Thursday, May 3, 2012

Forget Iran, Next Stop Sinai?

There is no security, there is only opportunity--Gen. Douglas MacArthur

    It looks like the 33-year-old but still serviceable Iran nuke threat is being switched from panic mode back to standby mode. In recent weeks, a minyan of top Israeli soldiers and spooks have started downplaying the ever handy danger, while Obama, our Mars in residence, has tempered the tough talk. Having repeatedly declared that he’s taking no options off the table, the president has perhaps discovered that the table is shy a leg or two.
    At the height of the scare in March, we were beset with dire warnings that the mad Persians were once again just nano seconds away from deploying and dropping the big one. The two other possibilities, that Iran already had or didn’t want a bomb, were never bruited since they offered no opportunity for power and/or profit.
     If Tehran was already packing nuclear heat, that meant it was, as a practical matter, intimidation proof. The empire couldn’t treat it like, say, Honduras.  And if the Iranians were really telling the truth, so help them Allah, that they didn’t want and didn’t have nukes, that just made the Israelis and Americans look like lying war mongers.
    There was another problem with rolling out the specter of a mullah bomb yet again: both Middle East politics and the global economy were too shaky to tolerate a war of bluff let alone a real shooting match.
    Washington’s economic blockade of Iran (an act of war in itself) was seriously screwing up the world’s energy trade. Iran was one of the top five oil and gas producers, and its longterm customers were suddenly faced with having to scramble for new sources simply to please the Pentagon.  With an election looming in November, Obama didn’t want to explain to the voters why, without a war, they were now paying $8 a gallon to protect themselves from the uncertain weapons of a country that had not attacked anyone in 273 years.
    Besides, Israel, the war monger par excellence in this drama, found itself with new problems--and possibilities--in the Sinai.  That part of Eretz Israel (Genesis 15:18) that it had reluctantly returned to Egypt in 1982 in exchange for an alliance with Cairo was again restive. With the Arab Awakening, the local Bedouin tribes started acting up, the Israel-Egypt gas pipeline was under constant attack, and the Gaza strip in which the Israelis had imprisoned a million Palestinians suddenly had an open back door.
    I would hazard that at the moment, Israel’s high military circles are more worried--and tempted--by the Sinai than they are concerned about Iran.  It’s got lots of oil and empty space. Should the new Egyptian government give up on ex-dictator Mabarak’s cozy cahoots with Israel, we could well see Merkava tanks rolling back into the Sinai.  You heard it here first.