Abandoning the region, America’s created chaos: Libya, Egypt, Syria, and a nuclear arms race

Saudi Arabia has arranged to have available for its use two Pakistani nuclear bombs or guided missile warheads, Debkafile’s military and intelligence sources reveal.”


American policy in the region has had a quality of improvisation during the past fifteen years. Attacking Afghanistan had justification as response to al-Quaeda’s attack of 9/11 and the Taliban government providing refuge for Osama bin Laden. But whatever success was achieved by American Special Forces and the CIA in that country failed to be secured by conventional forces deployed to hold the ground. Instead Bush used those to invade Iraq. And the rest is history. Two wars with confused entry and absent exit strategy. Thousands of American military, tens of thousands of local civilians sacrificed in what predictably (or should have been) resulted in military misadventures. More than a trillion dollars borrowed (and outside the budget to conceal the costs) during the Bush presidency alone: just one of the “unintended consequences” that feed the fires of the Great Recession.


To what degree presidential action is determined by America’s intelligence and military bureaucracies rather than the elected leaders is a question worth looking at. What was purpose of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran of 2007 describing Iran’s nuclear program “peaceful” since 2003. Nearly all reputable national intelligence services around the world arrived at the opposite conclusion.

Quoting the NIE Key Judgments:


“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons Program… We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007… Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.”


Was the 2007 Estimate, representing the collective wisdom of all 16 major US intelligence services just “wrong,” or does it represent something even more troubling, disinformation in service of White House policy? President Bush had for years threatened to attack Iran over its bomb program. As he wrote in his memoir, Decision Points:


“The NIE didn’t just undermine diplomacy. It also tied my hands on the military side… after the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?


If he seriously intended to act against the Iranian program why wait until his last months in office to act? And if not, then the NIE conveniently provided the excuse he needed to not act. Recall that Dick Cheney advocated action following Bush’s retreat.


And then in 2011 another NIE:


“The new assessment does not entirely refute the 2007 report''s most controversial finding, which held that Iran''s leaders had halted nuclear weaponization research in 2003, even while pushing forward on uranium enrichment that is regarded as the most difficult step to building a bomb.”


Certainly, if President Obama was also in need of justification to avoid acting, justification for serial “negotiations” and avoidance of commitment to “red lines” warning of military action… This was precisely the position of America’s military leaders, civilian and uniformed from Gates/Mullen persistent warnings of “unintended consequences” (Bush’s choice, then Obama’s) to today’s Hagel/Dempsey.


The result has been, regarding Iran, a charade played out on the world stage, a ballet orchestrated in the White House and obligingly supported by Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs. More than a decade of dead-end talks and reminders by the president to Iran and Arabs and Israel that Iran will not allow Iran to be allowed to reach weaponization. And the region already wary of American intentions just sits and waits for that first public test (suspicions remain that at least one of those fizzled N. Korea tests was Iranian). And ironically, the president who entered office committed to reducing nuclear proliferation is, by inaction, encouraging a race for the bomb in perhaps the most unstable region on the globe. Nor is this mere speculation. According to a 2010 report:


“Saudi Arabia has arranged to have available for its use two Pakistani nuclear bombs or guided missile warheads, Debkafile’s military and intelligence sources reveal.”


The likelihood of an Iranian bomb and a regional nuclear arms race is the consequence of an intentionally obscure or simply confused American Middle East policy regarding Iran, and the region itself. America’s stated commitment to its Gospel of Democracy: delivering Iraq from tyranny was Bush’s final excuse for the war; forcing the Palestinians and Israel, over their warnings, to bend to his concept of “democratic” Palestinian elections including armed Islamist Hamas; Bush created Hamastan in Gaza, initiated that regional “revolution,” the Islamist Spring.


Then followed President Obama with enthusiasm characteristic of a neophyte.


Hosni Mubarak was well on the way to retirement when Tahrir Square filled with the unemployed and students wanting economic reform. And as Bush installed the Shiites as the new regime to correct decades of injustice, so Obama repeated the “gift” by siding with Egypt’s “downtrodden” Muslim Brothers. Nobody in Washington seem(s)ed to understand that Iraqi Shiites share religion and history with Iran and so are natural allies to the ayatollahs; or that the Brotherhood, murderer of President Anwar Sadat, signer of the peace with Israel, that the terrorists al-Quaida and Hamas are also Brotherhood offshoots. But at least the American presidents seemed to have their hearts in the right place, and the gift of Democracy was bestowed. And the consequences… well, who could’a predicted?


And so we arrive at today and a brief collection of very recent Middle East headlines with a single theme: defiance of American wisdom, authority and power.


"Saudis, UAE take revenge for Mubarak ouster (July 6, Arab press: The lightening coup which Wednesday, July 3, overthrew President Mohamed Morsi put in reverse gear for the first time the Obama administration’s policy of sponsoring the Muslim Brotherhood movement as a moderate force for Arab rule and partner in its Middle East policies)


"Washington’s push against Egyptian, Israeli go-it-alone military steps. US marines deployed off Suez, Sinai (July 1,The Obama administration is exhibiting strong disapproval of Israel’s independent military action against Syria and of the Egyptian army’s steps against the Muslim Brotherhood.)


"Egypt’s Gen. El-Sisi tells visiting US official: Don’t bully Cairo by threats to suspend military aid (July 15, Defense minister Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi Monday... implied bilateral military ties might suffer if the US suspended military aid to Egypt)


"Israel backing away from Bank of China terror financing case (July 17, Netanyahu decision to keep Israeli official from testifying in case reportedly roiling relations with Obama administration)


And even when the superpower does assert power:


"Obama uses EU to confront Israel with tough interlinked choices: borders or a nuclear-armed Iran (Instead of lining up with what is seen in the region as an ineffectual Washington, Israel struck out on its own to play ball with regional forces on the move, the Arab rulers of the Gulf and the Egyptian army.)"




"Israel scratching its head after US officials (again) leak Syria strike (why twice in the past two months American media ran reports – based on tips from US officials – that could get Israel caught up in a military conflict with Syria.)"


Passive-aggressive manipulation; threat by innuendo? What kind of super power is that?


But that’s assuming that the chaos that is today’s Middle East is just the detritus of clumsy American policy confusion. Over the years I have suggested that the US (not just Bush/Obama) is working a from a “me-first, me-only” self-interest script. Having failed to defeat very inferior enemies in two wars; with shale oil turning up all over the world: its just not worth investing the resources (and risking a third failure of arms!) to fix that which America is continuing to destroy. The appearance of “what is seen in the region as an ineffectual Washington” is, therefore, not the result of naïveté or chance. In America’s haste to escape its policy-makers are improvising without calculating, or caring about the impact.


If the US is content to abandon its traditional allies, default on its own commitments and guarantees under its military Memoranda of Agreement with the Saudis (1951) and Israel (1952) then the sooner it slinks away the better for all. To continue the charade of engaged “superpower” serves only to muddy the waters. Iraq, Libya, Egypt are each in its way in a state of collapse and little can be done to reverse that. Syria, the one country where an early American intervention might have saved lives is beyond salvaging. America’s Gospel of Democracy may sell on the home front but, as seen in the region, it is but a fig leaf hardly covering its tiny fig. In fact, as demonstrated in the headlines above, the US is already being ignored by all of its prior “allies.” Israel and Egypt allied in fighting Islamist terrorism; the Saudis and Gulf Emirates funding the Egyptian military, arming Syrian rebels. Both openly defiant of American demands.


And just possibly that Egypt-Israel cooperation against the Islamists in Sinai and Gaza might grow to include the Saudis and Gulf Emirates into an Alliance of the Willing with real teeth, Red Lines that Iran clearly understands: End the nuclear program, or else.