Iran, Pakistan, Strategy.

I hate to return to a topic that might well be losing me readers, but I would just like to point out that the west does not have to play 'rope a dope' with the Taleban whilst India, Russia and China look on. If policy makers lifted strategic blinkers, as I am sure that a few do in private, they could see a fascinating series of events unfolding in the gateway to central Asia.

I write, of course, from a position of ignorance. As time goes on, things are being revealed about those facts we thought we knew. So, for instance, it now seems likely that the United States, in 2003, did offer to send Liddy Dole and George Bush Sr to Iran to emphasise that US attacks on Iraq would not isolate Shia. George Friedman, the chairman of Stratfor, an intelligence company, made such a claim in his book, but noted that they Iranians rebuffed the effort because they were concentrating on the aftermath of the Bam earthquake.

The US then switched to neutralise the Shia instead, eventually forcing them into government with Sunnis by the expedient of Condoleeza Rice suggesting to leaders from both sides that the US would leave them 'swinging from lamp posts' if they didn't come to agree.

It seems that the US action in Iraq also had a great deal to do with putting military pressure on the Saudis (who provided many of the men and most of the money for 9/11); and it seems that US military and intelligence groups, after 2003, were determined not to launch any sort of a war on Persia.

It is also more than possible that the real worry after 9/11 was a combination of rogue American and Pakistani biological and nuclear scientists, and the possibility of attacks on the Houston or Panama channels, the Mississippi bridges, or Manhattan. At the time, few could have or would have pointed those things out. As I write, it is not altogether clear what is going on behind the scenes. It is all to easy to shout 'war' or 'appeasement' at a moment of real weakness but also real opportunity in the west, before the depression plunge gets deeper.

I also proceed on the basis that the west will not just run away from Afghanistan, let Pakistan fall, and leave central Asia, north-western India, and the western Indian Ocean in chaos, though I suppose that there is a possibility of that.

Yesterday, reports emerged of the Pakistani army and, presumably, the ISI, escalating their war against insurgents and sunni militants whom they had previously funded and encouraged. Today, more reports roll in--not just of the intensity of the Waziristan actions in which Pakistan is engaged, but of more suicide bombings in Iran.

Suicide bombings in Iran.

Just consider that. The Iranians have their own longstanding problems. An obvious commonalty of interest now exists between those in Pakistan who sponsored various terror groups, and those in Iran whose empire is now threatened by them. In the long run, they remain irreconcilable, but they may be forced into intelligence sharing, and common cause.

What is the west's interest? Surely, it is to stop Iranian revolutionary guards from arming or encouraging east African groups in Sudan and in North Africa, who would function as a seed bed for attempts to buy serious missiles for use against Israel, and who also threaten vital oil and gas supplies from North Africa and the Straits of Hormuz.

Israel has already struck at such groups, and, it seems, there has been little comeback. In fact its attacks seem to have been very successful. What if that embarrassment for the guards was turned into a policy of non-committal, whilst they turned east, through contacts with others in Teheran? The west can then sign Egypt and Libya up to agreements, and link the Chinese and Indian navies in anti-pirate campaigns that could spill over into functional respect and multiply declining western power in the Indian Ocean. Those in Iran who wish to be free of the Guards' particular brand of fanaticism might even commit them to a bloody war in great numbers.

Secondly, the west has an obvious interest in the oil pipelines from central Asia, which some have dubbed 'pipelineistan'. Russia and China have an equally obvious interest in keeping us out. This expressed itself practically in bases in the central Asian republics, which are also staging-grounds for an Afghan war without which the war could not be resupplied.

It also expressed itself in Russia's Georgia war. In that context, Europe's delay over the Nabucco pipeline has been an act of civilisational folly. In the mid-term, we need that oil. In the long-run, green stupidity over non-existent climate change, underfunding of nuclear power, and fears about reviving coal technology should be simply hollowed out, broken up, and cast to the wind.

When the west was engaged in the folly of planning or appearing to plan an attack on Iran, these bases were seen as the beginnings of an offensive arc, of which Georgia was the keystone, by those in the Kremlin who thought the whole scheme one of Russian encirclement.

If the Iranians and the Pakistanis moved against Taleban and other groups, the west could concentrate on holding areas, and its presence would concentrate the minds of those involved in the Shanghai Cooperation organisation--principally Russia and China. The reality of western indebtedness to the east would also be the reality of western presence there, and western markets for commodities accompanied by real means of existing distribution.

We could build a new world monetary order that would be good for the United States and Europe by creating practical limits that we wrote for ourselves, rather than a roller-coaster of market folly followed by the Chinese and East Asian imposition of terms. That latter threat is drawing closer, incidentally, with every new piece of news.

The only source of value in economics is the control of fixed resources; we could have those resources whilst others took up the slack of bombing madmen in the mountains and the business of attacking them.

The problem is that the west is stuck in a sort of populist madness in which Iran is Germany is 1938, staving off economic disaster is all of policy, and 'diplomacy' is about vaudeville thuggery or third-rate political science initiatives. I wish that we had a political class, and a media, and a population, which could actually at least argue with the things that I have laid out. I think that, if they did, they would come to the conclusion that I am coming to;

(i) Iran and Pakistan, and Iran and the west, share a common foe in states that sponsor sunni terrorism

(ii) Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries want stability

(iii) The west needs a stable North Africa to provide it with energy and to keep out immigrants with methods the west would not countenance

(iv) Hatred of Israel motivates and energises the mad men, so a stable relationship with a strong and restrained Israel, the elimination of Hamas, and progress toward a two state solution helps everyone

(v) Russia and China have an interest in making things difficult for the west but will not encourage terrorism, and will not be seen to do so, since they are threatened by it.

If these are the conclusions to which the Obama administration has come, then several things become clear. Their withdrawal of missiles from Eastern Europe, for instance, could be seen as an attempt to buy off Russians. Their cooling on an Iran attack, their willingness to stretch out talks about a multipolar currency system, their cooling on global warming, and their pressuring of Israel. They've also been relatively quiet on the British and Italian alliance with Gaddafi's Libya, which is now fairly clear.

I just wonder, though, if we have time. The usual idiots are proclaiming the end of recession, but I think, for other reasons, that we may be, if not on the edge of depression then into a new, weird sort of stagflation that will expose itself further soon. Have we time to save ourselves? Have we anyone with the spine and sense to do it?

Here's Bismarck, waving not drowning.