The decision making systems in Washington must be saturated with memos, position papers, backgrounders, by dove-nosed hawks and hawk-nosed doves, both in and outside the administration, on the atmospherics required for the initial moves with Iran after the recent signs of a thaw. President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, must also be casting a glance on the internal dynamics in Iran. That a casual meeting with President Obama on the margins of the UN General Assembly did “not” take place is, by the admission of Iranian diplomats, a “good outcome” because a “casual” meeting at such a delicate juncture would give out misleading signals.
If there is one group the Saudis fear and suspect more than Iran and Shiaism, it is the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran is an outside power. Brothers are available even within Saudi society and they despise monarchies just as the Prophet of Islam despised monarchies. So, the coffers of the House of Saud have been opened for Gen. Abdel Fattah el Sisi to break the back of the Brothers in Egypt. Al Jazeera, which became a mouthpiece for the Brothers during the year that Morsi was in power, is in the process of packing up its bags in Egypt.
Between American and Saudi diplomatic choreography the “hidden” is often more important than the “apparent”. American effigies being burnt in Cairo by anti-Morsi crowds shows the American hand is still in the hand of the Brothers. But Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel talking to coup leader Gen. Abdul Fatah al-Sissi on the phone, points to exactly the opposite. Heads I win, tails you lose. Don’t forget, Americans have lived with Egypt’s army for 50 years. That’s the important equation. So don’t worry, Americans and the Saudis are in bed under the same sheet.
To the various puzzles America pores over has been added one more: Iran’s President elect, Hassan Rouhani. As an opening gambit, he is being described as “moderate”. It is being speculated that he will be “moderate” on the nuclear issue even though he has deep roots in the country’s conservative establishment whose views on the issue are known and not liked. Years ago, “moderation” in all discourse concerning West Asia had a distinct meaning. It was an adjectival expression approving of states which were willing to tow the Western line on the Israeli-Palestinian question. The antonym for moderate those days was “rejectionist”.
For two and a half terms Erdogan and Abdullah Gul kept up a plausible manner: they were non ideological, moderate Muslims. Yes, there was an occasional skirmish on trifles like headscarves for women but no serious threat of a Shariah flag being hoisted on a nation restored by Ataturk. Why, then, did Erdogan manage to shuffle off the moderate image which had caused his reputation to rocket sky high? First, the constitution does not allow a Prime Minister more than three terms. Thus, Erdogan saw the end of the road for himself in internal politics. He will probably try swapping jobs with Abdullah Gul in 2014-15. But will people let him? After all, 70 percent are opposed to conflict with Syria.
After 70,000 Syrians have paid with their lives in the foreign induced conflict in Syria, why has the American perspective changed? Even so, it was nice to see Secretary of State, John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, embrace each other two weeks back in Moscow.
In the fictitious script Hillary Clinton says India has no clout in the region. Possibly true. But how did Nehru and Indira Gandhi have influence in the area.
Let me jump the gun on the global pundits. The great charge on Damascus is about to be called off, sorry toned down.
An infinitely more serious situation has arisen in a part of Homs where Foreign Mercenaries and special forces are surrounded by the Syrian Army.