Beyond the Cusp

May 17, 2019

Iran Pushing the Envelope

 

Iranian forces, including their fast-ships, have been striking and sabotaging oil tankers as they pass through the Strait of Hormuz. Thus far, they have yet to damage a ship such that it leaked oil, was disabled or sank. These attacks have technically broken past the level that President Trump stated could merit a response from the American forces in the region. That leads one to wonder if, when and what it will take to rise to the level where President Trump cannot any longer ignore these provocations. This leads to an entire series of further questions as to whether Iran will settle for renegotiating with the United States or push until they force a confrontation. The question which is most important remains whether or not inevitably there will be any actual meeting of the two forces, Iran and the United States. Guess we could say that is the billion-dollar question.

 

We can assume that President Trump would prefer to force negotiations which does not mean that he will ignore almost any level of provocation. That leads to what exactly are the intentions of the Iranian leadership, which boils down to is the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei set upon pressing matters beyond the breaking point. That is where this entire scenario becomes a nightmare. Ali Khamenei appears to be set on pushing this into a military conflagration between Iran and the United States and top that off by having Hezballah and likely Islamic Jihad and Hamas attacking Israel with a heavy missile and rocket bombardments just as their Supreme Leader, the heads of the IRGC and a number of other officials have promised will be part of any conflict in the Middle East. You may ask, why would Iran engage both the United States and Israel as doing so would only endanger Iran even more. What the Iranians believe is that by promising to target Israel, this would make it more difficult for the United States to actually engage Iran. This is unfortunate as threatening Israel will have little if any influence upon any decisions which President Trump will be forced to make should Iran continue escalating their strikes on shipping. Iran might even go farther and attack ground targets in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or any of the other Gulf States. That would force a confrontation as such a threat to oil shipments and production would cause havoc with oil prices which would be another means for forcing the confrontation with the United States. The bad news is that things do appear as if the Iranians, specifically the IRGC, will not end their escalations until they force an American response. That could then lead to an ever-widening Middle East war.

 

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, one of the foremost Middle East experts, predicts with his article, “The Third Gulf War has already begun,” that the only item still undecided is the date when the unavoidable war will begin and how fast and far will it expand to the rest of the Middle East. We here in Israel have been trying to ignore the slowly heating of the Persian Gulf and instead watching the Eurovision being held currently in Tel Aviv. There is nothing like an entertaining distraction right when one is so badly needed. We, unfortunately, have little interest in the singing contest and far more interest in what our immediate future holds. One thing which cannot be said is that life is boring here in Israel. We just had ten-thousand screaming mad fire-, stone- and explosive-throwing rioters protesting Nakba Day along the Gaza border this past week. This was taken for what it actually is, just the next installment of the Arab attempts to make our lives unbearable. The vast majority of Israelis are made out of sterner stuff than folding before such threats. This is even more valid an argument when things could always be so much worse and the threats so much more frightening. Even then, the Israeli response is to simply respond as the situations require. Any attacks which are tractable to Iran, then Israel has promised that Iran would feel some part of the response. The truth is we would really prefer to live in peace allowing us to pursue making discoveries, treatments, inventions and other advancements which would advance and improve the lives of people around the world in the process.

 

Should Dr. Kedar prove correct, once the conflagration between Iran and the United States initiates, then we would hope that the Iranian threat to involve Israel was bluster and not an actual threat which they will follow through upon. If Hezballah were to initiate aggressions against Israel, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has promised a response which will bring the ability of Hezballah and Lebanon to conduct any further aggressions to a halt as rapidly as Israel is able. Fortunately, Prime Minister Netanyahu did not promise “shock and awe” type of attack as was the threat which was made by President George W. Bush against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The initial attack proved to appear less shock and awe because the attacks were specific and struck only those targets desired thus limiting the collateral damage, additional suffering, and a less impressive display than what many expected. Simply put, it was a far cry that the bombings conducted during World War II in which cities were laid to waste. The most well known of such attacks was the firebombing of Dresden (see image below). That was the original shock and awe. Hopefully the world will never again know destruction such as Dresden as well as Tokyo and, of course, Hiroshima and Nagasaki of World War II. These are exactly the threats which Iran has threatened to unleash. We should all hope that, to use an old western America phrase, Iran is all hat and no cattle. The unfortunate reality is the Iranians may be dead set on causing a stampede unleashing as much cattle as they can lay their hands upon. May any actual exchange be short and cause the minimal number of casualties and end almost before it starts.

 

Image of Dresden Firestorm Consuming the City

Image of Dresden Firestorm Consuming the City

 

The best would be no conflict and a peaceful resolution. But we have two blustering leaders who both are very unlikely to be bluffed or pressured into backing down. On the Iranian side, their leadership from the Supreme Leader, President, IRGC commanders and others are all threatening maximum levels of force even to threatening to destroy the American fleet with a single missile. This has been interpreted as likely a threat to use an EMP device though a nuclear tipped missile would also fit the bill and should not be put beyond the Iranian intent. They have promised similar total devastating attack upon Israel which would instigate a similar response against all attacking forces as well as likely an attack on Iran. So, if the question is are the Iranian leaders suicidal? They have responded to this question already stating that they would consider the complete and total destruction of Iran a reasonable price to pay if that is what was necessary for the destruction of Israel and the United States. All we can assume is that this is probably the most dangerous threat the world has faced in years. The near future promises, as things currently stand, to be filled with threats which could lead to a war spreading beyond the initial borders, even beyond Israel. The Iranians are counting on Russia coming to their aid. Russian President Putin probably is not feeling as attached and ready to aid Iran as the Iranians believe which could prevent any conflict from spreading outside the Middle East, as if that is not horrible enough. Things could not stand to be much worse than they now sit, may the threats pass without incident.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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November 24, 2017

Who Starts the Next War?

 

Oh, the possibilities we have. Will it be Trump or Kim Jong-un, Saudi Royal Prince Mohammed bin Salman or the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, the new Hamas Leader Yahya Sinwar or Hezballah’s Leader Hassan Nasrallah or will it come out of the blue from an unexpected source responding to a terror attack or assassination as happened to start World War I? Will it perhaps be China moving on Taiwan or Russia finishing off the Ukraine or Georgia? It could simply be a severe escalation of Turkey’s private war against the Kurds in Syria and Iran spreading into a Kurdish rebellion within Turkey with the entirety of the Kurdish People finally demanding their own homeland refusing to be picked apart individually by Iran, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and any terror forces sent by the same or even Saudi Arabia or the Muslim Brotherhood. It might be the Basques or Catalan People of Catalonia declaring themselves independent from Spain with Spain having the obvious reaction and moving to end such as that might cause others to have similar thoughts causing the Balkanization of Spain. There are such movements within virtually every nation of Europe and likely the world. There are numerous other peoples in Northern Africa which currently are ruled over by foreign peoples who came along with the Islamic conquests of the Caliphate. One such are the Berbers, one of the tribes which converted to Islam only to be subsumed by Arab culture and rulers. The possibilities are endless but the real contenders come down to the first few listed as those are the least stable places with the most to gain or lose as the world moves forward.

 

The possibility that President Trump will start a war are, contrary to the wild accusations of some detractors, somewhere around nil. First, he would need a declaration from Congress for any actual war or even military actions. The Congress appears barely capable of passing the budget for a single year. Trump also has no taste for any conflict despite all of his bluster and even Kim Jong-un is aware that Trump was all talk and no teeth. This was part of why Kim Jong-un and Trump both have all but ended their contest of words, both realized the other was not about to start a war at this time, so tempting one was simply a waste of effort. So, North Korea and United States are not about to go to war, which should be a relief. If such a conflict were to come to fruition, we would predict that the North Koreans would attempt to make the initial strike forcing President Trump and the Congress to respond in kind. Thus, should a war ever come between the United States and North Korea, it would be at the insistence of North Korea.

 

The next pairing was between Saudi Royal Prince Mohammed bin Salman or the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei. Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the next directly in line to the crown of Saudi Arabia and has been assuming more and more power taking over responsibilities from his father, the aging and ailing King Salman. The Prince was the mastermind behind the Sunni forces which were routed in Syria and has mismanaged the Yemen-Saudi conflict allowing Iranian missiles and Hezballah and IRGC fighters to enter Yemen. Just last week an Iranian provided missile was launched from Yemen towards Riyadh. This was declared to have been an act of war by Iran against Saudi Arabia and there were rumors of an imminent war on the horizon. Prince Mohammed bin Salman has also moved to secure his own position by arresting for criminal corruption close to a dozen of his closest relatives, cousins, leader of the National Guard, governor of Riyadh, and the internationally renowned Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

 

Further, Prince Salman has promised, or threatened, to westernize, or modernize, Saudi Arabia in an attempt to improve the economy such that it is not entirely dependent upon their oil wealth. The religious class, the clerics and heads of the Wahabbists, are very much opposed to such a plan seeing it as a direct threat to their power and influences on Saudi politics and direction. They have lived off the Royal Family paying them, rewarding them richly from the oil wealth such that they would back the Royal Family permitting them to remain in power. This arrangement left out one very important group, the people of Saudi Arabia who were sentenced to a life of moderations and poverty in far too many instances with lacking education and little chance for improvement.

 

Saudi Arabia and Iran War

Saudi Arabia and Iran War

 

All but needless to say, but a war is actually the last thing Saudi Arabia needs, now or at any time. Should such a war with Iran become inevitable, the winner, if there actually would be a winner, would not gain much and the loser would lose everything. It is for this reason such a war would be devastating to the Middle East and would also have a great possibility to spread and involve other countries. With the Iranians, one could expect Yemen, Iraq, Qatar, what is left of Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, while with Saudi Arabia, one would expect the Gulf States of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council which includes Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman), Jordan and eventually Egypt. There are some wildcards in the equation which include Pakistan, India, Israel and the United States. Pakistan actually could be thought to assist either side as they trade with Iran but they also owe Saudi Arabia for providing the necessary cash required to finance their drive for nuclear weapons. India does have a fair number of trade deals with Iran and they do have a common neighbor in Pakistan plus share the waterway, the Arabian Sea. Israel and the United States are the real game-changers which could completely alter the outcome of the conflict but are also the least likely to enter such a conflict, especially should the Saudi Arabians be the initiator of the conflict. Should Iran start such a conflict, then the probability that Israel or the United States would be greater, especially if the Saudis appeared to be on the losing end.

 

Estimating who would win such a war would need to weigh far too many variables. The basic equation places the newer and superior equipment and technology having bought $350 billion arms deal this year alone. But the Iranians have the population numbers and their military has been tested in Syria and thus experienced, especially the IRGC and Hezballah, the core fighters Iran would use for the tip of their spear. The Saudi Arabian military are known to march very nicely and have little to no actual experience in actual combat. The best equipment cannot make up for lack of experience and experience only mitigates lesser weaponry partially, so the question is which would be the greater equalizer and how long would this difference provide superior fighting ability. In the end, the real question comes down to whether Russia would assist Iran and do so at sufficient a level before the United States decided they needed to assist the Saudi Arabian side of the conflict. The final wildcards bring a nuclear answer to this conflict should nobody use such earlier as Iran is suspected of having nuclear weapons and Saudi Arabia is rumored to have an agreement with Pakistan to provide as many as a dozen such weapons on demand. These wildcards are North Korea and their eight-hundred-pound gorilla which often accompanies them in endeavors, China. One could trace how a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran could draw in other nations until it would become the next World War, World War III. Such a war, according to Albert Einstein, would guarantee that the following World War, World War IV, would be fought with sticks and stones. We are thinking of going and picking up some stones tomorrow.

 

The real question we should be answering is, who might be planning to spread their influence and do so successfully enough that they become a threat to the peace of the entire planet? North Korea has talked of conquest but it has mostly been about the Korean peninsula and occasionally of the United States, and that second is simply bluster for domestic consumption. China appears readying to become the Pacific hegemon sharing that title with the United States and have raised expectations that they will be the first to build a Moon base. Japan has also talked of plans to place a base on the Moon in the near future. The United States and Russia have talked of Moon bases as well. Hopefully, the next war that threatens humanity will not be a Moon War where Moon bases start shooting at each other. The Moon race will hopefully be used to initiate cooperation instead of conflict. So, fortunately, the Moon is unlikely to spark the next World War. There have been accusations that Israel desires to conquer much of the lands surrounding them forcefully displacing the Muslim populations. That is pure propaganda which is provably false, as Israel has given up claims to land such as the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza in efforts to reach peace with varying amounts of success. Then there is Iran which has spread their control since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 to Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. Iran has made claims that they intend to destroy Israel and the United States, establish a Shiite Crescent across the heart of the Middle East (see map below). The truth is Iran is in the stage of cementing their Shiite Crescent and may be looking further starting with Yemen.

 

Shiite Crescent including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran

Shiite Crescent including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran

 

The one item which Iran has claimed to desire is represented on the map above by the big green star, that covers Mecca and Medina, which along with the oil fields in the northeast of Saudi Arabia make up the targets upon which Iran has set their eyes. Iran has also made constant references to the Persian Empire and reestablishing exactly such hegemony over the Middle East and reaching all the way into Greece and Egypt which was once the extent of the Persian Empire. Both the founder, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini, and his successor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, have both made references to spreading Shia Islam over the entire planet fulfilling the promises given by Allah in the Quran for Islam to rule the planet. There have been Sunni Muslims who also claimed they would fulfill the same promises such as al-Qaeda, Islamic State and Hamas. Al-Qaeda and Islamic State do not appear to have had much success in this effort and Hamas appears to be currently stymied by Israel and if they were to spread any form of Islam, it would probably be Shia since, just like Hezballah, Hamas is now in the service of Iran. For all intents and purposes, the only groups or nations with any current abilities which have also expressed the desire for word conquest all appear to be serving or are Iran. Additionally, Iran has spoken of their intention to erase the nation of Israel from the map commenting that Israel would be a one-bomb nation once they have sufficient nuclear weapons. They have also shared research with North Korea and shared tactics for a southern approach for using an orbital nuclear weapon to deliver and EMP to the United States destroying much of the electrical infrastructure. The real question that the world needs to address is who is going to stop Iran, when do they plan on starting and what it will take for people to take the concept of Iranian world conquest seriously. Ask almost anyone other than a minority of military leadership about Iran declaration of intent for world conquest; they will laugh at you as if you are insane if not actually trying to get you some medical assistance for your obvious problems. We all may as well face the fact that nobody believes in world conquest by any nation any more now, than anyone had in 1933 when Germany talked of world conquest. The world did finally respond to Germany but had they worked to prevent Germany from building up their military the world would have been saved the horrors of World War II. Iran has spread its influence across the Middle East, has all but surrounded Saudi Arabia, had closed in on Israel on three borders and has control over the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el Mandeb Strait giving them control over oil shipments to the world and the southern exit from the Red Sea blocking any use of the Suez Canal. How far does Iran need to go to prove they intend to try to conquer the world for Allah and Shiite Islam? This is a question which may get more important as time passes, or we may get fortunate and their efforts fail from reaching any critical point where preventing them becomes an absolute necessity, which would mean they have reached military capabilities making world conquest a possibility.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

July 31, 2017

Our Worlds Are in a Mess and Clashing

 

Part I

 

Link to Part II

 

The Western World is seemingly in a death spiral while the Eastern Worlds are struggling with ideas the West cast off at the end of colonialism and Israel is caught in the middle. The Eastern World and Developing World are easily assessed as they are at the beginning point the West has already progressed past. Africa, central and much of southern, are still living largely off resources and selling such on the world market and subsistence farming with small amounts of true agricultural farming. The greatest of harms has been done to Africa as they have received massive shipments of food in the forms of wheat and other crops which would have been more productive had they grown the crops themselves. As their economy was basically agrarian, shipping them food was starving their economy thus making investments impossible as there was no venture capital with which to develop further. Basically, the Western World, whether through neglect, ignorance or an actual attempt to impede development, took away the one industry which Africa was suited to utilize for their own development. This left them with their farmers starving having to farm for their own families’ existence instead of farming to feed their own cities and thus form a solid backbone from which their economies could base growth. This has left Africa as a vastly underdeveloped continent surviving by selling off their natural resources instead of developing their own infrastructure to ready themselves to introduce industrial economic development. So while they sell their ore, their gems, their precious metals and every other item they can mine or find, they are actually stealing their own future to pay for the society today and that is a recipe for ruin.

 

The area known as MENA (Middle East and North Africa) is not in much better shape economically. Their economies are based on oil and drugs depending on the country. The few which are not able or willing to rely on either of those resources are living off base level industry, tourism, the good graces of an oil rich sponsor or some combination thereof. Egypt is such an example, as are many of the North African nations, has meager industrial base, a natural tourist industry with the Pyramids of Giza and other ancient wonders and a small oil market which also provides sufficient energy for the country to operate. Egypt could develop an industrial fishing economy and does receive funds from passage of commerce through the Suez Canal but still relies largely on the United States and Saudi Arabia to keep her solvent. The rest of the North African nations are at some level of poverty or worse, in complete melt-down as is Libya where tribal forces compete for the right to claim they rule the country when in reality it is nothing more than tribal influences vying for land and terrorist training areas taking advantage of the lack of governmental military force to prevent such. Along the entirety of the border with Central Africa there is a low level warfare going on with the most notable area being split between the war by proxy the Sudan is waging against the separative South Sudan and the regions being torn apart by terrorist violence by Boko Haram centered upon Nigeria where a little over a week ago at least twelve people were killed following two suicide blasts in the Maiduguri area of northeastern Nigeria and at the start of this month Boko Haram militants killed nine and abducted dozens more in southern Niger where attackers rode camels into the village of Ngalewa, about fifty kilometers north of the border with Nigeria. Such violence goes all but unreported in Western news as if this area of extreme and brutal violence is not important when the nations fighting these struggles cannot develop properly in such an atmosphere. This zone is known euphemistically as the African Transition Zone (pictured below). This zone also is the demarcation line between the Islamic World and that of Christian and African Traditional Religion. This is a war which deserves recognition beyond that of the Coptic Christians though they are an important segment of this struggle of non-Islamic faiths which are bordering the Islamic World.

 

African Transition Zone

African Transition Zone

 

The Middle East has its share of difficulties starting with the focal point of Syria. Syria, along with Yemen, defines the main struggle in the area, Sunni Islam against Shiite Islam. This battle has raged off and on since the death of Muhammad and is once again coming to the foreground. The main impetus behind Shiite Islam is Iran which currently includes much of southern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This area can be referred to as the Shiite Crescent (pictured below) and connects the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea granting an overland route which circumvents the Suez Canal. Such is important as should Iran take full control of Yemen they will control both choke points, the Straights of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, the main oil route from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and the Bab el Mandeb which controls the exit from the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aden into the Indian Ocean which also cuts off the Suez Canal and the Israeli southern port of Eilat. Blocking these two choke points is what makes a land route to the Mediterranean Sea so important. Saudi Arabia could benefit from an oil pipeline across her width to the Red Sea but they would need to build a port capable of handling tankers or they could use the Israeli ports which have such capabilities if only they recognized that such an entity existed. The Saudi Port of Jeddah would also suffice but such would be susceptible to Egyptian control of the Suez Canal where using Israel would likely cost recognition and Saudi pressure to end the Arab-Israeli conflict and end the Arab Palestinian war to eliminate Israel through all means usable. For the meantime, Saudi Arabia is more than happy to keep the pressures on Israel preventing her from developing even faster. All the while, we have the heart of the Islamic World across MENA which saw itself go from the leaders in the world to the losers in the world with the Industrial Revolution in the Western World. What is most interesting is the Islamic World refuses to believe that they fell behind and hold the West as responsible for their lost primacy and have sworn to bring the Western World down, and are making great headway as the West does little or actually aid the Islamic World in this endeavor.

 

Strait of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait

Strait of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait

 

The Far East has one eight-ton gorilla and some interesting, in a warped way, other actors. The main force emerging from the Far East is China. What is mostly ignored is right behind China we have India. India is simply working quietly in harmony with all around her with the exception of Pakistan (border with Islam) and a conflict over border claims around the region of Doklam, where Chinese and Indian forces remain locked in a stand-off sparked by a road construction project in a disputed border area shared with Bhutan. This is an old rivalry going back long before modern history with these two being the central powers in this region for much of human history. What will make this more interesting is that India is expected to surpass China as the most populous nation sometime this century. Also in this area is our favorite nut-job, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un who, as we have reported over the past two weeks, is developing missiles and well on his way to ICBM’s capable of striking anywhere on the planet and the nuclear warheads to place atop these missiles. North Korea is a menace which China appears unwilling or unable of reining in which could lead to open warfare if one side blinks at the wrong time or is caught winking when they should have been eyes front. Any misreading by either side, and especially the mentally less than stable Kim Jong-un, could result in a nuclear war whose expanse will be determined by that which the North Korean dictator can reach with his missiles. North Korea is suspected of working with Iran which means that Kim Jong-un could have a fleet of ballistic missile carrying freighters ready to launch at coastal cities leaving them mere minutes if not seconds to react before being struck by a nuclear warhead. And, of course, both South Korea and Japan, two of North Korea’s main enemies after the United States, are both within striking distance already and are obviously nervous.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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