Search This Blog

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The View of the Middle East From Germany

Joschka Fischer was the foreign minister of Germany for six years until 2012.  This weekend he wrote an article discussing the "next" war in the Middle East.  Fischer provides a rather surface analysis and then announces that the war coming after the defeat of ISIS is the confrontation between the Shiite Muslims led by Iran and the Sunni Muslims led by Saudi Arabia.  Fischer says that the Russians have lined up with Iran and the USA has moved to support the Saudis.  That's basically Fischer's entire prediction except to say that any war that confronts Iran will be much worse than any of the prior fighting in the Middle East.

To say that the former German foreign minister is simplistic is not enough.  There are just too many points he glosses over or omits entirely.  Think of just a few:

1.  There has already been a recent war confronting Iran.  From 1980 to 1988, Iran and Iraq were at war.  The fighting was mostly directed at soldiers on the front rather than through attacks on civilians.  The death toll was lower than that in the current Syrian civil war. 

2.  There are many countries in the region which are neither clearly Sunni or Shiite.  For example, Syria is about 75% Sunni, but it has been ruled by the Assad family and its supporters (who are Shiites) for nearly 50 years.  Lebanon has sizeable Sunni and Shiite communities as well as a large Christian component.  Iraq has a Shiite majority which is now in control.  Under Saddam Hussein, however, the Sunnis ruled the country.  Where do these countries line up in this coming Sunni/Shiite war?  Fischer doesn't even mention this.

3.  There are Sunni groups that align with Iran and Shiites who align with the Saudis or other Sunnis.  A good example is the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.  These are Sunni Arabs, but they often coordinate with the Iranians.  Right now, they appear to be starting a terror uprising in Israel in order to drive a wedge between the Israelis and their new Sunni "allies" of the Saudis, Jordanians and Egyptians.  This will get attention for the Palestinians but it will serve the strategic purposes of Iran rather than the PA.

4.  Fischer favorably mentions the US withdrawal from the region under Obama.  Somehow, he misses the resulting rise of ISIS that flowed into the vacuum which was left.  Fischer clearly seems to support another American disengagement once the ISIS threat is over.  Of course, Fischer give no reason why such a disengagement would be a good policy.

I do wonder how a person with such a surface view of this region could have led German foreign policy for six years.  He's so bad that he makes John Kerry look like a deep thinker.

No comments: