President Donald Trump is now focusing all his attention on the Middle East, and this is causing the rest of the world to look there too. It’s also causing Middle Eastern nations to look at themselves and take sides. Since there are at least two major factions, led by the Saudis and the Iranians respectively, one would expect that a US invasion of Iran would lead other Middle Eastern countries to get involved on one side or the other. As a spokesman for Iran said last night, one bullet could set the whole region ablaze and US interests with it.
To complicate things further, Iran has powerful allies, chiefly Russia and China. They will likely step in as well, diplomatically and/or by arming the Iranians and their supporters. The Russians are already in Syria, and have an agreement with Iran to use their air base.
No matter what he might tweet, Trump does not want war on this scale (if at all). His decision to pull back the air strike he ordered Thursday would seem to bear this out.
National security advisor John Bolton, however, might be crazy enough to risk it. Widely regarded as the biggest hawk in Washington, Bolton wants, at the very least, complete control over the region with compliant governments in every country. Israel should look out. If the US succeeds in conquering Iran (admittedly, a big “if”), they’ll be gunning for Israel next, as the last independent state in the Middle East.
In related news, a report today in the Washington Post claims that a US cyberattack “crippled” Iran’s command and control system, damaging the country’s ability to defend against air strikes. Trump may have pulled back his bomber in part because it would have been equivalent to shooting a man when he’s down. And anyway, it wasn’t necessary. Much greater damage had already been done, if this report is to be believed.
Meanwhile, Jared Kushner is shopping the administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan around the Middle East as a solution to the problem of Palestine. In brief, the plan would abandon the two-state solution desired by Palestinians in exchange for a $50 billion “investment” in both Palestinian areas and neighboring countries who have taken Palestinian refugees. In a truly Trumpian twist, the $50 billion would be paid by “wealthy Arab countries” as well as private (corporate) investors.
Not surprisingly, most Arabs hate the idea, seeing it as an attempt to buy off the Palestinians and force them to agree to Israeli occupation using Arab money. Proponents — mostly within the Trump administration — see it as the solution to Middle East peace.
The plan, described by one local observer as “the brainchild of real estate brokers,” has no hope of success. But it’s instructive to hear it anyway as a way to understand their thinking. In this case, the real estate comparison may in fact be apt. Want land? Just buy it. Palestinians, for their part, have been unequivocal that their land is not for sale.
With US actions taking place in Iran and throughout the Middle East, it’s clear that a big operation is underway. How it will play out is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for sure. Iran won’t take this lying down, and neither, most likely, will its neighbors, no matter how much money we wave in front of them.
Photo by: byteboy (CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)) MK-17 nuclear missile on display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.