A clearer Middle East picture

Events of the past few days allow us to understand the positions of Egypt, Turkey and Iran rather better.

In the past few days, several conundrums have been cleared up:

1. The Egyptian regime is at one and the same time repressive and incompetent, a toxic combination. Persecution of the Coptic Christians in the name of Islam is growing steadily, resulting in both an internal and an external refugee crisis. Many of those displaced may try to come to Israel, facing the government with a very difficult choice: let them in, find room for them and provide them with assistance at a time of budgetary constraint, or turn them away, infuriating allied governments and Christian communities worldwide, including American Evangelical groups otherwise very supportive of Israel.

President Mursi will be faced with a disastrous economic situation, and food and fuel shortages will result in massive civil unrest. Pity the new Islamist pharaohs.

2. Assad of Syria isn't giving up. Neither is the opposition. Iran, Russia and Venezuela will continue their material and political support for Assad. Turkey is in danger of being seen as a paper tiger, and all thoughts of neo-Ottoman domination of the region will be seen as an opium-dream.

3. In the meantime, the Turks, Syrians, Iraqis and Iranians will be faced with a flourishing Kurdish nationalist upsurge impossible to contain. The Kurds are not going to be victims, like the Copts. They are fierce fighters and man-for-man superior to the soldiers of any and all of the host countries. Stay tuned on this one.

4. It is clear that the word has gone out from Tehran to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah to step up military and psychological measures against Israel, displaying new playthings such as drones, along with the usual rockets.

5. Why? The Mullahs are feeling relief that that a military strike by the United States, Israel or both is apparently postponed sine die and may never happen.

6. The Obama administration has exempted most of Iran's largest customers from the economic sanctions, guaranteeing that they won't work sufficiently well to cause either a nuclear polcy change or a regime change, although Iran's economy is seriously hurting, due as much as anything else to feckless economic measures adopted by the Ahmadinejad government. Government as opposed to regime change is a distinct possibility in Iran.

7. Finally, it is clear that Prime Minister Netanyahu, intent on attacking Iran imminently, has been outmaneuvred by his government colleagues, including Defense Minister Barak, by his own intelligence, security and defense services, and finally by the US, which has effectively used the threatened stick of cessation of effective bilateral cooperation with the carrot of promised joint programs in sensitive areas.

It is not by chance that Netanyahu has called an election for January 22, two days after the inauguration of the victorious candidate in the American election. His principal hope at this time is regime change, not in Cairo, in Damascus or in Tehran, but in Washington.

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 October 18, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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