Tuesday, March 07, 2006

State of Affairs

Lets talk about today's geopolitical landscape, and trends. There are several important things happening today, that will have far-reaching consequences in the future, and it is important to understand them. This post is not so much my own conclusions, as it is a digest of several analytical articles.

Retreat on Hamas Front
First, there is the Hamas victory in Palestinian general elections. The trends that will set the course of events for the next few years are evident already. Hamas was able to bring 88 parliamentarians under their flag (more then two thirds), and immediately took away from Abbas ability to block parliament's decisions. The rule in PA is now parliamentary (belongs to Hamas), and not presidential (belongs to Fatah). All western powers dealing with Hamas - Israel, US, EU, Russia showed submission, are on retreat, and talk in split tongue. Israel gave Hamas ~45 million dollars. US government cannot give Hamas money, but cheered EU's decision to do just that. Finally, Russia invited Hamas to Kremlin. Despite popular belief, this is not going to hurt Russia. On the contrary, they are setting the stage for EU and US future talks with Hamas, quite possibly with EU and US blessing. This will result in further submissions and pressure on Israel to cave in to more demands. Hamas will try to remain "a good international citizen" while this retreat continues, getting ready to start a war the second it stops. The biggest threat to Hamas is, surprisingly, coming from Al Qaida which recently started pressuring Hamas to turn Gaza, and then West Bunk into Taliban-style state. Given Hamas's Muslim roots, it will be very hard for them to balance between being a good international citizen, and not upsetting their own supporters or provoking Al Qaida retaliation against them.

Retreat on Iraq Front
Whether or not going into Iraq was a good idea, Bush's handling of subsequent war in Iraq, that developed between Suni militia, Iranian agents and Zarkawis Al Qaida on one side, and US, British, and Iraqi regular army on another, is a failure. US army, despite winning nearly all battles it fought, is loosing the war. Despite having unlimited financial and (Iraqi) human resources, is failing to create a fight-worthy regular army of Iraq. High rate of desertions, Al Qaida infiltration, poor training are making Iraqi army a useless body of firearms bearers. The second coalition forces retreat from Iraq this army will face impossible odds and either crumble or will be completely taken over by Al Qaida. And retreat is exactly what US and British forces are starting to do. By 2007/8 Iraq will be free of western armies, and split, if not in name then in practice, into 3 entities: Kurds under US influence in north, Sunis + Al Qaida on West, Shiits under Iranian influence in South. 2 out of 3 parts of Iraq (excluding the Kurds) will become terrorist states. Oil production will soar, as different forces will start cashing in on their new-found fortune. US's credibility among the common men in the middle east, shaken after the early 90's retreat, will be shattered. Next time US will need local cooperation in the region they will face a huge problem of mistrust.

Israeli Elections
Kadima led by Olmert will win the elections. The threat to Olmert's rule will come from within. Kadima is made up of people that united around a specific man and a specific idea. The man, Ariel Sharon, is now on his death bed, and idea, unilateral disengagement, is becoming more and more controversial, now that the Hamas has won the elections in PA. Already there are two camps forming in Kadima around this issue. Which means simple thing really - the government will be heavily influenced by the second biggest party in coalition. I expect the results of nearing general elections to be strongly underwhelming for Kadima, making it even more dependent on other coalition members. In all probability Olmert will choose to go with Avoda and not Likud, since caving in to social demands of Amir Peretz will be less intrusive then caving in to political demands of Netaniahu. Given Mr. Peretz's track record, it is as good as tossing the economy out of the window, in slow motion. The government will not live long (a year or two) but long enough to cause some major strategic and economical damage. Olmert's indecisiveness and lack of clear strategy will become more and more apparent, and Kadima will disappear from political map within several years, torn apart by both inside and outside forces.

And what are your thoughts of the situation?


Irina Tsukerman said...

One thing that really annoys me about analytical articles is that they re-state the obvious without providing any meaningful proposals for solutions. It doesn't take a genius to see what's going on with Hamas, Kadima, and in Iraq. It *does* take a military/political genius to resolve these issues without fueling even more conflicts. Are there any articles which can actually answer these questions?

Yury Puzis said...

I think that the question "what SHOULD be done" is easy. The hard one is "what WILL be done and what WE can do about it". This post attempts to answer the first part of the second question. Today OUR ability to influence is not on par with the scale of events that take place. If we imagine it is (as in "I am the president of US"), then a solution can be described in a few words, no genius required. Specifically: Single out the bad guys and kill them all. Tell the truth to the public and do not collude with the enemy. Do not betray friendly countries. Choose friends based on common strategic goals, not personal preferences or short-term benefits.
Sounds utopian? Of course. That's why I am not writing about this. Infeasible even given the right people in power? Not just feasible, more effective. If US implemented this simple policy, a real functional anti-terror coalition would exist right now, sucking in more and more countries that sit on the fence.
Why nobody does that? Because modern politicians are weak, corrupt people that do not know difference between cynicism and realism.

Irina Tsukerman said...

OK, I see your point. But what's the point of even discussing all this if we can't do anything anyway? Or maybe you're wrong, and we can? And if we can do something to get on par, then why isn't anyone writing about how that should be accomplished?

Yury Puzis said...

I tried to answer the first part of "what will be done and what we can do about it?", but I did not attempt to answer the second part, and did not meant that the answer is "nothing" (I don't think it is). We can do something (what?) without getting on par, and, even better, we can try to get on par (the career you are building is of course one of the best examples, but successful thrust into national politics could be even better). That, however, is long-term. The hardest question is “what can we do short-term?”. The prerequisite is to understand “what will be done/will happen” (and not just "what happened/happening"). But what then? I do not know. Something to think about...

FollowJesus said...

I have something to say!

Michael Brenner said...

I agree with your first and third points. Politically, Likud is dumb. There is a natural alliance to be made with National Union and Be'teinu, but Likud retains the illusion that it can be for a policy of settlement expansion without pushing out the Arabs. Likud should be honest with itself. If these factions joined, they would present a real challenge to Kadima. A tongue-in-cheek analysis, but it's true, IMHO.

There will be US troops in Iraq in 2008. It is a long process. The US is the only thing keeping the country from tearing itself apart, and it will not leave under those circumstances. The proper short-term policy, after years of failures and bad execution of the right policy, is to stay the course, and make sure the right people are in power. If that means offing a local mayor or two, that's what it means. That is how it was done in places like post-war Italy.

No more elections for a while would be a nice short-term policy. Iraq does not have the democratic traditions for constant elections. They can get there, but society needs to evolve and stabilize a little. The Palestinians at least have the Israeli example to work off of, which is why Hamas will feel some internal constraint to do something besides attack Israel.