Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday afternoon evocation of the tabs 

From my perch at the Great Lakes Brewing Company bar across from Gate C14 in Cleveland-Hopkins airport, a few quick hits for your reading pleasure. The short version: Beware the Ides of March.

While you were watching Japan, Iran has been making trouble in the Middle East.

Israeli naval commandos on Tuesday seized a cargo ship in the Mediterranean carrying what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said were Iranian-supplied weapons intended for Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip....

An Israeli military spokesman said an initial search turned up three containers loaded with arms and more cargo would be examined after the ship reached Israel.

The Iranians run extensive covert operations throughout the region, both directly and through proxies. Here is what Stratfor had to say about the Iranian agenda in Bahrain in the wake of the intervention of the Saudis yesterday:
Thus far, the Iranians have relied on their strengths in the covert arena to pursue their agenda in Bahrain and the wider Persian Gulf region. This is a space that Iran feels comfortable operating in, as it is a relatively low-risk and potentially high-reward method of realizing its strategic objectives. For Bahrain specifically, Iran has relied on its political, business and militant links to block negotiations between the Shiite opposition and the royal Sunni al-Khalifa family, escalate the protests, and instigate sectarian clashes to transform Bahraini political unrest to a charged sectarian affair that could potentially reshape the balance of power in eastern Arabia in favor of the Shia....

A number of operatives trained in Iran and Lebanon in urban warfare are believed to be mixed in with the various Shiite opposition groups, both in the moderate Al Wefaq and the hard-line Coalition for a Republic, composed of the Haq movement, the Wafa movement and the lesser-known, London-based Bahrain Islamic Freedom Movement. According to a STRATFOR source, Bahraini Hezbollah, established in 1985 with the help of Hadi al-Madrasi, has been the premier underground militant organization in Bahrain, operating in coordination with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force. Hadi al-Madrasi has allegedly spent the past several years arming and supplying Bahraini Hezbollah through weapons purchases from Iraq. A STRATFOR source claims several IRGC operatives have also deployed on the Arab side of the Persian Gulf under the guise of laborers.

The Iranians have experience in supporting proxies like Hezbollah at much greater distances than Bahrain and could increase supplies of arms, materiel, training and other means of support to the hard-line Shiite opposition in Bahrain concealed in the day-to-day flow of commerce and civilian travel. However, the GCC states are cracking down on Shiite movements in Bahrain and are trying to restrict Iran’s access to the country. This would be difficult to sustain indefinitely, but it could reduce Iran’s options and influence in the short term.

Now that the GCC states, led by Saudi Arabia, are making a direct military intervention on behalf of the Bahraini royal family, the Iranian covert action strategy for Bahrain is hitting a roadblock. Iran has a number of dedicated and trained operatives that might be willing to incur casualties in confrontations with Bahrain’s reinforced security presence, but the majority of the Shiite opposition in Bahrain is unlikely to undergo great risk unless it has the assurance of an outside backer. The Iranians are now confronted with a number of unattractive options in their efforts to both sustain the momentum of Shiite unrest in eastern Arabia while also avoiding becoming entangled in much riskier overt options. In the case of Bahrain, Iran does not appear to be limited in covert assets, but has a broader strategic dilemma to consider in determining its next moves.

In short, this moment's geopolitical risks are large. Here is to hoping that the Obama administration is not entirely engaged in filling out its brackets.

From the Motley Fool, three ways to profit from the current crisis. Hey, if Rahm Emanuel can say it, why can't I?

Japan's nuclear crisis: A timeline of key events.

In the category of genuine heroes, include these dudes.



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