The AfPak War and an Iran Alliance

I have an awful feeling that the crisis of will, capacity and strategy in what is clearly an Afghanistan and Pakistan war (and not just in a Waziristan sense) is going to lead to an alliance with Iran. I think that is the strategic logic of the situation, and it worries me.

The Afghan war is no longer containable. Fairly clearly, Taliban groups are now ensconced in Pakistan and are taking the war to Pakistani installations and facilities; the news today from Rawalpindi only confirms that. It is not possible to mount some elastic defence which would see western forces withdrawing from one country into another. I do not believe that the Pakistani military, intelligence, or people would allow it.

So Presdent Obama's ongoing review panel have their work cut out, as everyone acknowledges.

If Western forces did try and simply retreat to Pakistan, the enemy would become stronger, the battles worse, and the outcome would still be defeat. In addition, other states in the area would almost certainly see that the west had lost and re-orient themselves towards Russia and China, with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan top of any list. The west could kiss NATO bases and oil pipelines in those countries or protected by forces associated with them, good-bye.

There is no way China is going to strategically intervene to divert oil away from itself or to bind up the west's wounds. Russia is also going, as it has shown time and again in recent years, sometimes brilliantly, to look after its own interests. Europeans and Americans would become dependent on North African oil and gas supplies, at a time when Taliban victory would almost certainly translate into trouble both there and in East Africa.

There is one country, however, which is strong enough to have fought the equivalent of world war one on its own soil for ten years and to have survived; which is an enemy of the Taliban; which is touting its openness to western investment; and which has a regime so strong that the discontent of its urban groups and the best attempts of practised coup plotters have failed against it. It's regime has as high a degree of internal legitimacy as Stalin's USSR, Hitler's Germany, or Pinochet's Chile. It currently funds the sapping security problems in the straits of Hormuz, and it is becoming a settled question that it would be extraordinarily difficult to hit.

The objection to an alliance with it is moral.

How long do you think that is going to trouble our leaders?

Jussi Bjorling singing Faust seems appropriate to accompany a post about a bargain like that--more as a way of singing good-bye to any chaste and pure motive than of celebrating one. En ce réduit, que de félicité! Que de richesse, Que de richesse en cette pauvreté!...

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