Beyond the Cusp

December 28, 2011

How Many Heads Does a Caliphate Need?

The obvious answer is a Caliphate, by definition, has only one head. That then leads to the big question of which country, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or who? This is the question currently leading to much of the posturing and maneuverings of the different Muslim counties and the results are anything but obvious as of yet. Some might suggest that perhaps having a committee of three countries leading the Caliphate with each assigned their own areas of control, then the three current primary contenders, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia could claim preeminence and such a compromise might allow things to progress somewhat smoothly. I think not, that would never work as none of the three would agree to share power. Then there might be those who would suggest seven. That is too Christian end-times for it to work for a Muslim Caliphate. Assuming for the moment that all the talk about the coming unification of the Muslim World under one leader and the reemergence of the Caliphate is actually in the works, then who has the best claim or chance of taking the lead might be a good question to answer.

Turkey claims that since the Ottoman Empire was the last and longest holder of the title of leader of the caliphate that they are the logical choice. Needless to say, this argument has not exactly inspired any great confidence or following. Iran is claiming that their military superiority, imminent conquest of nuclear power (for peaceful purposes, of course), and the fact they are the only true Sharia Governance under the guidance of a Supreme Leader who is an Imam and is supported by a Supreme Council comprised of Imams making them the most Islamic and thus the preeminent choice for leading the Caliphate. They are also the loudest which also seems to matter. Then there is Saudi Arabia and the Family Saud, the Keepers of the Holy Cities, Mecca and Medina, the Guardian of the Holy Places, and I am sure numerous other titles to do with being the birthplace of Mohammed and Islam. Saudi Arabia also has one of the best armed militaries, even if they have shown little ability to actually use their military hardware, and are the current leadership of the GCC, Gulf Cooperation Council, which is an alliance which will be further defined later in this article. The one thing that needs to be kept in mind is that until the Arab Spring, Arab Winter as we call the change of oppression from dictator to Sharia, finishes shaking out and the new leaderships have taken their positions and cemented their power, we may have additional contestants in this deadly gamesmanship of who is the most powerful and most Muslim within the Islamic realms. One definite entry will be Egypt which has been the central power of sorts ever since Gamal Abdel Nasser became the Egyptian President in January 1955 when the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) appointed him as president. I will assume there are other pretenders to the Caliphate, but time will reveal those with claims of consequence.

Iran and Turkey, both being non-Arab Muslim countries, are pretty much stand-alone entities which are making their claim to head of the Caliphate on simply their own merit and force of will, or force of arms if such becomes their only option, the option of last resort. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is very much an Arab country and as such can use this to their advantage to draw support from other Arab countries in their efforts to claim the title of Caliph. Normally, the contest for leader of the Arab Muslim World usually exists between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This has usually resulted in Egypt being the face of the Arab World to the West and Saudi Arabia settling for the vast network and influence they have bought though their financing of the Wahhabi movement and network of Mosques and Madrasas, a world-wide network that is spreading faster today than ever. This, in reality, pits the two largest networks of Sunni Islam against each other, Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia is also taking a secondary route to preeminence through the GCC. They have recently pressed forward with the idea that the GCC should transform from a strictly political and trade organization and become a military alliance using fear of Iranian expansionary threat as a motivating force. At the same time, the Saudi Monarchs are also putting forth an idea of expanding the GCC beyond the Gulf State by offering non-Gulf States membership. This invitation has already been extended to Jordan and an invitation to Egypt is under consideration. Should the expansion of the GCC become the link which allows the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabis to unite this would circumvent a potential divide in the Sunni alliance and allow for Egypt and Saudi Arabia to work as allies instead of as separate contenders for the crown.

The next immediate confrontation that bears observation is, of course, Syria, and as a consequence, Lebanon, Hamas, Hezballah, the PLO, and the rest of the alphabet soup of Palestinians terror networks and groups. Syria is the focal point upon which all the rest are balanced. Syria is more than another uprising of the Arab Winter, it is also a contest of wills and influence between Turkey and Iran. Iran is backing President Bashar Assad while Turkey is backing the Syrian rebel forces along with Saudi Arabia, the Arab League, and the West. The importance of this conflict is the affect it will have on the other militarized groups dependent currently on Iran for their support in all areas including arms, finances, training, logistics, political cover, and other sundry supporting factors. Should Syria be torn from its current ties with Iran and realigned with Turkey, or the less likely Saudi Arabia, then the supplying of Hezballah and their stranglehold on power in Lebanon becomes far more difficult. With Syria and Turkey allied and should Saudi Arabia extend their control to include Egypt, all routes from Iran to Lebanon, and also Gaza, even should they gain strong influence over Iraq, something we at BTC honestly expect in the not too distant future, become impossible to maintain. All air routes would be required to cross Syria and likely also Turkey and all sea routes which are tenable would require use of the Suez Canal, thus Iran would lose their ability to supply and thus influence Hezballah, Hamas and any other of their satellite groups who border Israel. This would seriously weaken Iranian influence and virtually remove their current threat abilities against Israel and would serve to inflate the standing of Turkey and remove much of the threat of Iran against Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Sunni Middle East. Such a break might even give Iraq reason to resist Iranian influences and ally with Turkey though unlikely to align with Sunni Saudi Arabia or join the GCC.

Israel is still the main focus for most of the Arab and Muslim World of the Middle East and much of North Africa. I would expect that we should expect that the new leadership in Libya, once that all shakes out and gets settled, something that may take a good while, will take a renewed interest in Israel and aiding the Palestinian resistance, something they have already attempted to do by shipping captured weapons during the civil war in Libya. Egypt has already shown that their peace treaty with Israel is negotiable if not null and void. Jordan has been invited to join the GCC whose membership is currently at war with Israel and might require Jordan to relent and break their treaty. Where this, on the surface, appears to be making things worse for Israel, should the Caliphate actually appear to be an imminent possibility, then the competition for the leading position might distract everybody into chasing the golden throne and forget Israel for a while. That might prove to be a welcome reprieve with a not so wonderful result unless the contesting countries destroy each other along the way, a distinct possibility.

Beyond the Cusp

September 20, 2011

For What Else will President Obama be Blamed?

All this coming week we can expect to see pundits, editorialists, journalists and others who make their livelihood commenting on politics heaping blame for the events unfolding in New York. There will be those who will claim that President Obama should have worked more diligently to alter the scheduling and subject matter of the Durban III Conference in order to prevent the conference from devolving into simply another blame Israel and Zionists for every evil in the world while ignoring virtually every other culprit all in the name of celebrating the one decade birthday of the original Durban Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. I doubt any actions available to President Obama would have been capable of having any influence to alter Durban III from being anything other than a collective hate-fest against Israel and Zionists in particular and all Jews in general. Simply put, the Durban Conferences will never ever change their discourse or the chosen victim of the vile echo-chamber first set in stone by the first conference held in Durban, South Africa back in 2001 just one week before the horrific 9/11 terror attacks.

The other event for which the blame will be placed at President Obama’s feet is the expected petitioning of the United Nations in both the Security Council and the General Assembly attempting to attain recognition as a nation state with full United Nations membership. Where some of the blame is most likely legitimate to be placed at President Obama’s feet, much of the Palestinian actions were very likely inevitable and the President likely only hurried them along. The Palestinians had probably planned to make such moves to attain statehood and were simply waiting for what they would perceive as the most opportunistic of situations, and President Obama simply made now feel most opportunistic to the Palestinian leadership. Such was bound to all fall into place sooner or later no matter how prudently the rest of the world acted in order to prevent such events. Despite all those placing much of the blame for the Palestinian attempt for recognition internationally through the United Nations enabling the supplanting the need to negotiate with Israel on President Obama, the supportive actions and intent of the vast majority of NGO’s, the human rights experts and proponents, as well as much of much of Europe and numerous countries outside of the Western nations having been pounding the drums calling for the formation of the Palestinian state would have facilitated these same events sometime in the near future. So, President Obama may have made some obviously detrimental moves concerning the Middle East and Israel, his contributions were not the pivotal excuses that facilitated the Palestinians moves this week.

I guess I should find something different to lay blame at the feet of the President so as not to feel left out of all the fun and the enthusiasm of the Blame Obama movement. In an area fairly removed from the Middle East geographically actually shares a similar form of trouble as does Israel in that countries are facing a problem of an insatiable adversary attempting to infringe on territory they control and further isolate them from the rest of the area and the world by wresting control over these contested areas. The problem concerns the areas around the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Spratly Islands, and the claims of administrative possession China is attempting to force upon the rest of the countries in the area. Included among these countries are the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, and Taipei which are facing a growing military threat by China to take possession by force if necessitated. The problem is even felt as far away as India as it will affect their extensive trade with other nations in Asia, especially Japan. This problem for India with China is on top of numerous other problems between India and China which are some of the longest running conflicts between any two nations anywhere. In the past, when tempers approached boiling over, the United States would arrange some joint military maneuvers of commensurate size to deal with the expansionist policies China is pursuing against their neighbors. In the recent past, such a show of force has been shunned by President Obama under the guise of the United States international policies taking a less confrontational posture. The somewhat distressful consequence of employing such a policy for the United States has allowed for other countries wishing to expand their standings in the world and extending their control and taking leadership positions over their areas of influence, to spread into many areas where previously the United States had kept a semblance of order through displays of power. China has probably taken the most advantage of the complete lack of containment in their little corner of the world by the United States and sees this as their opportunity to push out the nations from much of the waters in order to take control of some of the outlying contested Islands and many fishing areas. The Chinese moves also are making importation by sea a more difficult and costly endeavor as international shipping lanes are falling under Chinese control allowing China to demand fees be paid by ships passing through their extended claimed coastal areas. The ships can avoid these licensing fees by diverting around the areas China is enforcing ownership which delays arrival times and increases fuel usage which causes rising prices.

This is far from a new problem as China has been applying such pressures for decades with the conflicting claims with Japan and the Philippines over fishing rights or ownership of some of the many small, but vital, islands throughout the area such as the most notable ongoing contention over the Spratly Islands. With President Obama choosing not to oppose China in even the smallest of measures while depending on the Chinese to finance much of his stimulus spending, China has felt free to act without any need for restraint pursuing their self-serving policies. One of the earlier signs of how far President Obama was willing to bend in order to not “insult” the leadership of China was exemplified by delaying a meeting with the Dalai Lama and even when meeting with this revered head of the Buddhists, he met the Dalai Lama outside of the Oval Office using an unnamed room that carried less weight of honors than an official Oval Office meeting would have conveyed. Despite such timidity and slight towards the Dalai Lama, the Chinese still objected and President, true to form, offered his earnest apologies. President has shown equal deference towards Chinese claims to extend their administration over new territories simply by refusing to send any United States naval vessels into these areas to reinforce their status as international waters independent of the control of any nation. The importance of these waters and small islands are actually very critically placed to influence and impact heavily traveled trade routes with great importance for Asia. The biggest potential losers should China continue unimpeded in their quests would be Japan and the Philippines, two stalwart allies to the United States in the past. I dare not extend that the designation of allies of the United States as such preferential titles seem to have all been reevaluated and many of those who previously were allies are no longer valued as such. Chalk this avoidance of assisting our previous allies and containing China, as they appear to be standing in opposition to American interests, as well as those of Southeast Asia, to simply be another small and unimportant step in President Obama and his Administration’s efforts towards lessening American imperialism and allowing other countries, the United Nations, or other international groups and organizations to take the lead as the United States faithfully follows along taking no responsibility for anything, especially if it should require real actions which would display American exceptionalism.

Beyond the Cusp

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