Wednesday, July 14, 2010

War in the Middle East: from Yellow to Red Alert

War drums are beating in the Middle East. In a short time, the United States has increased the number of its carrier strike groups opposite Iran to three, and reports are raining down of a tightening ring of American and Israeli concentrations all around the Islamic Republic. On the diplomatic front, the Israelis are unusually concerned about their international image (for example, making concessions in Gaza) while their top officials - including Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself - are shuttling between Jerusalem and Washington. Victor Kotsev - Asia Times

I ask myself: what are Israeli warships doing for the first time in the waters of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and Iran’s maritime areas? Fidel Castro - Granma

The temptation for President Obama to double down on Iran will grow rapidly as he concludes that Afghanistan will remain a festering sore as far as anyone can peer into a murky future, hardly a recipe for success at the polls in November. With a war in Afghanistan, which is bound to get worse, and a military theater in Iraq replete with sectarian violence, the bombing of Iran may give Mr. Obama a three-front war - and a chance to retain both houses of Congress.  Arnaud De Borchgrave - Washington Times
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In fighting summer forest fires there is a critical point, which might be expressed as (+35º -30% +35Kph): If the temperature is over 35 degrees Celsius, the humidity is less than 30% and  the wind is blowing harder than 35 kilometers per hour, a major forest fire could and probably will break out at any moment.

When you have the optimum conditions in a long, hot, dry, summer, one windy day, a piece of broken glass in the sunlight, a cigarette, a field mouse chewing through a wire or an arsonist trying to buy charred land cheaply: in an instant, anything can set off a fire that consumes thousands of acres and many lives.

This might be an apt metaphor for the situation in the Middle East right now.

If you are following the news, you can see that the tinder is dry and there are potential sparks aplenty: Iran, flotillas, settlers, Gaza, Hamas, Hezbollah and the alembic of Israel's coalition politics. Nothing new there, but for the "red alert" there also has to be a high wind.

What is the equivalent of the "high wind" in today's Middle East?

To my mind there are two factors that make me fear that a war in the Middle East could be imminent.

The first is simply meteorological. In the summer there are less clouds in the sky than in the autumn and air strikes are easier to carry out.

The second is that both Democrats and Republicans would like to win the midterm elections in November and neither one of them would want to do or say anything to offend the powerful Israel lobby at a time like this.

That means that a rather attractive window is open at this moment for Israel to attack Iran.

The question remains, is the USA going to attack Iran simultaneously or are all those US carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf just to keep watch on the Israelis?

Of course, even when all the elements are there, the low humidity, the hot weather and  the wind, forest fires are not inevitable... but at that moment you are mostly dependent on luck. Such, I fear, is the case today in the Middle East. DS

1 comment:

Forensic economist said...

Rationality will win!

Israel attacking Iran has been said to be imminent every few months for over five years. Every time a carrier group cruises the Persian Gulf, every time an Israeli visits Georgia, it gets trotted out again. I don't think it will happen this time either.

This is assuming rationality of course. The Israeli politicians can gain what they want -- to get reelected, to rile up their constituents, to increase military sales, to increase military and financial support from the US -- by threatening to attack and by sounding bellicose without attacking. Actually attacking would have unknown consequences which the Israelis could not control.

Trouble is, with all the armed forces on hair trigger, with small Israeli attacks on neighbors considered acceptable, it would be easy for an incident to get out of control. The Israeli politicians seem to enjoy playing with fire.

I realize the Austrian high command thought that the invasion of Serbia would be small, quick and without consequences.