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Like Puppets on Strings
Israel - Middle East
Friday, October 07, 2011
Alf Cengia

We all remember those old vinyl records – right?  You know – before the advent of CDs and MP3 players.  Occasionally they’d sustain a scratch and would repeat a section over and over again.  Well it reminds me of the perpetually hopeful yet doomed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the so-called “Arab Spring”.

After being prodded by the United States to resume peace talks, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “Israel must find a way to resume negotiations with the Palestinians and has a responsibility to try to ease tensions with its neighbors in the region.”

I suspect that Barak is dutifully reading out his prepared lines and doesn’t believe peace between the two entities can ever happen while Israel exists.  The record is pretty clear in that regard.

You can shout yourself hoarse yelling out all the reasons why every single effort at peace talks is doomed to fail yet it won’t make any difference.  They won’t listen.  It’s like that Bill Murray movie “Ground Hog Day”.  The players are doomed to repeat the same scenes every single day as if they are being manipulated like little marionettes by a master puppeteer – with one disturbing difference.  It’s getting worse with every performance.

Writing for iPOLITICS, Professor Fen Hampson thinks that, “The odds are 50/50 or better that within a year we will see the outbreak of a major war in the Middle East.”  I would argue that that scenario has been constantly imminent for many years and has grown exponentially more likely.  Quite frankly I believe he has underestimated the enormity of the situation.

Hampson rightly notes that there are many causes for conflicts between nations.  He suggests that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because, “Major wars have also been fought to prevent another country from attacking because a country fears it will be attacked later.”

How did that situation develop to begin with?

Professor Hampson’s example of the US attack on Iraq being driven by “miscalculation and misperception” is debatable.  So, too, his understanding of the underlying hatred that has driven the Arab-Israeli conflicts.  That same dynamic has driven religious based Jewish persecution throughout the centuries as Dr Rydelnik has noted.  However, the never-ending Palestinian-Israeli issue is not the only “flash point for discontent and unrest in the region”.

His overall summary is quite helpful as a brief overview of the types of problems plaguing the Middle East.  He’s quite right when he points out that:

“Iran’s unabated nuclear ambitions pose a different kind of threat not just to its neighbors, but also to the US and Europe. Someday someone might launch a preventive attack on Iran to destroy its up-and-coming nuclear capabilities.”

It must be pointed out here that the world in 1941 was very fortunate that Germany and Japan didn’t have nuclear capabilities and that they were the aggressors.  If we superimpose that example over the Middle East; the stakes are exponentially higher now and they’ve had a longer time to simmer and brew.

He also notes that:

“The recent storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, which Egyptian security forces failed to stop, underscores the deterioration in relations between Cairo and Jerusalem in the Arab Spring’s aftermath. Regimes in transition, even as they move towards democracy, have a long history of running into trouble with their neighbors.”

The only truly successful democracy in the Middle East is Israel.  Even Turkey has its societal problems.  The same observations can be made when scrutinizing Indonesia and Malaysia which are predominantly Islamic based societies.  They have an inclination for intolerance to religious diversity and the West while presenting a democratic facade.  The disappointing hiccup in Egyptian reform after Mubarak is symptomatic of the factional problems the Middle East faces.

Even Jordan’s King Abdullah has his own set of concerns. He’s the sort of neighborhood ally Israel has when it has no real choice.  According to Haaretz he’s, “issued a decree approving a series of constitutional amendments in the wake of large-scale protests.”  Presumably these protests were inspired the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts.  Apparently he also had some issues with corruption within his own government.

Yet it’s the relationship between Iran, Syria and Lebanon which has the most incendiary potential.  There was always a hope that Turkey might provide a stabilizing influence in the area.  However, that is not proving to be the case.  Apparently Turkey is being spurned by the Arabs.

From WinniPeg Free Press:

“During a six-hour, tete-a-tete discussion, Davutoglu tried -- in vain -- to convince Assad that a Turkish-Syrian alliance would be beneficial to both countries at the expense of Israel and Iran. Assad poured cold water on Davutoglu's head. He told the Turkish foreign minister: "The days of the Ottoman Sultan have gone. Syria will never accept that Ottomanism replaces Arabism. Ankara will never again become the decision-making centre of the Arab world."” (Emphasis mine)

How this will affect Syria’s economic relationship with Turkey?  These things can become complex and entangled.  According to one Arab news source:

“Turkey is considered Syria's number one trading partner. Official trading figures show that last year's trade reached $2.5 million, of which $1.6 million are Turkish exports into Syria. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in 2004 that came into force in 2007, resulting in a 30 percent yearly increase in trade...”

But an Assad-led Syria wouldn’t be a preferred customer in my book.  He appears to be a breath away from duplicating the Michael Douglas role in the movie “Falling Down”. The Constitutional Reforms he recently announced that his government would implement are a sham and his narrative is...well irrational at best.

Finally Assad removed the mask to show his true feelings:

"If a crazy measure is taken against Damascus, I will need not more than 6 hours to transfer hundreds of rockets and missiles to the Golan Heights to fire them at Tel Aviv... All these events will happen in three hours, but in the second three hours, Iran will attack the US warships in the Persian Gulf and the US and European interests will be targeted simultaneously."

One problem is his long-standing relationship to the nuclear-aspiring Iran which pulls his strings.  He’s a man that has painted himself into a corner and cannot help himself. Unlike Prof Hampson’s example of Japan in World War Two, however, Syria’s technology for mass destruction may be imminent.

Interestingly, despite Assad’s threats, not all countries agree with the sanctions on Syria. Russia and China elected to veto them.

Why would that be?  It’s almost as if someone else is pulling the strings and these people are just actors destined to play out a fatalistic drama beyond their control.

And it’s just a matter of time before the performance begins.

About Alf Cengia

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