The kingdom is citing how badly this administration has botched events with both Syria and Iran as the reason:
Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.
Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.
Guess all that bowing and scraping by Obama didn’t impress them much. So let’s review. Libya … destabilized and in a virtual state of anarchy. Egypt … gone. Totally mishandled and now looking at other possible alliances. Saudi Arabia … going. Syria and Iran … well into Russia’s orbit. Oh, yeah, that’s much better than when Bush was prez.
Meanwhile our Secretary of State is telling everyone relations with Saudi Arabia are both good and normal.
In unusually blunt public remarks, Prince Turki al-Faisal called Obama’s policies in Syria ‘lamentable’ and ridiculed a U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons. He suggested it was a ruse to let Obama avoid military action in Syria.
‘The current charade of international control over Bashar’s chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious. And designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down (from military strikes), but also to help Assad to butcher his people,’ said Prince Turki, a member of the Saudi royal family and former director of Saudi intelligence.
Now there’s respect, wouldn’t you say? You can tell that Saudi Arabia has all the respect in the world for this administration /sarc.
You know it is bad when they drop the diplo-speak and resort to “real-speak”.
No respect and certainly no fear of anything the US might do. In fact, it is because of what it hasn’t done or perhaps how badly it has done what it has done, that they are deciding to look elsewhere for an ally.
And who is waiting in the wings?
I imagine somewhere Hillary is pounding on the “reset” button.
Hey, Hill – what difference does it make now?
Funny … despite all the impediments the Obama administration has put on oil production on public land, the private sector – the market – has pushed us into a position we’ve never been in before in terms of output of oil and gas. We’ve passed the Saudi’s in output:
In spite of the Obama Administration’s hostility to carbon-rich energy, private actors with private capital deployed on private (and state) land have launched a game-changing revolution in domestic oil and natural gas production.
A scarcely reported milestone conveys the magnitude of this turnaround in the global energy landscape.
The U.S. passed Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest petroleum producer in November 2012, according to recently released data of the federal Energy Information Administration.
Now, imagine where we’d be if we didn’t have an obstructive administration bent on punishing those producers in that market via high taxation and regulation. Or slow-walking permits for drilling on public land. Or any of a myriad of other things this administration does to try to prevent oil and gas production. Well, other than taking credit for the rise in production when they had nothing to do with it.
Had they gotten out of the way, had they helped us take advantage of these new finds, Saudi Arabia would have been in our rear view mirror a long time ago and my guess is, gas wouldn’t cost what it does today.
I just wanted to make that clear as we look at the Turkish jet shoot down and the fact that Turkey has invoked chapter 4 of the NATO treaty:
That is the provision that calls on NATO member countries to “consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened.” Turkey’s Islamist foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has announced that Turkey is calling for an emergency consultation of NATO members under Article 4 to consider a response to what it deems Syrian aggression.
Now the backstory, so you at least understand why this presents a possibility of NATO, and thus the US, being pulled into such an intervention (possibly willingly, I’ll get to that later). It comes from Andrew McCarty at PJ Media:
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a Sunni Islamic supremacist with longstanding ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s most influential Sunni supremacist organization. The Brotherhood is leading the mujahideen (called the “opposition” or the “rebels” by the mainstream media) that seeks to oust the Assad regime in Syria — dominated by the Alawites, a minority Shiite sect. Unsurprisingly, then, Turkey’s government has taken a very active role in abetting the Brotherhood’s operations against the Syrian regime, which have also been joined by al-Qaeda and other Sunni militants.
On Friday, a Turkish air force jet entered Syrian air space, and Assad regime forces shot it down. Turkey claims the jet “mistakenly” cruised over Syria, and that, by the time it was taken down, it was in international air space over the Mediterranean. One need carry no brief for Assad to conclude that, given the interventionist drum-beat for no-fly zones and direct military and logistical aid to the “opposition,” Syria rationally took the presence of a Turkish military aircraft in its air space as a provocation. Turkey insists it was not “spying” — that this was just an accident to which Syria overreacted. That would be a good argument if the regime were not under siege and if the Syrian and Turkish governments had not been exchanging hostile words (mostly, threats from Erdogan) for months. That, of course, is not the case.
Confused? Well don’t be. This is just another chapter in the eternal war between the Sunnis and Shiites and between the religious and secular. Turkey happens to be an Islamic Sunni enclave (some want you to believe the country is “secular” but it isn’t thanks to Erdogan) and Syria is ruled by a “secular” Shiite government which, by the way, is ideologically identical to Saddam’s Iraq. You know, the Syrian government headed by a man this US administration labeled as “a reformer” not so long ago? Well, it’s “under the bus” time for him.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia – that would be Wahhabist Saudi Arabia (Sunni) – have been arming the Syrian rebels along with who, oh yeah, the Muslim Brotherhood. And that has ended up seeing good old Al Qaeda show up on the rebel side, which apparently is fine with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Brotherhood.
The Obama administration, from its first days, has cozied up to the Muslim Brotherhood — both Brotherhood branches in the Middle East, and Brotherhood satellite organizations in the U.S., such as CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America. Obama has also been quietly supporting the Syrian mujahideen: coordinating with repressive Islamist governments in Turkey and Saudi Arabia to arm and train them, and reportedly dispatching the CIA to facilitate this effort. But it has thus far resisted calls for more overt participation — calls by pro-Brotherhood progressives in both parties for something along the lines of what Obama did in Libya, meaning: without congressional approval and toward the end of empowering virulently anti-Western Islamists.
There was no US interest in intervening in Libya but we did (we used R2P as the excuse and NATO as the tool). Syria, of course, would present orders of magnitudes more difficulty militarily. It is a much more sophisticated military power than was Libya.
The problem? Well while Obama may be reluctant to intervene alone, NATO might provide a perfect excuse/vehicle. And the benefits would be fairly obvious electorally. It would “change the subject” again. It would make him a “war time” president (yes, technically he is now, but A’stan isn’t “his” war so he doesn’t quite get the benefit public support for his continuation in office). And he could cite “treaty obligations” as a reason without having to go to Congress.
He also has the “good experience” of Libya as a sort of enticement to try the same thing again.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia make out rather well too. They get the crusaders to fight and die in their battle all so the Islamists can eventually take the prize. The US and NATO would end up fighting to help put Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood in charge in Syria.
Ironic? Uh, slightly.
Point: This is not a NATO or US fight. This is something that we should stay as far from as we can.
Politics, however, will be integral to any decision made at this point, at least in the US. Domestic electoral politics. What scares me is the possibility the Obama administration may conclude it is a good idea politically to use NATO to “change the subject” and make Obama a “war time President” hoping the advantages of that situation will make the difference in November. And it wouldn’t be a unilateral decision, but instead receive bi-partisan support as Sen. McCain and other GOP members have been outspoken in their desire to intervene.
Call me paranoid but I find nothing in my analysis that’s at all infeasible or improbable. In fact, having watched this administration at work, I consider it to be a completely possible scenario.
The 9 year long war in Iraq is officially over. Frankly, I’m fine with that. I think the one lesson we need to have learned from both Iraq and Afghanistan is the meaning of punitive raid or punitive action. If a country attacks us or otherwise deserves to see the “blunt instrument” of national policy used, we need to go in and do what is necessary, then leave.
For whatever reason, we’ve chosen nation building as an end state instead. And while I certainly understand the theory (and the examples where it has worked … such as Japan, West Germany, etc.), it shouldn’t be something we do on a routine basis.
There were certainly valid reasons to do what we did in both Afghanistan and Iraq. And while I supported both actions, the decision to try to build a democracy in both countries has been expensive in both blood and treasure and I’d deem it somewhat successful in Iraq (we’ll see if they can keep it) and at best marginally successful in Afghanistan (where I fully expect the effort to collapse when we withdraw).
So I’m fine with folding the flag and leaving Iraq. And before the Obamabots try to claim it was their man who finally made it happen, Google it. This is the Bush plan, negotiated before he left office and simply executed by this administration. That said, Obama will shamelessly try to take credit for it while also trying to erase the memory of voting not to fund the war while troops were engaged in combat.
It is going to be interesting to see how Iraq turns out. It is an extraordinarily volatile country sitting right next to two countries waging religious war against each other by proxy. Saudi Arabia and Iran are deadly enemies and with the end of the US presence there, I think Iraq will end up being their battleground.
Within a few months I think there will be concerted campaigns of violence aimed at toppling the current government and installing some flavor of Islamist regime there. I hope I’m wrong.
But again, bottom line – I’m happy to see this chapter draw to a close and that we’re getting our troops out of Iraq. It’s time. And to them all, a huge “well done” and “welcome home”.
Here we go, a perfect example of the state of science (and higher education) among certain of the Arab Muslim states:
Repealing a ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia would result in ‘no more virgins’, the country’s religious council has warned.
A ‘scientific’ report claims relaxing the ban would also see more Saudis – both men and women – turn to homosexuality and pornography.
The startling conclusions were drawn by Muslim scholars at the Majlis al-Ifta’ al-A’ala, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, working in conjunction with Kamal Subhi, a former professor at the King Fahd University.
“Scientific”? Sounds like the global warming alarmists.
This is the perversion of science and academia. Not that we don’t see our share of it here. I mean in some places you can take seminars on “The Simpsons” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and get college credits. But that’s just the usual absurdity to be found in US universities, where useless degrees cost an arm and a leg and those who produce them brag about what they do.
This is the coupling of a religion with “science” and finding exactly what the religion – or their flavor of it – demands they find. It is used as a tool of oppression.
Science? This is about as scientific as applying leaches for a cure, and rooted in about the same century.
Their report assessed the possible impact of repealing the ban in Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women are not allowed behind the wheel.
It was delivered to all 150 members of the Shura Council, the country’s legislative body.
Who, I’m sure, all nodded to each other sagely and were just thrilled to have “science” on their side as the all male body decided women should remain in their place – in the cave, er, tent, er, well, out of sight. Because it is clear they can’t control themselves if they drive:
In the report Professor Subhi described sitting in a coffee shop in an unnamed Arab state.
‘All the women were looking at me,’ he wrote. ‘One made a gesture that made it clear she was available… this is what happens when women are allowed to drive.’
And, of course, the repercussions of allowing that would be horrible:
The report warns that allowing women to drive would ‘provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce’.
Within ten years of the ban being lifted, the report’s authors claim, there would be ‘no more virgins’ in the Islamic kingdom.
By the way, my bet is the “gesture” the old goat got had nothing to do with “availability”.
It appears Iran hatched a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the US. Fausta has as good a run down on the plot as anyone. Unsurprisingly it involved a Mexican drug cartel and the southern border to the US.
You know, the border the left keeps telling us just isn’t a problem, shouldn’t be a priority, we’re secure enough, etc.
Funny how our enemies seem to be drawn to what they perceive as a weak point like a moth to a flame. And they know who to contact to get what they need or want done to move a plot into the US.
Yes, we lucked out this time – the plotter contacted a confidential informant associated with a drug cartel. The rest follows the expected course and we finally arrested the plotter when he showed up in the US.
But you have to wonder how many of these plots are still undetected and working within the same sorts of organizations in Mexico or other South or Central American drug cartels.
This should be setting off warning sirens all over the place within our law enforcement and intelligence community. And most likely it is. But it should also finally make a point to those who want to waive off border security. It isn’t just about illegal immigration.
It’s about national security as well. And it is high time we started understanding that and making border security there a much higher priority than it is.
Obviously I have mixed feelings about the country of Saudi Arabia. On the one hand they’re a tyrannical 12th century monarchy that controls a good portion of the world’s oil and exports a brand of radical Islamism. On the other hand they’re a bulwark against Iranian aggression and expansionism and a titular ally of the US.
So, the question then, given the situation in the Middle East, is it in the best interest of the US to do things that have them seeking solace and partners (allies they feel they can depend on?) elsewhere?
Yeah, probably not. But that’s exactly what is going on. Interestingly it is Tom Brokaw who brought the situation to our attention:
After remarking on the difficulty of establishing democracy in the Middle East, Brokaw said that Defense Secretary Robert Gates “will face some tough questions in this region about the American intentions going on now with all this new turmoil, especially in an area where the United States has such big stakes politically and economically.”
“And a lot of those questions presumably will come from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia,” reported Brokaw on the Nightly News. “I was told on the way in here that the Saudis are so unhappy with the Obama administration for the way it pushed out President Mubarak of Egypt that it sent high level emissaries to China and Russia to tell those two countries that Saudi Arabia now is prepared to do more business with them.”
All of this stems from how the Obama administration handled Egypt. And it has caused Saudi Arabia to doubt the sincerity of the relationship between the US and the kingdom.
However, Saudi Arabia’s concerns emanate from the manner in which Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was removed from power. Mubarak had been an American ally for decades and yet the Obama administration, in the eyes of Saudi criticism, turned its back on the Egyptian government when reformist protests spilled into the streets.
High sounding rhetoric talks, but actions walk, and SA is not at all happy about the actions the administration took in Egypt nor, apparently, satisfied with their assurances since. And despite the supposed buy-in of the Arab League on the latest attack on an Arab country- Libya- I’d guess they’re not particularly happy with that either. Another indicator they file away and continues to feed their fear of the sincerity of the US as an ally.
The good news, if there is any, is the administration has apparently figured out that it has badly messed up its relationship with SA. Whether or not they can salvage the relationship remains to be seen. It may take another trip by Obama and a lot more bowing and scraping to do that:
Mr. Gates met with the Saudi king on Wednesday, and the Associated Press reported that the purpose of the meeting was to smooth relations with the uneasy and oil-rich ally, noting that "this was Gates’ third trip to the area in the past month."
Thus far the Obama administration has been a foreign policy disaster. Interestingly, some of the highest polling results for Obama deal with his handling of foreign affairs. If anything, that should clue you into how badly it is going for him on the domestic front.
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Yes it’s another fine mess. Of course the Japanese tragedy and struggles with their nuclear power plants has sucked all the air out of news elsewhere, there is, in fact much news elsewhere. And not the least of it is coming out of the Middle East where Saudi troops, as a part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), moved into Bahrain ostensibly to “guard government facilities”.
The GCC is composed of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. It was created in 1991 (think Iraq invasion of Kuwait), the 6 members share common borders and are committed by their charter to help each other in times of need.
The action by the GCC, as you might imagine, is in direct conflict with how the White House has indicated it would prefer the situation in Bahrain be resolved. Obviously that’s not carried much weight with the GCC.
The move created another quandary for the Obama administration, which obliquely criticized the Saudi action without explicitly condemning the kingdom, its most important Arab ally. The criticism was another sign of strains in the historically close relationship with Riyadh, as the United States pushes the country to make greater reforms to avert unrest.
Other symptoms of stress seem to be cropping up everywhere.
Saudi officials have made no secret of their deep displeasure with how President Obama handled the ouster of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, charging Washington with abandoning a longtime ally. They show little patience with American messages about embracing what Mr. Obama calls “universal values,” including peaceful protests.
The GCC move has caused both Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense and Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, to cancel upcoming visits to Saudi Arabia.
Again, the apparent genesis of these tensions appear to be related to the way the US handled Egypt. It has caused the Saudis and other GCC nations to trust the US less than before:
The latest tensions between Washington and Riyadh began early in the crisis when King Abdullah told President Obama that it was vital for the United States to support Mr. Mubarak, even if he began shooting protesters. Mr. Obama ignored that counsel. “They’ve taken it personally,” said one senior American familiar with the conversations, “because they question what we’d do if they are next.”
Since then, the American message to the Saudis, the official said, is that “no one can be immune,” and that the glacial pace of reforms that Saudi Arabia has been engaged in since 2003 must speed up.
Obviously the Saudi’s have their own ideas of how to handle this and apparently aren’t taking kindly to the US attempting to dictate how it should handle it’s internal affairs. And, given the treatment of Mubarak, the Saudi rulers can’t help but feel that they’re just as likely to be thrown under the bus if protests were to escalate as was Mubarak.
Consequently, they’ve decided to go their own way and handle it with force within the GCC while throwing money at the problem within the Saudi Kingdom. Speaking of the latter:
One of President Obama’s top advisers described the moves as more in a series of “safety valves” the Saudis open when pressure builds; another called the subsidies “stimulus funds motivated by self-preservation.”
Saudi officials, who declined to comment for this article to avoid fueling talk of divisions between the allies, said that the tensions had been exaggerated and that Americans who criticized the pace of reforms did not fully appreciate the challenges of working in the kingdom’s ultraconservative society.
Of course the difference between their “stimulus funds” and ours is they actually have the money. But it is ironic to see the adviser describe “stimulus funds” in those terms isn’t it? The actual point here should be evident though. The GCC has rejected the “Bahrain model” as the desired method of addressing the unrest. As you recall that was the “regime alteration” model, v. the regime change model.
So where does that leave us?
Demonstrating to Iran that the Saudi-American alliance remains strong has emerged as a critical objective of the Obama administration. King Abdullah, who was widely quoted in the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks as warning that the United States had to “cut off the head of the snake” in Iran, has led the effort to contain Iran’s ambitions to become a major regional power. In the view of White House officials, any weakness or chaos inside Saudi Arabia would be exploited by Iran.
For that reason, several current and former senior American intelligence and regional experts warned that in the months ahead, the administration must proceed delicately when confronting the Saudis about social and political reforms.
”Over the years, the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been fraught with periods of tension over the strategic partnership,” said Ellen Laipson, president of the Stimson Center, a public policy organization. “Post-September 11 was one period, and the departure of Mubarak may be another, when they question whether we are fair-weather friends.”
That phone keeps ringing at 3am, doesn’t it?
Questions: given the “critical objective” as outlined above, is it smart to cancel visits by SecDef and SecState? Doesn’t that possibly signal lack of support for the Saudis and play into the perception the US is a fair-weather friend? Doesn’t that promise the possibility of more actions the Saudi’s might take that will be contra to the US’s advice? Isn’t now the time to be going in there and making the case with top leaders and showing support while trying to twist a few arms to ramp down the situation instead of canceling?
Here’s a little insight into the Iranian connection mentioned above:
The entrance of foreign forces, including Saudi troops and those from other Gulf nations, threatened to escalate a local political conflict into a regional showdown; on Tuesday, Tehran, which has long claimed that Bahrain is historically part of Iran, branded the move “unacceptable.”
“The presence of foreign forces and interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs is unacceptable and will further complicate the issue,” Ramin Mehmanparast, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said at a news conference in Tehran, according to state-run media.
Even as predominantly Shiite Muslim Iran pursues a determined crackdown against dissent at home, Tehran has supported the protests led by the Shiite majority in Bahrain.
“People have some legitimate demands, and they are expressing them peacefully,” Mr. Memanparast said. “It should not be responded to violently.”
He added, “We expect their demands be fulfilled through correct means.”
You have to love their chutzpah. A little analysis:
The Gulf Cooperation Council was clearly alarmed at the prospect of a Shiite political victory in Bahrain, fearing that it would inspire restive Shiite populations in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to protest as well. The majority of the population in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich eastern provinces is Shiite, and there have already been small protests there.
“If the opposition in Bahrain wins, then Saudi loses,” said Mustafa el-Labbad, director of Al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “In this regional context, the decision to move troops into Bahrain is not to help the monarchy of Bahrain, but to help Saudi Arabia itself .”
So that’s the lens by which much of what happens should be viewed – two regional rivals, each aligned with a different sect of Islam as well as different ethnic groups (Arab v. Persian) attempting to take advantage of a situation in the case of Iran, or trying to prevent change that would favor Iran in the case of Saudi Arabia.
The possible result?
An adviser to the United States government, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media, agreed. “Iran’s preference was not to get engaged because the flow of events was in their direction,” he said. “If the Saudi intervention changes the calculus, they will be more aggressive.”
Of course they have their own problems at home, but Iran may very well, at least covertly, try to support the opposition in Bahrain.
The primary reason that Bahrain has ended up asking the GCC in is because the recommended way to resolve the crisis, negotiate with the oppositions, was rejected by the opposition. As I mentioned in an earlier post about regime realignment, the entire process hinged on the opposition being willing to engage in honest negotiations with the government. It appears the Bahranian royal family at least made an attempt to do the things necessary as advised by the US:
The royal family allowed thousands of demonstrators to camp at Pearl Square. It freed some political prisoners, allowed an exiled opposition leader to return and reshuffled the cabinet. And it called for a national dialogue.
But the concessions — after the killings — seemed to embolden a movement that went from calling for a true constitutional monarchy to demanding the downfall of the monarchy. The monarchy has said it will consider instituting a fairly elected Parliament, but it insisted that the first step would be opening a national dialogue — a position the opposition has rejected, though it was unclear whether the protesters were speaking with one voice.
Indeed. But it doesn’t matter now, does it. The likelihood of this simmering down to the point that such negotiations and dialogue could occur seem remote – especially with Iran in the background keeping this all stirred up.
We live in interesting times.
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I‘m not sure the word “chutzpa” is appropriate when used in conjunction with Saudi Arabia, but it certainly best describes this particular idea:
Saudi Arabia is trying to enlist other oil-producing countries to support a provocative idea: if wealthy countries reduce their oil consumption to combat global warming, they should pay compensation to oil producers.
The oil-rich kingdom has pushed this position for years in earlier climate-treaty negotiations. While it has not succeeded, its efforts have sometimes delayed or disrupted discussions. The kingdom is once again gearing up to take a hard line on the issue at international negotiations scheduled for Copenhagen in December.
The chief Saudi negotiator, Mohammad al-Sabban, described the position as a “make or break” provision for the Saudis, as nations stake out their stance before the global climate summit scheduled for the end of the year.
“Assisting us as oil-exporting countries in achieving economic diversification is very crucial for us through foreign direct investments, technology transfer, insurance and funding,” Mr. Sabban said in an e-mail message.
Got that? The Saudis, who’ve been very happy over the past decades to be a part of a cartel that has cut off shipments of oil at times and limited oil production to drive up prices now are sniveling about the possibility that their revenue may be reduced as countries develop alternate energy sources? I’m laughing over here. Gee maybe if they hadn’t spent billions on spreading their radical brand of Islam they’d be in better financial shape.
What’s happened, however, is they have become accustomed to a particular style of life. They like having Filipinos and Indonesians waiting on them hand and foot and living in virtual slavery. They want to continue to spread their poisonous religion and have you pay for it. They enjoy the profligate life-style and by gosh, they expect you to continue to subsidize it.
“Make or break” provision? Be clear here – what they’re talking about is a subsidy paid out of taxes to pay for something they could have already done – “economic diversity”. The answer should be not only “no” but “hell no” followed by a good round of laughter at their expense.
Copenhagen is shaping up as a “loot the rich countries” forum and the number one target will be the US. Unfortunately we are represented by a political leadership that may capitulate on a lot of things which may potentially cost us trillions in the upcoming decades and help kill any nascent recovery or long-term economic growth before it can develop.
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That’s what the UK Times is reporting:
Iran has perfected the technology to create and detonate a nuclear warhead and is merely awaiting the word from its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to produce its first bomb, Western intelligence sources have told The Times.
The sources said that Iran completed a research programme to create weaponised uranium in the summer of 2003 and that it could feasibly make a bomb within a year of an order from its Supreme Leader.
Of course, what we don’t know about Iran’s capability could fill a book. We’ve seen it variously reported that they a year away to ten years away – a good indicator that for the most part intelligence agencies haven’t a clue in reality.
However, as we know, nuclear bombs are old technology. The genie has been out of the bottle way too long to believe that Iran can’t build a bomb if it dedicates the time and resources to do so. And it certainly seems to have done both.
So now what?
That’s the salient question now. Let’s assume Iran has a bomb by this time next year – then what?
Well here’s the apparent game plan:
If Iran’s leader does decide to build a bomb, he will have two choices, intelligence sources said. One would be to take the high-risk approach of kicking out the international inspectors and making a sprint to complete Iran’s first bomb, as the country weathered international sanctions or possible air strikes in the ensuing crisis. The other would be to covertly develop the materials needed for an arsenal in secret desert facilities.
Last week, during a series of high-level US visits to Israel, officials outlined Washington’s plans to step up sanctions on Iran, should Tehran fail to agree on talks. Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, and General James Jones, the National Security Adviser, said that Iran had until the end of next month, when the UN General Assembly is to meet, to make a positive move towards engagement.
If Tehran fails to respond, Washington aims to build a tough international coalition to impose harsh sanctions focusing on petroleum products — an area where Iran is particularly vulnerable because it sends almost all of its crude abroad for refinement.
The feeling, of course, is if these sorts of sanctions can be imposed, it will hurt the regime even further by adding more unrest among a population already not happy with the election outcome. And, per the Times, hit directly at the Revolutionary Guards Council, which is the main exporter of terrorism through its surrogates in various parts of the world.
Of course what isn’t mentioned by the Times is the one big fly in the ointment of getting this done – China. No China, no sanctions. And China has developed a pretty close relationship with Iran based on petroleum trade. In 2004 it signed two huge oil and gas deals with Iran. Presently 45% of China’s crude imports come from the Middle East and that’s expected to rise to 70% by 2015. In 2008, China finalized a $70 billion deal to develop Iran’s Yadavaran oil field in exchange for the supply of liquefied natural gas. And much, much more.
So China is not going to be keen to cripple a nation which it has invested so much time and money in developing a relationship with – especially if it wants to maintain its own economy (and keep its own internal unrest to a simmer) during recessionary times.
Bottom line? My guess is a lot of tough talk and fist shaking at Iran, but in the end, nothing much happens and Iran ends up with its nuke. The play will be made in the UN where China has a seat on the Security Council and I’d almost bet the house that nothing comes out of that organization with any teeth whatsoever or China won’t vote for it.
Bottom bottom line – Israel, who we seem bound and determined to have worse relations with, is probably going to have to find a way to destroy the capability on their own. Militarily they’ve been quietly developing the strike capability for some time. And Saudi Arabia, which is very worried about an Iranian nuke and what it would do to the balance of power in the region, has given Israel a subtle nod that it would turn its back should the Israelis fly over their territory to strike Iran – unprecedented in the history of the region and an indication of the depth of fear the Saudis harbor.
But reliance on the UN and “sanctions”? I just don’t see that happening.