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    Middle East
     Aug 22, 2012


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THE ROVING EYE
War fever as seen from Iran
By Pepe Escobar

So Tehran is betting on the strategic achievement of a "reliable anti-West front consisting of Russia and China". His conclusion; "The strategic equation of the region as a result of the ongoing developments in Syria has by no means changed to the detriment of Iran."

In an interview to the Iranian Diplomacy (IRD) website [4] former ambassador and strategic analyst Mohammad Farhad Koleini comments on how "some Arab countries, which have very bleak records in the field of human rights, have joined hands with the United States in the current equation in Syria in order to define a new security game. This security game, however, has been so

 

mismanaged that it will certainly taint the international image of the United States."

Koleini notes that as the West goes for a new security arrangement in the Mediterranean, Moscow is trying "not to allow the West to impose its geopolitical monopoly." So the Russian approach to Syria "is not necessarily focused on what is actually going on inside the country, but it stems from a regional package and how Moscow aims to regulate that package in relation to its interactions with the West."

That explains why Russia "will never allow Western states to impose a no-fly zone region over Syria". Is this confrontation? Not really; "Russia is doing its best to avoid outright confrontation by any means. China has also shown all along the way that it is following the same policy."

Mehdi Sanaei, the director of the Russia Studies Group at the University of Tehran and the director of the Iran and Eurasia Research Center (IRAS), writing at the Tabnak News website[5] goes way deeper; Moscow is now working under "unprecedented suspicion of the United States' goals and intentions in the Middle East and Eurasia."

So forget about the famous "reset" between Washington and Moscow.

Sanaei refers to the famous foreign policy article [6] published by Putin on the eve of the Russian presidential election: "Putin took a direct shot at the United States by accusing Washington of deception and abuse of the UN structure and resolutions, applying double standards to various global issues in different countries, as well as seeking its own interests under the cover of advocating democracy."

Sanaei also correctly describes how Russian analysts see the Obama administration's foreign policy as "based on two theories: 'ultimate realism', and 'new liberalism.' As a result, the Americans actually believe that world countries are simply divided into the United States' friends and enemies. Hostile countries, therefore, should be weakened and their presence in global and regional strategic arenas should be limited and even suppressed in political, economic and cultural terms."

So, for Moscow, "a new wave of the world order has been initiated by the United States in order to create a new version of the past unipolar world system. The main targets of this wave, Moscow maintains, include North Africa, the Middle East, Iran, Eurasia, and finally China and Russia."

Koleini, this time writing for the Tehran Emrooz daily [7], introduces the Pipelineistan theme in the Iran-Russia relationship; "Despite its cooperation with Iran's nuclear energy program, Russia has been always willing to cut Iran's hand in the European natural gas market. Therefore, Russia has been interacting with Turkey and certain Eastern European countries on the Blue Stream project. This proves beyond any doubt that Russia is trying to take the lead in engineering security structure in Europe through its energy policy and reduce Europe's reliance on other energy sources."

All this while "trying to play a balancing role in Iran's nuclear case."

Koleini also outlines the main challenge to the "Eurasian policy" laid out by Putin before his election; "The point is that the West is designing new political games, especially in Central Asia to give new problems to Russia and divert Moscow's attention from Eurasia to traditional spheres of the former Soviet Union."

Egypt and Iran kiss and make up
Iranian intellectuals are carefully monitoring neighboring Turkey. Turkey and Caucasus expert Elyas Vahedi observes how "the Turkish government came up with such concepts as 'neither state religion, nor religious state,' 'secular government, not secular man,' 'civilizing the constitution,' 'democratic openness / Kurdish openness / Alawite openness,' and 'civil control and supervision over the army' and has been using them to strengthen and maintain the political clout of the Justice and Development Party."
And of course, before the Arab Spring, all talk was about "zero problems with our neighbors" and Turkey's "strategic depth" doctrine.

But now that Turkey is stuck in Syria, the AKP government is "trying to justify its failure by claiming that the policy of minimizing problems with neighboring countries has just entered is second phase ... Turkey believes that the main feature of the second version of this policy is interaction with people in neighboring countries rather than interaction with their governments."

It simply doesn't hold, says Vahedi: "This viewpoint, despite some shortcomings, was somehow justifiable in some countries like Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, but this is not the case in Syria." Besides, Ankara "remained silent toward the predicament of people in Bahrain, under the pretext that political protests in Bahrain are not popular."

Moreover, Turkey's foreign policy "has also nurtured speculations that Ankara has joined the Shi'ite-Sunni conflict which has been fostered by the West. The damage that this notion will do to Turkey's regional and international standing and prestige will be too costly for Ankara."

Vahedi sees Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as just following the West, which is leading from behind, Obama-style. Turkey "has apparently read the West's mind and is trying to accept that role on behalf of the West in return for certain concessions." But it won't work - as, for instance, facilitating Turkey's accession to the EU over immense French and German objections.

Not to mention that Ankara "is facing scathing criticism from nationalist figures. They allege that while the rights of Turks are being ignored in Karabakh as well as in the Balkans through the oversight of the Western powers, the government of Turkey has made defending the rights of the Syrian people its first and foremost priority."

Ali Akbar Asadi, from the International Relations Dept at the University of Allameh Tabatabaei, expands on the key event of the next few weeks: the renewed diplomatic relationship between Iran and Egypt - which is drawing Washington's unmitigated wrath; the State Department, in a childish move, is even saying that Iran "does not deserve" to host the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran, which will be attended by Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi. [8]

Asadi goes to the jugular - the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) petro-monarchies are terrified that "Egypt may renew relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran or even enter into strategic relations with Turkey, thus working to undermine the influence and clout of the GCC in the new balance of regional power."

So the GCC is doing what it usually does; showering a bit of cash. "They want to keep Egypt, as a big and important Arab political player, on their own side."

Besides, they are demanding from Morsi and the MB that "they do not take any step to export their revolution and activate affiliates" of the MB in the GCC. And they "expect Cairo to avoid adopting a new approach to strengthening Hamas against Fatah, helping Gaza and the Palestinian population there, and taking an adamant stance against the Israeli regime."

The GCC policy, supported by the West and Israel, is "to keep Egypt entangled in its domestic challenges" and thus unable to exercise its" historical claim to leadership of the Arab world."

This is just a sample of the level of intellectual discussion going on in Iran. Compared to the bombing hysteria in Tel Aviv and Washington, it does look like it's coming from Mars.

Notes:
1. An Obama Visit to Israel Could Stall Iran Attack, Bloomberg, August 21.
2. See armscontrol.org/
3. See www.irannuc.ir/
4. See www.irdiplomacy.ir/
5. See www.tabnak.ir/
6. See Russia and the changing world, RIANOVOSTI
7. See www.tehrooz.com
8. US says Iran doesn’t deserve to host summit of Non Aligned Movement, Washington Post, August 21.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com (Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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