In our focus on North Korea, don’t forget Israel and the Middle East

There’s every bit as much potential for conflict in the Middle East as there is on the Korean Peninsula.  Strategy Page has a very insightful and useful summary of the current situation.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have gone public in support of an Arab-Israeli alliance to oppose Iran. Many (Arabs, Israelis and Iranians) believe that such an alliance won’t last long but that is not crucial. The alliance only has to last long enough to halt the spread of Iranian power and influence. Israel has been through this before. The peace deals with Jordan and Egypt have largely held even though there are ups and downs. The Israelis know that the anti-Semitic attitudes in the Arab world go back to before the emergence of Islam in the 7th century and have waxed and waned ever since. Anti-Semitism is again widely tolerated in Europe. But the United States has a new president who grew up in and around New York City, built a fortune there, has a Jewish son-in-law, Jewish grandchildren and a pro-Israel attitude that is more decisive and imaginative than that of the last few American presidents.

Currently the Arabs of Arabia, or at least key leaders, have decided that decades of denouncing Israel, the one nation in the region with a functioning democracy, the most advanced and successful economy and the most powerful armed forces, ought to be rethought. So now Israel is seen as a potential ally not a battlefield opponent. As a result Arab journalists and leaders are speaking openly, and more frequently, about such an alliance. Some countries, like the UAE, can now speak openly of the discreet (and often not so secret) commercial, military and diplomatic links they developed with Israel over the years. To a lesser extent Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian connections are now admitted. The motivation here is survival against an increasingly aggressive Iran. Hang together or hang separately. Israel already has powerful allies for dealing with Iran and welcomes an Arab alliance, even if it won’t last, or at least will be under constant attack going forward, as was the case with the Jordanian and Egyptian peace deals.

Then there is a new generation of Saudi leaders. The young Saudi crown prince (and soon to be the king as his elderly father announced his abdication) pointed out that Iran is officially obsessed with destroying Israel while a growing number of Arabs see Israel as a potential ally. Everyone knows that before the current religious dictatorship took control of Iran in the 1980s Israel and Iran had many diplomatic and economic links, far more that Israel had with the Arab world. But Iranian religious leaders decided that Israel was at the top of the list of things that had to change. Next on the list was who should control the Islamic shrines in Saudi Arabia and so on. Iran has always been scary to its neighbors but was usually ruled by some aristocrat. Now that the Iranian Shia clergy (who were long known to be aggressive) are in charge it is time for neighbors to reconsider traditional alliances.

. . .

Israel has made it clear that they will fight if Iran tries to establish a military presence in Syria. That is complicated by the fact that Iran has allies in Syria; Russia and Turkey. What makes this interesting is that Turkey and Iran are traditional enemies of Russia, while Israel and the Gulf Arabs are not. What to do? Israel and Russia are trying to negotiate a deal to prevent a war between Iran and Israel over Iranian plans (already announced and underway) to establish bases in Syria and organize anti-Israeli forces for a final battle. Thus for Israel any long term Iranian presence in Syria is intolerable. Russia says it can work out such a deal but many Israelis are skeptical and Iran says such a deal is not possible. When it comes to opposing Iran Israel has some very public backing from Russia despite the fact that this puts Russia at odds with their two other allies in Syria. The Russians see the Israelis as a more powerful and reliable ally than the Turks or Iranians. Russia is also backing the Kurds in Syria and that is causing problems with Turkey.

There’s more at the link.  Recommended reading for anyone who wants to keep abreast of the situation there.



  1. I've said this multiple times over the years:

    The world is littered with piles of dry tinder. They're all connected. And people out there are playing with matches.

    I fear that sooner or later one of these is going to catch, whether in the Middle East, or India/Pakistan (which just exchanged fire), China vs. somebody (China sea?), the Norks are always a threat, Russia heating something up somewhere…

    When one goes – and IMHO it's WHEN not IF – every bad actor out there will view this as an opportunity to act. Not a good situation.

  2. Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.

    Let us not forget that the plainly stated ultimate goal of the Iranian Mullahs is to bring about Armageddon. Their entry into the nuclear power club will most likely be announced by the simultaneous detonations of container ships in a dozen major ports around the world, including Haifa and New York.

    Nothing good can happen by waiting for them to do this to us. No, I'm mistaken. It would change the voting demographics here by eliminating millions of Democrats in New York, Boston, Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, and all along the west coast. But it's probably not the way we would prefer for that to happen.

  3. I think there is some additional pragmatism to the Arab (public) 180 on Israel – recognition that the US will never allow Israel to be pushed into the sea by anyone – and the changing of the guard, if you will, is an obvious opportunity to institute the change in policy.

    Pete, if you want an interesting take on what is going to happen in the next 5 to 10 years, look on YouTube for Peter Zeihan's presentation at the MN AgriGrowth Annual Meeting that just took place a few weeks ago. It is well worth the hour of your time to watch, IMO.

  4. I remember role playing a game in the 60's that mimicked 1914. Alliances and treaties between nations that on the surface made little sense to keeping the peace and status quo. When the tipping point came about the intrigue made the whole world collapse into open war.

    It looks like the same scenarios developing now.

    I hope no on shoots a prince, mullah or archduke.


  5. Not our monkeys not our circus. The issues in the ME are only exacerbated by American meddling. Let the Arabs, Israelis, Turks, Russians, former colonial powers or whoever deal with it. The Iranians and the North Koreans are going to be nuclear powers unless the U.S. or someone else decides to occupy the entire nation, hunt down and kill every engineer, physicist and physics student in said country. The DPRK nor the Iranians are suicidal. Simply put them on notice that any weapon detonated on US soil by terrorists will be treated as an attack by them (nuclear material is traceable) and will result in the extermination of the entire populations of their nations via high yield thermonuclear weapons airburst when possible to avoid excessive fallout in neighboring countries. We've played global thermonuclear brinksmanship with the Soviet Union for decades and we know how it works.

    Bottom line is that we can be energy independent from the ME now. Nothing in that miserable region is worth one more dead American soldier. The Israelis have nukes and are more than capable of defending themselves. They don't require our tax dollars or US Marines. If they need financial support or foot soldiers the diaspora has plenty of both to contribute.

    The current administration needs to wake up and realize what Americans were voting for when they elected Trump.
    An end to senseless wars.
    An end to entangling alliances with foreign powers-even the one his daughter married into.
    A wall on the southern border.
    A stop of mass immigration and the deportation of those here, especially those from nations supposedly so dangerous we need to bomb or garrison.
    Most of all putting America and Americans first. Not strips of sand in the middle east or rich "allies" on the other side of the Pacific or in Europe.

    He either does the above or he'll be a 1 term president, the republicans will lose the house and senate and probably go the way of the Whigs.

  6. @McChuck:

    Iran has already practiced launching EMP-useful missiles from ships, and discussed it openly. That's the probable route IMHO. They've said they'll come to the Gulf of Mexico; they'll do it until it becomes routine for us to see them there. Then… launch.
    ** Title: EMP: A Terrorist's Dream


    As a Zionist Jew, I agree that Israel is capable of defending itself and, IMHO, should wean itself from US aid. It's my understanding, however, that most of the US aid these days was negotiated during the Egypt-Israel treaty where the US gave financial incentives to Israel to replace the oil revenue Israel got from the Sinai oil fields (such as they are).

    Realistically, while I agree that the Arabs seem to be coming around to Israel, don't forget that "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is an Arab proverb. In actuality, it's "The enemy of my enemy is my ally-of-convenience" – few in Israel have any illusions that the Arab Muslims are suddenly abandoning their end goals of the end times, where even the trees will say "Oh Muslim, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him."

    Having said that, there are Muslims who have reformed. But they're not the ones in control. A better, if more subtle strategy, would be to find out how to – within Islam – start to turn it with internal allies.

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