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Tuesday, October 25, 2016


(Note: Please reference the conversation broadcast 10/24/2016 on the radio program OnPoint <>. Note also that this post regarding the Kasparov/Cohen conversation bookends nicely to the immediately preceding post "ROSH HASHANAH - YOM KIPPUR 5777".)


Stress, be it personal stress or mass stress, may lead to xenophobia. Both Mr. Kasparov and Prof. Cohen have evidenced the existence of xenophobia in the context of the present issues under discussion, even though the word "xenophobia" was not itself under discussion.

Xenophobia may have both religious and political manifestations and consequences, especially when national, ethnic, racial, and economic factors are germane to stress and conflict. Such rampant xenophobia has obviously raised it's head above ground in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. And, while the world has it's eye's "over there", it is also true that xenophobia has it's constituencies in the USA, Europe, and Russia.  The figureheads of these xenophobic constituencies are Putin, Trump, and (arguably) Clinton, and in Europe there are equivalent figureheads and equivalent constituencies.

There is no shortage of Superpower aggression, be it American, European, Russian, Chinese, and so on. Nor is there any shortage of aggression by proxy nations. So at issue, given the brinksmanship that may lead to war between the US and Russia, is whether or not these tensions may be released and relieved in ways that may trend to peace and not war. 

The oil and gas wars in the Ukraine and in the Middle East represent the flip side of the coin that is the religious-political-national-ethnic-racial stew of currency that has been cooked too long and is burnt to the point that the entire oven may catch fire. Can the stew be saved?

Who in his or her right mind would expect Russia to sacrifice it's vital strategic control of Crimea?  Is it too naive to suppose that Russia's xenophobia -- which is reflected by it's internal affairs and also by it's aggression in the Middle East, the Ukraine, and along the borders of the Baltic States -- may begin to ratchet down, if and only if the West comes to an agreement with Russia about the Ukraine?  

If  a glance at the map is at all suggestive, it is that the entire region of Baltic States, Belarus, and Ukraine (less Crimea) should be one larger political entity capable of common economy,  common defense, and common economic and political ties with Russia to the east and Europe to the west.  Only in this way may the constant game of the Cold War truly come to an end (reference the map below). Negotiating to bring the Cold War to it's final end may then coincide with bringing the Middle East War to an end. 

Assad may or may not remain in power; but, the geography over which any Syrian regime rules may necessarily shrink in order to accommodate the rightful needs of Assad's enemies. Still, the future may see four Middle East oil and natural gas pipeline routes capable of supplying Europe: (1) Iran --> Iraq --> Syria -- Europe (2) Iraq --> Turkey --> Europe (3) Iraq --> Syria --> Europe (4) Qatar --> Saudi Arabia --> Jordan -- > Syria --> Turkey --> Europe (reference the maps below). Syria is a pathway for three of these routes and a distribution center for two of those routes. Oil politics reflects the balance of power in the Middle East. Rational minds should perceive that multiple players and multiple routes would be a win-win all around. The sooner that hostilities  cease and peace is negotiated, then the sooner it will be that the devastated areas of the Middle East may be rebuilt, and that the majority of refugees may either return to their former homes or resettle to new homes.  

It is likely that in redrawing the map of the Middle East, Syria may shrink and much of eastern Syria may be absorbed by into Iraq and Iraq may become a Confederation comprised of an Arab-Sunni Province, a Kurdish Province, and a Shiite Province (success would be contingent upon a Western supported "Marshall Plan" modeled after the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe subsequently to WW2).

Failure to accomplish peace in the manner described above may prove both Gary Kasparov and Stephen Cohen to be equally correct beyond their worst nightmares.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016




Pros and Cons of working with Russian and Turkey to Fight ISIS (a tentative viewpoint):

The one comment made during the second presidential debate that struck me as significant was the comment by Hillary Clinton, that she would establish "no-fly zones", but, would not send significant ground troops into Syria, and that she would supply weapons and trainers to the Kurds and Arab Sunni Rebels to fight ISIS. This is what we have been doing, and it appears that her intention as President would be to ramp up that particular strategy. So, what is the wisdom of such a ground game, pro and con? Firstly with respect to our NATO "ally" Turkey: supplying the Kurds with weapons and trainers has been done on a limited scale, owing to the Turkish antipathy to the Kurds, and we have relied on Kurdish courage, bravery, and skill; ramping up equipment and training for the Kurds may place us at odds with Turkey. Secondly, also with respect to Turkey, supplying Arab Sunni Rebels may be a double-edged sword, because some of these rebels are also at odds with Turkey. Thirdly, neither the Kurds nor the Arab Sunnis have much love for each other or for the Shia Iraqis, with whom for the moment there is a fragile unity against ISIS. Fourthly, as ISIS is also composed primarily of Arab Sunnis (Al-Quaeda + BATH Party = ISIS), Arab Sunni Rebels are a more natural ally to ISIS -- and so not only is there such a risk to us and to the Kurds and to the Shia, there is the obvious reason that -- according to Syria, Russia, and Iran -- no distinction is to be made between ISIS and Arab Sunni Rebels (be those rebels Al-Quaeda, Al-Nusra, or any other (Al-"). Fifthly, with respect to "no fly zones", one must ask, would these be negotiated and established via the UN or by the US and Russia in binary negotiations or by NATO in conjunction with Syria and Russia? The risk of air conflicts between NATO forces and both Russia and Syria is already too real. Sixthly, what is our intended end game of all of this Syria-Iraq-ISIS Conflict? There is no coherent end game, therefore there is no coherent strategy, IMHO. There is the appearance of an end game -- that Bashar Al-Asad must go, and that there must be an end to the slaughter of [mostly Sunni] innocents; yet, our intended "weekend" jaunt into Syria has devolved into five-years of conflict with no end in sight, several hundred thousand casualties, millions of refugees, and Asad still thriving in power. Both the humanitarian crisis, political crisis, and balance of power crisis remain to be resolved.

IMHO, it is both the BALANCE OF POWER CRISIS and the POLITICAL CRISIS that must be resolved in order that the HUMANITARIAN CRISIS be resolved.  As long as there is benefit to  various power players in the conflict to prevent cessation of the humanitarian crisis, then the humanitarian crisis will continue.  Thus far it is the Syria of Asad, Iran, Russia, and our "ally" Turkey, who have benefited from the humanitarian crisis by the strengthening of Asad's Syria, by the destabilization of Iraq, and by the destabilization of Europe.  There are those, who blame the post-Nine-Eleven War on Iraq as the primary cause of all this.  Respectfully, such destabilization was likely inevitable; it is stupid and foolish to get caught up in the divisiveness of the blame game, and wiser to look at the opportunities to make peace, and with whom.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia benefit by the existence of ISIS.  The expansion of Islamist Turkey and Islamist ISIS cannot be seen as independent of each other.  The deliberate refusal of Saudi Arabia to put troops on the ground against ISIS is a "tell" that any poker player should be able to see.  Whatever the convoluted pathways of money, power, and weapons may be in Islamic World, both Sunni and Shia, the humanitarian crisis there is a crisis in the balance of power of the Islamic World, though that crisis does certainly exist in context to the balance of power dissonances of the Great Powers (USA, Russia, China).

It must be pointed out that in Turkey the primarily Arab Sunni refugees owe their lives to Erdogan, who although being a hated Turk in Arab eyes, is also Sunni and is their benefactor.  We have seen Erdogan brutally consolidate his Islamist Regime in Turkey.  Turkish-Saudi cooperation is therefore likely; neither the Turks nor the Saudis are on the ground fighting ISIS, although the Turks give lip service to fighting ISIS directly, when the reality is that they fight the Kurds and they fight some of the Arab Sunni Rebels in an effort to get them to tow the line (IMHO).  IMHO we are seeing a regional shift in the balance of power that is being defined by an alliance of the Saudis and the Turks, which represents an alliance of these historical enemies based on Sunni Religion, technological modernization, economic advantage, geographic and military cooperation, and a future anticipating desalinization of water and stabilization of fossil fuel patterns even as alternative energies experience growth.

It is therefore incumbent upon the Great Powers to perceive these trends in order to negotiate a balance of power and political stability.  A pause in the humanitarian crisis becomes possible, as soon as the Great Powers and the Regional Powers get on the same page and define the balance of power and political stability of the region.  The Iran Nuclear Deal and the Syria Chemical Weapons Deal do create a positive wind towards doing so and against devolution into chemical and nuclear war in the imminent future, but, regional peace must be established, if such a present reality is to maintain into the long term future.

In order for this to happen Russia needs much more than a bone as well as a diminution of insult from the West.  The starting point has already included some meat in the form of the Syria Chemical Weapons Deal and the Iran Nuclear Deal.  It is time that an official split of the Ukraine be negotiated by the West with Russia.  The ethnic, religious, geographic, and strategic reasons for doing so should be quite clear (unless of course it is the intent of the West to utterly cut off Russia from the Middle East, Arabia, and South Central Asia).

What then should political resolution of Syria-Iraq-Kurdish regions look like?  Perhaps Joseph Biden had it right in suggesting that at root Iraq should be split into three largely independent geographies:  Kurdistan, Sunnistan, and Shiastan [Sunnistan and Shiastan are my own original terms for the Sunni and Shia geographies].  Such a regional set of compromises would mean that the Kurds would not get all that they want, otherwise there would be no chance of getting Turkey onboard; the Sunni may never see Baghdad again and may lose much of the existing oil infrastructure including beachfront property on the Persian Gulf; the Iraqi Shia would have Baghdad and the port areas and therefore would gain the commercial and political value of such hegemony, which would include the possibility of becoming a strong commercial brokerage center with respect to the other Persian Gulf States (e.g. Iran Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc.).  It may be that the key to peace would be that these three entities be confederated; and, though they may govern themselves largely independently, a central government would govern common interests and the power and benefits of that government would necessarily be evenly split three ways.  Implementation of such a reality would require either and American or a NATO presence analogous to the Marshall Plan.

It must be said as well that the entire Middle East Region including Saudi Arabia and Iran must cease bashing Israel and must engage in lasting peace with Israel.  The required elements are easy enough to understand and to implement: (1) All twenty Arab Nations still formally in a status  of war with Israel since 1948 must unconditionally terminate that status and must unconditionally normalize relations with Israel; (2) Terror organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Fatah must no longer be supported; (3) Egypt, which has already made peace with Israel, should be encouraged to sell at least ten-percent of the Sinai to Israel, so that once and for all the Arabs in and around Israel may understand that lands lost to them due to their own aggressions may not be taken for granted to be lands that would be returned to them; (4) Arab countries should accept settlement by Palestinian Arabs presently protected under Israeli hegemony, be those Palestinian Arabs "refugees" or Israeli citizens, given that approximately half of the Palestinian Arab population desires to be independent of Israel; (5) Judea-Samaria, the Golan, and the Sheva Farms geographies must be fully integrated into and accepted worldwide as belonging to the State of Israel; and (6) Jerusalem must be understood and accepted to be the undivided Capitol of the State of Israel.

It is not impossible to imagine a continuation of the Asad Regime, though it is difficult to imagine such a continuation, if Asad does not stand down his present strategy of laying waste to his very real enemies.  If Asad were to offer three fig leaves: (a) to abruptly cease his devastation of his enemies; (b) to secure his de facto constituency; and (c) to allow a well-supervised flow of humanitarian aid (supervised by the Russians, perhaps, to guarantee a flow of only food and medicine and not weapons); then, Asad may regain some moral high ground and put the onus on his enemies to do the same or face the World's retribution.