This Middle East Update

By EXCLUSIVE TO THE EWI BLOG | by Ken Jensen
Sunday, August 28th, 2011 @ 1:21AM

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The purpose of posting a wide variety of items on the EWI Digest/EWI Blog is to keep readers apprised of what’s out there in the media, among policy makers and opinion makers.  This Middle East update is occasioned by the notion that one cannot understand economic warfare outside the context of regional “secular” and religious politics.

The inclusion of one or another item has to do with the special content of each.  For instance, the lead item today—Khaled Abu Toameh on King Abdullah and Jordan’s Islamists—is included not so because we need to know what’s going on in Jordan (we do) but because of its scope in describing the state of Arab politics at this juncture.  Jordan’s problems are those of the region, and they have to do with the increasing power of Islamists.

Sometimes, items are included for the opinions offered. Most of the time, these will be worth entertaining.  Sometimes, however, items will be included because the opinions expressed are ridiculous or propaganda. I leave it to the reader to decide which any given opinion is which.

Among the items on Iran, the reader is begged to grasp how Russia is playing its hand in geopolitics regarding the Middle East and the United States; the increasing visibility of corruption involving the IRCG (this, in the face of IMF recent congratulations regarding the Iranian economy); possible Saudi retaliation for the Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi’s U.S. Ambassador; the use of illegally acquired U.S. electronics in the Iranian-support IED-making process in Iraq; and the spread of the Iranian banking scandal and possible Western sanctions against its central bank.

Pieces on the Tunisian election are included today to show some variety of opinion.  I was especially taken by the Dreyfuss piece from The Nation, the title of which suggests that there may be Progressive Islamists.  Are these Islamists allied with American Progressives?  Let’s not go there.  At best, the Dreyfuss piece comes very late to what we’ve known for some months: the most secular of the Arab nations is in the grip of the Islamists.

The David Schenker and Amir Taheri items on Syria point, on the one hand, to the problem that U.S. support for a peaceful opposition in Syria creates no leverage for that opposition; and, in the case of Taheri, that the opposition is legitimate whatever its make-up.  In the 1980s and 1990s there was such a thing mooted as “Coercive Diplomacy.”  Without the threat of force, Basheer stays put in Syria and Ahmadinejad and the mullahs linger in Iran: this Schenker and Taheri would surely agree on.

There’s more here: e.g., onthe Libyan intervention and international law; on the Saudis being the Saudis (limiting expats on how much of their earnings they can send home), on the post-U.S. conflict in Iraq, on MAD deterrence and mad leaders in the region.  Especially interesting is Michael Leeden’s piece (Item 4 in the Digest) on the U.S. pattern of appeasement and retreat vis-à-vis the Arab world and Iran.  His argument seems to me to be one of the better ones related to the undesirability of “leading from behind.”

Finally, let me say that all of the topics above are of infinitely greater importance than, say, who did what unto Moammar Gaddhafi in his final hours and whether it was “legal.”


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