T Nation

Geopolitical Catch-all


#1

Just to separate some of these issues from other threads


#2

@Bismark @smh_23
Are either of these in your wheelhouse? Obviously ask smh already, just wanted to include him


#3

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/sigar-inquiry-into-dod-efforts-to-address-afghanistan%E2%80%99s-ghost-soldiers

If the American Taxpayer actually knew the truth about Afghanistan: billions stolen and wasted. Take a look at some of the quarterly reports:

https://www.sigar.mil/


#4

Thanks for the links. Looking forward to giving them a good read.

What % of populace in these 'always had a king (by whatever name)' areas do you think really understand or even desire a democratic or free society?


#5

Allow me to chime in.

I think you're implying that people living in ME and similar places along ethnic/religious frontlines do not understand the concept of a "free society" and "democratic elections". They do

I've read some fascinating stories how even Somalis in arguably one the worst shitholes in the world - Puntland know how democracy should work.

However,the real world gets in the way of this fantasy. United States of America has been in an unique strategic position since the Louisiana Purchase. Vast territory there for the taking, abundance of natural resources, weak neighbors (British Empire officially recognized back in 1860ies that Canada is indefensible) bodies of waters between major adversaries etc.

This created unique circumstances to develop the cult of the individual and the corresponding development of the political system.

Elsewhere around the world in tightly-packed areas (Rwanda comes to mind), starved of natural resources or dirt poor one cannot afford the luxury to discuss "rights of the individual".

Your clan/tribe/extended family/ethnic group is your safety net. They lose, you lose. Sometimes literally your head. So come hell or high water you stick to them.

Sure, sometimes it's literally a tribe (rebranded as a movement/political party - ANC in South Africa), other times it's your tribal strongman (Qaddafi for example) or the guy from the same heretic sect (Assad). Sometimes you have all the trappings of a democratic system with elections, campaigns and fancy sounding names of different parties, but they usually represent a social entity (tribe or an ethnic or religous group) doing dog whistle politics.

Here's an example - for an uneducated observer Democratic Action Party and the Social Democratic Party may sound as belonging to a "democratic free society" but one of the is 100% muslim and the other 100% Christian.

And when the shit breaks out, usually due to the dramatic worsening of the economic situation, no one asks who you voted for and what your political opinions are. You belong to your side, otherwise,once again, you literally lose your head.


#6

Appreciate the insightful offerings.


#7

The 70 years Pax Americana is highly touted here as the best method for the world's overall advancement and peace, regional wars notwithstanding. If one acknowledges and agrees with this arrangement - how best to pay for it?

The current scheme of the US footing most of the burden for N America, Western and increasingly the remainder of non Russian Europe, the Far East, the Mid East, and much of the oceanic trade routes is not economically sustainable. This is mathematically compounded negatively by the fact that we are borrowing money to achieve this Pax.

So again, how should this be paid?

@smh_23 @Bismark
No thoughts here?


#8

@loppar
I am having a difficult time wrapping my head around your 'advice' to take the Shia side against the Sunni from this reality.

I can see Iran and US are butting heads while seeking influence in the ME. But I can't understand Iran's insistence of going beyond proxy war and support to directly challenging the US military.

They more or less back down from nukes and then start buzzing ships going all the way to firing missiles at them. Are we supposed to think this is an act to keep their masses satisfied? And if some renegade gets stupid and puts a hole in a ship, what then?

It seems a risky but expected venture when Russia or China does it as military heavyweights, but I can't see Iran doing this except as a publicity stunt for the homeland.


#9

My apologies. I like the thread theme and would like to participate, but things have been crazy between work, remodeling a house, raising a puppy (60 lbs. chocolate lab that has yet to turn 5 months old) and getting engaged. I'll repond as soon as I find some time.


#10

In order to try understand ME, forget the US. This is a shia-sunni thing, and has been going on for the last 1300+ years. Names of participants may change, but it's still a shia-sunni conflict.

You've probably heard in the news that the "Iraqi Army" and the Kurds have started a major offensive to liberate Mosul from ISIS. Here's a picture of "Iraqi Army" SP artillery around Mosul taken today.

You'll notice they're flying token Iraqi national flags and huge black and green banners. These are shia sectarian banners praising Ali. You might have seen them in those Hezbollah videos.

So it's not "Iraqi Army" vs. ISIS but shias vs. sunnis - salafi sunnis to be precise.

The "Iraqi Army" (supplied and trained by the US, but taking orders from Tehran) is trying to capture territory around Mosul and finally fulfill the ambition of the tribes from Zargoz mountains - unbroken shia territory from Tehran to Mediterranean. The Kurds, nominally sunnis seems to have thrown their lot with the shias - I guess they're really tired of being massacred and killed by their nominal coreligionists.

It's weird with the Kurds - ethnicity takes precedence over religion in the eyes of their enemies. For Turks a Kurd is a Kurd first and foremost, not a fellow muslim. And that's pretty much a death sentence. Remember how Saddam (sunni) gassed Kurds (nominally sunnis) alongside shias?.

Iran's Mediterranean gambit is nothing new, as I have written here before - it predates islam by 300 years. Many Persian and Parthian emperors invaded the Roman province of Syria for this precise reason.

Iran's geopolitical goals match those of the US. Like it or not, those shias waving sectarian banners are fighting "terrorists", although they've would have used the terms "sunni infidels".

Iran is not waging a proxy war against the US, it is primarily waging a war against Saudi Arabia, the main driver and financier of the sunni revival gripping the muslim world, a war in which the US is being dragged on the side of the terrorists partially out of inertia and partially out of cluelessness.

Ultimately, everything terrorism related comes back to Saudi Arabia. Every terrorist attack comes back to Saudi Arabia (9/11, San Bernardino) or more often to Saudi funded mosques in Pakistan and Europe.

Iranian regime is always worried about the "Saudi infantry" - derogatory term for the US armed forces - and that the Saudi lobby will coax the clueless Americans into military action against them. They drew their lesson from the perilously close call with the Ahmadinejad presidency, that a having a hardline fool for a president coupled with intense pressure on Washington (McCain's "bomb Iran" slogan) can get them bombed, hence the Nuclear Deal and the slow detente with the US.

Don't forget that during the Iraq-Iran war US shot down an Iranian civilian airliner and sunk an Iranian frigate alongside several smaller warships, so one can understand their desire to acquire defensive anti-maritime capabilities in the Persian gulf.

To conclude, Iranian regime is smart enough to realize that challenging US military supremacy in the Gulf is suicidal, and they're definitely not suicidal. If that was not the case, they would not have backed down during those incidents listed above.


#11

@smh_23
How do you (or we) reconcile the US assassinating foreign leaders, with your contempt for Russian election intervention. Posed as a serious question.


#12

I'm glad you mention this, because I'd like to clear up some confusion here. Two points, one practical and one philosophical:

-- What is so noteworthy and objectionable and dangerous about this isn't that Russia is meddling in the affairs of a foreign country, it's that Russia is meddling in the affairs of a nuclear adversary on an unprecedented scale.

-- In a very real way, we don't need to reconcile anything, because we are American and in the ultimate anarchy of world politics national interests can, and sometimes should, override any normative aversion to hypocrisy. This is particularly so when the override serves some higher-order normative end, as the maintenance of American hegemony (for as long as possible) surely does. It's an unsolvable but illuminating equation: we are purer but we aren't as pure as we pretend and anyway purity is nugatory vis-a-vis the need to keep a purer power, which we are, atop the world order, even if that means eroding our own purity.

Edit: the shorter version of point two is a restatement of, and addendum to, point one: "What's so noteworthy and objectionable and dangerous about this is that we're the foreign country."


#13

So we get a President elect that rattles the sword and immediately Iran lowers heavy water exports from 70 tons to 20…


#14

They’re hedging their bets and keeping it for themselves because the regime (like virtually everybody else in the world) has no idea what Trump policies will actually look like. The worst case scenario is that due to them being completely clueless they push BOTH against sunnis and shias and miss out on the potential grand bargain with the shias.

If Trump really was THE deal maker he claims to be, his first port of call would be Tehran. Currently, the Iranians (alongside the Kurds) are the only ones interested in killing as many ISIS footsoldiers as possible - Iranian’s pushed to seal off Mosul and trap a couple of thousands ISIS fanatics.

Trump’s buddy Putin is not interested in eliminating the threat of radical islam - he’d like to keep it slowly simmering, like a festering sore that distracts the US and the West from other pressing geopolitical issues, draining attention and resources.

Americans and Westerners in general are usually completely oblivious to the depths of hatred sunnis feel towards shias and vice versa. For each sunni terrorist attack against Western targets, comes a dozen against shia civilian targets (usually even bloodier). Even Condi Rice didn’t know about the split when she voiced fears over possible Iran-AQ cooperation which was nonsense. In Syria, when Iranian soldiers are captured by sunnis - whether they’re ISIS or AQ/JaN “moderate rebels” - they end up starring in those gruesome beheading videos. Iranians don’t shoot videos but take great care to kill every sunni that falls into their hands.

Iran publicly admitted over 1k dead in Syria, many of them officers and NCOs of the elite Revolutionary Guards, a tally which doesn’t include Afghan migrants pressed into service as cannon fodder. So if the US was really interesting in wiping out ISIS then the Kurds and the Iranians are their main asset. You can’t kill them all by bombing, someone has to get his hands dirty on the ground.

Also, Iran recently started a charm offensive towards Christians, seeing how Christian side with Assad in Syria (not much of a choice, better a murderous dictator that radical sunnis) so they pay special attention to rebuild Christian churches, re-erect destroyed crosses and organize masses.

Here’s an heart warming article from breitbart about the liberation of Christian villages in Iraq. The article very conveniently forgets to mention that the “al-Shaabi coalition of shiite militias” that liberated Qaraqosh has a name that is far more known to the general public - Hezbollah.


#15

I stated here some time back that the US should seal that NW - SE corridor guarding Israel and Kurdistan and let Iran and Turkey, et al use that as a cauldron of death towards each other.

Not Christian of me - I know, and the ship has sailed with Russia there.


#16

Impossible. Kurds are for all practical purposes allied with Iran, so it’s either a shia push towards the Mediterranean sea above Lebanon or a sunni push from Turkey southward. Take your pick.

Also, Lebanon is now under shia control so Iran is on Israel’s borders so no change there…


#17

I got you.
What I meant regarding Kurds is a line of protection for them against Turkey to let them conserve their strength.

Easy to see them aligning with Iran - getting bombed by Turkey and formerly Iraq. War makes for strange bedfellows. Indeed.


#18

@loppar Would you agree that we can’t “fix” Radical Islam, more so that it has to fix itself from within, similar to how Christianity fixed itself?

I see parallels in the Protestant-Catholic conflicts; slaughtering people in the name of the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope.

I think the only major difference is the apocalyptic prophesy of Islam, that encourages war with “The West.” Fixing that would take a huge leap from fundamental theology in my opinion.


#19

Well, yes. Many secular muslim intellectuals claim that islam needs a Martin Luther, but the problems run deeper. You cannot simply change the basic tenets of a religion created for the specific purpose of marauding desert raiders. Here’s a unsettling thought from an ex islamists - that the Luther of Islam already arrived:

First of all, according to many scholars they are actually three separate religions:

  1. Shia islam - closely intertwined with Iranian nationalism, they follow their local agenda. Regardless how evil the schemes of the Islamic Republic of Iran are, they’re local in character. Even global terrorist acts were driven by their desire to advance their ME/Asian agenda. They pride themselves on being an exclusive club, and don’t proselytize. You won’t see a preacher in the street trying to convert you to shia islam.

They were very reluctant to accept Assad’s Syrian Alawites into their ranks after the war in Syria broke out . Alawites are historically a heretic shia sect and many Iranians privately grumble about their soldiers dying for a bunch of heretics.

Despite the cartoonish antisemitism and the demented ramblings about driving out the Jews into the sea, their first and foremost enemies are sunnis for whom they exhibit a deep, visceral hatred, and vice versa. For each ISIS terrorist attack aimed at Western targets, ten attacks are carried out against shias. According shias, being a takfir (sunni) is much, much worse that being an infidel, because while the infidel may be excused for not knowing the Word of God, the heretic reneged on the Word.

Besides a staggering inferiority complex, shias are accutely aware of their inferiority in numbers - hence they tolerate Yazidis, Christians and an assorted freak show of a handful of anti-zionist Jews. Not out of the goodness of their heart but because of the pragmatic need to enlist as much allies as possible in their fight against sunnis.

The biggest feature is that shias allow the reinterpretation of Quran, and can therefore, for better of for worse, adapt to the changes in the last 1300 years or so. Here’s a bizarre consequence of this adaptability - although homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran (always gruesomely enforced), sex change operations are completely legal and even subsidized by the government, based on the ruling of the Ayatollah himself.

They don’t have the sunni problem of fitting in Mohammad’s statements in the Hadiths about the imminent demise of the Eastern Roman Empire (Rum) into the modern geopolitical arena.

Hence radical sunni idiotic fixation about “Rome” and UBL’s ramblings about the “crusaders”

  1. Ottoman sunnis islam - this sunni islam-lite is basically clinically dead, having developed during the long decline of the Ottoman empire from the 17th century onwards. It subscribed nominally to all rabid sunni tenets but with a collective shrug at the end. While some aspects of the sunni religion were enforced (ban on eating pork and the capital punishment for the “sin” of apostasy), other elicited only a meh. That’s how Alexandria and Cairo at the end of the 19th century were famous for it’s nightlife, belly dancers, opium dens, seedy brothels and communities of Orthodox Christian and other Mediterranean traders. Same with Beirut who was synonymous with “decadence”.

It now survives in the last vestiges in the old cultured elite of Istanbul, who together with fiercely secular and nationalist Izmir formed the backbone of the Turkish modernization drive.

Sadly, the odds are stacked against them. The dirt-poor semi literate have always used the religious pretext to disposes the rich and educated of their wealth and status.

One of the more heartbreaking aspects of the sunni revival was the demise of the liberal city elite, the last of the Ottoman sunnis. Often demonized in the US, these same people exist in Turkey. During the Gezi park riots in Istanbul thousands of hipsters, barristas, yoga instructors, fusion jazz musicians and metalheads fought a losing and bloody battle with the truncheons of the riot police comprised of Anatolian peasants who relished the opportunity to beat up rich city folk. Now most of the Turkish men and women I know who worried about their first world problems - vacations, Netflix, music festivals, protein intake and squat form send my rambling emotional e-mails how their world is crumbling. And they’re right, they’re on the losing side.

https://youtu.be/SIIsLTFT_AU

Incidentally, during the Iranian failed Green Revolution I watched truckloads of riot police drive towards Tehran - when asked, they answered with glee that they’re going to beat “rich city kids”.

  1. Sunni islam - the real deal one we associate with the term “Islam” in general. Sometimes preceded with the adjective “radical”, but it’s a misnomer. There’s nothing “radical” about it, they simply follow Quran to the letter. The correct term would be salafi islam, to emphasize it’s Saudi roots. It’s a story how a backward strain of a religion from one of the poorest places in the world, Saudi Arabia before the oil, came to take over one religion’s narrative. If you want to know how Saudi Arabia would have fared without the oil, think Yemen - an average price for a house in Yemen is five dollars. FIVE DOLLARS.

One of the first things everyone is wrong about salafi islam is that is not a religion. It’s a political system. And according to their literal interpretation of the Word of God it cannot coexist with other political systems, from dictatorship to liberal democracy. Worked well in the 7th century when you were using it to prevent your desert tribesmen from cutting deals with other factions, but completely unsuited for anything that happened in the last 1300 years. When you see those bearded guys chanting on the news, remember that everything the believe in precedes Charlemagne.

So you cannot live is liberal democracy or under any form of government except the caliphate a good salafi. And here lies the problem - the separation of church and state in Western Christianity that was born back when the first barbarian tribes crossed into the Roman Empire never happened.


#20

Holy crap you’re incredibly knowledgeable

I understand what you meant with their version of Luther now, after looking at the article. Progression via regression, i.e, we are screwed as long as Sunni (Salafi) Muslims remain. Kinda sad about Turkey, my Father-in-law was stationed there in the 90s, said he loved it, so I’ve always wanted to visit, but doesn’t sound promising with the events that have transpired there recently.

So basically, your premise is Islam was created for feudal-tribal conquest, and thus, Islam itself is the problem? Especially with Shia muslims heavily in the minority. Regardless of how we drew the borders in the Middle East post-WW1, we would still be in a bad place?

.