I have not dealt with the Middle East problems for a while. Two years ago when I read The New York Times they wrote about this all the time but the world of The Financial Times is different. But I started to think a little about it again after Gideon Rachman’s column today.
I was never for bombing Iran to shut down their nuclear effort because I could never find enough arguments to support such a tremendous risk entering such a hornet’s nest. But as Binyamin Netanyahu said, would you want a neighbor that shouts “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” constantly with nuclear weapons? As a Swede it is difficult to select either the perspective of Israel or the US since Netanyahu and Obama did not really get along on the details. Here in Sweden you run into less problems if you support the US position rather than Israel’s. However, I don’t think Israel has occupied the West Bank. They were attacked and managed to turn this into a victory and was therefore entitled to this territory for protecting themselves. It is not possible to protect Israel without this territory. I find this very easy to defend morally.
The problem with Iran is that they might just be waiting for their bomb to start something in the area. The fact that Syria’s Alawites are taking a beating and that this is enticing the Sunni Saudi Arabia to venture into this direction might also be a trigger. But Iran has 80m inhabitants and striking them out without serious problems in the area seems like a fairy tale. In this sense the world has evolved from the situation 2003 when the 20m inhabitant Iraq was taken down because of its hopeless dictator leader that fought Iran for 8 years and then attacked Kuwait. It seems highly likely that a new debacle would possibly destroy what has been achieved in Iraq.
Egypt turned out as I suspected after the Coup against Mubarak that Amir Taheri discussed in The Times at the time. He loosened the reins on some people and then told them to go back to work when they were finished it seemed. The Army in Egypt that runs 10% of the people and everything that moves is in complete control. What I learned from watching this phenomenon was that all these states down there basically work in such a fashion. What also seems to have happened is that they shut out Western journalists with their aggressions which the two Swedes in Ethiopia demonstrate. The Arab League should probably be in charge as much as possible in the area for things to work out optimally in some new form of Islamic political organization. With the large power relations in the area, it seems more and more likely that a new Cold War situation is building up, more than before even.
The Libyan “experiment”, I’m not sure I like calling it such, but in a way it is because there were no ground troops like in Iraq. Initially I thought more people might die if Gadhafi would go, and this might indeed have been the case, 25,000 died, but with the support of the Arab League the Libyan rebels got their war of liberation. We don’t know yet if they country will grow together but let’s hope so. Using Libya as a yard stick, as well as the experience with Iraq, making a move on Iran would be an absolutely last choice in my view.