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Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Storm May Be Gathering in the East

Hello Papamoka Bloggers! Michael Jackson's death - may he rest in peace - came at a fascinating and highly uncertain time geopolitically, distracting us from a darkening political storm in the Middle East.

I'm talking about the clear rejection of religious fundamentalism in Iran - despite the government coup, which I will ignore to make a point. When you combine it with the anti-fundamentalist victory in Lebanon a few weeks ago, the two are very significant. Sadly, they may also represent bad news. Why? I have a theory.

President Obama's speech in Cairo went a long way to encourage moderates in both Lebanon and Iran to get off their backsides and vote against the mullahs. Of course, the Iranian government helped by giving it's electorate every indication their votes would count. They even held a few debates. Amazing, what were they thinking?

Those victories prove to many Middle East experts that people want more freedom, and that things may start to change even more - if Egypt begins to fracture, watch out. The problem is that whenever moderates stand up to extremists all kinds of bad things can happen, such as in Iran. Change that spins out of control can be disasterous, such as when the entrenched leadership begins to feel threatened. The way they are feeling today in Iran, and possibly even Eqypt.

Don't get me wrong, I realize the status quo doesn't work, and we all loved it when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, but it's clear the Middle East is a powder keg and once ignited it could lead to worldwide conflict. One very dark sign is the growing Iranian-Russian-Chinese alliance - in various forms. Another is the possibility of a fundamentalist crack-down across the Middle East, igniting chaos. I'm convinced that's why more leaders aren't speaking-out. Nobody wants to be responsible for open conflict and mass murder.

Bush was the beginning. He lit the Middle East fuse with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - two places ill-equipped to handle Western democracy and the freedoms that come with it. Nevertheless, his actions started the pieces moving across the board. Sadly, despite his potential for domestic success, Obama's legacy will most likely be seen through the same presidential prism of the Middle East. Did he control events in the Middle East after Bush, or did he allow them to spin out-of-control?

You see, there is one very hard-to-predict variable. He is the very hard-headed, right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu. I would like to think that he's a Nixon-China kind of guy, but my gut tells me he's more from the Bush-Iraq school. If I were to see the glass-as-half-empty, I would guess he's the George W II. That to me is a terrifying prospect.

He's already ignoring the significance of the Iranian-Russian-Chinese alliance (a typical neo-con), as well as Obama's request to control settlement construction and focus on the Road Map. Instead, he seems to be taking his marching orders from the Republicans and the far-right in America.

Personally, I think he's in bed with the Bush-Cheney branch of the GOP, who are all pushing Israel to bomb Iran before it has the chance to threaten the existence of Israel - no matter what Obama says about it.

If Israel bombs Iran, then President Obama and the Democrats will lose their entire agenda - both domestic and international. The Republicans would use the conflict to divide, conquer, win votes and take back power. Right or wrong, as usual they would maneuver to benefit from the chaos. Poor Obama would be forced to spend his time and energy cleaning-up another conflict created by an irresponsible, paranoid and pernicious far-right.

Of course, the scariest outcome is that America could be dragged into a regional or world conflict. One clear sign of chaos would be a potential threat to President Mubarak in Egypt. Don't scoff at the possibility. It may even be secretly supported by Russia and China; the two powers who would love to see America's primary African ally on the Nile fall to extremists - at least the kind they could do business with.

Despite all my hope for Obama and my glass-is-half-full mentality, I'm terrified of the uncompromising and paranoid extremists embodied by the neo-con Republicans, Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad. President Obama and Secretary Clinton must pull off a diplomatic miracle soon to make sure the international far-right doesn't get another war.

Netanyahu must be made to tow the line. Ahmadinejad must be undermined to prevent Israel from using him as an excuse. Obama must lead and control events in the Middle East to prevent more conflict.

I also think Obama needs to act quickly to fire most of the Bushies still in government - especially those within the DOD, STATE and INTELLIGENCE. He should not trust them. They represent a possible shadow government operating within his own Administration. Unless he acts quickly to make sure that he has full control, anything is possible. This is something that has been worrying me since he took office.

It's clear that President Obama is a change agent. Now we need to make sure the change is the right change. There are hot spots throughout history involving change - think the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Kristallnacht and 9/11, and I think we may be witnessing another one about to hit - for good or bad.

Let's hope that while most Americans are spending this weekend mourning the death of the King of Pop, a potential Earth-shattering clash isn't brewing in the Middle East between East and West. Let's hope that President Obama can control the international far-right agenda led by the GOP and Netanyahu, and that angry religious fundamentalists don't light the world on fire.

Michael Boh
Papamoka's Left Coast Contributor
from Our Rants & Raves Blog

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Blogger B.J. said...

EGAD. What a way to greet the week.

Don’t you remember Netanyahu, during Operation Desert Storm, hogging CNN’s cameras while holding his gas mask so everyone could see his face and know who he was. Of course, he’s a neocon.

Anyone who questions what Israel does or does not do is falsely labeled “anti-Semitic.” This country’s foreign policy is at the mercy of Netanyahu.

Is that right?


5:27 AM  
Anonymous Frodo, wishin',but not hopin' said...

Michael, as much as Frodo enjoys your passion and your intellect, he has to caution that behavioral science requires an examination of all the variables. Where,my friend, in your analysis is Tianamen Square?

In the case of Tianamen, those who rose up to challenge the status quo were not joined by others. The result being students face-to-face with tanks, no farmers, no poor,no middle class--just kids.

In the case of Iran 2009, you had kids. The picture we will remember is Neda, not terribly unlike that nameless young man stopping that tank.

Frodo would argue that the religious theocracy is no more threatened in Iran than is the central government in China.

9:07 AM  
Blogger by Michael Boh said...

EGAD - I love that word BJ. I'll have to remember to include that in a post soon. :)

No, I think you're very right. I'm a big fan of Israel - I even visited the country in the eighties. However, I do think it has a large population of very scary right-wing types that love to cause chaos with the far-right in our own country. They are the "bring about the end" zealots, or the "end justifies the means" crowd.

Anyway, yes, we should all be very worried. Sorry to start the week off so rough. :)

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Infidel753 said...

Frodo, did you see the pictures and videos of the demonstrations in Iran? There was a very broad range of ages and classes. The numbers involved were vast, similar to those involved in the 1978-1979 revolution. (The Middle East is my area of specialization and I've been following Iran very closely on my own blog since the current uprising began.)

That earlier revolution took several months to overthrow the Shah. We don't know yet what will happen with the current uprising, but this is certainly the most serious challenge to the theocracy since it came to power thirty years ago.

4:34 PM  
Blogger BCA said...

Interesting post. While I can agree with you on some things I feel your foreign policy views are skewed by what you read coming from the left. Try looking at things from a moderate standpoint. I'd like to pose a question to you: do you think Iraqis are better off now than under Saddam?

4:30 PM  

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