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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Middle East Triangle and How Obama Is Unwittingly Laying the Groundwork for the Next Mideast War

"The Middle East Triangle?" you ask. "What in blazes is that?"

Answer: It's nothing like the Bermuda Triangle, although Israel must navigate it every day. Rather, it is a triangle consisting of three Muslim axes of power in the Middle East, bitterly jealous of one another, whose fortunes and relative strength continuously wax and wane.

What Are the Three Axes?

Axis No. 1: Turkey. Sunni (with a significant Shiite minority), 73 million people, member of NATO, and all that is left of a once proud Ottoman Empire. The Turks, with their roots in Central Asia, took Baghdad from the Persians in 1535, conquered much of Arab North Africa, and reached the gates of Vienna in 1683, before falling into decline. Although its democracy and secularism were once safeguarded by its military, the governing Islamist-rooted AK Party appears to be challenging the army. Turkey maintains an uneasy relationship with neighboring Syria and is known for its oppression of its large Kurdish minority, which has sought autonomy.

Axis No. 2: Iran. Shiite, 74 million people, and home to ancient kingdoms and empires dating back thousands of years. The Arabs conquered the Sassanids in the Seventh Century and converted the empire to Islam. Persia was reunified as an independent state in 1501 by the Safavid dynasty, which made Shiite Islam the religion of their state. With the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, Iran became an "Islamic Republic", which soon found itself enmeshed in a prolonged bloody war with neighboring Iraq and is currently waging a proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen. The Islamic Republic of Iran is infamous for its horrific discrimination against Baha'is, Kurds and Sunni tribes in its southeastern region.

Axis No. 3: Egypt/Saudi Arabia. Two proud Sunni Arab nations, one the site of Islam's birthplace, the other a cradle of ancient civilization, whose combined population today exceeds 110 million persons. During the 7th and early 8th centuries, they were the heart of the Islamic Empire, the largest empire the world had yet seen. Although Egyptian poverty is to be contrasted with Saudi oil wealth and the two countries once opposed one another in the North Yemen Civil War from 1962 to 1970, these countries are currently united by a common fear of "heretical" Shiite Iranian aspirations in the region. For the time being, both of these tyrannical regimes remain among America's shrinking number of Mideast allies.

How Does Israel Survive?

Israel, home to only seven million people, survives by maintaining shadowy alliances with one or another of these Middle East power axes. For many years, Israel befriended Iran's Shah. After the revolution in Iran, Israel developed a close relationship with Turkey. In recent years, given Turkey's movement away from secularism, Israel has formed a tacit alliance against the Iranian threat with Egypt/Saudi Arabia (note the recent leak concerning the air corridor granted to Israel by Saudi Arabia to attack Iranian nuclear facilities and Egypt's imposition of a porous blockade upon Hamas, which is supported by Iran).

How Is Obama Leading the Region to War?

Although one of Obama's first diplomatic moves was to garner Muslim support by traveling to Egypt and Turkey, his policy of appeasing enemies, e.g., Syria and Iran, while degrading historic alliances, e.g., with Israel, has branded him a weakling in the Muslim world. Having half-heartedly escalated a losing war in Afghanistan and after being snubbed by Syria and Iran, Obama has created a power vacuum in the region which must be filled, and the three former empires are jockeying for dominion.

Turkey's supremely narcissistic Erdogan has forged an alliance with Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei (note Turkey's recent opposition to UN sanctions against Iran) and has sought to elevate his standing among the Arab masses by sponsoring the Gaza flotilla. Meanwhile, Iran seeks to expand its influence in the Arab world by waging war against Israel via its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, and clandestinely plotting the sabotage of Western shipping in the Suez Canal. Concerned by Iran's quest for nuclear weapons which has gone unchecked by an irresolute Obama, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are nervously considering the implementation of their own atomic programs.

"Speak softly and carry a big stick"? This is a lesson in diplomacy never learned by Obama. The implicit threat of force to forestall violence is alien to Obama, and regrettably, the Middle East is headed for conflict as the three axes of Islamic power in the region prepare to lock horns in a war that will see unprecedented death and destruction and necessarily entangle Israel.


  1. When Saddam Hussein and Iraq were destroyed, Iran naturally got much more power and influence in the region. It may be natural that Turkey got politically drawn to powerful Iran. Not only Obama, Bush could not do anything about it either. Saddam was a bad guy, but he kept region in relative balance. Besides, there are no (and could not be) good guys there in power. Now, the balance is changing. Some people think it may be even good for Israel, making Arabs to choose Israel over Iran.

  2. The Arabs will choose Israel over "heretical" Iran, provided Obama does not scare them into believing that the U.S. has abandoned its alliance with Israel and that Iran is the wiser, safer bet.

  3. With Obama trying to backpeddle,firm up his response to the Gulf catastrophe,I hope he revisits his other weak,delayed actions, and applies his "make no mistake" resolve to correcting identifying friends and foes,and demonstrate the actual fact that we are a superpower,and that we stand by our friends.

  4. Fine analysis of the three points of the triangle. My take is that Turkey's embrace of Syria and Iran is mostly about Kurds, with the U.S. drawdown in Iraq. And the Kurds are as much about water as ethnic friction (Tibet, Kashmir, maybe South Sudan, and the Golan are also about water),

    While I am increasingly skeptical over Obama's true thoughts about Israel, never doubt the U.S. commitment to keeping the seas open for trade, especially choke points like the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca, and the Suez Canal.

    you should keep track of the USS Truman carrier group. It was in Marseilles on June 4, yet somewhere south of Sicily on June 14 when it was supposed to be on it's way to the 'coast of Pakistan'. DEBKA report yesterday of alleged mission change to stay in the eastern Med (which I totally believe).

    This has been a most under-reported story since the Truman group left Virginia on May 21. No current status on the three US destroyers that were supposed to peel off from the Truman after Suez to deal with piracy off Somalia as the NavyTimes also mentioned in their sole story about the US-French training excercise at Marseilles.(think about what a destroyer class ship is really for - overkill for piracy) Also unclear if the German anti-missile frigate Hessen is staying with the Truman as planned when the destination was Pakistan.

    There is no bigger stick, um, projection of power, than a US aircraft carrier group hanging out with Egypt and the Suez canal, in case anyone needs to consider whether the eastern Mediterranean is a U.S. interest.
    Israel is a strategic U.S. ally because of location, suddenly made very apparent because of the flotilla provocation.

    Whether the locations of all 18 of the US aircraft carriers needs to be publicized is a different question.


  5. Interesting point about the rerouting of a carrier force,but I would imagine that with 18 flattops,there is always at least one doing a Med cruise and one in the Gulf.