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Entries in Turkey (50)

11:26AM

You rediscover your past when you plan on making some near-term history

It's that old Winston Churchill bit about how you can't think ahead into the future any further than you can reach back and remember your past.  It's a balancing act.

Neat NYT article on how Turkey is rediscovering its history via film ("As if the Ottoman period never ended.") Nothing says, "growing regional/global ambitions" quite like that.

The Ottoman period, particularly during the 16th and 17th centuries, was marked by geopolitical dominance and cultural prowess, during which the sultans claimed the spiritual leadership of the Muslim world, before the empire’s slow decline culminated in World War I. For years the period was underplayed in the history taught to schoolchildren, as the new Turkish Republic created by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923 sought to break with a decadent past.

Now, as Turkey is emerging as a leader in the Middle East, buoyed by strong economic growth, a new fascination with history is being reflected in everything from foreign policy to facial hair. In the arts, framed examples of Ottoman-era designs, known as Ebru and associated with the geometric Islamic motifs adorning mosques, have gained in popularity among the country’s growing Islamic bourgeoisie, adorning walls of homes and offices, jewelry and even business cards.

I know a lot of people harbor a lot of fears about Turkey, but I think it's the best thing that's happened to the Middle East in a long time.  If we didn't have a Turkey to play lead goose on the Arab Spring, we'd have to invent one.

Bring on the Gallipoli films (all four of them)!

12:00PM

The real Turkey-Iran battle over Iraq

Blogged a piece a while ago about how Iranian products just aren't making it in Iraq, while Turkish ones are far more welcome.  This FT piece by Daniel Dombey (whom I cite a lot) argues that what the geo-pols consider Turkish empire re-building is undergirded for the most part in wanting to dominate export models (my read of his analysis).  Why?

Turkey has hit that middle-class phase where the people want to consumer a lot and thus imports rise - along with consumer credit.  Unless you combat that with exports, you end up a bit too much like the US.

Iraq has just overtaken Italy as Turkey's second-biggest export market, with the KRG leading the way.

Turkey has similar eyes for Syria and - ultimately - a post-changed-regime Iran.

These are good ambitions, the best kind of "imperialism" - really:  making consumers happier than the crappy regime that lords over them.

9:35AM

Nice analysis of Turkey v. Iran

Solid opening:

The Arab Spring has heightened the ideological tension between Ankara and Tehran, and Turkey's model seems to be winning. Last spring, Iran often claimed that the Arab revolutions were akin to the Iranian one decades before and would usher in similar governments. Yet in Tunisia and Egypt, for the first time, leading figures in mainstream Islamist parties have won elections by explicitly appealing to the "the Turkish model" rather than to an Iranian-style theocracy. What's more, in December 2011, the Palestinian movement Hamas salted the wound when a spokesman announced the organization's shift toward "a policy of nonviolent resistance," which reflected its decision to distance itself from Syria and Iran and to move closer to Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar.

The clash between Turkey and Iran has been more than just rhetorical. Tehran has been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's biggest supporter, whereas Ankara has come to condemn the regime's "barbarism" and put its weight behind the opposition, hosting the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army, the rebel government and army in exile. In Iraq, Iran is a patron of the Shias; Turkey is, at least in the eyes of many in the Middle East, the political and economic benefactor of the Sunnis and the Kurds. And the two countries have had tensions over the missile shield that NATO deployed in Turkey in September 2011. The Turkish government insists that the missile shield was not developed as a protection against Iran. Nevertheless, in December, an Iranian political official warned that his country would attack Turkey if the United States or Israel attacked Iran.

The rest can be found at Foreign Affairs.

5:10PM

Wikistrat post @ CNN-GPS: Five countries that may rise up next

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

 

Is the Arab Spring over? Or are there other countries that might rise up in the year ahead? Wikistrat asked its global community of analysts to consider this question. Here’s what they came up with:

Read the entire post at CNN's GPS blog.

 

8:55AM

WPR's The New Rules: Assad's Ouster Best Chance to Stave off Israel-Iran Conflict

The debate among U.S. foreign policy analysts over the wisdom of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities -- and whether or not America should allow itself to be drawn into an ensuing conflict with Iran should Israel strike -- has largely taken place parallel to the debate over whether to pursue an R2P, or responsibility to protect, intervention in Syria. It bears noting, however, that forcing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure may be the best near-term policy for the U.S. to avoid being sucked into an Israeli-Iranian war.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

12:20PM

Wikistrat post @ CNN-GPS: Ten Roads to Israel-Iran War

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

Either Israel and the United States are engaged in a brilliant psychological operations campaign against Iran or the two long-time allies really are talking past each other on the subject of Tehran’s reach for a nuclear bomb. Either way, all this Bibi Netanyahu said, Leon Panetta said chatter is producing some truly jangled nerves over in Iran on the subject of Israel’s allegedly imminent attack on that country’s nuclear program facilities.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keeps publicly implying that his nation can’t wait on Iranian events for as long as the Obama administration – with its looming embargo of Iranian oil sales to the West – would like. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta keeps tripping over his own tongue, saying one day that America is doing its best to keep Israel’s attack jets grounded and the next offhandedly remarking to reporters that Tel Aviv is inevitably going to pull that trigger sometime this spring.

Again, as psyop campaigns go, this is brilliant, because it not only keeps the Iranians nervous and guessing, it forces them out into the diplomatic open with all manner of implausible counter-threats that reveal their increasing desperation.

Stipulating all this brinkmanship - coordinated or not - this week’s Wikistrat crowd-sourced analysis exercise involves imagining the range of possible pathways to an Israel-Iran war.  We don’t offer odds here. We just try to cover a wide array of possible vectors toward the trigger-pulling point.

Read the entire post at CNN's GPS blog.

12:01AM

In Esquire Magazine (Feb): "Turkey: Also the Man" (No. 42 of the "79 Things We Can All Agree On.") LINK FIXED

This is my 22nd piece in the magazine since 2003.

It appears in the February issue as one of the "79 things we can all agree on."

The beginning . . . 

Turkey: Also the man.

The world is of many minds about Turkey — almost as many as Turkey is about the world. We in the West worry that Ankara has turned away, when in truth it was Europe that turned Turkey out years ago, signaling, in no uncertain terms, that the "Christian club" wasn't interested in having all those Muslims inside the union.

Now, it does seem clear that Ankara has decided that enough is enough. In this geopolitical rom-com, our plucky heroine has come to the conclusion that after transforming herself into her suitor's acceptable mate, she can do better on her own. Under prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan, Turkey is aiming higher: genuine leadership across the greater Middle East . . .

Read the entire list starting here.  See the entire Turkey entry here (link fixed, I hope).

12:12PM

Wikistrat post @ CNN/GPS: How Will It End in Syria?

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

It’s hard to gauge just how strong the Free Syrian Army really is.  It’s clearly growing in size and in its ability to control ever-widening swaths of territory.  But at the same time, Russian and Iranian guns pour into Bashar al-Assad’s government.  And Bashar al-Assad has a steely will to power.

Given the mounting tension, it’s worth thinking through exactly how regime change may unfold and what it’s consequences would mean for the region.

Wikistrat, the world’s first massively multiplayer online consultancy ran an online simulation on what could go down in Syria. Here are the results:

Read the entire post at CNN's GPS blog.

10:06AM

Wikistrat's chief analyst quoted in Reuters piece on great-power rivalries in the Mideast

 

Here's the intro and my section:

Global "great power politics" returns to Mideast

LONDON | Tue Jan 31, 2012 7:28am EST

(Reuters) - With Russia sending warships to discourage foreign intervention in Syria, and China drawn more deeply into Iran's confrontation with the West, "great power" politics is swiftly returning to the Middle East . . .

Chinese officials might be willing to use sanctions to negotiate better oil prices from Iran, but there seems relatively little prospect that they will stop buying even if Tehran's rival Saudi Arabia makes up the difference in output.

"Each time the West tightens the leash, Beijing quietly avails itself of the slack," says Thomas Barnett, a former strategist for the U.S. Navy and now chief analyst at political risk consultancy Wikistrat. "The more explicitly Washington bases its global strategic military posture on the perceived Chinese threat, the more Beijing will welcome - and even overtly encourage - these diversions" . . . 

Read the entire article at Reuters.

8:57AM

Time's Battleland: Would Assad’s Fall Limit the Nuclear Menace in the Middle East?

As Bashar Assad looks more internationally isolated by the day — and far more vulnerable to Western economic sanctions than uber-bad boy Iran — it behooves us to think through what general advantages accrue with his eventual fall. To date, most of the thinking has focused on Iran’s loss of its right-hand proxy in transmitting terror to Israel via Hamas and Hezbollah.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.

11:42AM

Van Creveld tuned into Iran v. Turkey

Temp Headline Image

CSM op-ed, by way of WPR's media roundup.

As readers will attest, I've been saying this for a long time myself, both here and in columns and posts for other sites, but felt kinda odd that no one else was picking up on it. Knew I wasn't making it up.  Just wondered why the real lead being buried by MSM.

Well, this is one credentializing op-ed from Martin Van Creveld and somebody else.

Check it out.  I don't agree with all of it, but it's a powerful piece.

My annotated rundown:

[SUBTITLE] Many analysts say the Middle East is the focus of a geopolitical power struggle between the United States and Iran. That misses the primary thread of events – namely, the ongoing soft partition of the Arab republics between Turkey and Iran, with Turkey the stronger power.

What's not said: the power Turkey wields is entirely "soft," meaning the attraction of its culture, politics and its economic heft.  Turkey is not threatening with hard power, nor reaching for nukes - none of what Iran does. Instead, it's primary attraction is its success in growing and keeping happy an expanding middle class.

This is primarily China's soft-power attraction, so when we seek to counter it with a military "pivot" to East Asia, we don't look strong but weak.

During the last decade many right-wing American and Israeli analysts have described the geostrategic struggles unfolding in the Middle East as a new “cold war” pitting the United States against Shiite Iran. They have warned of an Arab “Shiite crescent” – stretching from Lebanon to Iraq – connected to Iran via ties of religion, commerce, and geostrategy . . .

Van Creveld puts Iraq too easily in Iran's camp - at least the Arab portion. I don't think it's such a done deal by any stretch, and we've seen plenty of reports that say the Turkish attraction is greater there on a lot of levels.

Back to the argument:

What this view of the Middle East overlooks is the fact that both the US and Iran are mired in internal political and economic difficulties. Simultaneously, inside the region, both are being outmaneuvered by an ascendant Turkey.

I don't think the US is being "outmaneuvered," just outperformed and out-clevered - if you will. Turkey, as a "young" rising power, has the strategic imagination required for the task, whereas the US strategic community is mired in a plethora of 20th-century concepts, many of which are so outdated as to be laughable. Turks just see the region with clearer eyes than we do.  No great mystery there.  Iran, thank Allah, is just as mired in the past.

Moreover, Western observers have missed the primary thread of events – namely, the ongoing asymmetric Turkish-Iranian soft partition of the Arab republics. Concomitantly, the American position as regional hegemon is vanishing. Today, only the Arab monarchies and Israel continue to look to the US as their primary patron.

I believe this to be true, but again, Turkey is winning and Iran's grip is tenable - see Syria.

Following the US withdrawal from Iraq, KRG officials bemoaned their need of a regional patron to protect them from dominance by Baghdad. Landlocked Iraqi Kurdistan also needs a conduit to export its oil to the West. The only country that can fulfill both roles is Turkey. That is why KRG officials, instead of supporting their ethnic brethren inside Turkey, have often sided with Ankara against the Kurdish separatist PKK.

This was made obvious to us when Enterra did its development work in the KRG.

Should more pipelines leading from Iraqi Kurdistan to the Mediterranean via Turkey be built, the result will be the de facto creation of an Iraqi-Kurdish buffer state. 

And frankly, the KRG is the nicest part of Iraq in terms of combined hydrocarbons and arable land.

In the southern part of Iraq, the situation is just the opposite. There, a Shiite Arab buffer state, buttressed by Iran as a bulwark against Turkish, American, or Saudi encroachments, is being created. The last two weeks’ events have removed any doubt that Prime Minister Maliki is “Iran’s man” in Baghdad. 

Again, I differ here on writing off the south, but point taken.

Yet despite this de facto partitioning of Iraq over the last month, Turkey and Iran are not challenging each other’s spheres of influence. Thus, Iraq has reverted to its traditional position as the Poland of the Middle East.

Cool analogy.

In post-Arab Spring North Africa, too, Turkey and Iran have essentially partitioned the resurgent Islamist movements between themselves. The Turks support the victorious “moderate” Islamists from Tunisia to Egypt. Iran backs the Salafist spoilers, even though they are Sunni.

Bingo!

Key point:

Since North Africa lacks indigenous Shiite populations and the “moderate” Islamists have now emerged as the main players in the region, it is Sunni Turkey, along with Qatar, that appears to be the rising political and commercial patron in North Africa.

Not arms, but soft-power backed by serious wealth accumulation.

Next arguments about Turkey and Iran synching their approaches to Israel-Palestine problem strikes me as weak. Van Creveld and his guy are interpreting Turkey's reorientation away from quasi alliance with Israel and a reorientation toward Iran's hard line.  I see nothing of the sort, but rather Turkey proving its Islamist credentials as it openly seeks regional leadership.  Israel here is just the litmus test.

Van Creveld and Pack see a clear struggle between the two powers in Syria, but again with an eye to soft partition, as they put it:

In a fragmented post-Assad Syria, Turkey will support the Sunnis, while Iran will remain the patron of the Alawites. Moreover, both will surely find a way to protect their strategic and financial interests in whatever regime emerges.

Strong finish on a point I have railed incessantly - our obsession with Iran's nukes blinds us to everything else going on in the region:

Throughout 2011, the continued Western obsession with the Iranian nuclear menace prevented policymakers from grasping the most salient dynamics at play in the new Middle East. Those who, like Mohammed Ayoob, have warned that “Beyond the Arab Democratic Wave” lies a “Turko-Persian Future” have been mostly ignored.

The Arab Spring has vastly weakened the Arab states, leaving them open to fragmentation, increased federalism, and outside penetration. With hindsight, 2011 may come to represent as sharp a rupture in the political landscape of the Middle East as 1919 did.

True to my "new map" approach: globalization, entering the Arab world, creates fragmenting tendencies (remapping, as I have long described it), and the two states seeking to take advantage represent polar opposites on adapting themselves to globalization's many challenges: Turkey embraces and is stronger for it, Iran does not and in its fight to keep it out becomes decidedly weaker (here our sanctions do help). Toss Qatar in the same basic globalization camp as Turkey.

Van Creveld and Pack view all this in terms of great power control over weaker states, and yes, we will witness plenty of these dynamics in the initial remapping process, but Turkey won't "own" the Middle East any more than China will "own" SE Asia.  Ultimately, as globalization takes deep root and economic opportunities arise, states will gravitate according to market power, not pol-mil influence.  Turkey will be prominent because of its significant market size (just like China in East Asia or India in South Asia or the US in the Western Hemisphere), adhering to my general principle that what rules in globalization is not supply (especially of hard power) but demand (the ultimate soft attractor).

12:01AM

Esquire's Politics Blog: So, How's That Egyptian Revolution Coming Along?


Egypt has just concluded voting for its new parliament — the first round, anyway — with surprisingly large turnouts and little-to-no serious violence. And that should make us all pretty happy, right? Alas, there's a lot of angst out there in the mainstream media and the blogosphere on all the issues that get lumped together in the big, mournful vibe of who killed the revolution? As usual, America's incredible impatience with progress, along with our unrealistic expectations about "new faces" dominating political outcomes, are fueling this growing sense of pessimism. But, in truth, the revolution is going along just fine.

Herewith, some whining you'll be hearing in the coming days — and the truth behind it....

Read the entire post at Esquire's The Politics Blog.

10:32AM

Quoted in Reuters piece on Syria & great powers

Quoted in Reuters piece about Russia bolstering its naval presence in the Eastern Med while making strong noises about no Western intervention into Syria.

The bits:

As Syria's uprising escalates into outright civil war and begins to drag in other states, it risks fuelling not only wider regional confrontation but also growing antagonism between the world's great powers . . .

That in itself could mark the beginning of a long, bloody, open-ended civil war. And speculation about foreign military intervention could even spark a Cold War-style face-off between Russia and the United States.

Analysts and foreign governments have long said they believed Iran was providing military and logistics support to Damascus, and some now suspect the opposition too is now receiving foreign weapons.

That, many analysts fear, risks further fuelling the growing regional confrontation between Tehran and its local enemies, particularly the Gulf states and emerging heavyweight Turkey. . .

My quote comes at the end.

"The problem with conflict in Syria is that it is much harder to contain than what we saw in Libya," said Anthony Skinner, Middle East analyst for UK-based consultancy Maplecroft.

"It has much wider regional implications that have largely been ignored. It feeds into what is already happening in the Gulf, as well as elsewhere" 

. . . 

"The Russians are signaling that on Syria, it is not a situation where they will publicly protest but quietly and privately acquiesce," says Nikolas Gvsodev, professor of national security studies at the US Naval War College.

"The danger is that it is not clear what they are prepared to do to stop open intervention."

. . .

"I think the Russians really were spooked by what happened in Libya and are determined to see that nothing like that happens again," said Nigel Inkster, a former deputy chief of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and now director of transnational threats and political risk at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"In that they are joined by China and most of... the BRICs... (However) since there is clearly no appetite for a military intervention in Syria, the Russian navy's journey looks likely to be wasted."

. . . 

"What you're seeing in the Middle East with the withdrawal of the U.S. from Iraq is Iran moving into an increasingly stronger position," said Reva Bhalla, director of analysis at U.S. private intelligence company Stratfor.

"If Assad survives in Syria, he will also be increasingly isolated and dependent on the Iranians, which will reinforce existing regional fears of Iran's growing influence."

Further stoking events, many believe, is a much wider tussle for power as the realization dawns that some two centuries of regional dominance by outside powers - first colonial Britain and France, then the U.S. - may be drawing to a close.

"We shouldn't be surprised that the Russians - in addition to the Turks and Iranians - feel like they've got an opportunity to expand their political-military influence in the eastern Mediterranean," said Thomas Barnett, U.S.-based chief strategist at consultancy Wikistrat.

"Nature abhors vacuums and so do rising great powers."

Personally, I think Russia has decided it must be present on Syria, lest it allow the entire Arab Spring to pass without so much as a howdy-do.  I think Moscow has some ambitions to re-establish itself in the region, but that the main show remains the Saudis and Iran, with the second bill being Turkey and Iran - the rivalry that I think overtakes all under the right crisis conditions.

11:44AM

WPR's The New Rules: How to Stop Worrying and Live with the Iranian Bomb

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report on Iran’s nuclear programsurprised no one, even as it created the usual flurry of op-eds championing preventative “next steps.” As I’ve been saying for the past half-decade, there are none. Once the U.S. went into both Iraq and Afghanistan, the question went from being, “How do we prevent Iran from getting the Bomb?” to “How do we handle Iran’s Bomb?” That shift represents neither defeatism nor appeasement. Rather, it reflects a realistic analysis of America’s strategic options. With that in mind, here are 20 reasons why Iran’s successful pursuit of the Bomb is not the system-changing event so many analysts are keen to portray.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

11:07AM

On RT's "The Alyona Show" last night re: IAEA report on Iran

Did it via Skype from home office. The raccoon eyes tell you we're suffering a weird warm spell here and the resurgence of pollen!

One misspeak, primarily because I was so tired:  when I spoke about Israel being Iran's "whipping boy" and excuse for reaching for the bomb, I accidentally slipped an Iran in there when I meant Israel.

Other than that mistake, and not saying "America's global war on terror" (just said "America's global war") early on, I was happy enough with the interview.

Skype from home certainly beats trudging downtown to a remote office and that whole drill, but the latency is a bit much to deal with.  Still, nice to be able to see yourself on Skype (small window) so you can orient your position onscreen (you can see me self-correction at points, which is tricky because all of your movements need to be "mirrored").

10:14AM

Time's Battleland: For all you Iran-is-winning types, the sad truth

You get two variants of this logic: 1) if the US leaves Iraq, Iran wins automatically (or it's won already because the Shiite majority actually rules); and 2) even more than al-Qaeda, Iran is the real beneficiary of the Arab Spring.

Both judgments are wrong in the way that America's capacity for frantic self-doubt and self-blame are routinely wrong.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.

 

8:00AM

Being realistic on Iran's long-term influence in Iraq: it will lose out to Turkey and China and Kuwait

Story in WAPO gets the Iran-is-winning crowd all jacked up: Iraq is condemned for not siding with the anti-Assad movement in Syria and actually offering support to the regime! This is spun as clear evidence of Iran's influence, when there are a host of pragmatic reasons why Baghdad isn't so interested in having the Arab Spring topple the dictator Assad.

Some analysis that's far more nuanced and realistic is found in the NYT Sunday ("Vacuum Is Feared as U.S. Quits Iraq, but Iran's Deep Influence May Not Fill It," by Tim Arango).

The best bits:

As the United States draws down its forces in Iraq, fears abound that Iran will simply move into the vacuum and extend its already substantial political influence more deeply through the soft powers of culture and commerce. But here, in this region that is a center of Shiite Islam, some officials say that Iran wore out its welcome long ago.

Surely, Iran has emerged empowered in Iraq over the last eight years, and it has a sympathetic Shiite-dominated government to show for it, as well as close ties to the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr. But for what so far are rather obscure reasons — perhaps the struggling Iranian economy and mistrust toward Iranians that has been nurtured for centuries — it has been unable to extend its reach.

In fact, a host of countries led by Turkey — but not including the United States — have made the biggest inroads, much to the chagrin of people here in Najaf like the governor.

“Before 2003, 90 percent of Najaf people liked Iranians,” said the governor, Adnan al-Zurufi, who has lived in Chicago and Michigan and holds American citizenship. “Now, 90 percent hate them. Iran likes to take, not give” . . .

So big surprise: those who deliver economically achieve real standing. Iran simply cannot do this, because it's economy is broken - just like its "revolution."

Now to address the conventional wisdom: 

A standard narrative has it that the Iraq war opened up a chessboard for the United States and Iran to tussle for power. One of the enduring outcomes has been an emboldened Iran that is politically close to Iraq’s leaders, many of whom escaped to Iran during Saddam Hussein’s government, and that is a large trading partner.

Yet the story is more nuanced, particularly in the Shiite-dominated south that became politically empowered after the American invasion upended Sunni rule. It has been other countries — most powerfully Turkey, but also China, Lebanon and Kuwait — that have cemented influence through economic ties.

The patterns were established soon after the American invasion. Shoddy Iranian goods — particularly low-quality cheese, fruit and yogurt — flooded markets in the south, often at exorbitant prices, said Mahdi Najat Nei, a diplomat who heads the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran office in Baghdad. This sullied Iran’s reputation, even though prices have since plummeted, creating an aversion to Iranian goods that lasts to this day, Mr. Nei said.

This has made it difficult for Iranian businesspeople to make investments in southern Iraq, said Ali Rhida, who is from Iran and is building an iron factory on the outskirts of Najaf. “The real problem is with the mangers of the economy in Iran,” he said. “After the fall of the regime, many Iranian companies came here but they screwed it all up.”

As always, the real winners are the ones who deliver opportunity. Iran makes demands and delivers burdens.

“Investment from Iran has almost stopped,” said Zuheir Sharba, the chairman of Najaf’s provincial council, referring to a phenomenon that has more to do with Iran’s anemic state-run economy than it does to Iranian ambitions. Speaking about Americans, he said, “They were coming, but they’ve stopped.”

Mr. Sharba continued: “We wish that American companies would come here. I wish the American relationship was that, instead of troops, it would be companies.” Mr. Sharba is a cleric, and he spent 14 years in Iran in exile during Mr. Hussein’s government.

Our failure at economy-building staring us in the face.  Why? We became obsessed with the notion that government-building equates to state-building, when it's economy-building that triggers the locals to make their own state happen. We acted like the Gorbachev here: imagining politics determines economics, when we should have played it like Deng, understanding that you start with the economics and let the politics slowly evolve.

Yes, Iran can make trouble, but who cuts the deals?

While Iran may be flagging in the battle for hearts and minds, it is still able to create trouble. A rise this summer in American troop deaths in southern Iraq at the hands of Iranian-backed militias raised alarms in diplomatic circles and became the core of the argument put forth by those who want a longer-lasting American military presence to counter Iran’s clout.

But the troublemaking does not extend to the more important arena of commerce, officials say. “Because of the political sensitivities of Iran, many people say Iran is controlling the economy of Iraq,” said Sami al-Askari, a member of Parliament and a close confidant to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. “No, the Turks are.”

Mr. Maliki once lived in Iran, and he surrounds himself with aides who have close ties to Tehran. Yet even these relationships have not translated into economic or cultural influence that could endear Iran to the Iraqi public at large. “I’ve yet to meet an Iraqi who trusts the Iranians,” said Joost Hiltermann, the International Crisis Group’s deputy program director for the Middle East.

But the mythology dies hard in Washington, so eager are we to crap on ourselves and see "loss" in everything right now. It's silly and it's childish, but that's what we are right now.

Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East analyst at the Congressional Research Service in Washington, said that because of numerous small projects — particularly related to religious tourism in Najaf, including a large underground toilet facility, and some construction projects in Basra — “a lot of these myths get perpetrated” about Iran’s influence in the south. “In the aggregate, it doesn’t add up to much,” he said.

Atmospherics trumping reality. Iran is a master at spewing this nonsense and we are adept at swallowing it, much like Ahmadinejad's diatribes and threats against Israel.

The Saudis know better and so do the Turks.  Given the choice, I choose Turkey, which, BTW, is really "winning" in Iraq - and that's just fine by me.

Will we Americans ever grow past this pathetic need to view all interventions in such black-and-white terms? I have great faith in the Millennials. The Boomers were raised in a Manichean childhood, and it permanently ruined their strategic thinking.

9:03AM

WPR's The New Rules: Turkey's Long Game in the Cyprus Gas Dispute

"Resource wars" enthusiasts worldwide have a new -- and unexpected -- poster child:"zero problems with neighbors" Turkey. The Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is beside itself over Israel's recent moves to cooperate with Cyprus on surveying its Eastern Mediterranean seabed for possible natural gas deposits thought to be lying adjacent to the reserves discovered last year off the coast of Haifa.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

9:53AM

Quoted in Reuters piece on Cyprus gas dispute

Here are excerpts with my bits (find the story here):

ANALYSIS-Turkey-Cyprus spat a sign of conflicts to come?

06 Oct 2011 08:54

Source: Reuters // Reuters 

By Peter Apps, Political Risk Correspondent

LONDON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - With an emerging power testing its strength, valuable resources in the balance and a weakened West struggling to exert influence, the dispute between Turkey and Cyprus over gas drilling may be a sign of wider things to come . . . 

In Southeast Asia, the Arctic, and perhaps also Africa and Latin America, disputed maritime boundaries may become flashpoints as rising scarcity of energy and other resources coincide with a shift in the geopolitical balance of power.

The United States and other Western powers,their relative influence waning, may have to play a subtle diplomatic game to ensure conflict is avoided and important relationships are not jeopardised.

"What we're seeing here is theatrics," says Thomas Barnett, US-based chief strategist for political risk consultancy Wikistrat. "The trick here is to manage it" . . . .

Beijing has been involved in a growing number of face-offs with neighbours in recent years over mineral and fishing rights, most recently Vietnam. Outside analysts say these are often originally spurred as much by private actors -- fishing boats or exploration vessels -- as deliberate policy, but again offer a podium on which Beijing can showcase its growing clout.

Other areas to watch, analysts say, might include Russia's growing assertiveness in the Arctic and perhaps Argentinian interest in the British-controlled Falklands, particularly in the event of energy discoveries there. Increased energy discoveries of Africa's coastline could also spark disputes.

But fears of a new era of "resource wars", Wikistrat's Barnett says, might still be overblown.

In the long run, he said a more assertive Turkey could prove a positive for both the U.S. and Israel, acting as a regional counterweight to Iran and Saudi Arabia, and that the important thing was to manage its rise.

"My instinct is that this is a storm in a tea cup," Barnett says of the Cyprus dispute. "You could make comparisons from this to what we are seeing in the South China Sea (and) in both cases the ultimate answer is probably the same -- some kind of shared corporation agreement... It might sound a long way off now, but it should happen with time."

The need for the West, he said, was to learn to reach out subtly and diplomatically to emerging powers like Turkey as Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger did with China in the 1970s, soothing egos and helping nudge them towards co-operation.

Not everyone is so confident outright bloodshed will always be avoided . . . 

Yes, I did have some problem with the formulation Apps made on that last line.  I said  thing, but he was working the tension in the piece (sigh!), so you live with that journalistic trick, realizing that this is my legitimate niche anyway - the anti-alarmist.

So the tone of the quotes was good for both me and Wikistraat:  we want to be associated with wide-angle perspectives that emphasize strategizing. Toward that end, we've designed a number of simulations on this story at Wikistrat, to include ones that explore Turkey walking from the EU over this, oil drig shootouts (if Turkey truly wants a bloody shirt to wave like the "aid flotilla" fiasco), a downstream linkage to the nuclearization of the Eastern Med, and ultimately how all this natural resource wealth impacts regional economic development.

I'll have more on this subject in Monday's column. Apps' piece got me thinking . . ..

10:49AM

WPR's The New Rules: Making Syria's Assad Next Domino to Fall

Recent polls indicate that a majority of Americans and Europeans don't want NATO to widen its war against embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. So long as the West's low-and-slow approach to regime change continues to weaken the dictator, there is good reason to stick with President Barack Obama's strategy of limited intervention. Yet as international cameras focus in on Libya, a prospective tipping point for the future of the Middle East becomes all the more visible in Syria, despite that country's ban on international journalists. And although Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken an admirably tough line regarding the Baath regime's "continued brutality," the White House still expresses more concern over Israel's policies in the West Bank and Gaza than over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's increasingly bloody crackdown against protesters there. 

Read the entire column, co-authored with Michael S. Smith II, at World Politics Review.