The Race to Jerusalem

End game.

This one, I didn’t want to be right about. It was clear as far back as early 2009, but I’ve never advanced any analysis I hoped so much would be wrong. And if there’s one thing I was wrong about, it was how quickly events would accelerate once the starting gun had been fired. I thought it would take longer – that there would be a longer interim in which the activity of various participants was ambiguous.

The starting gun has been fired in what I call the “race to Jerusalem.” Arguably, it was fired last fall when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited southern Lebanon as the honored guest of Hezbollah. The race started a new phase when Hezbollah unseated the Hariri unity government of Lebanon on 12 January – and then succeeded in facing down Saudi and Turkish negotiators to select its own approved candidate to head the new government.

But a week later the race transitioned again, as Tunisians toppled the Ben Ali government and unrest spread across the Middle East. The region went from one government crisis – in Lebanon – to more than half a dozen in the space of three weeks.

Now Iran has pressed the issue of an unprecedented naval deployment to the Mediterranean Sea, with the latest report today being that Egypt will permit the Iranian warships to transit the Suez Canal.  At the UN, meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has resisted all US efforts at compromise and forced America to veto a resolution declaring the settlements in Judea and Samaria illegal.

Developments of this kind were predicted nearly two years ago, by – full disclosure – me. There are three major influences at work in the current unrest in the Middle East.  One is the genuine desire of many citizens for liberalization and reform.  We must not forget that influence; it requires protection and support – it cannot survive on its own – but it is a positive and welcome factor.

The second influence is the generic drive of various Islamist groups for the imposition of sharia.  The possibility of these groups gaining state power – the Muslim Brotherhood, its offshoots, or similar groups – makes for very high stakes in the national crises of the Arab nations.  Even assuming the Islamists gain power on the Hezbollah model, as part of coalition governments, they are still on the threshold of transforming Islamism from being principally about guerrilla jihad to being principally about national power.

The prospect before us is a new phase of what we may call, for lack of a better term, “caliphate Islamism,” as opposed to the more familiar Islamism of guerrilla jihad.  The auguries of this have been seen already in Tunisia, where the twin flags of the “Islamic caliphate” – the white al-liwaa of the putative head of state and the black ar-raya of jihad – have been observed in abundance in street demonstrations. Indeed, a crowd chanting anti-Jewish slogans outside the great synagogue in Tunis (see here and here) was waving dozens of these flags, referred to by Islamists as the flags of khilafah, or the caliph/caliphate.

This brings us to the third influence: the race to Jerusalem. The aspirants to Islamist leadership have maneuvered for years, in a desultory manner, to back (and ultimately lead) the factions that would succeed in occupying Jerusalem.  The principal state aspirants since 1979 have been revolutionary Iran and Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan; the turmoil in the Arab world in 2011 suggests there will be a scramble to reestablish Arab leadership in the coming days.

My argument in 2009 was that withdrawing US support to Israel’s requirement for territorial defensibility would unleash the accelerating maneuvers we are seeing today.  Barack Obama has, in effect, done precisely that with his dismissal of the national security interest Israel has in the settlements issue.  It was foreseeable that Obama’s policies would do what they have done: give the Middle East a green light for a competitive race to Jerusalem.

Here are links to the 4-part series from June 2009.

The Next Phase of World War IV?

The Next Phase of World War IV – Part 2

The Next Phase of World War IV – Part 3

The Next Phase of World War IV – Part 4

J.E. Dyer blogs at Hot Air’s Green Room and Commentary’s “contentions.”  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.

59 thoughts on “The Race to Jerusalem”

  1. If it gets bad enough, would Israel use their nukes?

    Was Israel like Western Europe in that they wanted Obama to win the 2008 election? A small part of me is glad that Obama has treated countries like England so poorly. Kind of “you wanted him – and now you’re reaping the consequences.” The consequences for Israel though are much more dire. They must be awfully nervous these days.

  2. Your early wisdom is proving correct.

    I fear that the second factor — the resurgence of militant Islamism — will soon soundly defeat the first factor — the aspirations of people to be free.

    The third factor is embodied in our President. Each day, it becomes more and more obvious that he not only tilts in favor of the Muslim states against Israel but actually does what he can — surreptitiously at first, now with a wink and a nod, and soon with abandon — to weaken Israel’s security and to further its demise. But, seriously, is there any reason to be surprised?

  3. The truth be told, JE, we have been talking about this since before 9/11. You have been spot on and your 2009 series I read but reserved comment. I didn’t have a ton to offer because quite frankly we just haven’t disagreed on the scenario… details here and there but you have more information that I so it is prudent to defer.

    What bothers me about the situation though, is the lack of real cohesive understanding on both the Left, and the Neo-Isolationist Merchantilist Right. — As a quick related aside for some perspective for the readers please see the period of US history from 1919 until the first bomb detonated on December 7, 1941. That period of US foreign policy was dominated by the exact same coalition of Progressives and Non-interventionists.

    I am afraid that we are currently so occupied with the lint in our collective navel, that we are not only uninterested in doing much about the events unfolding before us, but we are willfully, delusional with regard to the danger.

    It almost reminds me of an episode of the old “M*A*S*H” show.. the one where Hawkeye is sent to Sidney’s couch for treatment for a trauma that he encountered while treating a bus full of Korean civilians. He had substituted the reality of a woman strangling her baby to keep it from crying, with the killing of a chicken…

    It was one of those shows that was anti-war.. and often anti-military, but sometimes brought out an odd kernel of real human truth. These events are not going to go away, we are strangling a baby to make the danger pass, and telling ourselves it’s just a bird.

    I am not a conspiracy nut; but I also don’t believe in mass coincidences either. If there were no such thing, there would be no criminal codes to cover the charge. Iran has been playing this game, patiently since 1979, biding its time, waiting for the right opportunity.

    It looks like they think that it is time to make that next move.

    I will repeat… World War IV continues apace.



    1. If you can believe it MF, I was just randomly thinking of that MASH episode a mere couple of hours before reading your post.

  4. J.E.,

    I too, did not want to be right on this one but the die is now cast. The Muslim Brotherhood’s formerly exiled and foremost cleric Qaradawi, ‘preaching’ in Cairo’s main square today to 200k+ Egyptian’s…coupled with his being provided a military escort to and from the event, speaks volumes about the stance of the Egyptian military.

    Events in Egypt will now greatly accelerate and I fully expect the Brotherhood to capture 30-40% of the vote in the elections in 6 months. I then expect them to gain full control of the nation within 6 months after that and for Egypt to then secretly prepare for war with Israel.

    Regarding your prescient and trenchant analysis in Part 4 of The Next Phase of World War IV:

    Attacks upon Israel are necessary to maintain the momentum toward an Iranian led alliance reestablishing the Caliphate. Recently demonstrated by protesters in Bahrain yelling for the return of the caliphate.

    ”a receding US profile in the Middle East, could create the conditions for a political radicalization of the country’s leadership, if not of the majority of the people. In the event of such radicalization, Israel would have to anticipate some repudiation of Camp David, and increased support from Egypt to Palestinian factions, as a starting proposition.”

    The people are already radicalized, illustrated by 84% supporting the death penalty for apostasy. If leaving Islam deserves the death penalty those people do NOT believe in freedom of conscience. The Muslim Brotherhood, once in power will definitely repudiate the treaty. Though they may not formally do so until launching a surprise attack.

    ”Russia and China are actors that will also involve themselves, more and more, in a Middle East that is less perceived to be the subject of US interests and guarantees. Russia and China both want the US out of the Eastern hemisphere, except as a tribute-paying customer of their hegemonic arrangements.

    Geographically, China’s approach is a longer-sighted one than Russia’s, involving converging on the Middle East from positions gradually established further away.”

    Fully agree as far as that goes but in my view, Russia and China are far more inimical to American interests than mere geopolitical competitors. They are not merely variations on the French theme of wishing to be first among equals.

    “Arabs are not likely to make too much of Obama’s expressed admiration for them. But they, and others, have not missed the significance of his temporizing signal on defensible borders for Israel. Game on.”

    Game on, indeed.

  5. The nice thing about the geography of the middle east is that the Sinai is virtually unpopulated by civilians; and it is much wider than the blast and immediate radiation effects of airburst nuclear weapons. The biggest risk for Egypt in a war with Israel is not that it might lose, but rather that it might find itself at one moment on the verge of winning and at the next moment without an army.

    1. Israel’s nuclear weapons are primarily a deterrent. Their use would only occur under one of two conditions; retaliation for a nuclear strike upon Tel Aviv or if multiple, simultaneous and successful attacks upon Israel made clear that they were about to be overrun.

      The Egyptian army is not capable of defeating Israel on its own for the following reasons;

      Egypt’s officer core has never been in a battle, much less a war. Israel’s officer core is far more experienced and its pilots far better trained.

      Egypt lies well within Israel’s air engagement envelope and, I believe it would quickly attain air superiority and probably quickly degrade Egypt’s command and control with cruise missiles and air attacks.

      Any Egyptian army crossing the Sinai (open desert) has little chance of success without air cover and that would be Egypt’s primary means of attacking Israel.

      No, the Egyptians will open the Gaza border and allow greatly increased terrorist supplies to flow to Hamas. The Egyptians will use the Palestinians as shock troops ratcheting up the ongoing, low grade ‘war’ with Israel, which is designed to further weaken and isolate Israel.

      Once the Brotherhood takes over, Egypt will embark upon a nuclear program ala Iran.

      We’re in the early mid-stage of the formation of an Iranian/Muslim Brotherhood led alliance which seeks the formation of a nuclear armed Caliphate.

      1. Yeah then that’s when Israel and the U.S. will nuke the Phuk out of the ME an Unscheduled Sunrise the whole area a solid sheet of glass. I trained with the IDF and they will NEVER allow another Holocaust. The sooner everyone realizes that the better it will be. Israel will never give up

  6. —- At the UN, meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has resisted all US efforts at compromise and forced America to veto a resolution declaring the settlements in Judea and Samaria illegal.——-

    What exactly were those efforts, opticon and what was being offered in the stead?

    (Judea and Samaria—-really? what do you call the other side of the Jordan River?)

      1. thank you, Geoffrey.

        other folks found the veto to be entirely expected. If Obama is serious about halting the settlements, a veto was the only way to go.

        (and, of course, with an election coming up……)

    1. Dear Denibian Slime Devil:

      Jordan – you can’t read a Map? Or are you working from one of those Muslim Brotherhood specials? You know the one.. With the swath of territory from Morocco across North Africa, and into the Levant all the way to the Caspian Sea… as The Islamic Caliphate?

      Hum… One wonders where you get such things… truly?



      1. We Denebian amphibs can read but a little….hard to focus with the eyes spaced as they are.
        When not mistaken for an alien lifeform or a stuffy old Edwardian git, I get my maps and other sundries not all that far from where the World Trade center used to stand, MF.

        god natt

          1. Thanks MF, but some us Yanks prefer Billy Sherman.

            Some of us also think that tossing out Mubarak is gonna cause some problems for the US interests real soon, but the Egyptians shouldn’t be asked to live without political rights because it’s convenient for other folks.

            Some of us also thing that Egypt isn’t going to turn into iran or into an ally of Iran any time soon.

            Nor do we think that the Egyptian military is going to accept any orders to go invade Israel any time soon. Seems to us that the Egyptian military knows who it is that butters their bread and they do love the butter.

  7. Thank you so much for the links to your prescient 4-part analysis from June 2009.

    I believe Obama is constrained by being a postmodern transnational multiculturalist in what continues to be a Great Power world.

    I actually hope China steps in. The Middle East needs a Genghis do-over.

  8. I agree with Geoffrey that the Egyptians are unlikely to risk a direct mililtary confrontation with Israel. There is still the institutional memory of having thier tuchus handed to them. They will use the Palestinians as surrogates.

    Either way, it is not good for Israel. Perhaps especially in the latter case, as Israel will be under ever greater international pressure not to defend itself from better-supplied Palestinian terrorists.

    1. Not the least of which is the issue of the Egyptians being equipped with a fair number of M1A1’s and various other US GI Issue goodies… I’d have to look up what all the Egyptians have, but most of what has been on TV has been M-60A1s/A3 series Patton tanks..

      I saw a few Abrams tracks here and there.

      One thing that it should show us is that we should never sell anything to anyone who could potentially use it against us or one of our allies… Of course The Bamster isn’t actually acting like Israel is an ally. So, who knows how stuff will shake out.

      The bad thing is that instead of having to cross the Sinai under fire.. Egypt can deploy right in the Negev…

      I agree, it is just not a good situation any way you slice it. Sampson… remember the story of Sampson…


  9. Where would the Arab/Muslim world be without the “Zionist entity” as a focus for hatred? An area about the size of Massachusetts is the center of unreasoning rage for a world-wide movement that’s birth and maturity arrived on the point of a sword and was used as the justification for the empowerment of a few over millions. It’s small wonder that the Islamists crave Sharia, for they will be the ones that interpret and administer it to their own specifications and interests. That is the meaning of the “return of the Caliphate”. Simply another in the line of Islamic despots, beginning with Mohammed himself, moving along to the Abbasids, Moghuls, Seljuks and Ottomans. The umma accepts subservience as the price of salvation.

  10. Playing devils advocate for a moment. Would a Caliphate give the Muslim world a center of gravity?

  11. TJmil — perhaps you would develop your line of inquiry further. If you mean having a center of gravity would make the Muslim world easier to attack — well, sure. It would also make it easier for Islamists — a radical leadership — to make us WANT to attack. That latter process — making us want to attack — is highly undesirable, in that it would involve death and destruction.

  12. That may well be and its a point to ponder.

    Although it seems at times the reluctance of the West to defend itself (the public, collective reluctance) springs from bewilderment at the diffuse nature of Islamism.

    I was thinking of Hornets and their nests. I was also thinking that sometimes its good for people who think they have all the answers to be occupied as much as possible with filling potholes and making sure the TPS reports have cover sheets.

    Could anything retard jihad more than a 60 slide powerpoint on the Strategic Vision of the Caliphate?

    Probably too much to ask that this would happen but since your predictions seem to be happening my impulse is to look for advantages should they come to fruition.

    1. TJ, we’re not all that reluctant. You might have noticed that we’ve already attacked the one semi-state where they directly held sway.

      we also found a fairly large concentration of Islamist fighters in a town called Fallujah and managed eventually to overcome our reticence a little bit.
      As well, we are bombing their butts when we can find any of them worth the price of the bombs in Pakistan and Yemen.

      Of course,we are still only sending rather ineffectual proxies into Somalia, but it’s not like we’re not working up some stuff there.

      1. Thats true. Although the actions you describe within the last 6 years are a good description of what I was referring to by “diffuse”.

        As to reluctance: the US, which seems to be the only western power participating with resolve, rather pointedly elected a President who all but promised not to do these things. He would seem spared heavy criticism by the fact that the ones who didn’t vote for him support it by and large, and the ones who did can’t admit their naivete’.

        1. you might not have noticed that this president is doing some things in Afghanistan and Pakistan that the last administration failed miserably at doing.
          You might compare the number of troops committed to the area by this administration and by the last.
          You might notice that the last administration didn’t do as much in Pakistan.

          Things might not be quite as you think them to be.

          1. Seriously, senor fuster, do you really believe you can sell President Obama as Condign Conqueror of Iraq, Great Pacifier of Afghanistan and All-Seeing Overlord of Pakistan?

          2. And what’s with the Mike Foxtrot name on your gravatar? Is that a contraction of what the Ukrainan lady calls you when you don’t shovel her sidewalk promptly enough after a snow?

            1. I haven’t sold O as an Iraq enthusiast, sully. he campaigned on Iraq was a screw-up and we needed to get out of there and concentrate on finding and killing the Al Qaeda forces in on both sides of the Af/Pak border.

              …..”Obama says Iraq is not and “never was” the main front of the war on terror. Obama has called for a greater counterterrorism focus on Afghanistan and the tribal region of Pakistan.”


              ( the Foxtrot was from when I was trying to get my frog avatar to work and suffering through endless mistakes and prompts telling me to select different screen names. no idea why that one stuck but it did represent what I was muttering at the screen.
              the old lady doesn’t, far as I know, call names. she seems more the malocchio and hair clippings in the potion type)

            1. it’s good to know that it’s what the last administration would be doing now in Af/Pak. They certainly spent most of their years not doing it when they should have.

      2. The pusilanimity of the West is ever more impressive. The very tiny bit of spine leg after 9/11 has long been covered up with very thick thermals.

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