Luongo: The Evolving Battle Lines In The Middle East

Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, ‘n Guns blog,

The biggest stumbling block to analyzing what’s happening between Israel and the rest of the Middle East is dispensing with our biases and ignorance about pretty much the entire affair. I will be the first to admit to having profound ignorance about so much of the history between Israel and the Palestinians.

I really wish everyone else having opinions right now would at least admit that up front versus trying to sound like another incarnation of the Newly-Minted Subject Matter Expert of the Week thanks to having read a couple of articles in the New York Times.

And that’s the thing I believe we are fighting more than anything else at this point: the profound amount of propaganda and outright bullshit being slung around about every event of any significance.

All it does is create confusion and cognitive dissonance. That confusion is, by the way, the goal of the propaganda, from all sides.

That said, what’s abundantly clear is that this conflict has unleashed pent-up frustrations and simmering anger from all of the major players, not just the obvious ones like Hamas, the Israeli hardliners led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his echo chamber on K-Street, Capitol Hill and GCHQ.

The latter have clearly dusted off “Plan R” and pulled it from the shelf and are now executing it. This Plan R looks like the one that Dick Cheney and company ran after 9/11; shift the focus away from the ones who did the deed onto the ones you need an excuse to go to war with.

So, 19 Saudis flew planes into the World Trade Center but we went to war with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today “Hamas” slaughters a lot of jews and the first people threatened is Iran.

Even though there is good evidence that “Hamas” wasn’t the only one involved in this attack, have closer ties to Sunni organizations than Shia, and are financed out of Qatar and the UK.

I’m not saying Iran has no role to play here. It did, according to Theirry Meyssan at Voltairenet (linked above), it was Iran, earlier this year, that brought all of the Palestinian factions together to reconcile their differences.

In 2023, Iran hosted talks between the region’s various pro-independence forces, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas. They were held in Beirut (Lebanon) under the presidency of General Ismaïl Qaani, commander of the al-Quds brigades of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Their aim was to reconcile these actors who had fought a ferocious war in Gaza, then in Syria. These meetings were made public in May 2023. On this occasion the Lebanese press discussed the preparation of the unitary operation which was carried out on October 7. Iran is therefore responsible for reconciling the Palestinian factions.

So, let’s dispense with the fiction that Bibi and company in Tel Aviv didn’t know about this operation beforehand. It’s preparation was made public knowledge in May.

But, in Neocon-speak this meeting was the equivalent of having masterminded the entire attack. Again, I’m not naïve here. Of course the simple narrative of “whatever is bad for Israel is good for Iran” holds water, but that doesn’t immediately elevate to “Iran did it!” as the South Carolinian hyenas Lindsay Graham and Nimrata Haley want you to believe.

Benefitting from something is not masterminding it or funding it.

Meyssan also explains that the operational goal of the operation was the taking of hostages to effect a prisoner swap with Israel. Is he whitewashing some of this? Probably. But no more than anyone else is whitewashing what Israel and the US are doing in response, using what happened as a casus belli to go on an extermination campaign while demanding everyone around the world to pick the right side of this conflict and for everyone else to shut the fuck up.

I have vivid memories of how I was treated being anti-war post-9/11. The same post-event propaganda operation has been in full swing for a month. Thankfully, this time this issue is more of a wedge between Western powers than the GWOT that ensued twenty years ago.

Even I, early on, fell for this simplification of reducing this to Israel v. Iran trying to tease out the broader geopolitical moves on the chessboard.

I’m not here to discuss how this situation can go sideways. It already has. My goal today is to look at some of the supposedly secondary actors in this conflict to try to get a sense of what their moves may be now that the usual suspects in D.C., Tel Aviv and London have decided to up the stakes.

For the record, none of the potential outcomes here are good for the US, save everyone walking back from the brink of all-out war. I know there are a lot of anti-US empire folks hoping for a bad end to the US, but as I’ve tried to lay out for a few years now, the winners from that scenario are the very colonialists that fomented this crisis in the first place.

Mark Wauck over at Meaning in History had a great post from last week that went into one of the angles I’m going to discuss later, the British role in toppling the Ottoman Empire after World War I and setting up Israel to secure the Suez Canal.

Because, today, Turkey re-emerges as one of the pivotal players that will determine the outcome of this conflict.

But, that said I want to start in Egypt because what I can add to the story behind the violence is, as always, about money, debt and the collateral (or lack thereof) backing it.

Egypt’s Play

I want to stress that I’m not shocked one whit that war breaks out in Israel after the confluence of events from this past summer — the failed offensive in Ukraine and the BRICS gobbling up the trade routes of the Arabian Peninsula.

Earlier this year I wrote a piece for my patrons (now public) about Egypt’s debt situation and the pressure that China and Russia were placing on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to negotiate some sort of write-down.

The fundamental problem is that the IMF lending model is one of the major pillars of the Empire, no matter how you define it. As such, the US military exists as the leg-breaker of the loan shark cartel of Western banking interests.

In normal lending when the debt goes bad, when the debtor can’t pay, they can go into bankruptcy protection and work out a deal for the lender to get something back. But everyone on both sides of the table knows that some portion of the principle will vanish into the ether.

Both sides will lean in and take a hit. The lender can get nothing if they insist on their original terms or they can get something if they restructure.

In international finance through the IMF/World Bank that is NEVER the model. Only one side has to face this while the other just stands there, arms crossed and says, you can have better terms but the principle will not be written down $1.

This is what China is standing up to and this is ultimately why there will be no backing down on the war front over this. In effect, this is where the real division between the Neocons and Davos resides.

So, with that in hand, and the open knowledge of the planned attack by “Hamas” for later this year, think about the accession of Egypt and five others into the BRICS Alliance this past August, where I posited was all about controlling the flow of global trade, not the declaration of monetary independence with some gold-backed BRICS coin.

That was always another bullshit narrative.

In fact, it is hard to argue that the decision-makers in London, Brussels and D.C. didn’t know what was really going to happen at the BRICS Summit and made flowcharts of potential responses for later in the year.

That flowchart had to include a response to an attack by “Hamas” they knew was in the works.

This is why it is difficult for me to shake the feeling that the attack by Hamas was intentionally allowed to bring us to this moment. I have tried my very best not to fall into the potentially false ‘false flag’ narrative.

This thing could have been a Stand Alone Complex; a thing that burbled up out of the collective unconscious of the ‘oppressed factions’ in the Middle East.  It’s a rational way of looking at it.  But there is no denying the potential ‘hand of fate’ pushing things to their crisis point, especially knowing that aspects of this were known to be in preparation months previously.

And that ‘hand of fate’ reveals itself by degrees with every move made. The pressure on the IMF was a sign of support for Egypt who was just about to join the BRICS alliance in August.

The IMF, of course, said no.  Restructuring only.  Not one dollar of write-downs.  As I said earlier, this is IMF S.O.P.  Moreover, agreeing to any write down of any debt, is the proverbial camel’s nose under the loan shark’s tent. So, the message stays, “We own you and you owe us.”  

It’s not about the money it’s about the leverage.  The money flows from the leverage.

But, Egypt is a real fork for the BRICS vs. Davos.  And that fork made itself plain this week when Israel offered to forgive Egypt’s IMF debt if it took every Palestinian in as a refugee.  Now, I’m not sure how Israel can make that offer on behalf of the IMF in the first place.  And I’m further unsure why they thought offering to Egypt the very thing they are going to do anyway (default with Russia and China’s support) would work.

I guess they had to try.

That offer was simply the standard tactic of creating a crisis, taking something from someone else and then offering it back in exchange for what you really want.  Davos and the Neocons do this all the time.

It’s pathetic.

Egypt, of course, told them to pound sand.  So, they are now committed to the fight, if only metaphorically. It means that any plans to relocate all 3 million Palestinians in Gaza will not go through Egypt. It also means the probability of them defaulting on the IMF rises with civilian killed in Gaza.

Turkey’s Big Move

The bigger issue is what’s happening with Erdogan in Turkey.  Erdogan is trying to rebuild the Ottoman Empire. We’ve already established one way to view World War I was as an operation to destroy the Ottoman Empire.

I’m not arguing for its return, mind you, just laying out the perspectives.

So, Erdogan’s reactions to Netanyahu’s campaign in Gaza needs to be looked at from this frame. Moreover, he sees himself as the new Sultan, the leader of the Sunni world.  

Turkey, however, is in a very difficult position being a member of NATO, which puts Erdogan in a difficult position if he wants to maintain his carefully-crafted leverage over both NATO and the BRICS thanks to Turkey’s geographic, economic, cultural, and military influence in the region.

A point made by col. Doug MacGregor is that Turkey is just one part of the Turkic world and the Turkish-speaking world.  At the recent 10th Summit of Organization of Turkic States (OTS) in Astana, Kazakhstan, Erdogan’s influence was felt in their collective statement:

A joint declaration, adopted at the summit, called on all parties to the Israeli -Palestinian conflict to declare an “immediate cease-fire to protect civilians and to provide immediate and unhindered humanitarian aid throughout the Gaza Strip.” “The conflict can only be resolved through peaceful means based on relevant UN resolutions and the two-state solution”.

Erdogan’s influence is massive in this respect.  And if he makes the decision to finally and definitively break with the West, which circumstances alone would force on him if he were reluctant, then he leads the entire region with him.  

If Erdogan wants to lead the Sunni world then he has to take a maximalist hardline against Israel’s bombing of Gaza.

But, Turkey as a member of NATO is a signal to the OTS that Russia is still weak, because Turkey doesn’t dare really anger the US.

However, if Turkey leaves NATO because of Israel’s behavior that signal reverses.  Turkey then stands with Russia in their minds and, in effect, declares Sunni Independence from the old European Colonial remnant.

So, Erdogan has a very unique and powerful opportunity ahead of him.  He gets to define the Sunni world’s legacy as either butchers of Jews or arbiters of the peace.  This is why he’s been trying to broker peace deals while at the same time making very aggressive territorial moves in the Eastern Mediterranean, Syria, and in the Caucuses.

Because of this, he has a delicate balancing act here.  He has to commit the Sunni world to a fight against Israel and the US, the way Hassan Nasrallah did in his speech for Hezbollah representing the Shia. But, at the same time his economic position is very weak after years of attacks not only on him personally as Turkey’s president but the country’s economy as multiple attacks against the country’s financial imbalances have seen the lira hyperinflate against the US dollar from just under 1.8 ten years ago to 28 recently.

As I’ve covered before, Turkey’s Achilles’ heel has been its net foreign-currency debt position, which has been, at times, more than 34% of the country’s GDP. With the dollar in a new bull market the value of that debt keeps rising.

So, for Erdogan, the goal is to get Israel to come to the negotiating table offering Ankara as the site for which a grand peace can be brokered that puts a start date on a new Ottoman Empire. 

How does he do that given that Netanyahu is unmoved by any offers from to back down on his plans to wipe out the Palestinians as he assumes full support is always coming from the US.

The way I think Erdogan can achieve this is not with tanks and infantry, frankly.  He blows open the wound which lays at the heart of Turkey’s economy and is the backbone of the empire, the debt. So, similar to what I expect from Egypt, Erdogan will unilaterally cancel all Turkish US dollar- and euro-denominated debt, swapping it out for Turkish lira debt.  

In essence, defaulting on the debt and paying back bondholders at pennies on the dollar.  

He’ll do this by first declaring a USD/TRY exchange rate far below the current market price of ~28 to 1, say 12:1 or even 6:1, then declare force majeure and revalue the debt at that rate in lira. 

This would be the nice way of doing this.  He could just cancel the debt at current exchange rates and declare the debts paid because of the massive attack on Turkey’s forex reserves which drove the lira into the ground anyway.  

In effect, debt jubilee for domestic Turkish corporates.

His speeches this week tell us that he’s preparing for something big.  He’s done taking body blows from the US now that he’s past re-election.   

If he does this, which would be his strongest move across all of the big vectors, and leaves NATO at the same time, he would force the US out of his country.  The protests we saw at Incirlik last week would intensify, if not become a real threat.  

I suspect/hope the US nukes stationed there previously are long gone.

The Turkish military could then become the physical guarantors of any peace process with Israel.  Erdogan and Putin hold those cards.  The US doesn’t because we have lost all credibility in the region with everyone, even Israel with “Biden” at the helm.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s tour of the region is proof of that. The confused foreign policy of the “Biden” administration lies at the heart of the conflict between Davos and the Neoconservatives that pushed us into not only this war but the one in Ukraine.

The World’s Choice

I don’t present these scenarios as prediction rather as discussion points. What’s obvious is that the world is reaching a critical moment where we have a stark choice in front of us: Global war stemming from uncorking the old wounds in the Middle East or accepting the limitations of the policies which led us to this moment.

What I do not want to see is a kind of Thucydides’ Trap that the US is led into blindly by a mixture of maneuvering by colonial forces in Europe, old ethnic grudges held by people placed in powerful positions (the Nuland/Kristol Axis in the US and the Shia Clerics in Iran), and good ol’ fashioned greed by those who would profit from the chaos.

But, one thing is certain in these uncertain times, every angle has to be explored when discussing these issues, not just our preferred outcome based on our own limited knowledge of both recent and older history.

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