The Ever Shifting Sands

One thing that can always be relied on in the politics of the Middle East is that nothing is fixed and that the politics, alliances and downright collusions are as shifting as the sands of the Rub Al Khali.
This week the Bahraini foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa came out with a statement that Iran was the biggest threat to peace and stability in the region. This is not surprising coming from a mouthpiece of the Sunni minority government in Bahrain but it is instructive of the hardening of the sectarian divide in the region. He went on to declare, in lockstep with the Emiratis and the Sa’udis that they now considered the Iranian proxy Hizbollah to be a terrorist organization.

It is not that long ago, that despite its Shi’i affiliation that Hizbollah was part of the Arab and Muslim nationalist movement fighting the good fight against the imperialist, Zionist occupier of an integral part of the Muslim world. Now a coalition of the Sunni Gulf countries are fighting Iran and its proxies in both Syria and Yemen. They are happily accepting intelligence from the Israelis and in the case of the Sa’udis would go so far as to give the Israelis overflight and mid air refueling to strike at the Iranian nuclear installations if it comes to it.

Iran is fighting to prop up Assad in Syria, expand its influence in the Yemen and extend the power of its Shi’i proxies in Iraq.

At the same time they are assisting the Sunni Kurds to fight the Islamic State as well as to use Kurdish groups in Iranian Kurdistan as a thorn in the side of the Turks. The US is also backing Kurdish groups, both the Pesh Merga in Iraq and he YPG in Syria. The Turks are fighting the Kurdish PKK in Anatolia and demanding that the US label the YPG who have recently been effective against the Islamic State elements in Syria.

Elements in Sa’udi and Qatar are still providing some support to the Islamic State as are the Turks. The Turks also have Sunni proxies is Syria that they are using against the Assad government, that they detest.

The Russians have made common cause with the Iranians and the Assad regime, in part for economic reasons, in part as an expression of their own imperial posturing and in part because of the power vacuum in the region created by the absence of any coherent policy by the Obama administration.

The US, British and French continue to snipe away at Islamic State forces and elements and continue to degrade their capabilities and financial base but without greater involvement will not eliminate that entity. The apparent reliance on the current Iraqi government to lead the effort to liberate Mosul will of course only result in greater Iranian influence in Iraq and continue the hostile alienation of Sunni elements in that country (sic).

Iran flouts elements of the nuclear agreement by shooting off long range missles and working to improve their delivery systems. It of course raises the question that if they have put their nuclear weapons program on hold why do they need to work on a delivery system? As usual the current administration has only a limp wristed response with John Kerry exhorting the Iranians to behave better and saying that the US takes their destabilizing activities “very seriously”. That’s why the Iranians are quaking in their boots and Tehran is seized with a growing fear of the Great Satan.

Unfortunately the only solution to these problems require much more involvement from the US and the West up to and including massive military force followed by strict policing of a balkanized demilitarized region. It won’t happen and the world can only look forward to more turbulence and war in the region.