Saturday, August 28, 2010

Obama's Middle East End Game, ctd.

Introduction: On the Brink

Like Sisyphus, Obama is moving his grand strategy for the Middle East closer to the top of mountain. It's possible he's walked Israel back their coming war with Iran, he's made Russia responsible for monitoring Iran's nuclear program - and Russia does not want a nuclear Iran - and he's begun a "deck clearing" for building a regional security alliance to contain Iran.

Israel Decides to Dance With the One that Brought 'em

Earlier this summer I was one of a cacophony of voices who believed that Israel was probably on the verge of striking Iran's nascent nuclear program. I even ventured to guess that Israel would do with the tacit approval or even active support of the U.S. and the Gulf States.  I assumed that Israel really did not trust MAD to keep them secure vis-a-vis a nuclear Iran and I assumed that once the Gulf States got on board it was only a matter of time before the JDAMs started falling.

I was probably wrong.

Obama has always pursued two strategies WRT Iran; one was to get them give up the bomb peacefully, the other was to build a regional alliance to contain Iran once they went nuclear. Now, given that Iran lives in a really bad neighborhood, with nasty neighbors who harbor terrorists - including Bin Laden and Mullah Omar - it's logical for Iran to want either an actual warhead or at least break out capacity.

So that leaves containment.

But getting containment right involves building a security alliance for the Middle East ala NATO in Europe (just imagine the day those Gerrys and Frogs work together! Madness I say,  Madness!). And getting that security alliance involves getting the Arabs and Israelis to clear the deck -so-to-speak- when it comes to the two generations of animosity they share (it's a bullshit argument that there has "always been war in the Middle East, the regions has enjoyed long stretches of peace punctuated by periods of violence following imperial decline and everything we've seen since WWII is fallout from the British, French and German empires running out steam).

So, for the time being at least, Israel appears to be ready to gamble on with Obama towards some better greater Middle Eastern end-state.

Clearing the Deck

In this context, clearing the deck means putting the Palestinian issue to rest, thus providing top cover for the Saudis to finally recognize Israel's right to exist. To that end the talks that Obama announced late last week couldn't be more important to the future of the region.        

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