Euphrates corridor: Jihadis, and territorial gains, metastasizing

Emerging war of position.

There’s always a risk in putting data points out there without having prepared the way for them, by starting with a comprehensive analytical piece.  (Well, technically, I did the fundamental analysis back in 2009, when I posted the “Next Phase of World War IV” series, whose theses have been borne out by the Arab Spring and other developments since.)

That said, I am trusting readers to understand that what we have here is an emerging trend, whose course is not set in stone, but whose potential impact is very far-reaching.  The basic element of the trend is Sunni jihadis gaining control of territory in the Middle East, as they are currently doing in Iraq and Syria. Continue reading “Euphrates corridor: Jihadis, and territorial gains, metastasizing”

Obama’s Cuban missile crisis

Even greater than JFK?

What a coup it would be, for Team Obama to turn two weeks of dithering and squandering American credibility on the Syria question into a narrative of courage under fire and successful brinkmanship.

Could it happen?  It happened for John F. Kennedy.  Granted, he had Arthur Schlesinger to write a narrative for him afterward.  And his administration did a better job of keeping secrets than the Obama administration does.  It was only years later that the public began to realize how big a concession it was to Nikita Khrushchev to resolve the Cuban missile crisis by secretly removing U.S. theater ballistic missiles from Turkey. Continue reading “Obama’s Cuban missile crisis”

Yes, I think Assad did it

It was the regime.

I’ve been hearing about an analysis from Yossef Bodansky, reportedly alluded to by Rush Limbaugh today, in which Bodansky suggests that U.S.-backed rebels were actually behind the chemical attack in east Damascus on 21 August. (Warning: you may not be able to bring the link up on the first try.  The avalanche of clicks from Rush’s listeners seems to have the site hammered at the moment.)

I don’t believe the rebels did this (which doesn’t mean I mistake any of them for the Green Mountain Boys or the Bluecoats at Bunker Hill.  It just means I don’t think they conducted this attack).  The character of the attack continues to finger the Assad regime, a theme developed by France’s recently released national intelligence estimate.  If you don’t have the means to read it in French or run translation software on it, Foreign Policy has a pretty good write-up.

Here are the key points from the French assessment Continue reading “Yes, I think Assad did it”

Morsi down, Saudis up in battle for Syria

Saudis on fire.

Mohammed Morsi’s call for holy war in Syria spooked the Egyptian military, and it alarmed the Saudis too.  I suspect it even played a role in the decision of Qatar’s new emir to depose his father (long a supporter of Morsi and promoter of Islamist influence in the Arab Spring nations) at the end of June.  The new Sheikh Tamim has moved quickly to shift some of his father’s key policies, and we are likely to see more solidarity between Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks – but with the Saudis now edging into the lead.

As Qatar’s profile changes, there will be a significant shift in the dynamics of Islamism, one of whose best-organized factions (Qaradawi and his International Union of Muslim Scholars) has had a reliable source of funding and tacit national support from the oil-rich emirate.  There will be blowback within Qatar, of course; the new emir will have to tack and trim to discourage the kind of protests and terror attacks that now routinely menace neighboring countries like Iraq, Bahrain, and Jordan.  As Turkey’s Islamist minister to the EU, Egemen Bagis, warns us, Islamism is here to stay.  (Bagis is the Turkish minister who threatened Angela Merkel in June with an “inauspicious end” and “severe retaliation,” if a resumption of Turkey’s EU negotiations were blocked because of the Erdogan government’s recent response to protesters.)

But as the drama unfolds, factions will bob upward and downward Continue reading “Morsi down, Saudis up in battle for Syria”

Syria: Israel, at least, is militarily ready

Did they or didn’t they?

Several websites have picked up on a UPI report that the Israeli Air Force attacked a chemical weapons site in the Damascus area on Saturday.  The report is unconfirmed by any official source, but it is credible.  There are caveats, however.

The site in question, if it was struck, was probably the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), long known to be a key facility in Assad’s chemical and biological weapons program.  (See here as well.)

“Mossomo” at Flopping Aces put together an excellent timeline back in February on the events leading up to a previous unconfirmed report that the IAF had struck the SSRC.  This strike was reportedly conducted Continue reading “Syria: Israel, at least, is militarily ready”