Monday, November 13, 2006


It brought a small smile to my face when I read earlier on the BBC that the US was considering a Syrian/Iranian agreement that would help stability in the region. I had mentioned something about that in an earlier posting, but then all went quiet on that front till quite recently. What does this all mean?

Well firstly, the United States and it's allies have been dealt a crushing defeat with regards to their policy of the Middle East. Analogies with Suez and the decline of British hegemony over the Middle East are premature, but we can't discount them. The interesting thing is that whereby the British ceded there influence to the United States, in this case, Iran has now emerged as the clear winner. The defeat of Israel in the South of Lebanon by Hezbullah this last summer was the first in a series of setbacks which have rained down on the US strategists. It also heavily damaged Israel and the United States' image due to the devastation and death they had inflicted on the civilians.

In Iraq, the US death toll now stands near the 3000 mark, while a devastating report by the Lancet (a respected British medical journal) estimated the civilian death toll since the US invasion in 2003 to stand at around 650,000. Offical estimates by the Iraqi government are little better at 150,000. In Britain, the recent declarations by a British General that Iraq could 'break the British Army' led to renewed debates and pressure on Tony Blair, who had gone (unsuccessfully) to great lengths to distance Iraq from his legacy. There is now serious discussion of timetables for withdrawal and both the US and British governments are now frankly 'open to suggestions' for anything that could extricate them in Iraq.

Finally, the Iranian nuclear file remains open, and all the cards are still in Iran's hands. The North Korean nuclear test gave the United States the jitters, but the true crisis will emerge once Iran completes it's enrichment and performs it's own test. Israel is already rattling it's sabre and is now aware that it has spent far too much time squeezing militant Palestinian groups in the Occupied Territories and not enough time on the emerging regional power centre in Iran and by proxy in Syria. It too has been rudely awakened from it's myth of invincibility by it's defeat in the South of Lebanon, where it's arms were fully committed against Hezbullah and yet failed in all military objectives. Israel is also aware that any preemptive strike on Iran risks a furious backlash against it and might even severely compromise the prospects of Zionism in the region.

The region remains on a knife edge and I'm sure more is happening in the background. The real danger is that the United States and Britain will refuse to accept the new realities on the ground from solidifying and with the encouragement of Israel attempt a foolish adventure akin to the Suez war (not discounting that Iraq was just such an adventure). As I said earlier, the last such crisis marked the end of British hegemony and the beginning of the American. This time, hegemony may pass out of Western hands altogether, which may not actually be a bad thing...

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