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Iranian elections: the background

The clerics are all but dictating how the vote should go. Areas that vote as they are instructed will receive favorable programs after the election. To qualify for these programs, there must be a considerable voter turnout in the area, and the voters must select the regime’s approved candidates.

Prices for almost everything have risen as the rial has declined. Food prices are becoming a political problem, as has access to some basic food products.

Iran has taken extraordinary steps to prevent their version of the Arab Spring. Security forces and clergy have played an active role in preventing this.

There is rising unrest among the middle class. The more rural areas have been showing signs of unrest for several years, and they don’t always vote the way the clerics direct, as they tend to receive fewer economic benefits.

Shiite clergy have become more tolerant towards Sunni clergy in Iran, and they have been working with them to achieve goals outside Iran. Sunni influence has helped with Egypt and has been useful in continued conflict with Americans in Iran. It’s not just the Taliban upsetting the Afghan people over American actions in Iran. The burning of the Quran is the big one. Iran has been funneling funds to Sunni clergy in Afghanistan through the Sunni clerics in Iran. The goal is speed the reduction of NATO forces in Iran—and American forces in particular—before they can stabilize the more secular government structure in place now. An Islamic nation is not enough for Iran. They want an Afghanistan based on Islamic law again. That means they will assist the Taliban in regaining power.

The public has suffered from the economic sanctions. Fear of further sanctions in the near future are having a bigger effect. With rising unemployment and prices, the general public feels the current leadership is endangering Iran’s economic future.

The Iranians have had a hard time ensuring Hezbollah’s cooperation against Israel. Hezbollah wanted to take a more defensive position than Iran wanted, out of fear of Israel attacking Lebanon. To counter this, Iran is going to build up the Lebanese army for defensive purposes in order to encourage Hezbollah to once again become the offensive force Iran is paying it to be. Hezbollah will remain the major armed and political force in Lebanon.

If the Clerics and the Guard feel their hold on Iran is slipping due to American pressure, they will attack Israel. Anti Zionism and Anti Americanism are the two main tools the clerics have for keeping public support. When anyone tries to publicly suggest that Iran comply with the IAEA program in order to get the sanctions lifted, they are very quickly labelled a Zionist spy or American sympathizer and jailed—or worse. Many believe that the clerics will attack Israel before they allow themselves to lose their hold on Iran’s government.

Iranian expansion is not about religion

Shiites in IranA small piece of news was virtually lost in the feeds despite its major significance. During the Ashura religious event, Hamas police cracked down on Gaza’s small Shiite community, which had assembled for prayer. Later, the Gazan Foreign Ministry issued a statement that Shia have no place in the Strip, which is a Sunni country.

Hamas, remember, is vitally dependent on Iran, which is a Shiite country. Iran is known for fostering Shiite movements even in Africa, and certainly in the Middle East. Iranian political expansion is usually related to the ayatollahs’ goal of spreading their version of Islam.

The fact that Hamas can suppress Shiites and then boast of it shows that Iranian imperial ambitions are not directed toward religious ends. Because the Iranians pursue rational political goals, they would not consider apocalyptic solutions, and can be checked.

Iranian economic problems wrongly attributed to sanctions

General elections are close in Iran, and the country’s economy is in shambles. This situation, however, is not related to the sanctions.

Iran now pumps out as much oil as it can, and foreign companies still compete fiercely for oil and gas development projects there. Skyrocketing oil prices in the wake of the Arab Spring events easily offset whatever small effect the sanctions had on Iran.

Iran’s economic troubles are similar to those of other Muslim countries, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. A burgeoning population, an influx of rural residents into the towns, an inability to compete internationally in the technological economy, socialist policies with heavy subsidies, gross corruption and mismanagement, unsupportable military expenses—these and other factors combined to devastate the Iranian economy, with or without US input.

Moreover, Iran’s population attributes the country’s economic troubles to the secular government rather than to the supreme ruler. That weakens Ahmadinejad, who is a moderate compared to Grand Ayatollah Khamenei.

And no amount of economic trouble would prompt Ayatollah Khamenei to relinquish his nuclear program, because Shiite military dominance is for him a religious issue.

New Iraqi leader may turn worse than Saddam

The trouble with Maliki is not that he is corrupt or tortures his opponents even more cruelly than Saddam. The problem is that his Shiite government naturally leans toward Iran.

Immediately after the US withdrawal, Maliki started pushing Sunnis out of the coalition government, and threatened the Kurds with invasion.

By ruling Iraq through a proxy government, Iran achieves true regional hegemony as its imperial borders spread to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria (and so Israel). Now Iran can easily stir up hostilities in Jordan through the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Nouri al-Maliki

Yemeni Saleh is less than straightforward

Despite his pledge in Riyadh to step down before February’s elections, Yemeni president Saleh has returned to his country. He has already reneged several times on his promises to abandon the office he has held for thirty-three years.

Despite an apparent agreement with the opposition, Yemen is convulsing under terrorist attacks staged by Shiite insurgents, obviously supported by Iran. Whether under Saleh or his VP, the central government is losing control of large areas to Shiites and Al Qaeda.

Instead of strengthening Saleh to destroy the insurgents by whatever means necessary, the US adopted the Saudi plan. The Saudis, however, have a completely different objective in Yemen: carving out a stable mini-state along the Saudi border—and to hell with the rest of the country, which will inevitably fall to terrorists.

Saudi succession is in danger

After the death of his 83-year-old brother, Prince Nayef became the heir to the throne at 78. Remarkably, he is still sharp at that age, but in the naturally short time he has left on Earth he won’t be able to stabilize Saudi Arabia, which struggles with a Shiite insurgency.

Prince Nayef

In loyalty, Saudi Arabia is ahead of Israel

For years, Israeli politicians have talked about forcing Arabs to take a loyalty oath as a condition of citizenship.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef promised Shiite rioters that failure to exhibit loyalty to the state would result in forfeiture of their citizenship—and the numerous welfare perks that go with it.

Well-armed Shiite lambs

Oil pipeline in Saudi ArabiaIn the last week’s riots in the Saudi oil region, Shiites for the first time used firearms against Saudi troops. That signals an important milestone in the Iranian-sponsored insurgency there. Major unrest in the Eastern province would drive Saudi cash revenues down and oil prices up, benefiting Iran.

The Saudis all but lost their war in Syria when the NATO did not get involved and Assad wiped out the insurgency. The Saudis are also losing Jordan, which will fall to Iranian-supported Hamas. Coupled with the insurgency in its own east, those developments can break the region’s only moderate Islamic state, and the major Arab ally of Israel.

Obama rebuffed in his betrayal

Recently, we wondered what was the deal between Washington and Tehran. It transpired that the White House had asked the ayatollahs to direct their militias away from American targets in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop supplying weapons to the Taliban, and join America’s ‘antiterrorist’ efforts. For its part, the White House offered the Iranians guarantees against a US attack.

Obama is stupid to expect Tehran to accept such an offer—which Ahmadinejad predictably refused. The Iranians simply do not fear the American attack anymore. The Iranians are not going to stop terrorist activity by Shiite militias in Iraq whose only reason for existence is violence, especially after the US crafted the illegitimate Iraqi government to deprive the Shiite majority of their controlling share. Likewise, Iran will not order the Iraqi Hezbollah to stop its attacks on Kuwait, which is building a major US Navy base. The Taliban is clearly coming back to power in Kabul, and Iran is not about to stop supporting them with weapons sales.

Easily enough, Obama excluded Israel from the negotiations. He went along with Iranian nuclear capability, which provides Syria and Lebanon with a defensive shield for conventional attacks on Israel.

Israel is not the only victim of Washington’s pro-Iranian shift. The White House unsuccessfully pressured Saudi Arabia to abandon its support of the Bahraini monarch so that the island can go democratic and fall into the Iranian sphere of influence while the US Navy base there will be moved to Kuwait.

Gadhafi’s departure brought Sadr’s skeleton into limelight

Thirty-three years ago, Moussa Sadr fled to Libya, where he stayed at Gadhafi’s invitation. Sadr, the founder of the Amal Shiite terrorist group, was a charismatic cleric bitterly at odds with the younger and much more radical Hezbollah, and he blocked Iranian inroads into the Lebanese Shiite community. So he conveniently disappeared in Libya amid the fighting between Hezbollah and Amal. As Rabbi Kahane used to say, “Peace between Jews and Arabs? I’m waiting for peace between Arabs and Arabs. Between Hezbollah and Amal.”

Plenty of parties would pay Gadhafi to get rid of Sadr, including Israel, the US, France, Hezbollah, or Iran. Now, as the Libyan rebels rampage through government buildings, embarrassing documents may surface, shedding light on Iran’s involvement in his murder. In an effort to prevent a major PR disaster, Iran is leaning on the rebels to create a joint commission of inquiry into Sadr’s whereabouts.

Moussa Sadr

Could the Saudis be stupid?

MeccaThe Debka reports that Saudi Arabia plans to wrest the Euphrates Valley from Syria in order to create a buffer Sunni state there. Though these plans have been rumored for months, such an attempt would be a mammoth miscalculation for the Saudis.

Assad would fight to his last soldiers in order to keep the Euphrates region, his strategic underbelly. Iraq, still propped up by the US, wouldn’t give up its bank of the Euphrates easily. Iraq will certainly rather turn to Iran for help than lose the region. Local militias, supported by Saudi money and arms-smuggling networks, would stand no chance against the combined interests of Syria, Iran, and Iraq.

Moreover, Middle Eastern politics are no longer dictated by sectarian divides. Shiite Hezbollah cooperates with Sunni Hamas; Shiite Iran and Iraq are at odds with each other; Sunni Pakistan and Saudi Arabia cannot get along any better than Pakistan gets along with Shiite Iran; the Wahhabite Saudis are not fond of the similarly religious Taliban. A Sunni state on the Euphrates is not at all certain to promote Saudi interests in the long term.

The Saudis similarly erred in Yemen, where they also banked on creating a buffer state. So far there is a stalemate with no imminent likelihood of Yemen breaking apart—though in a world where tribal chiefs make all the decisions, that can change in the blink of an eye.

One lesson for Israel is that Assad did not attack the Saudis for such a blatant plan to violate his sovereignty. Israeli intelligence consistently overestimate the hypothetical Syrian reaction to our attacks on their nuclear and missile facilities.

Obama’s Iraq fiction

Obama may have broken his election-year promises about the timeline of removing the US troops from Iraq, but at least he appears ready to finally remove them by the year’s end.

Think again. The number of American military personnel left behind in Iraq as defense contractors, equipment trainers, security providers, and—most of all—the personnel of their four air bases will be at least 40,000, a third less than the peak combat number. Those soldiers will come under attack by Shiite militias and Sunni terrorists, who will see their victory against America just a step away.

Thus the US-Iraqi debacle will continue, now mishandled by Panetta in his new capacity as Defense Secretary after the ecologist’s ruinous career at the CIA.

Obama in Iraq

22 July 2011 Posted in Iraq

Halabja air base: protecting whom?

The US is currently constructing a mammoth air base near Halabja, Kurdistan, just 9 miles from the Iranian border.

The base cannot serve to protect Kurdistan against Iran, which can easily move SAM batteries to the border to target Kurdish planes during take-off, when their defensive capabilities are minimal. At such a short distance, Iran can always destroy the air base without allowing the American missile interceptors time to react.

It seems that the base is meant to protect Kurdistan against Shiite Iraq. That would conform to Obama’s plan to break up Libya with the intent of controlling the oil-rich zone.

21 July 2011 Posted in Iraq

Saudi policy: land, not people

After their takeover of Bahrain, the Saudis brought some 10,000 Pakistanis to the island. While the Pakistanis are ostensibly there to beef up Bahraini armed forces, many of them came with their families. That might be interpreted as the beginning of  the Sunnification of the predominantly Shiite island. The Saudis, it seems, aim to encourage Pakistani immigration to Bahrain even at the cost of marginalizing the island’s Arab population.

The Saudi police action is extremely dangerous because the Pakistanis can easily switch their loyalty to Iran. Pakistan maintains excellent ties with Iran, both directly and through North Korea and China.

The Saudis also set out to carve buffer states from Yemen and Syria. While superficially attractive, this policy falls into a typical imperial trap. The Saudis will be forced to defend, whether directly or by financing local militia, vast territories with diverse populations, many of them averse to Wahhabist Islam and monarchy.

Iran on political counteroffensive

After Saudi Arabia expanded the GCC by wooing to it regional American clients, including Jordan, Iran retaliated by sending its top diplomatic personnel to Qatar and Kuwait. The tiny emirates are now being squeezed between the US, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

The Saudi political expansion is likely to be short-lived. No amount of funding of smart proxy wars, as in Syria and Yemen, can compensate for the lack of will to fight, which the Iranians have and the Saudis don’t.
After the US helped Islamist mobs oust its allies in Egypt and Yemen, the Gulf royals would rather depend on Iran or the Saudis for survival. And they will soon realize that the Saudis cannot protect them for long. The test case is now Yemen. The Saudis can defend a minor island like Bahrain, but we believe they lack the resources to prop up the Yemeni president against the Iranian-supported insurgency.

Moreover, the Saudi royal family is in serious trouble financially: most of its investments, upward of a trillion dollars, are in the United States. In the event of unrest in Saudi Arabia requiring security forces to shoot Shiite protesters, the White House can easily slap sanctions on the Saudi rulers, especially now that the Saudi king has proclaimed that he will pursue a policy independent of the United States. Obama has already condemned the Saudis’ “repressive military action” in Bahrain, which incidentally saved the island, a large base for the US Navy, from falling to Iran.

Saudis overestimate their strength

Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates formally informed the UNSC that they are ready to take “whatever measures necessary” against Iran for interfering in their domestic affairs.

Though Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE possess formidable arsenals—especially their airforces—their pilots are poorly trained, and fighting spirit is generally very low among rich Arabs and their Pakistani mercenaries. This stands in stark contrast to Iran, which has poor weapons, so-so training—and an excellent will to fight. The Arabs’ top-of-the-line US fighter jets are thus vulnerable to Iranian air defenses which, while mostly primitive, do include such advanced gear as TOR-1M and Chinese-made S-300. Without air dominance, the Arab countries are vulnerable to Iranian invasion and Shiite sabotage.

The Saudis, however, are doing a great job of pushing the US into a corner: attack Iran or face major flare-ups throughout the Middle East, which would send oil prices soaring and hurt the American economy. It testifies to the depth of the Israeli government’s betrayal of its people that the Jews did not join the Saudis in this endeavor. And it is Israel’s government which is responsible for the current wave of riots sweeping through the region:  riots which we could have nipped in the bud by staging the smallest attack on Egypt during the Tahrir Square protests to re-unify Egyptians behind Mubarak.

Iran threatens Saudi Arabia

For the first time in history Iran has overtly threatened Saudi Arabia over its crackdown on Shiite activists. In effect, Iran is inciting the Saudi Shiites who sit on the kingdom’s oil fields to revolt. In light of the sour relations between Obama and the Saudi king, Iran is tempted to invade the Saudi Arabian oil field region with the help of Saudi Arabia’s fifth column of Shiites. One cannot fail to notice the parallels with WWII Germany, which expanded into neighboring states by exploiting their German populations. The Iranians are so confident in their might that they have spurned the olive branch the Saudis extended to them after Mubarak’s fall.

06 March 2011 Posted in Iran

Common goals of White House and Hezbollah

According to WikiLeaks, Hezbollah trained the Bahraini Shiite opposition—i.e., the ‘democratic movement’ lauded by Obama, who leaned on the local monarch to stop shooting at them.

Meanwhile in Egypt, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the spiritual mentor of the Muslim Brotherhood gave a pro-democracy speech to a million-strong crowd in Tahrir Square. Incidentally, Qaradawi denies the Holocaust and offers religious justification for suicide bombings.

(Video: Bahrain riots)

Low value of peace treaties

The riots that erupted in Bahrain, Algeria, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Jordan illustrate just how unimportant peace treaties really are in the Middle East. Egyptian opposition figures have hinted repeatedly that the Camp David era is over. In Jordan, the local monarchy, which has been kept in power by Bedouin bayonets, is now trembling as Bedouins openly oppose the king. When the monarchy is toppled, the Bedouins will join hands with Jordanian Palestinians and abandon Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel.

A really interesting thing would be a spillover of riots from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. Though the White House warned ‘autocrats’ about the changing world, the US cannot afford a Shiite revolution in the Saudi Arabian oilfield region.

Obama policies lead to Egypt-Saudi-Iran alliance

Obama policies lead to Egypt-Saudi-Iran axisThe Debka has confirmed a widely anticipated development: in order to snub Obama over his treatment of Mubarak and his inaction on the ayatollahs, the Saudi king has ordered rapprochement with Iran. This engagement of the leading Sunni and Shiite powers marks a creation of an Islamic mega-bloc.

Conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia has historically provided the balance which allowed the United States to play the role of arbiter in the Middle East. The Saudi rapprochement with Iran may be a trick to pressure Obama into action against the ayatollahs, but more probably it is a genuine attempt by the monarchy to survive now that its Western ally has refused to prevent the nuclearization of its Shiite nemesis.

The Saudis drew Egypt into the orbit of their improved relations with Iran by promising to fully replace American aid to Egypt if Obama cuts it.

If such an alliance is indeed formed, Israel will find it hard to survive.