Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Let's play "Stump the Analyst"

George Friedman, writing for STRATFOR, provides this week's puzzler: What the heck is going on in the Middle East? In a refreshing move for an Intel analyst, Friedman says.... he's not sure.

We would like to wrap this up with a crystal clear explanation and
forecast. But we can’t. The motives of the various actors are opaque; and taken
separately, the individual events all have quite innocent explanations....We are
not saying that the events are meaningless. We are saying that we do not know
their meaning. But we can’t help but regard them as ominous.

May I be the first to say, far out. Here are the basic elements, in case you'd like to take a whack at it yourself:

  • Feb. 2008: The US begins purchasing oil to top off the Strategic Oil Reserve, which is already at %96.2 capacity.
  • Feb. 2008: Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyah is assassinated in Syria. Who done it is unclear. It is assumed to be the Israelis, but Hezbollah doesn't attack Israel in retaliation. They go after Yeshiva kids in Jerusalem instead. Maybe the Syrians did it, but who knows why.
  • The U.S. sent a couple of ships over to the Lebanese coast to irk the Lebanese, Syria's neighbors. Israel is announcing the start of a round of military exercises, irking the Syrians. Thus irked, the Syrians have deployed troops to their border with Lebanon. Hezbollah has prepared for a fight in that region, and the Lebanese have evacuated civilians.
  • While all this irking has been going on the U.S., who would ordinarily tell everyone not to make us pull over and smack them, has said nothing.

To Friedman this all spells potential war in the Mideast. But that's like predicting a flood in Missouri this year; you don't need to be Karnak. Somehow I don't think the U.S. is going to do what I think ought to be done with the region: Give a 168-hour evacuation warning, arm whoever stays and wall them in. They'll sort it out and Israel might just learn to defend herself. So the floor's wide open. All you have to do is read up a little bit and your guess will be as good as anybody's. There's a link at the bottom of the STRATFOR article. You can even tell George your theory.