Syria and Iran: Political Plate Tectonics Middle East (Part 2)

From the interests of Qatar in Syria, much has already been written. Here, one is able to summarize all things which have been said, in one simple sentence: for Qatar, this is a pure war about infrastructure, whereby the country tries to address multiple, otherwise intractable problems.

First, it is about a blockade of Iran and the thwarting of its continental connections to Europe. Then, it is the attempt to establish a monopoly over the natural gas pipelines in the region; that would make the “bottleneck”, the Strait of Hormuz, which the Qatari super tanker have to continually pass through, make more or less irrelevant at the same time. Pure logistically, on this route, also the Suez Canal belongs to the bottlenecks.

A hand-tame Syria would also solve the problem of competition with the Transcaucasian (Azerbaijan) Trans-Caspian (Turkmenistan) natural gas supplies, which are a problem, once somebody imports them into a pipeline system that is not controlled by Qatar.

All in all, the disappearance of Syria from the map would open a range of possibilities for Qatar, which would elicit one or two clicks of the tongue of the voluminous Emir.

On the tactical level, Qatar is in the war against Syria a so-called one-hundred percent ally of Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis have other plans for Syria; tasks and “visions” of how the “Syrian questions” should be ultimately done.  At the level of strategy, however, a collision between Al Thani and the house of Saud is probable.

The Kingdom has to accept the existence of a Shiite-dominated Iraq as a fact and to act accordingly. This calls for a Sunni area or a state, that blocks the Iraq and partly also the Iran, and that is an enemy of both countries until the complete unfitness to debate with them.

The discrimination and persecution of the Sunnis in Iraq, in addition to the build-up sectarian hostility in Syria, leads inevitably to a formation of a large mass of Sunnis, who are mainly hostile towards the Shiites and their various directions (such as the Alawites).

Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani with Obamas
Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani with Obamas
Assuming the case that Bashar al-Assad and his government go down, so the formation of a Sunni “area” (here, there is even no need to talk about a real state) from the Syrian and the Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq very likely. Territorial disputes with Iraq are then inevitable.

As mentioned (in Part 1), these are then just the areas, in which the IHS has allegedly found the new and more than 100 billion barrels of oil stocks. The perspective of Iraq would be a war till the doom, namely a war with a new Sunni “Post-Syria”. A war, which is then de facto carried out by Saudi Arabia and Iran against each other, with the hands of the Syrians and Iraqis, of course. The situation has then returned to the pre-war stalemate that has existed between Iran and the Kingdom.

Until that moment, the interests of Qatar and Saudi Arabia will be congruent; afterwards the impressions of an assumed future “Syria after Assad” will diverge. Once again, the geography of the region delivers some hints.

The land-based path for the natural gas from the “North Dome” gas fields depends in every case from Saudi Arabia, which controls the first portion of each pipeline that starts in Qatar. A post-Syrian government that is in harmony with Qatar would be a trump card in these negotiations with the Saudi Kingdom. On the other hand, a government which is more inclined to Saudi Arabia collides with the strategy of the Emir (Qatar). Therefore, it looks as if the frictions between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis (Salafists) are inevitable in such a future, and they will have a character that will be hardly otherwise as the rage, how both together currently mobilize against the “bloody Alawite regime”.

The one goal, in which the Wahhabi monarchies, however, will work together until the last common cause, is the fight against Iraq, of which a new post-Sunni Syria could bite off a big piece of territory. Qatar will be interested in it, already for that reason, because then it does not have a need for Iraq as a transit partner, from purely geographical reasons, for its natural gas – the gas pipeline would then run through “New Syria”.

Even for Saudi Arabia, such a solution would be favourable – the Iraqi oil resources would then be shared between the both gentlemen, neither of whom would then have a “flywheel mass” to confront the dominance of Saudi Arabia in the oil sector. That these two gentlemen – the Shiite Iraq and the Sunni Post- or Great-Syria – will never be able to arrange, would then be a relatively easy political task, with which the Saudis could safely cope quite well.

Since one naturally understands the tasks and objectives of the Arab Wahhabis in Iran, one opposes them so vehemently in the Syrian crisis. Here, it is the goal of Iran to prevent a downfall of the “Alawite” government with a vengeance. Thereby one can quite good and readily accept the secular character of this government (something that would probably be an unthinkable compromise for the Ayatollahs of Qom in all other cases).

A slide over of the Syrian confrontation into a civil war is neither acceptable for Assad nor for the Iran – here, they are one-hundred percent allies. After one has roughly outlined the interests of the four main actors in the Syrian conflict, one can skip to the other actors.

U.S. Digression: Republicans and Democrats

The Americans hover over the events and they benefit from each of the possible developments in the Near East and Middle East. With the exception of a single variant. But more of that later. Here, it should be first about the situation, that many see no difference between the Republicans and Democrats, in particular with regard to their foreign policy. There is a difference, however, and only at first glance this difference is so hard to guess as the difference between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The consequences, however, are enormous.

Essentially important for the United States is actually only the geopolitical mission in the region: The control over the prices of energy resources. This Control means, that the United States has the possibility at every moment to adjust those prices according to current needs – to a plausible margin up or down in any situation. High prices for these resources make it possible to let the European economy stagnate.

On the other hand, low prices do harm Russia. Both, Europe and Russia, are opponents for the United States, and indeed opponents with the particularity that their welfare responds to these commodity prices. Whoever is able to manipulate these prices exerts de facto influence on the policies of the EU and Russia.

The first and “most excellent” tool of the United States during that control is the dollar, of course. For example, it is the dollar that allows it, in a rather paradoxical way, to keep the price for the better, in terms of quality and quantity, WTI oil below the prices for the heavier varieties – Brent, Urals and the known OPEC-basket. The dollar is a tool, which helps to control the “speculative” share of the oil price.

The second instrument is the competition among the producing countries. By supporting the largest oil producers, the Americans get as a return for their help the opportunity, to influence the already physical quantity of oil on the market – to multiply or reduce it as it is needed. Here, one could find the answer to the question of why it does finally not matter for the United States, who exactly delivers the actual flow rate to the market. Whether this is Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Iran, or Rügen, Germany’s largest island – it is only important, that the producing country has huge reserves and thereby is in a dependent relationship to the United States. In other words, the producing country must be “negotiable”, that is the only condition.

For this reasons, the Americans watch with an almost stoically silence how the Arabs, Persians and the Ottomans put a spoke in each other`s wheel in the redistribution in the Middle East, and this will remain so as long as the two conditions, namely, huge inventories and “negotiable”, are at least given by one of the conflicting parties that will survive in this fight.

There were, however, different approaches by the American side: The Republicans have invested heart and soul and a lot of emotions in their Middle Eastern policy, they entangled themselves in local conflicts and added justice and freedom to the region in portions; the current Democrats, however, act much varmint, smarter and more subtle – all who are involved in the processes, get a lot of attention, they are armed to the teeth, after that the United States just has to shrug its shoulders – care about it yourselves, guys.

And the “guys” buy more and more, even competing about the favour of the patron from the other side of the ocean. In any case, the military spending of the last few years by Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Kuwait are beyond good and evil (mostly granted for weapons and systems of U.S. production).

Sure, the Americans had to open up the market a little bit. For example, the Emir Al Thani has recently also developed a taste for the German “Leopard” tank. But it may be also just the case here that the Americans, given the amount of weapons that are requested, are not always able to deliver in time. Said differently, the influence on the actual events on the ground by the United States, at the tactical, and the concrete level, are currently hardly indeterminable. They only confirm regularly that they closely follow the developments and allow the local people to have fun to the top of one’s bent.

Romney’s weightiest argument in front of the second round of the televised debates before the presidential election is that Obama has de facto no articulated Mideast policy that the United States only swims with the flow under his rule in this region. Of course, Romney is completely wrong with this.

Of course, the policies of the Republicans in this regard were based on a clear visible strategy, but – in contrast to the policy of the Democrats – this was very, very expensive for the United States. Ultimately, it could even be the fact, that the spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the two of the last drops, which led ultimately to the financial and economic crisis in the U.S., and thus, also for the rest of the world.

Officially, about 1.3 trillion U.S. dollars (unofficially no less than the triple, probably) are even for United States not just to shake off their cuff. And all these colossal spending have ultimately merely led to the fact that only two of about a half dozens of states in the region have been destroyed and also bled to death. If one looks at the today’s interim assessment of this war, one cannot pass the conclusion that the Americans have de facto given this money to the hands of their main enemy in the region – the Iran.

Elect me, baby!
Elect me, baby!
In any case, the collapse of Iraq has led to the situation that Tehran has received a quite friendly, Shi’ite regime on its western border. The Iraqi Kurdistan of Barzani has become predictable. Yes, the drug smuggling from Afghanistan has increased, but not exponentially, as it is the case in the north. This suggests, that the Iranians have certainly agreed on a better and perhaps less risky business model with the Pashtun tribes and Governors, in contrary to the partly dangerous drug smuggling.

In this sense, Obama has achieved a lot more than the two Bushes within four years: with minimal expenses, a lot of countries and vast territories have been disintegrated in the sense of disintegration. It is another question that Obama is not able to afford, in contrast to his predecessors, to formulate the ultimate goal of the American strategy in public, since this differs too obvious of the declared objectives and slogans.

The immediate presence of the U.S. in the conflicts of the region is currently almost zero. Of course, the logic dictates it, to build so-called “islands of order” on site, which are able to maintain the unleashed chaos, also because of the self-interest. In the view towards the Islamic world, the best variant is the use of the endless and irresolvable conflict between Shiites and Sunnis, of course.

Precisely for this reason, the “Arab Spring” corresponds fully with the interests of the United States, the “Arab Spring”, whose main objective is to sweep away all secular and nationalist states without exceptions. The “Shiite corridor” from Iran to Syria is in the way of the second of the U.S. maintained centre of power in the region – the Gulf monarchies – like a bone in the throat. Because of Syria, Iraq and Iran, they are cut off from their vital importance European market, and are dependent so far from far riskier logistics (LPG cargos, Strait of Hormuz).

By throwing the surrounding Sunni areas into turmoil, the Arab monarchies – which are in contrast to the well-armed Shiite opponents militarily very weak – get an inexhaustible source of human resources. This, in addition to the enormous finances of these monarchies, promises an eternal struggle with a no foreseeable end. In this scenario, it is the job of the U.S. to maintain a balance of power between these centres of stability by filling up the region with weapons. They also earn a little bit with that. Already the Kingdom imports U.S. weapons worth about a half a billion U.S. dollars every year.

In addition to that, there is the actively arming Qatar, the UAE, and also the Iraq – it speaks a lot for the fact, that it should be the “Shiite” pole in the centres of powers which are established by the U.S. – is continuously increasing its spending for armaments expenditure: 140 Abrams tanks, a few dozen jet fighters, all from a beautiful American production. Against whom they will probably fight?

So it is not entirely clear what Romney complains about, because he is considered as an arms lobbyist. Should he ever move into the White House, he will certainly not significant change the current U.S. strategy in the Middle East. But the possibility of a “President Romney” seems almost too grotesque (marvellous). The American elites are quite satisfied with Obama’s line, which reformats the region at minimal cost.

These minimal costs can also include one or the other U.S. ambassador, but that`s still better than a few thousand U.S. Marines.

But now to the only case in which the U.S. simply cannot just watch. This case would be a possible “victory” of Iran in this whole story of redistribution. Of course, it is not necessarily about a military victory – the Iran is not so crazy that he would rely on the fact to flood the whole region like the “Zerg Swarm”. But there is always the possibility that the Arab aggressors strain themselves a bit too much in their commitment and finally “pass away” someday because of all the strain.

The Iran is, to the chagrin of the Americans, “non-negotiable” in the above mentioned sense, and therefore, the Iran does not satisfy the second condition. Its existence is therefore only allowed as long as its enemies – Saudi Arabia in the first place, second place is Israel – are doing well and are thriving.

Political Plate Tectonics Middle East (Part 1)
Turkey and Syria: Political Plate Tectonics Middle East (Part 3)
Israelis and Wahhabis: Political Plate Tectonics Middle East (Final)

Source of Part 2


4 thoughts on “Syria and Iran: Political Plate Tectonics Middle East (Part 2)

  1. Arab monarchies: Muslim Brotherhood ‘source of all problems in Islamic world’.

    The rulers of several major Arab nations have accused the Muslim Brotherhood of ambitions to seize power illegitimately. Several governments branded the organization a major threat to stability as the party’s influence grows steadily.


    United Arab Emirate Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah urged Gulf states to deal with an alleged Muslim Brotherhood plot to undermine regional governments. “The Muslim Brotherhood does not believe in the nation-state. It does not believe in the sovereignty of the state,” Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said at a press conference.

      1. Yes, perhaps, but its nothing you did not predict in a way, considering the series of Middle Eastern policy-articles, in addition to the general behaviour of the Muslim Brotherhood. 😉

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