Middle East Poker: Can the Texan hold em?
Mostly behind the scenes in the Middle East, a complex diplomatic-military game is being played. Perhaps, the best way to explain it (if it can be explained at all) is to use the analogy of a high-stakes poker game, albeit with some strange rules.
Imagine three high rollers representing the United States (a Texan), Saudi Arabia (a Saudi Prince) and Iran (a mullah). Seated behind the main players are Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kuwait and the Kurds, all of whom have an interest in the “pot” which is, of course, free-world access to oil. Further imagine a stack of cards in the middle of the table marked “military options.”
But the ability of the main players to draw from the “military options” stack can be impacted by domestic political considerations such as America’s appeasement crowd led by congressional Democrats such as Rep. John P.(William Joyce) Murtha and Speaker Nancy (Neville Chamberlain) Pelosi.
For those who missed World War II, William Joyce was the English citizen who, as Lord Haw-Haw, defected to Nazi Germany to do pro-Hitler radio broadcasts. Neville Chamberlain was the British Prime Minister who appeased Hitler and made World War II inevitable by giving Hitler the green light to reoccupy the Rhineland, annex Austria and take over Czechoslovakia.
Saudi Arabia has no cards in the “military options” stack. Fearing a military coup, the Saudi Royals keep their military small and divided. The Saudis’ main fear is a nuclear Iran. So, the Saudis are playing for an Iraq that won’t pose a military threat as Saddam once did, yet strong enough to serve as a buffer state between the Saudi oil fields and Iran.
The mullah-dictators of Iran know, deep down, that they are the illegitimate rulers of a bright, young, non-Arab people yearning to be more western and more prosperous. The mullahs know the way to promote internal unity is to propagandize Israel as an external enemy. The Iranian player says he wants to wipe Israel off the map.
Also, the Iranian player is itching to slip a nuclear weapons card into the “military options” stack. Both Israel and the U.S. are watching the Iranian player’s sleeves. If the Iranian player is caught as a nuclear cheat, Israel and/or the U.S. have the military options of ejecting him permanently from the game.
The American player is weary of the bickering and violent actions of the Saudis, Iranians, Syrians and transnational, al-Qaeda jihadists inside Iraq. But the American cannot leave the game to the locals because the oil of the Persian Gulf could easily become unavailable to the industrialized nations whose economies (for now) depend on a reliable supply of oil from the Persian Gulf.
Under the table, the Saudis supply jihadists and weapons to keep Iraq internally unstable; however, the Saudis, out of fear of the Iranians, are begging the American to stay at the table and keep playing. In like manner, the Iranians are keeping Iraq unstable. But the Iranian wants the American to quit the game so he can become the biggest high-roller at the table.
The Iranian player doesn’t give much thought to neighboring Afghanistan because it has always been so tribally divided that it poses no military threat. In like manner, Pakistan has border regions never really controlled by a central government. Seeking retribution for 9/11 and the prevention of repeat atrocities, the Americans search for Ayman al-Zawahiri and (if still alive) Osama bin Laden in the lawless crease between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” Sinistra Media do not understand geo-politics well enough to explain the game except in terms unfavorable to the American player yet favorable to the Neville Chamberlains and the Lord Haw-Haws of the Left.
And so the game goes on 24/7, sometimes in plain sight but, most often, invisibly. Only the Iranian is pleased to be at the table with the big boys and to keep on playing.
Syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, William Hamilton, is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and a former research fellow at the U.S. Military History Institute of the U.S. Army War College. He is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. Writing as William Penn, he and his wife are the co-authors of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2007. William Hamilton.