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Archive for the ‘geopolitics’ Category

Hezbollah’s Beirut victory has inflicted a major black eye upon the credibility of the West. Once again, Hassan Nasrallah went all-in, and won, a showdown with the US/ Saudi/ Israeli/ Egyptian axis.

The latest strife began when the Sunni-led government found cameras in trash cans at the end of Beirut International Airport’s main runway, to film all aircraft entering and leaving the “country.” The government fired the chief of airport security and declared Hezbollah’s private telecom network to be a threat to national security.

Five days later, the suspect general’s authority over airport security has been reinstated; the Hezbollah telecom network has been declared off-limits to anybody, including the central government; Gen. Suleiman has sided with Syria and Hezbollah; and the pro-Western coalition, especially Saad al-Hariri’s Future Movement (tayyar al-mustaqbal), have been exposed as impotent.

The Sunni front miscalculated. Either the coalition counted upon Suleiman to declare a state of emergency and arrest Hezbollah’s assault on Beirut, or the coalition counted upon Israel to step in in the event of Syrian involvement — in which case the Israelis sold out their Lebanese allies, presumably to repay the Syrians for assassinating Mughniyah effecting a divorce with Teheran.

(The only reason I am bringing that theory up again is because Nasrallah was sidelined by Teheran after 2006, because his instigation of the war against Israel aggrandized Nasrallah at Teheran’s expense. The fashionable theories of Mughniyah’s assassination are that 1) the Saudis did it, through Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or 2) Shia Lebanese nationalists — Nasrallah –, and Syrian nationalists — Asef Shawkat — collaborated to kill Mughniyah, and so limit Iranian encroachment upon both Lebanon and Syria. It doesn’t make very much sense that Iran would be happy with Nasrallah seizing the limelight once again.)

However, we can be almost certain that the Saudis were the ones responsible for Mughniyah’s death, judging from the public source information that, for example, the car that incinerated Mughniyah was owned by a Syrian woman seduced by the Saudi embassy attache.

Anyway, there still seems to be significant coordination between Hezbollah and Damascus, credible open sources’ words to the contrary. The Mughniyah conspirators in Syria are all dead or under house arrest. The integrity of Damascus’s networks is definitely under question, but the iron Shia triangle of Damascus, Hezbollah and Teheran is essentially intact.

Meanwhile, where was the Olmert regime? Lying about progress of peace negotiations in an effort to justify giving more Israeli land to people who hate Israel, to extricate itself from a deepening mire of corruption and public contempt. Israel couldn’t have dived into Lebanon to save Hariri et al, but Olmert’s fecklessness has been plain for all to see. Israeli media are still talking about the most recent charges against Olmert even more so their allies’ disintegration in Beirut.

The US/Arab/Israel axis is huddling now. Hezbollah is “magnanimously” backing down from its conquests, probably hoping that this audacious move will not provoke a broader retaliation from the Arab powers.

Hezbollah’s Beirut victory is to Hariri, Jumblatt and Siniora what Hezbollah’s 2006 victory was to the IDF. It was a devastating blow to a previously credible institution(s). Hezbollah needs to be smashed. Iraq is untenable unless Teheran’s proxies are mauled. If there is no retaliation, the Hariri government will be utterly devoid of credibility. Lebanon will fall to Hezbollah and Hezbollah’s victory will be complete.

And don’t think this doesn’t have ramifications all over the region, either. The Shiite-controlled central government of Iraq signed a sudden cease-fire with al-Sadr yesterday. Iran spoke very loudly and clearly yesterday, and its puppets in the ISCI and in Baghdad were the first to hear it.

This should be an interesting week.

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Lebanon

Oil hopped past $126 today, which is all the more remarkable considering that if you measure oil in terms of the weaker USD from 3-5 weeks ago, oil would be over $130/barrel.

Israel appears to have given Syria the warning that if so much as a single truck crosses Syria into Lebanon, Israel and Syria will be at war.

Meanwhile, in keeping with the US strategy of throttling Iranian proxies all over the Middle East, the US is planning to choke Sadr City, the headquarters of the Mehdi Army, presumably with the help of local Sunni troops.

Unfortunately, it appears that the pro-Saudi/pro-US elements in Lebanon have been completely ‘faced’ by Hezbollah.

The “Saudi axis” of Christian and Sunni Lebanese apparently counted far too much upon the loyalty of Lebanese Gen. Michel Suleiman, commander of the Lebanese army, who, far from stopping any Hezbollah advance in Lebanon, essentially ratified it. Hezbollah has made a show of handing conquered neighborhoods over to the Lebanese army, which has essentially ratified Hezbollah’s conquests, rather than neutralized them.

Saad Hariri’s media outlets have been shut down by Hezbollah, and kept off the air by the army. Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri are essentially Hezbollah hostages, besieged in their homes.

Hariri, Jumblatt and Siniora were apparently given the green light to move against Hezbollah and Amal after Syria received word to Stay Out, Or Else from Israel. So they moved against Hezbollah’s crucial, expensive and clandestine telecommunications network as a threat to the state, and were given a pretext in the form of spy cameras which monitored all aircraft arriving and landing from Beirut’s main airport.

The Saudi axis had spent weeks conferring with their foreign patrons and they had to have known what other dominoes would fall after this initial move. How did they screw up so badly?

Once again, when the rubber hit the road, Mideastern Sunnis (and Christians in this case) were completely outfoxed, outmaneuvered and outfought by the Shiites. Once again the stereotype that “Arabs can’t fight for sh*t” has been woefully ratified.

Escalation is now required to keep Lebanon falling under de facto Iranian control–unless this was planned as a first stage by the Mideastern Sunnis, Israelis, Egyptians and Americans, much akin to the Israelis’ logic to let the other side make the first major move in 1973, to muster international support. Saudis and Kuwaitis are leaving the country, which doesn’t bode well for any resolution. The pro-Western militias are not standing down. A few hours ago I didn’t think the Hezbollah steamroll could possibly have been accounted for by the pro-Western Lebanese but I have to rescind that assessment.

I have observed in post after post that Syria will never divorce from Hezbollah or Shiite Lebanon, regardless of whatever pieces of paper it gives to the sad-sack Olmert/Barak/Livni government in Israel. In this case, they somehow kept control of Suleiman after the West thought that he was leaning to us.

Again, it’s stupefying to me how, given that Hezbollah’s basic plan was public information as of last November, they managed to roll the pro-Western Lebanese so easily.

If Siniora resigns, as he appears poised to do, the wafer-thin Christian/Sunni/Druze majority could elect a new PM without the participation of Hezbollah, triggering a true civil war, but at least buying some time for the pro-Western militias to regroup. The pro-Western militias are apparently “on the move” in organized fashion, which buttresses the “round two” hypothesis.

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Iraq’s Sunnis ask the Egyptians and Arabs to help them “save the Iraqi people from the Iranian occupation of Iraq.”

Drumroll.

May 7, 2008 1740 GMT
An Iraqi Sunni delegation met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit in Cairo on May 7 in an effort to urge Arab countries to “save Iraq and its people” against the “Iranian occupation” of Iraq, Agence France-Presse reported, citing Sheikh Majid Abdel Razzak al-Ali Suleiman, the leader of the Iraqi Dulaim tribe.
Also,
May 7, 2008 1730 GMT
Afghan police and security officers arrested two Iranian men, in two separate incidents, suspected of spying around Afghan and NATO military installations, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported May 7. One of the suspects was captured at the Iranian border attempting to enter Zarang. He reportedly was carrying photographs and documents indicating his involvement with militants. Another suspect was detained in the southeastern region of Afghanistan near the border of Pakistan. Afghan authorities believe he was preparing information pertaining to a possible attack on Afghan and NATO security forces.

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It seems like the latest (American-triggered?) Olmert scandal will be fatal to Olmert. Which is fortunate, because the US has some serious Iran escalations to do, if it hopes to retain a meaningful stake in Iraq’s future.

Faster, please.

After another day of rampant rumors concerning the latest criminal investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, members of the prime minister’s own party openly criticized Kadima’s top man on Tuesday and called for his resignation – in order to save the future of the party.Party members said they were waiting for a dominant figure to stand up and take the reins, and named Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz as possible successors, noting that even if they did not serve as prime minister, they could help redirect the party and refocus its energies on critical subjects.

So far, however, Kadima’s top leadership has refrained from making any statements on Olmert’s investigation, and no Kadima ministers have made any moves toward taking the lead inside the party.

Only Absorption Minister Ya’acov Edri has addressed the investigation at all. Speaking Monday during a fiery Knesset discussion in which the opposition challenged Olmert’s diplomatic policy, Edri expressed his confidence in Olmert’s abilities as prime minister and his certainty that Olmert could continue his participation in negotiations even while the investigation was under way.

But within the Kadima rank and file, Olmert’s standing seemed much less certain. Kadima MK Ze’ev Elkin blasted the prime minister for focusing on his “secretive” diplomatic negotiations rather than on the gagged investigation.

“Peace isn’t something you smuggle in under cover of darkness and isn’t carried out through spin doctors. Rather, real peace is carried out in broad daylight and not hidden under gag orders,” Elkin said in an interview with Army Radio. “Kadima must come to its senses and pick a new leader.”

Elkin accused Olmert of bringing the party – and the country – to a dead end, a charge echoed by fellow party member MK Marina Solodkin.

Solodkin added that Olmert, together with Vice Premier Haim Ramon and a handful of others, had hijacked Kadima, originally a “center-right-liberal party” and made it into a “center-left party.” While she emphasized that she did not want to make judgments regarding the current investigation, Solodkin said Olmert had caused significant damage to the government by bringing in people with poor political – and ethical – reputations.

“I don’t want to judge the personal element involved, but the political element is serious enough. To appoint people like Avraham Hirschson and Shula Zaken was a political error,” she explained. “And he hasn’t apologized for these things. There has been no regret, no apology. All the people with whom he has chosen to surround himself, the spins cast around about the final Winograd Report, and the negotiations with Syria are all too much for the people who are really concerned about our existence.”

But Solodkin said it was perhaps this latest investigation that would tip the balance against a politician who had managed to maintain a heavy Teflon coating during earlier scandals.

“This is one investigation too many – public norms in a functional country don’t allow a prime minister whose finance minister is a thief and criminal of the worst proportions, and whose personal assistant is suspected of the worst types of corruption. Either we are a banana republic and we must write that in big letters, or we must expect a change.”

I can’t find any recent public opinion polls on Tzipi Livni. Can someone please tell me that she is not popular anymore? How does a Likud/Yisrael Beteinu centric coalition stack up against Labor, Likud and Meretz?

We need to get Olmert out of the way. There’s a lot of “work” to be done in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, and not much time left to do it.

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Oil

Oil popped 3 percent and is making new highs, even as the tactical asset managers dumped commodities en masse in the past 2 weeks.

Judging from the pattern of leaks, it seems that the entire US security establishment to the right of State (from the very moderate CIA all the way to Petraeus) has agreed upon an Iran airstrike. Maybe oil is reflecting this; Iran has called off all negotiations while the US throttles its Sadrite proxies, all the leaks have been made in all the right places, and the more “dovish” American officers have at the same time said that they really, really don’t want a full-blown war with Iran, to “contain” an escalation’s impact upon commodities markets as much as possible.

The groundwork has been laid several times before, including February/March 2007, and later in August-November 2007, although strategic leaks and minor Iranian concessions stalled it each time.

I have been arguing for a long time that Iran is simply stalling for time until after the 2008 elections, and that its various stop-start negotiations and concessions are not in good faith. It seems like most of the US security establishment has arrived at such a consensus.

Israel is the only problem; Olmert has basically pawned Israel’s longer-run strategic interest. Ratcheting up the pressure on Ahmadinejad would be a great way to screw Olmert, as well as serving the US interest in Iraq.

By the way … I still think it’s a great time to buy gold miners (if you ignored me when I said to buy while gold was at $1020, then $920, and now $870)

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I can barely find anything about the Muslim Brotherhood’s May 4 strike in Egypt so I assume that Mubarak’s measures to jack up wages 30 percent fizzled the strike.

And what do you know, the *next day* Mubarak proposes a 35 percent increase in fuel prices.

The Egyptian parliament’s ruling party proposed May 5 large increases on Monday in fuel and cigarette prices and in vehicle licence fees as a means of paying for the costs of President Hosni Mubarak’s recent proposal for public-sector pay raises, Reuters reported. In the proposal, the price of 90 octane fuel would rise 35 percent.

This story isn’t over … Egypt is going to spawn a lot of problems for us in the next few years.

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I love this guy: A Jewish MK who has self-respect! Surely I am hallucinating?

“The Arab Mks are the representatives of terror organizations in the Knesset,” Lieberman accused. “Today in the Knesset there is a coalition of defeatists and fifth columnists. Those sitting here (the Arab MKs) are representatives of terror organizations.”

“The fact that an Israeli member of Knesset presents himself in Qatar as a Palestinian, preaches against Israel and says that it is racist proves that the 30’s and the period leading up to the Shoah [Holocaust] haven’t taught us a thing,” Lieberman said. “This is a syndrome of the Weimar Republic.”

Lieberman’s speech was interrupted several times by Arab MKs and Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On. The former minister of strategic affairs, however, was unfazed, saying that “After the election, God willing, we will form a government in which we will hold the Defense portfolio, and then you will experience a new Middle East.”

The latest leaks from Israeli prosecutors indicate that the latest investigation against Olmert will probably eliminate him. That’s very fortunate for Israel. We need somebody reliable in charge of Israel who does not experience narcissism-instigated hallucinations of Middle East kumbaya, and who will be willing to destroy Hamas and throttle Hezbollah.

Peace deals between Israel and former enemies have only been effected by credible right-wingers (Menachem Begin; Ariel Sharon would have, but a coma aborted his attempt). Olmert is far left, and has no credibility whatsoever. He will be stopped.

The question is whether he can be stopped before summer, which is the last realistic opportunity for the United States and Israel to improve their bargaining position viz Iran ahead of an Obama presidency.

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