Saturday, October 17, 2015


In a remarkable Opinion editorial in the Wall Street Journal (Oct. 17/18, 2015) Dr. Kissinger analyzes the current situation regarding the Syrian crisis and the repercussions thereof. One needs some form of courage or foolishness to try to approach such depth of perception, rooted both in history and personal experience.

Still I might attempt to make an observation. The argument and the reference to a Westphalian mindset are at the same time pertinent and absurd. They are projections of a rational, strategic Western mindset. They might not be able to cross the threshold of illegitimate countries built on a tribal DNA. President Putin has his way (for now) by staying strictly focused on a well- defined self-interest. It so happens that this fits the Alawite ambition, but President Assad in all this is not a partner, he is a tool. Russia's ulterior interest is to close the Caucasus and to reduce once and forever the American monopoly in the Middle East, by any means, the more cynical included.

After the failed Arab Spring, hopes were crushed and the succession of autocrats was restarted and is now in full gear. The Americans are stuck with allies (?) whose values and ways they dislike. They dealt with Iran which gave Israel a "generous" survival period of 25 years. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey even, are "allies" which one would never trust with the house keys.

Dr. Kissinger points the finger at ISIS, rightly so. ISIS presents an immediate global danger. Bashar Assad is a cold killer, unlike Saddam who was a deluded psychopath. Unfortunately, the scale of urgency to destroy ISIS is just like a choice between an evil at home almost, and another at bay, for now.  Indeed Assad=Southern Iraq=Iran=Hezbollah = ?

The major problem lies in the contradiction which exists between political science and primary emotion. The Shia play on the feelings of shame, unease with modernity, and humiliation which can be ignited when convenient. Sunni states have been able to connect with a more positive narrative since the meeting of FDR with Ibn Saoud and Farouk (and Haile Selassie)
aboard the Quincy in 1945 after Yalta. An American president could still summon then. The modus vivendi with Iran was doomed after the Mosaddeg debacle.

It will be difficult to come to terms with a quagmire. The non-state wants to be one, the existing one is falling apart and the surviving states are more regimes than states. Only by bringing all together fast might they be obliged to admit that the absurdity of their claims may well lead to the implosion of a whole region.

Remains Israel, which is another elephant in the room. As much as the West must be creative in its approach to the Middle East collapse, it must be clear and absolutely unambiguous in its total support for Israel. For reasons of diplomatic expediency one might have to meet the undesirable. However, one should never stay shy of standing for shared values. 

Without the destruction of ISIS by all means, Europe risks becoming a demographic nightmare. The United States should recreate a new CENTO with the Sunnis before Putin arrives first at the finish line. There is still time for a Kissinger solution as long as there are enough actors remaining who understand the rules of the game.The battle against ISIL is also a battle in the name of civilized "memory". The spoilers cannot be allowed to have the upper hand. The new world is not for the timid! The White House should blush!

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