within the US, and the economic recovery is actually intensifying inequality as real estate speculation is throwing more people out on the streets with the working poor struggling to pay for food after paying rent. Here in Sacramento, food banks are overwhelmed, with people involved in these efforts telling me that there are about three times as many people seeking assistance as compared to a year and a half ago. Homeless people are ubiquitous (although, strictly speaking, many of them may not be homeless, but people with a place to live seeking money because they are food deprived). Throw the implementation of the ACA into mix, with people discovering that they are going to have to find money to pay for health insurance, with food stamps being cut, and you have a combustible situation.

    Continued economic growth, even if it is of the neoliberal kind, becomes essential in such domestic conditions, while, conversely, sending people off to war would be very polarizing, with the possibility of serious unrest. The P + 1 agreement with Iran is a measure that reassures people and opens the way to higher global economic growth rates over the next few years. Americans get this (as do Europeans), so it is going to be tremendously popular. No amount of scaremongering from Zionists and neoconservatives is going to convince them otherwise. Faced with a choice between war or peace, Obama chose peace which is exactly what the American public wants. Niall Ferguson is no doubt morose, as the US has failed to demonstrate that, as he advocated, it is capable of accepting the domestic scarcity required to effectively police an empire.

    Comment by Richard Estes — November 26, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

  2. I agree with many of Richard’s points but we shouldn’t mistake mercantile dealing with anyone “choosing peace” especially the US which is determined to execute the wider WOT freely. Suggesting that the deal with Iran is comparable to the opening of China is a stretch but anything that causes Nail Ferguson distress is a good thing.

    Comment by PeteM — November 27, 2013 @ 12:22 am

  3. They are just clearing the deck for a confrontation with China. After that is taken care of they will sort out the Middle East.

    Comment by jeff — November 27, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

  4. Americans back Iran deal by 2 to 1 margin, wary of use of military force even if deal collapses:

    Comment by Richard Estes — November 27, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

  5. Attacking Iran would be a huge risk and the cowardly US troops would not be up for that battle I suspect. It is why the USA have never attacked North Korea, they only attack those who cannot defend themselves.

    I still believe they would have liked to attack Syria from the skies, the British 100% did want to attack Syria but other factors came into the equation.

    Still, I wouldn’t be so quick to write off the old relationships. I would also be careful not to underestimate the global aspirations of the worlds greatest ever military power and serial ‘interventionists’ (no wonder the left bleat), with military bases in every corner of a world and an arms industry demanding markets.

    Comment by The Man With No Name — November 27, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

  6. Iran has been chasing after a nuclear weapon for so long they’ve got to have Axl Rose heading up the wmd program. Or maybe they’ve already produced weapons cleverly hidden much better than Israel’s (Which was not able to test anything without South Africa’s help). The scaremongering is just about as old as the Islamic Republic itself. Here’s an Israeli paper from 1984: “Khomeini’s atomic bomb enters final stages of production.”

    That headline might be based on a West German report from the same month that Iran could build a bomb with uranium from Pakistan within two years.

    Comment by andrew r — November 29, 2013 @ 11:35 am

  7. Also, the fracking boom in the U.S. is undermining Saudi Arabia’s importance as well as Israel’s. When you get down to it, Israel and Saudi Arabia are weak countries whose importance only comes from oil or their proximity to it. Israel as an permanent aircraft carrier and spy network.

    Comment by jeff — December 3, 2013 @ 8:53 am

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