Belmont Club

The Map Comes To Life

At intervals in history the map redraws itself.  This may be one of those times. The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that Iraq and Syria are breaking up and the process is irreversible. The Associated Press reports:

Iraq and Syria may have been permanently torn asunder by war and sectarian tensions, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency said Thursday in a frank assessment that is at odds with Obama administration policy.

“I’m having a tough time seeing it come back together,” Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart told an industry conference, speaking of Iraq and Syria, both of which have seen large chunks territory seized by the Islamic State. …

Iraqis and Syrians now more often identify themselves by tribe or religious sect, rather than by their nationality, he said.

“I think the Middle East is going to be seeing change over the coming decade or two that is going to make it look unlike it did,” [CIA’s] Brennan said.

Brennan and Stewart forgot to add Libya and Yemen to his list.  They have already disintegrated. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard needlessly observes that countries invented by European diplomats Sykes and Picot have largely ceased to exist. Now  Evans-Pritchard wonders whether that other boundary drawn up by European diplomatic treaties — the European Union — is now entering a similar period of revision.

It would be a dramatic reversal of fortune for a continent which only one and a half decades ago was celebrating its forthcoming triumph.  Not only is the EU beset with an unresolvable currency crisis but with a flood of refugees that threatens its political union.  It is facing territorial challenges from its south even while a new east-west division in Ukraine rises to its east.

There’s another European migration crisis out there, and it’s one you probably haven’t heard about in a while. More than 2 million people have fled their homes in eastern Ukraine since government troops and Russian-backed separatists went to war last year.

Hundreds of thousands of residents have sought refuge next-door in Russia. But most of those who’ve escaped their hometowns — more than 1.4 million — remain in Ukraine as internally displaced people, or IDPs, according to the United Nations. …

“In many senses, Ukraine’s emergency looks ‘invisible’ or ‘hidden’ for outsiders,” said Nina Sorokopud, regional information officer for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). That’s because the vast majority of displaced people from the war-torn Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been accepted into homes and other private communities across Ukraine, Sorokopud said in an email. Only 5 percent are housed in official IDP shelters, she added.

At this critical time the West has no face.  Merkel and Obama each seem eager to outdo each other in doing nothing decisive. By contrast, the single most prominent figure behind Europe’s woes is Vladimir Putin.  Putin has allegedly created a two corps force in-being on the Donbas while he switches to Syria.  “The Russians formed two army corps. They are led by Russian officers, with their staff HQ in Novocherkassk, Russia. Rank-and-file members of the corps are 40% local rebels and 60% Russian contract servicemen and mercenaries. ”

With the West fixed in place on Europe’s eastern marches, Putin is challenging allied air control over Syria dispatching advanced air defense weapons and personnel to bolster the Assad government.  This represents a potential threat to the “secret drone war” the administration announced in the Washington Post. Now president Obama must either enter into an arrangement with the Kremlin or run the risk of accidental conflict over the Friendly Skies of the Levant.

Moscow is sending an advanced anti-aircraft missile system to Syria, two Western officials and a Russian source said, as part of what the West believes is stepped-up military support for embattled President Bashar al-Assad. …

The United States has been leading a campaign of air strikes in Syrian air space for a year, joined by aircraft from European and regional allies including Britain, France, Jordan and Turkey. U.S. forces operating in the area are concerned about the potential introduction of the weapon, the diplomat said. …

Even if Russians operated the missiles and kept them out of the hands of the Syrian army, the arrival of such an advanced anti-aircraft system could also unsettle Israel, which in the past has bombed sophisticated arms it suspected were being handed to Assad’s Lebanese guerrilla allies, Hezbollah.

President Obama may be feeling double-crossed by his partners for peace. “Obama explained during a town hall event with members of the military that he warned Putin years ago not to support the tyrannical dictator.”

“I remember a conversation I had with Mr. Putin four or five years ago where I told him that was a mistake … he did not take my warnings and as a consequence things have gotten worse,” he said. …

“The strategy that they’re pursuing now by doubling down with Assad, I think is a big mistake,” he said. “You can’t continue to double down on a strategy that is doomed to failure.”

Obama said that the United States would continue talking with Russia to convince them that their actions were bad for Syria. He signaled that diplomacy was the primary vehicle for restoring order in Syria, encouraging the Russians to “get a little smarter.”

His disappointment may only grow if Putin is welshing deliberately. Fox News quotes Western intelligence sources who claim Moscow’s deployment was coordinated with Iran. “Fox News has learned Quds head Qassem Soleimani and Putin discussed such a joint military plan for Syria at that meeting, an encounter first reported by Fox News in early August.”

“The Russians are no longer advising, but co-leading the war in Syria,” one intelligence official said.

The Quds Force is the international arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, involved in exporting terrorism to Iran’s proxies throughout the Middle East including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. …

Officials who have monitored the build-up say they’ve seen more than 1,000 Russian combatants — some of them from the same plainclothes Special Forces units who were sent to Crimea and Ukraine. Some of these Russian troops are logistical specialists and needed for security at the expanding Russian bases.

Like the European Union, president Obama is finding his neatly choreographed scenarios upset by events. In a disturbing coincidence, Iran says it has found an unexpectedly high uranium reserve.  Reuters reports from Dubai that “Iran has discovered an unexpectedly high reserve of uranium and will soon begin extracting the radioactive element at a new mine, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation said.”

The comments cast doubt on previous assessments from some Western analysts who said the country had a low supply and would sooner or later would need to import uranium, the raw material needed for its nuclear programme.

Any indication Iran could become more self-sufficient will be closely watched by world powers, which reached a landmark deal with Tehran in July over its programme. They had feared the nuclear activities were aimed at acquiring the capability to produce atomic weapons – something denied by Tehran.

With Obama’s inability to lay suspicions to rest and the apparent failure of his campaign against ISIS. there may more walls in humanity’s future.  Israel, Haaretz reports is “fencing off its borders, but even that won’t be enough.”

Netanyahu’s response to new threats — a wave of refugees climbing north form Yemen, mass flight from Syria, Islamists running amok in Sinai — is lots more of the same. His vision, to surround the country with fences against refugees and terrorists, has come true on the Egyptian border and with the construction of a better fence on the Golan. Now comes the Jordanian border.

Israel is hardly alone in strengthening its frontiers. Germany, after tilting one more time at the windmill of “open borders” has announced the reimposition of “temporary” controls. “‘The focus will initially lie on the border with Austria,’ de Maiziere said. ‘The goal of this measure is to restrict the present inflow of migrants into Germany and return again to an orderly process upon entry.'”

It’s a trend everywhere. A 560 mile Saudi-Iraq barrier is going up to add to the 1,100 mile Saudi-Yemen fence already in existence.

Hungary is working overtime on fortifyng its Serbian border. “On a bright late-summer Saturday, a work crew was laboring overtime to complete one of the most closely watched construction projects in central Europe: an 11.5-foot high fence, topped with razor wire strands, spanning the 110 miles of Hungary’s border with Serbia.”

The fence—along with a law that will make illegal crossing a criminal offense—are centerpieces of a controversial plan by Hungary’s populist, conservative government to staunch the flow of thousands of migrants into Hungary.

Macedonia is deciding whether to follow Hungary’s lead and build a wall of its own along the Greek border. Nor are the barriers only of the physical kind. Alex Massie, writing in the Spectator, argues that the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the British Labour Party signals not only the breakup of political consensus but more significantly, heralds the potential disintegration of the United Kingdom.

The reason why British Labour is to be feared in its weakness rather than its strength is because the Left no longer able to win in general, may be forced to seek power in devolution. In an a extreme case of Gerrymanderying or Curleyism, this could manifest itself in a renewed push for Scottish independence.

Everything we know about Corbyn’s worldview leads one to suppose that, had he been in Scotland last year, he’d have voted in favour of independence. That, after all, is what many, perhaps even most, of his fellow-travellers on the far-left did. … devolution offered Scottish Labour a route to some kind of power at a time when it seemed as though Labour might never win again in England. It was a question of ‘protecting’ Scotland from Toryism, not a bulwark against nationalism.  …

That’s why, for this as well as many other reasons, Jeremy Corbyn is so dangerous.

Nigel Farage understood this immediately.  Corbyn’s win was a “huge boost” for UKIP because he would insist on suicide.  “Mr Corbyn wants to let everyone in … That might go down well in the north Islington dinner party set but I don’t think it’s what ordinary people think.   As far as UKIP’s concerned it’s a huge boost.”  In Farage’s estimation the walls would go up in preference to the Kool-Aid.

Corby may be dangerous but that is not the same as evitable. The Left, like radical Islam, must either rule or live apart. The failure of Islam to conquer and the abortive end of socialism’s  one world under political correctness policy means leaders like Corbyn and Sanders now represent the forces of fragmentation rather than unity. If they cannot rule in heaven they will rule where they can.

Europe was challenged by Islam and Russia with a problem it could not solve on its own terms. The world, after a long period of coming together under a single hegemon, the United States, is diverging again. The fences are going up all over Europe, we shall not see them torn down again in our life-time.


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