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Meanwhile, In Saudi Arabia… | Zero Hedge

Meanwhile, In Saudi Arabia… | Zero Hedge.

When the Arab Spring sprung a few years ago, the world’s eyes only really cared about one nation. If Saudi Arabia’s elite could not keep paying off their poor, an uprising in the world’s largest oil supplier could have significant (and catastrophic) consequences for the rest of the world. Of course, between being paid to lose weight (in gold) and raising unemployment insurance, the government has kept trouble at bay. However, things are shifting. As DPA repots, two police were killed after coming under heavy gunfire while trying to arrest several Shiite activists. Of course, this is a one off but notable in its occurrence for the first time since 2011. Saudi Arabia blames Iran of inciting its Shiite citizens to disturb security and stability.

Via DPA,

Two policemen and two fugitives were killed Thursday in Saudi Arabia when security forces tried to arrest the wanted men, the Interior Ministry said.

 

The incident occurred in Awwamiyyeh, in Qatif governorate, a stronghold of the country’s Shiite opposition.

 

Police came under heavy fire while carrying out the arrest operation and were forced to shoot back, ministry spokesman General Mansour al-Turki said.

 

A wave of protest swept the Shiite-dominated Qatif area, in eastern Saudi Arabia, in 2011. Since then there have been a number of shooting incidents, while authorities have pursued wanted Shiite activists.

 

The Shiites accuse authorities in the kingdom, which is dominated by the hardline Sunni Wahhabi tendency, of discrimination. Saudi Arabia denies this, describing the protesters as “rioters” financed by foreign countries to cause unrest in the world’s top oil exporter.

Saudi Arabia blames Iran of inciting its Shiite citizens to disturb security and stability.

In January, the US embassy in Riyadh warned its citizens against travelling to the district after gunmen attacked the car of two German diplomats.

 

Security forces who tried to arrest those suspected of being behind “armed unrest” were shot at and retaliated, a ministry spokesman was quoted as saying.

 

They seized “two weapons, a large quantity of ammunition, a bulletproof vest and weapons sights,” he added, warning the  authorities would crush any such resistance with “an iron fist”.

Awamiya has continued to experience problems despite the end of mass protests that erupted in the eastern region in March 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring.

 

The Middle East Explained – In One Minute | Zero Hedge

The Middle East Explained – In One Minute | Zero Hedge.

With Islamic extremists raising their ominous-looking flags over Falluja and Ramadi again, it’s not looking too good in Iraq (or the rest of the Middle East). Sure, Mark Firoe notes, Iraqi government forces may take back some territory they lost, but it’s never a good sign when you have to shell your own country to maintain order. Confused at the proxy-wars, terrorists, statists, and just who the US is friends with? Have no fear, the following brief clip will explain it all…

 

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : World Danger Spots for 2014

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : World Danger Spots for 2014.

written by eric margolis
Kiev Nov

Where are the world’s most dangerous places in 2014?

*Mostly forgotten, but the highly dangerous, Indian-controlled portion of disputed Kashmir. Rebellion against Indian rule by Kashmir’s majority Muslims is again boiling. Over 1.6 million Indian and Pakistani troops, backed by nuclear weapons, are in confrontation. Skirmishing along Kashmir’s Line of Control is frequent. The nuclear strike forces of both India and Pakistan are on a perilous hair-trigger alert, with about three minutes warning of an enemy attack.

A false warning of incoming missiles or aircraft, a border clash, or a massive offensive by India exasperated by guerilla attacks from Pakistan could set off a war that could kill millions and pollute the entire planet with radioactive dust. India and Pakistan aside, hardly anyone even thinks about beautiful, remote, perilous Kashmir.

*Korea’s Demilitarized Zone, the world’s second most dangerous place where 1.5 million North and South Korean troops, and 28,000 Americans, face off. Tension crackles along the DMZ. Some 11,000 N Korean guns and rockets are targeted on South Korea’s capitol, Seoul. The North is believed to have 4-6 crude nuclear devices that could hit S Korea or Japan.

In December, North Korea’s new ruler, Kim Jong-un, had his powerful uncle arrested and shot. This was another sign of the Pyongyang regime’s instability, and dangerously erratic behavior by youthful hothead leader, Kim Jong-un. War could erupt anytime along the DMZ. Just as likely, North Korea could collapse, sending 25 million starving northerners to seek refuge in South Korea, something that Seoul dreads.

*The dear old Mideast. Syria may continue disintegrating into warring mini-states. The US, Saudi, Israel, and Turkey sparked the uprising against Syrian ruler Bashar Assad to punish Iran, causing millions of refugees to flood the region. This after the US invasion of Iraq caused 3 million refugees. Iran and Saudi Arabia (backed by secret ally Israel) will fight over Syria’s bleeding body as this once lovely country is relentlessly destroyed. Yemen will continue to burn.

Intense efforts are underway by American neocons and their hired hands in Congress to get the US to attack Iran, or at least force the US to go to war against Iran if Israel initiates a conflict. Meanwhile, Israel is gearing up for another invasion of Lebanon aimed at destroying Hezbollah, and it may intervene directly in Syria. Egypt, now ruled by a fascist military junta, is working hand in glove with Israel and Saudi Arabia. The so-called Israel-Palestinian peace agreement is a very bad joke, a Mideast Kabuki dance in which no one believes.

*East Africa – A new cauldron of trouble. Efforts by Washington to forge a US-led African protectorate of South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Somalia – dominated by close US ally Ethiopia – have run into trouble. All are dictatorships that are rent by tribal, ethnic and regional problems.

Watch the new US Africa Command get drawn ever deeper into East, Central and North Africa, all regions, by no coincidence, with oil.

*China Sea – China has blundered into open confrontation with Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines over its claims to islets in the East China Sea. This has caused the US to beef up its Pacific forces and alliances. Japanese and Chinese warplanes and ships play a daily game of chicken around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. China’s aggressive stance is causing Japan to increase military spending and may, along with North Korean threats, cause Japan to deploy nuclear weapons – which it can produce in only 90 days.

Chinese, usually deft, cautious diplomats, have alarmed much of East Asia for no good purpose. China’s government has been foolishly fanning the flames of nationalism among young people. All this resonates with the same type of idiotic, primitive behavior that unleashed World War I. The clock is ticking down rapidly.

*Strife-torn Ukraine is another powder keg. Its western half wants to join Europe; the Russian-speaking eastern half wants to reunite with Russia. The West is busy stirring the pot in Kiev. Moscow is furious and sees nefarious western plots to begin tearing apart the Russian Federation, which is beset by rebellion in the Caucasus. All this threatens a clash between Russia and NATO. Diplomacy, not subversion, is urgently needed.

Flickr/Oxlaey.com

Iraq government loses control of Fallujah – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Iraq government loses control of Fallujah – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki has vowed to eliminate “all terrorist groups” from Anbar province as a security source conceded the government had lost control of the town of Fallujah to al-Qaeda linked fighters.

Maliki, speaking on state television on Saturday, said his government would end “fitna”, or disunity, in the province and would “not back down until we end all terrorist groups and save our people in Anbar”.

His comments came after a senior Iraqi security official told the AFP news agency that the government had lost control of Fallujah to fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Videos showed ISIL fighters in control of the main Fallujah highway, and officials and witnesses inside the town told the Reuters news agency that ISIL was in control of nothern and northeastern parts of the town.

 

Imran Khan talks about Maliki’s options on Anbar violence.

The ISIL has been tightening its grip in the Sunni-dominated desert province, near the Syrian border, in recent months in its effort to create an Islamic state across the Iraqi-Syrian borders.

In Ramadi, the other main city in Anbar, local tribesmen and the Iraqi security forces have worked together to counter the ISIL.

But in Fallujah, the Iraqi army has been prevented from entering by local Sunni tribesmen who, despite not supporting al-Qaeda fighters, are opposed to the Shia dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Imran Khan, Al Jazeera’s Iraq correspondent, said: “The Iraqi army is on the outskirts of the town, negotiating with tribal leaders to go and fight the ISIL. They need cooperation from the leaders to go in and root out the militants.

“The military had a base just outside, from where they were shelling the city. They have withdrawn from that base and the tribal leaders have moved in, claiming a victory, but it isn’t clear yet from the army if it was rather a tactical withdrawal.”

Fierce fighting

More than 100 people were killed on Friday during fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi, one of the worst days since violence flared when Iraqi police broke up a Sunni protest camp in Anbar on Monday.

The escalating tension shows the civil war in Syria, where mostly Sunni rebels are battling President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Shia Iran, is spilling over to other countries such as Iraq, threatening delicate sectarian balances.

Syrian opposition turns on al-Qaida-affiliated Isis jihadists near Aleppo | World news | The Guardian

Syrian opposition turns on al-Qaida-affiliated Isis jihadists near Aleppo | World news | The Guardian.

Fighters of  al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant parade at Syrian town of Tel Abyad

Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria parade in Tel Abyad. Syrian rebels’ uneasy co-existence with the hardline Isis has turned to outright hostility. Photograph: Reuters

The most serious clashes yet between the Syrian opposition and a prominent al-Qaida group erupted in the north of the country on Friday as a tribal revolt against the same organisation continued to rage inIraq‘s Anbar province.

Opposition groups near Aleppo attacked militants from the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria (Isis) in two areas, al-Atareb and Andana, which are both strongholds of the fundamentalist Sunni organisation.

Battles also erupted in the Salahedin district of Aleppo itself, where both groups had reluctantly co-existed during recent months as Isis had imposed its hardline influence on parts of the city. Several hundred miles east, Isis remains in control of parts of the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, having raided mosques, sacked police stations and freed prisoners in moves reminiscent of the darkest days of Iraq’s insurgency, in which much of Anbar had been lost to al-Qaida.

Isis is the latest incarnation of the same ruthless group that held sway in Anbar before the Awakening Movement of tribal militias ousted it. The Awakening was led at the time by powerful local sheikhs and backed by the occupying US military and was credited with freeing both cities from the grip of the jihadists.

But over the past year, security there and elsewhere in Iraq has gradually ebbed as the war in Syria has intensified. In the past week, revitalised Isis insurgents stormed into both cities soon after the Iraqi military withdrew from a violent standoff with local tribes.

The same group has been at the vanguard of an increasing radicalisation of the anti-Assad opposition in northern Syria. Its members cross freely between Anbar and the eastern deserts of Syria as the insurgencies in each country steadily seep in to each other.

Tribal figures in Anbar said they were continuing to mount attacks on Isis and were determined to block the Islamists’ efforts to re-establish a foothold there.

“Never will we allow them to return to our towns,” said a senior sheikh from the outskirts of Ramadi. “We don’t trust the Shia regime of Maliki and we don’t trust al-Qaida. We will fight for our futures. No one else has our benefit at heart.”

The US military had placed great significance on Ramadi and Fallujah, having fought two major battles against insurgents in Fallujah in 2004 and having suffered more than one third of its casualties during the eight-year war in the restive province.

With the US having left Iraq three years ago, the government of the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, recently travelled to Washington to seek renewed American intelligence help to get on top of the insurgency. The Obama administration agreed to supply weapons and technicians but it is not yet clear if it also agreed to re-introduce elements of its controversial drone programme.

Though not thought to be co-ordinated, the attacks on Isis strongholds in Syria and Iraq have mounted the most serious challenge to the group’s authority since it again became a dominant player in the region.

The group’s members have imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law in much of northern Syria, subverting local authority and intimidating towns and communities. The increasing strength of the group has also further splintered the original armed Syrian opposition, which has at times come to a battlefield accommodation with the better funded jihadis, and had tried to avoid a reckoning with them.

However, opposition leaders told the Guardian that with military momentum at a crawl, they have little option but to try to oust Isis.

“We have surrounded them in Andana,” said a leader of Ahrar al-Sham, an Islamic group within the opposition. “We have told their foreigners that they must come and join us, within 24 hours, or face being killed.”

In al-Atareb, several dozen fighters, including Isis members, are believed to have been killed in the clashes. The group is thought have at least 10,000 members in northern Syria, many of them foreigners from elsewhere in the Sunni Islamic world, including up to 1,000 Europeans.

Isis has kidnapped more than 30 foreign aid-workers and journalists in the north, along with scores more Syrians. The French medical aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières said five of its members had been taken from a house in northern Syria on Thursday. It gave no details about the identities of the captives, or where they were taken from.

Dozens of Iraqi MPs quit over Anbar violence – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Dozens of Iraqi MPs quit over Anbar violence – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Forty-four Iraqi MPs have announced their resignation over violence in Anbar province, just days after a deadly raid on the home of a Sunni lawmaker in the area.Fighting erupted when police broke up a Sunni Muslim protest camp on Monday, leaving at least 13 people dead, police and medical sources said.

Four people died on Tuesday in clashes between Iraq’s security forces and gunmen in Ramadi, following the forced closure of the site.

The camp has been an irritant to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-led government since protesters set it up a year ago to demonstrate against what they see as marginalisation of their sect.

Maliki has repeatedly vowed to remove the camp and accused protesters of stirring strife and sheltering fighters linked to al-Qaeda.

The MPs who stepped down after the latest bout of violence demanded “the withdrawal of the army… and the release of MP Ahmed al-Alwani,” a Sunni of the Iraqiya bloc who was arrested during a deadly raid on Saturday.

Prominent Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq called for all legislators from Iraqiya to withdraw from the political process, saying it had hit a “dead end”.

“Elections in this atmosphere would be settled in advance, therefore we should raise our voices high and say the political process cannot proceed in this way,” he told reporters.

Tension rising

Tensions have been rising over the past few weeks in Anbar, a province that makes up a third of Iraq’s territory and is populated mainly by Sunnis.

Police said the clashes on Monday broke out when armed men opened fire on police special forces trying to enter Ramadi, the city where the protest camp is located.
We hold the government of Nouri al-Maliki responsible for the bloodshed and the fighting.Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, tribal leader

Shooting and blasts were heard in parts of the city. The assailants destroyed four police vehicles and killed at least three policemen in the north of Ramadi, one police source said.

The bodies of 10 other people killed in the clashes were brought into Ramadi’s morgue, hospital and morgue sources told Reuters news agency.

Tribal leader Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, meanwhile, accused the army of firing on unarmed civilians.

“We hold the government of Nouri al-Maliki responsible for the bloodshed and the fighting,” he said.

The fighting spread to the nearby city of Fallujah, where police Captain Omar Oda said armed men burned military vehicles during clashes with security forces.

Maliki’s spokesman, Ali Mussawi, said military sources confirmed that tents at the protest site had been removed and the highway towards neighbouring Jordan and Syria reopened.

This was done “without any losses, after al-Qaeda and its members escaped from the camp to the city, and they are being pursued now,” Mussawi told AFP.

The sprawling protest site on the highway outside Ramadi, where the number of protesters ranged from hundreds to thousands, included a stage from which speakers could address crowds, a large roofed structure and dozens of tents.

Sunni politicians arrested

Protests broke out in Sunni Arab-majority areas of Iraq late last year after the arrest of guards of then-finance minister Rafa al-Essawi, an influential Sunni Arab, on terrorism charges.

The arrests were seen by Sunnis as yet another example of the Shia-led government targeting one of their leaders.

In December 2011, guards of vice president Tariq al-Hashemi, another prominent Sunni politician, were arrested and accused of terrorism. Hashemi fled abroad and has since been given multiple death sentences in absentia for charges including murder.

He had insisted he was still the legitimate vice president, but on Monday he announced his resignation and called on all Sunni members of parliament join him.

“Legally I was still the vice president of the republic. But today I add my voice to my people who have risen up in Anbar,” he told Al Jazeera.

“I stayed in this position until now because it was necessary to challenge and unite the Sunnis. They needed a rallying cause. But enough is enough.”

 

U.S. and Iranian Realities | Stratfor

U.S. and Iranian Realities | Stratfor.

By George Friedman

U.S. President Barack Obama called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week in the first such conversation in the 34 years since the establishment of the Islamic republic. The phone call followed tweets and public statements on both sides indicating a willingness to talk. Though far from an accommodation between the two countries, there are reasons to take this opening seriously — not only because it is occurring at such a high level, but also because there is now a geopolitical logic to these moves. Many things could go wrong, and given that this is the Middle East, the odds of failure are high. But Iran is weak and the United States is avoiding conflict, and there are worse bases for a deal.

Iran’s Surge

Though the Iranians are now in a weak strategic position, they had been on the offensive since 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq. They welcomed the invasion; Saddam Hussein had been a mortal enemy of Iran ever since the 1980-1989 Iran-Iraq War. The destruction of his regime was satisfying in itself, but it also opened the door to a dramatic shift in Iran’s national security situation.

Iraq was Iran’s primary threat after the collapse of the Soviet Union because it was the only direction from which an attack might come. A pro-Iranian or even neutral Iraq would guarantee Iranian national security. The American invasion created a power vacuum in Iraq that the U.S. Army could not fill. The Iranians anticipated this, supporting pro-Iranian elements among the Shia prior to 2003 and shaping them into significant militias after 2003. With the United States engaged in a war against Sunni insurgents, the Shia, already a majority, moved to fill the void.

The United States came to realize that it was threatened from two directions, and it found itself battling both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias. The purpose of the surge in 2007 was to extricate itself from the war with the Sunnis and to block the Shia. It succeeded with the former to a great extent, but it was too late in the game for the latter. As the United States was withdrawing from Iraq, only the Shia (not all of them Iranian surrogates) could fill the political vacuum. Iran thus came to have nothing to fear from Iraq, and could even dominate it. This was a tremendous strategic victory for Iran, which had been defeated by Iraq in 1989.

After the Iranians made the most of having the United States, focused on the Sunnis, open the door for Iran to dominate Iraq, a more ambitious vision emerged in Tehran. With Iraq contained and the United States withdrawing from the region, Saudi Arabia emerged as Iran’s major challenger. Tehran now had the pieces in place to challenge Riyadh.

Iran was allied with Syria and had a substantial pro-Iranian force in Lebanon — namely, Hezbollah. The possibility emerged in the late 2000s of an Iranian sphere of influence extending from western Afghanistan’s Shiite communities all the way to the Mediterranean. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had fairly realistic visions of Iranian power along Saudi Arabia’s northern border, completely changing the balance of power in the region.

But while Syrian President Bashar al Assad was prepared to align himself with Iran, he initially had no interest in his country’s becoming an Iranian satellite. In fact, he was concerned at the degree of power Iran was developing. The Arab Spring and the uprising against al Assad changed this equation. Before, Syria and Iran were relative equals. Now, al Assad desperately needed Iranian support. This strengthened Tehran’s hand, since if Iran saved al Assad, he would emerge weakened and frightened, and Iranian influence would surge.

The Russians also liked the prospect of a strengthened Iran. First, they were fighting Sunnis in the northern Caucasus. They feared the strengthening of radical Sunnis anywhere, but particularly in the larger Sunni-dominated republics in Russia. Second, an Iranian sphere of influence not only would threaten Saudi Arabia, it also would compel the United States to re-engage in the region to protect Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Russians had enjoyed a relatively free hand since 2001 while the Americans remained obsessed with the Islamic world. Creating a strategic crisis for the United States thus suited Moscow’s purposes. The Russians, buffered from Iran by the Caucasus states, were not frightened by the Iranians. They were therefore prepared to join Iran in supporting the al Assad regime.

The problem was that al Assad could not impose his will on Syria. He did not fall, but he also couldn’t win. A long-term civil war emerged, and while the Iranians had influence among the Alawites, the stalemate undermined any dream of an Iranian sphere of influence reaching the Mediterranean. This became doubly true when Sunni resistance to the Shia in Iraq grew. The Syrian maneuver required a decisive and rapid defeat of the Sunni insurgents in Syria. That didn’t happen, and the ability of the Shiite regime of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to resist the Sunnis was no longer guaranteed.

Iranian Ambitions Decline

In 2009, it had appeared extremely likely that an Iran loosely aligned with Russia would enjoy a sphere of influence north of Saudi Arabia. By 2013, this vision was shattered, and with it the more grandiose strategic vision of Ahmadinejad and his allies in Iran. This led to a re-evaluation of Iran’s strategic status — and of the value of its nuclear program.

It was Stratfor’s view that Iran had less interest in actually acquiring a nuclear weapon than in having a program to achieve one. Possessing a handful of nuclear weapons would be a worst-case scenario for Iran, as it might compel massive attacks from Israel or the United States that Iran could not counter. But having a program to develop one, and making it credible, gave the Iranians a powerful bargaining chip and diverted U.S. and Israeli attention from the growing Iranian sphere of influence. Ahmadinejad’s hope, I think, was to secure this sphere of influence, have the basis for making demands on the Saudis and the Gulf Cooperation Council, and trade the nuclear program for U.S. recognition and respect for the new regional balance. Indeed, while the United States and Israel were obsessed with the Iranian bomb, the Iranians were making major strides in developing more conventional power.

Iran’s regional strategy was in shambles, and the international sanctions its nuclear program triggered began to have some significant effect. I am unable to determine whether Iran’s economic crisis derived from the sanctions or whether it derived from a combination of the global economic crisis and Iran’s own economic weakness. But in the end, the perception that the sanctions had wreaked havoc on the Iranian economy turned the nuclear program, previously useful, into a liability.

Iran found itself in a very difficult position. Internally, opposition to any accommodation with the United States was strong. But so was the sense that Ahmadinejad had brought disaster on Iran strategically and economically. For Iran, the nuclear program became increasingly irrelevant. The country was not going to become a regional power. It now had to go on the defensive, stabilize Iraq and, more important, address its domestic situation.

The U.S. Challenge

There is profound domestic opposition in the United States to dealing with the Iranian regime. Just as the Iranians still genuinely resent the 1953 coup that placed the shah on the throne, the Americans have never forgotten the seizure of the U.S. Embassy and the subsequent yearlong hostage crisis. We must now wait and see what language Iran will craft regarding the hostage crisis to reciprocate the courtesy of Obama’s acknowledging the 1953 coup.

The United States is withdrawing from the Middle East to the extent it can. Certainly, it has no interest in another ground war. It has interests in the region, however, and chief among those are avoiding the emergence of a regional hegemon that might destabilize the Middle East. The United States also learned in Iraq that simultaneously fighting Sunnis and Shia pits the United States against forces it cannot defeat without major effort. It needs a way to manage the Islamic world without being in a constant state of war.

The classic solution to this is to maintain a balance of power with minimal force based on pre-existing tensions. A weakened Iran needs support in its fight with the Sunnis. The United States is interested in ensuring that neither the Sunni nor the Shia win — in other words, in the status quo of centuries. Having Iran crumble internally therefore is not in the American interest, since it would upset the internal balance. While sanctions were of value in blocking Iranian ascendancy, in the current situation stabilizing Iran is of greater interest.

The United States cannot proceed unless the nuclear program is abandoned. Rouhani understands that, but he must have and end to sanctions and a return of Western investment to Iran in exchange. These are doable under the current circumstances. The question of Iranian support for al Assad is not really an issue; the United States does not want to see a Syrian state dominated by radical Sunnis. Neither does Iran. Tehran would like a Syria dominated by al Assad, but Iran realizes that it has played that card and lost. The choices are partition, coalition or war — neither Iran nor the United States is deeply concerned with which.

Threats to a Resolution

There are two threats to a potential resolution. The primary threat is domestic. In both countries, even talking to each other seems treasonous to some. In Iran, economic problems and exhaustion with grandiosity opens a door. In the United States right now, war is out of the question. And that paves the way to deals unthinkable a few years ago.

A second threat is outside interference. Israel comes to mind, though for Israel, the removal of the nuclear program would give them something they were unable to achieve themselves. The Israelis argued that the Iranian bomb was an existential threat to Israel. But the Israelis lack the military power to deal with it themselves, and they could not force the Americans into action. This is the best deal they can get if they actually feared an Iranian bomb. Though Israel’s influence on this negotiation with Iran will face limits with the U.S. administration, Israel will make an effort to insert itself in the process and push its own demands on what constitutes an acceptable Iranian concession.

Saudi Arabia meanwhile will be appalled at a U.S.-Iranian deal. Hostility toward Iran locked the United States into place in support of the Saudis. But the United States is now flush with oil, and Saudi attempts to block reconciliation will not meet a warm reception. The influence of Saudi Arabia in Washington has waned considerably since the Iraq war.

The Russian position will be more interesting. On the surface, the Russians have been effective in Syria. But that’s only on the surface. The al Assad regime wasn’t bombed, but it remains crippled. And the Syrian crisis revealed a reality the Russians didn’t like: If Obama had decided to attack Syria, there was nothing the Russians could have done about it. They have taken a weak hand and played it as cleverly as possible. But it is still a weak hand. The Russians would have liked having the United States bogged down containing Iran’s influence, but that isn’t going to happen, and the Russians realize that ultimately they lack the weight to make it happen. Syria was a tactical victory for them; Iran would be a strategic defeat.

The Iranian and American realities argue for a settlement. The psyche of both countries is in the balance. There is clearly resistance in both, yet it does not seem strong enough or focused enough to block it. That would seem to indicate speed rather than caution. But of course, getting it done before anyone notices isn’t possible. And so much can go wrong here that all of this could become moot. But given how the Iranians and Americans see their positions, the odds are, that something will happen. In my book, The Next Decade, I argued that in the long run Iran and the United States have aligning interests and that an informal alliance is likely in the long run. This isn’t the long run yet, and the road will be bumpy, but the logic is there.

Read more: U.S. and Iranian Realities | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

 

US Foreign Policy SNAFU Deja Vu – US-Backed Rebels Lead Al-Qaeda Resurgence | Zero Hedge

US Foreign Policy SNAFU Deja Vu – US-Backed Rebels Lead Al-Qaeda Resurgence | Zero Hedge. (source)

It’s happening again. The US lack of intervention in Syria (and implicit and explicit support for the rebels) has apparently emboldened none other than Al-Qaeda. As the WSJ reports, a flurry of recent attacks by al Qaeda-linked militants in Iraq – strengthened by their alliance with jihadist fighters in Syria – is threatening to undo years of U.S. efforts to crush the group, widening sectarian conflict in the Middle East. Iraqi security officials say al Qaeda-linked fighters from the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, are moving aggressively to re-establish a base of operations in Anbar province, the stronghold of the Sunni insurgency during the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Via WSJ,

The chaos across the border in Syria and Iraqi Sunnis’ feeling of discrimination under the Shiite-led government has reignited the kind of intense sectarian strife that brought Iraq to the verge of civil war in 2006-2007. A security vacuum left by the withdrawal of American combat troops in December 2011 is also helping the fighters regain a foothold.

Iraqi security officials say al Qaeda-linked fighters from the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, are moving aggressively to re-establish a base of operations in Anbar province, the stronghold of the Sunni insurgency during the U.S.-led war.

If the extremists succeed, they would undo one of the hardest-fought gains of U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies. By the time of the U.S. pullout at the end of 2011, the insurgency had been significantly weakened, in large part by a U.S. alliance with moderate Sunni tribesmen.

Following recent attacks in Anbar and the northern city of Mosul, Syrian and Iraqi jihadis openly congratulated ISIS operatives on jihadi Web forums.

Whereas attacks in the rest of the country tend to be isolated acts of terror such as car and suicide bombings, Anbar officials say attacks in the province look more like muscular efforts to gain and hold territory.

The growing instability in Iraq coincides with the strengthening of jihadist rebels in Syria, many of them foreign fighters, battling to unseat President Bashar al-Assad.

The fighters flow fluidly back and forth across the Iraq-Syria border, staging attacks on both sides, Iraqi intelligence officials said.

“The regional situation is applying huge pressure on us,” said Falih al Essawi, the deputy head of Anbar provincial council and a member in a prominent Sunni tribe. “ISIS is trying to control the borders to find a means to transport weapons, equipment and fighters between the two countries.”

While most local residents in Anbar don’t support al Qaeda, many see the group as a last bastion of resistance against Shiite domination.

“ISIS isn’t facing any refusal or resistance from the locals,” said Mr. Tou’ma, the Shiite legislator.

The Obama administration, in turn, has angered its Persian Gulf allies with its overtures to Iran and its decision not to intervene in Syria.

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