The events of the past few days, from Libya to Afghanistan and from Syria to Mali indicate a huge region descending into anarchy, chaos and entropy.
At first there appears to be a lack of any discernible pattern, but gradually the following is beginning to emerge: (1) Al Qaida, confidently declared close to defeated by the West not long ago, is spreading with astonishing rapidity not only throughout the Near and Middle East but also North Africa and the Muslim parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Al-Qaida has morphed into an effective loosely connected network of local and regional adherents with headquarters providing general policy directives and some resources only. These groups or cells are effectively connected through electronic means and have shown themselves capable of many more or less simultaneous operations. (2) The Moslem Brotherhood has broken out of its decades-long marginalization and in cooperation with other Salafist groups has talken control of Egypt and is active in Tunisia, Libya, Syria and elsewhere. Al-Qaida is seen as a resource, along with other terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. Elections, where held, are simply seen as a route to power, not to be relinquished ever.
All this is superimposed on the ongoing saga of the Iranian search for a nuclear weapon capacity and planning for domination of the Gulf and its resources through the Sh'ia populations of Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
In this model the losers are: the secularists and moderate Muslims; Saudi Arabia and the Gulf kingdoms; Assad and the Alawites; Turkey with its regional ambitions thwarted and its Kurdish problem; the West with its astonishing abdication of leadership (as illustrated by Obama's refusal to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu), and faced with the prospect of escalating oil prices.
The position of Israel is unique. This emerging chaos makes a traditional military onslaught very unlikely but it also makes nontraditional attacks more likely. An Israeli attack on Iran, whether "successful" or not, would certainly add to the spreading disorder in the whole region under consideration, which could well be a good thing.
The Chinese curse says "May you live in interesting times". These times are VERY interesting indeed.
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a lecturer at The Israeli National Defense College (MABAL), 2011-2012 session.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 20, 2012
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