The Middle East becomes curiouser

Events and players in the region are refusing to conform to any rational pattern.

It is well-known that Alice found things in Wonderland becoming "curiouser and curiouser". The Middle East is the new Wonderland and things are indeed becoming "curiouser".

There either was or was not an explosion at the Iranian nuclear facility Fordo. Iranian defectors insist that there was. The Iranian government says there wasn't. Nothing apparently can be seen from space to indicate any such event.

The Syrian Minister of Defense declares that the Israeli attack, which may or may not have destroyed a Syrian army research and development center and apparently did destroy a convoy which was either on its way to the Lebanese border, or hadn't left yet, presumably carrying chemical and/or biological weapons or maybe missiles, will not result in Syrian retaliation. The minister says the opposition is controlled by the Israelis and is providing them with intelligence. The opposition says that the Israelis are supportive of the Assad government and the attack was made with the knowledge and support of the government, pointing to the lack of response to the attack.

At any rate the minister says that Syria will not retaliate for the attack. That may be so, and so far there has been no retaliation, but why announce it? Would it not make more sense to keep the Israelis guessing and on the alert--in fact to claim precisely that there WILL be military retaliation for the attack? This conundrum brings to mind another mystery: when the Israeli Air Force destroyed the incipient nuclear weapons plant in Syria in 2010, the Syrians did not protest even verbally; in fact, the only country that did was North Korea, presumably because it was worried that the Syrians wouldn't pay for the equipment that had been supplied to them.

Now a report emerges that the US government has been in "secret" talks with the Iranian regime for some time. Aside from the fact that it is almost impossible for the US government to keep anything secret, why in any case, would they do so since it is the policy of the current Administration in Washington to encourage such talks? Now Ahmadinejad says yes, they'll talk. The Supreme Leader says no they won't. More curiousness. This whole shadow play has been performed several times before with the same result -none.

There is no obvious resolution to the Egyptian meltdown. Whether the Muslim Brotherhood government remains in power or is overthrown by the opposition or the army, Egypt still faces imminent bankruptcy with attendant shortages and social disintegration.. With this in mind the United States sends F-16 fighter planes to Egypt and the American ambassador in the ceremony of donation, praises Egypt as a firm and reliable ally. Is no one in Washington paying any attention at all to what is going on? Couldn't the delivery of the planes have been delayed on any pretext whatsoever? Presumably none of the terrorist groups operating in their playground in the Sinai has anyone who can fly the planes, otherwise they would very likely soon have an air force as the security situation in Egypt crumbles.

In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. Luckily at least until now, Israel has both of its eyes wide open and seeing clearly--the intelligence eye and the security eye. But even so, can the clearest vision make sense of a situation that is getting curiouser and curiouser?

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on February 12, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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