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Total number of comments: 16 (since 2013-11-28 16:44:32)

Peter T

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  • Iran's Khamenei to Putin: Isolate US by dumping the Dollar
    • A map of iran's rail network is surprisingly informative. Since 79 they have built links to Pakistan, Central Asia, China (through Central Asia), to their Indian Ocean ports. Improved links to Russia through Azerbaijan have been in progress for some time. They are building two links to the Iraqi network, and working on the Turkish link (bypass the Lake Van ferry). All this is addition to significant extensions/improvements to the internal network. They clearly aim to restore their old position as the landbridge between Europe and Inner Asia.

  • Barzani gambled it all and Lost-- Kurdistan Pres. ending Career
    • Barzani has been selling oil through Turkey and splitting the proceeds. He thought Erdogan would back him. But Turkey, the US, Iran, Iraq all signalled opposition. When the PUK folded (after talks with Tehran's emissary), the game was up. The KDP succession is the next flash point.

  • ISIL was ended not by Trump or Obama but by Muslims
    • You might add the Syrians of the Syrian Arab Army, who held Deir ez-Zor for four years against very ISIS assault, who held Kuweires airbase, who have fought from Aleppo to Mayadin and spent lives eliminating the ISIS threat to towns such as Salamiyah. Alawis, yes, but also Sunni, Shi'a, Druze (like the commander in Deir ez Zor) and Christian.

  • No, It Wasn't Iran: Top 7 Reasons Baghdad took Kirkuk
    • I think Barzani saw his position vis-a-vis Baghdad and his Kurdish rivals weakening as the ISIS war winds down, and thought Turkey would support him as counterweight to the PKK and maybe to Baghdad as well. But he miscalculated on all fronts - neither Baghdad nor Tehran nor Ankara will tolerate Kurdish independence, although the latter two are comfortable with autonomy.

  • Putin's End Game in Syria
    • Since US policy has been a mix of the delusional and the ambiguous from the start, "constructive cooperation" is likely to be beyond it. But Egypt, Iran and Turkey all share Putin's goal of retaining a united Syria, and have at various points cooperated to that end. Since Iraq is also firmly of the same view, and Jordan edging to it, where does that leave the US?

  • The Economic Crisis of Greying World: 30 Countries have more Elderly than Children
    • Immigration simply postpones the problem - and not for long either. Barring catastrophes, we are simply going to have to work or way through this. But I am surprised that no mention is made of the transfer from looking after children to looking after the aged, nor consideration to the fact that, as the societies affected are mostly much richer than in the past, they can easily support extended retirement. And pensions often support manual workers, whose life expectancy is not rising.

  • Pyrrhic Victory? As Iraq rolls back Daesh, can it stay together as a Country?
    • With respect, I think this is overblown. The Kurdish calls for independence come from Barzani relatives, a discredited group. The Mosul ones are from the ex-governor's clique, an inveterate intriguer with very little support even in Ninawa.

      Shi'a militia outrages have been few and swiftly condemned, but widely publicised in conservative Arab media. Sunni representation in Iraqi forces (including militias) has increased markedly.

      The Sunni are not going to return to their previous position as the dominant political element. This is a grievance to many of them, but one they show signs of reconciling to.

  • The Chinese are Coming: First 'New Silk Road' Train reaches Iran's Capital
    • Iran has been steadily investing in its rail network since the revolution. Now has links to Pakistan and Azerbaijan, new link to Kazakhstan, new border crossing at Sarakhs, link under construction to Herat in Afghanistan, two links to Iraqi network (one at Basra, one through Hamadan) and mooted link to Armenia as well as improving the link to Turkey. All this as well as much internal construction and improvement. It's a good gauge of its standing among its neighbours.

  • If Defeating ISIL/ Daesh is so imp't, why isn't Ramadi Campaign all we're talking about?
    • re Tikrit, reports I saw suggested that the reprisals were mostly Sunni on Sunni (tribes that had sided with ISIS were prevented from returning by those who had resisted and suffered ISIS punishment). A key issue for Sunnis is that they are fragmented politically in the face of the more numerous and united Shi'a and Kurds (noting that both the latter have their factions).

  • Kurdish Fighters cut Road between ISIL centers of Raqqa and Mosul
    • The fling at the Iraqi Army is unjustified. They've had their bad moments, but they have secured Baghdad, re-taken Tikrit and Baiji, cleared the area around Ramadi (and now look to take the city itself), held Hadithi and so on. As Gen Rupert Smith pointed out, the defense now has extraordinary advantages given that urban areas are so extensive and weapons like RPGs and IEDs so plentiful. If the enemies ISIS generates on every side each do their bit, it can't last long (although it will go down hard).

  • Could Sunni-Shiite Rift make Tikrit a Pyrrhic Victory? Al-Azhar & Shiite Militias
    • I have seen conflicting reports of militia behaviour: some vague ones of houses being burned, but also:

      - a report quoting a militia leader that strict instructions had been given to behave correctly;
      - reports of militia help evacuating given to locals around Tikrit;
      - an interview with a member of a Sunni unit in a Shia militia. Recruited from around Tikrit, and enthusiastic about being in a force that knew its business.
      - tribal leaders in Anbar and Salahuddin calling for militia paricipation and help, as the force with the numbers and motivation to defeat Daesh.

      While I think the jury is still out on this one, and we are likely to see some ugly behaviour, the picture is more nuanced than a lot of people allow.

  • Bombings in Pakistan Kill over 100, as Shiites are Targeted
    • Israel should be worrying more about Pakistan than about Iran - it looks to be well on the way to being the first major climate-change induced failed state, and the first with nuclear arms.

  • The Rise of the Sunnis and the Decline of Iran, Iraq and Hizbullah: The Middle East in 2013
    • Interesting piece. I think it overstates Sunni solidarity (especially as linking non-Arab Turkey with Syria or Saudi). It's hard for modern states to fragment unless there are established internal lines of demarcation, as in Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, so I find it hard to envisage Syria fragmenting along Sunni/Shia lines. But there is likely to be greater opportunity for Sunni in Iraq and Syria to forge alliances, possibly backed by Saudi (as observed, where the Kurds fit in will be a question). But this would push Syrian Shia across the border into Lebanon or into Iraq, strengthening Shia parties in both. And Shia, as the largest bloc in Lebanon, will retain considerable political strenght regardless of the outcome in Syria.

      I would also note that Iran is in a different class economically than Syria or the petro-states. It has a large industrial sector (and sanctions are probably encouraging local development). It's closer to Turkey or Brazil as an emerging industrial power than to a petro-state. Hence the problems it poses for israle and the US.

  • Drones, Drones Everywhere, and now we've given them to Iran
    • I agree with the last comment - drones are like Tamerlane's raids - they hurt, but they don't change anything, and they focus the other side on getting even. Iraq showed the US Army as hollow, so it would be better to concentrate on making friends rather than irritating people who know you can't really afford to go to war with them.

  • Faster than Expected Climate Change means drought, war, famine for Middle East, Africa
    • Watch how fast denial swings into action.

      Can't see "water wars" myself. Just slow misery and local competition - already happening, as you note, on the West Bank.

  • Is Iraq's Arab League Summit being Overshadowed by Sectarian Violence?
    • I have the impression that Sunni resistance to Iraq's government is fuelled by a deep belief that Shia rule is illegitimate (in much the same way that C17 France could not tolerate a Protestant ruler, or England a Catholic one), and that this is more ort less true across the Arab Sunni world.

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