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September 18, 2006

U.S.-Israel-Iran Alliance: The Great Game Updated

By Barton Kunstler

The real driving force behind Middle East events may well be a U.S.-Israel-Iranian Alliance. Whether or not this contrarian hypothesis proves out, it offers an alternative logic that explains events more clearly than the muddled views currenlty circulating in the media.

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A Contrarian Scenario
Sometimes, when trying to make sense of complex events, it pays to look at alternative scenarios that fly in the face of the common wisdom. This holds especially for events that by their very nature are governed by deception, betrayal, and the robust dispensing of disinformation. The alternative – one might call it, in our case, the contrarian – version, can often reveal possibilities that the habits of thought had led us to discount or never consider even when it is for the most part wrong. In some instances, though, when the common wisdom is the product of a deliberate campaign to mislead, the contrarian version might well be closer to the truth than the commonly accepted one.

So let us consider that the real axis of power in the Middle East is the alliance between the United States, Israel, and Iran. Iran's recent offer to suspend its program of uranium enrichment fits in well with this scenario, which has the strength of making perfect strategic sense. Nonetheless, the idea confounds common wisdom both of the right, which assigns Iran a prominent place in the world's "axis of evil", and the left, which believes that the U.S. and Israel are already planning to attack, if not actually invade, Iran.
If this alliance does exist – and if so, it has for a number of years – the complex web of conflict in the Middle East suddenly becomes a lot clearer. Let's follow the logic.

First, we have to acknowledge that Iran is a far more serious power than Iraq ever was. Given the exhaustion of U.S. forces, the American people's growing revulsion towards the war and the Bush administration, Blair's position as a lame duck P.M., and Hezbollah's stinging rebuff of Israel's invasion, the notion that any of these nations is ready to take on Iran militarily is ludicrous. An air attack on nuclear plants will cause limited damage and only further undermine the attacking nation's position in the world community. We might expect a "pretend" bombing in which some empty concrete shell in the middle of the desert is leveled by Israeli jets for publicity purposes that advance an ultimate public rapprochement among the three main player (more on this later). The Iranians would react with bluster that eventually subsides into begrudging diplomacy.

We might immediately object on the basis that the amount of rhetoric seems excessive: "rogue state", "axis of evil", reports from British insiders that the U.S., Britain, and Israel will attack Iran by the end of the year as reported by Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed in www.opednews.com on 7/23/06 or that it is planning war with Syria and Iran (Sarah Baxter and Uzi Mahnaimi, truthout from The Times UK, 9/3/06). However, the rhetoric is necessary to enable the three main parties to appear strong to their respective stakeholders. "The cheaper the crook the gaudier the patter," as Sam Spade says in The Maltese Falcon, and "gaudy patter" and rhetorical denunciations are often used to obscure the direction of behind-the-scenes negotiations. There is no easy way for Israel, Iran, and the U.S. to engage in public embrace; it must be done in a way that appears to imply that all are operating from positions of strength, that all are willing to compromise, and that all receive clear "deliverables" upon resolving their differences.

Still, such an alliance might seem inexplicable. Of course, one can reference the historically warm ties between Israel and Persia dating all the way back to Cyrus the Great, who after conquering Babylon allowed the exiled Jews to return to Israel. Cyrus doesn't provide us with many clues to the present, but in a more modern moment, Israel did provide significant military support to Iran during Iran's 1980s war with Iraq. The U.S., of course, supported Iraq, even down to Donald Rumsfeld personally delivering to Saddam Hussein a starter kit for his own bioterrorist arsenal. But Cyrus aside, what would be the motivation for an Israeli-Iranian partnership? And why would Israel apparently cross the U.S. in the Iran-Iraq War by supporting the nation we had designated as our enemy? It did serve both allies to have Iran and Iraq bleed themselves dry with our help, especially considering the profits dealt to the arms dealers, but at the same time, future links could be established behind the scenes.

Geography
Geography provides a solid clue to Israeli-Iranian relations. Iran and Israel are separated by Syria and Iraq. Iran's geographical situation is one of the most highly charged in the world. As Pepe Escobar wrote in The Asia Times, 9/30/05, "as a nation-state at the intersection of the Arab, Turk, Russian and Indian worlds, as the key transit point of the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Indian sub-continent, between three seas (the Caspian, the Persian Gulf and the sea of Oman), not far from Europe and at the gates of Asia, Tehran on a more pragmatic level has to conduct an extremely complex foreign policy." In Iran's calculations, the state of Israel, small and remote however fierce militarily, is barely on the radar, except for propaganda purposes. Conversely, from the Israeli perspective, Iran is hardly a primary threat. The myth that Iranian funding is sustaining Hezbollah may be convenient as a feed to the media, but the reality is that financial support for terrorist operations comes from many sources, through a tangled web of financing, while Hezbollah itself is in a largely self-sustaining position within Lebanon. Israel is concerned, first and foremost, for its borders, and Iran is far removed from the circle of familiars that Israeli policy is really aimed at neutralizing, whether justly or not.

Similar geographic considerations influence Iranian-U.S. relations. Americans are still overly-influenced by the 1980 images of Iranians taking the U.S. embassy in Tehran and of crowds chanting "Death to the Great Satan!" As Karl Meyer points out in The Dust of Empire, Iranian frustration was aimed at the U.S. in its role as the latest of the western powers, primarily Britain and Russia, that had aggressively interfered in Iranian politics and self-determination for well over a century. But look at a map and weigh the evidence against the mindless media-rhetoric that holds Iran up as a major threat to dominate the Middle East. Hello-o-o!!! Iran is hemmed in by four of the world's major first and second tier super-powers: China, Russia, India, and Pakistan, all of whom have nuclear weapons, and Turkey, the U.S.'s loyal and powerful ally, to boot. Even Kazakhstan, across the Caspian Sea, retained significant Soviet armaments after the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. Isn't it reasonable to consider that in very real, immediate terms that every Iranian probably understands, that the United States, while a good propaganda target, just doesn't measure up as a threat to Iran's long-term security when compared to the very crowded pool full of giant sharks that history has compelled it to swim in? Any regional partnerships or alliances that Iran forges can only be strengthened by a friendly alliance with the U.S., as we will see further on.

Iran also keeps the Arab nations honest and Israel knows it. It strikes fear into the various monarchies and sheikdoms that dominate the region. War with Israel is a costly, risky business carrying the strong likelihood of a defeat that would leave the losing Arab nation at the complete mercy of Iranian interference. And if the United States reinforces the partnership between Israel and Iran, the three nations could stabilize – or destabilize – the Near and Middle East according to whatever strategic need seems pre-eminent at the time.

The Nuclear Problem
But, it is argued, Israel has a great deal to fear from Iran if the latter builds a nuclear bomb. Hence the heated rhetoric of the past months around Iran's nuclear power program and its alleged plans to produce enriched uranium, from which "nukular" weapons are but a toad's hop away. It's not only Israel that would be the loser if Iran achieves nuclear capabilities. Religious fanaticism is more likely to prompt release of the nuclear trigger than political pragmatism. Fortunately, Iran's leaders can taste a level of power and prestige on the global stage that even the deposed Shah could not envision. Pragmatism may well win out.

One reason is that nuclear weapons are over-rated. They work better as a strategic deterrent than an actual tactical instrument. Pakistan and India both have the bomb and neither has used it because once you've dropped it on an enemy, your enemy will send a special delivery package unto you. The country that becomes the first in over 6 decades to use a nuke will become an instant pariah on the world stage, even inviting all-out war. Israel, which has built up its own nifty nuclear arsenal, has undoubtedly warned its potential antagonists in the region that any nuclear or overwhelming military assault on Israel will be met by Israel's own nuclear response. What good does the bomb do Iran? If they use it, someone else will see to it that Iran winds up on the receiving end of same and in worse shape than it was when Cyrus the Great was but a twinkle in his parents' eyes.

Deliverables
So a nuclear bomb does Iran little good except as a dubious deterrent and is just a good bargaining chip to help it get what it really wants. What is that? Nuclear power, for starters. American policy makers are well aware of Iran's energy plans. How could they not be? As reported by NBC's Lisa Meyers and one of the network's investigative units, Halliburton, GE, and various oil service companies have been doing a booming business with Iran as recently as last year, in violation of American sanctions against such activity (although Halliburton claimed it was within the law because it was using a Cayman Island based foreign subsidiary!). Iran wants nuclear power. And guess what? The United States wants Iran to have it. And the U.S. and Iran will devise a scenario in which both seem to be compromising in order to allow Iran to build nuclear power plants while renouncing plans to build a nuclear bomb. Cui bono? The U.S. and Iran – and let us count the ways.

Therefore, on the Iranian side of this new equation, Iran achieves the very enviable position of owning and managing two major energy sources, oil and nukes. It thus can become an energy exporter without even depleting its oil. As global oil supplies peak and prices rise (despite the recent drop-off in oil prices), Iran will rely on nuclear power while selling oil to those nations wealthy enough to meet its price. The resulting profits then enable the government to offer a restive population the social freedoms it craves. Iran has changed in 25 years and while the ayatollahs still rule, the younger generations are, like their counterparts in the West, children of the Internet with cell phones attached to their hands like Spiderman's web-shooters. The austerity of the post-revolutionary war-time 80s will no longer fly and Iran's leaders are sufficiently pragmatic to realize their economy has to be able to support a middle class or they'll be faced with street riots and instability.

Where does the energy go? The oil to China and the nuclear-generated electricity to Central Asia. For the latter region, it is much cheaper and less risky to buy electricity directly off the line rather than building their own plants and finding their own fuel sources. Iran has ready-made customers in the region raring to plunk down World Bank cash for straight-up supplies of electricity. But China, ah, there's the beauty of it all. China has become the world's great oil drunkard. Where other countries down oil by the barrel, China drinks it by the tank. China is like Godzilla with a craving for Red Bull and Iran would be the ideal supplier. The close ties between China and Iran not only lift Iran economically, but provide it with leverage in Asia's shifting power relations. In this, however, Iran runs up against the interests of Russia, which also is feeding China's growing habit.

But not to worry. Iran has the backing of a very rich Uncle, Sam by name, who will guarantee Iran's financial interests against the jealousy of the Russian bear. Uncle Sam is also happy to keep Godzilla (who recently moved from Japan's financial district to China's industrial zone) tethered to an unending fix from the U.S.'s good partner, Iran. If Russia and China draw closer together, the U.S. can assert itself in its respective roles as Russia's partner in economic development and China's best customer. If all goes according to plan, that is.

There's an added bonus for the United States, or at least for the same gang of amoral industrial pirates who get their kicks from manipulating national governments and undermining the stability of entire regions for the sake of extraordinary returns on their balance sheets. (Does the term "Halliburton" come to mind?). It would be similar to how it works in Saudi Arabia and now Iraq. In Arabia, a good portion of oil profits go towards building American military bases and other white elephant construction projects. Much of that money, of course, goes to the construction empire of the bin Laden family, but a huge amount finds its way back to U.S. defense contractors. In Iraq, it's U.S. taxpayer money as well as oil profits that are recycled back to the energy, security, and construction contractors. As for Iran, just think Halliburton or General Electric, which builds nuclear plants. Welcome to one more grand gold rush as Iranian oil profits get paid out to international – including many U.S. – companies to build nuclear plants.

Everyone Must Save Face
And just as Ronald Reagan's envoys manipulated the Iranian embassy hostage situation for its own electoral gains, so too will the U.S. and Iran manipulate the current situation so that both can save face on the world stage. This is always a necessary ritual before embargos are lifted and normal market relations restored. For example, when the U.S. oil men were drooling over the profits Italian and French firms were drawing from their ties with Libya's oil industry, a way had to be found to restore the image of Colonel Qadafi, which had undergone the usual process of demonization in the U.S. So a sham trial in the Hague found one of two accused Libyans guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie airplane catastrophe (see any number of sources, including the Wikipedia article on Lockerbie, for material on the questionable nature of the accusations and trial) even though the greater likelihood was that Iran was responsible, retaliating for the U.S. shooting down an Iranian passenger plane over the Persian Gulf. We didn't have the power to hold Iran responsible, but Colonel Qadafi, after some negotiation, took responsibility for the Lockerbie disaster and paid two billion dollars in "reparations" – oil money masquerading as blood money – and in return, Libya was given the green light to re-enter the global market economy. The U.S., on its side, could now access Libyan oil and trade. These guys make the manipulations of Syriana look downright wholesome but a similar trade-off is due between the U.S. and Iran.

So Iran eschews nukes and we eschew the embargo and Iran becomes a regional economic powerhouse. Together, with fierce little Israel's help on the west wing, the Axis of Power in the Middle East is almost complete. All it needs is an anchor in the east and why not another country that represents the "third I" – India!

The Third "I"
India and Iran are natural allies in the region. In 2003 the two conducted naval military exercises in tandem, and between them they squeeze Pakistan on either side. Pakistan is a Sunni Muslim country and thus of no use to heavily Shi'ite Iran, and India's extraordinary economic potential could carry Iran along on its coat-tails, especially if Iranian energy credits were thrown into the bargain.
India and Iran both share something important with the U.S.: a wariness, if not downright fear, of China. This new Axis of Power – US/I3 (I-cubed for Israel, Iran, India – has a ring to it!) – represents a stable front along the underbelly of Russia and Western China. The presence of U.S. allies enforces the time-honored U.S. strategic goals of encirclement, at least along whatever borders it can access. And while Israel-Iran-India are hardly a match for a Russian-Chinese alliance, even with U.S. support, it is the ability to destabilize western China, which has missed out on much of the economic boom, or southern Russia, which oversees a large Muslim population on both sides of its border, that makes the region so valuable to the U.S. – that and its access to oil, not just from the Mid East, but from Baku as well. The entire alliance is buttressed by the chain of military bases the U.S. has established – and continues to establish – in Iraq and other central Asian countries.

"They're Not that Smart"
Many friends of mine reject such theories because of the "They're not that smart" (TNTS) fallacy, which holds that our leaders, who generally make such a mess of things, just aren't smart enough to do all this high-falutin' manipulation and long-term planning on a global scale. These friends point to an apparent contradiction: you can't say, on the one hand, that Bush, Rumsfeld, et al, have dragged us into a quagmire in Iraq as a result of their incompetence, greed, and stupidity, and on the other, envision them as evil geniuses playing a subtle game of chess across the world stage. And they're right – unless there is another explanation.
Without lengthening this article interminably, let's supply such an explanation: the public leadership is put in place by power brokers with unlimited global access to high-level military, intelligence, economic, and strategic analysts, policy-makers, influence brokers, and puppet-masters (yes, the latter do exist are not simply a fantasy of thriller-writers). The broader objective of extending the power of the military/industrial elite without regard to national interest (except as a given nation serves as a secure power base for that group) is still largely in place. Not everyone in these groups adheres to that world-view, but the system self-selects for those who, when confronted with a choice between profit and integrity, power and political idealism, always opt for profit and power. The logic of the system assures that the sum total of many such choices adds up to a very purposeful policy of aggressive economic colonialism. The ideology of a ruling elite both determines and reinforces favored decision-making algorithms that, despite their complexity, generally result in the same rather obvious determinations: exploitation of labor, strategic use of military force, allocation of resources for purposes of social control rather than social empowerment, and even choosing which party and candidates can best represent the elite's interests in national elections.

Of course, within the system there are factions, old-line interests that date back centuries as well as up-and-coming newbies, upstarts who are seized by a reformist vision (JFK and RFK?), and younger generations whose vision of their inherited power may be inspired by their alternative experiences among their peers. The individual identities may change, but access to the inner decision-making circles remains exclusive and determined in large part by a combination of possessing useful skills and/or extraordinary resources. In other words, "they" is far broader than the Bush Gang and "they" possess virtually unlimited intellectual capital.

Now all this doesn't mean that their analyses, decisions, and implementation of policy cannot be deeply flawed. In the first place, the interests of any elite often collides with that of other elites who are fully capable of biting back. In the second, however many of the "best and brightest" one collects in the same room, so to speak, they're still human and still subject to the same irrational self-delusions, illusions, collusions, and miscalculations of any group, especially as they are playing the game out across a very complex board. Also, they often aren't the brightest but only those most adept and enthusiastic at jumping through the hoops established as "test runs" by those who recruit them (look up under "Tony Blair") and they certainly aren't always the "best" by any standard. In addition, as Alexander Cockburn points out in this week's Nation (9/25/.06), they do "screw up with monotonous regularity, by reason of stupidity, cowardice, venality and other whims of Providence."

The real fear factor that throws monkey wrenches into the whirring gears of any elite's mechanations is the most important – the people themselves. In the eyes of the elite, "the people" tend to be viewed as a wholly malleable mass whose individual members count for very little in the grander strategic calculations that govern national and global policies. They exist as demographic and economic statistics and their uncanny ability to be killed off in large numbers by natural and human disasters tends to devalue their lives in the eyes of those gazing upon them from Olympian heights. One of the great ethical divides in human history lies in the gulf between the impulses of those who view it as their ordained right to govern, guide, manipulate, and/or exploit "the people" and the people themselves, in whom the universal human impulses towards autonomy, social cohesion, and self-actualization are often reinforced by an ironic moral knowing imposed on them by adversity. The middle class, truly caught in the middle, deludes itself that it somehow shares interests with the elite even as it fears slipping back into the swarming under-class from which so many of them – or their recent ancestors – emerged. It is this strange dynamic of the middle that governs so much of the politics and economics of the industrial nations.

What does all this have to do with Israel, Iran, India, and the U.S.? Another way to say it is, "How many evil geniuses does it take to screw up a region?" The answer – not as many as you'd think. It's not quantum mechanics. The British and Russians were hard at it in the mid 1800s, playing "The Great Game" across this very area. The British drew up plans for subduing Iraq via aerial attack as early as 1922! Over a century earlier, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Austrian diplomat Metternich at the Congress of Europe drew up plans for a balance of power among the European powers that staggered along more or less intact for a century before blowing up in everyone's face during World War I. To control a foreign country one needs to have influence over a dozen key people, and this the elites can achieve fairly easily. (When they can't, reference Lumumba, Allende, Goulart, Bosch, and dozens of others of similar pedigree). This kind of strategic chess game has been going on for centuries unabated, incubated in a Europe that was home to hundreds and hundreds of duchies, kingdoms, principalities, city-states, nascent nation-states, trading groups, warring religious factions, and a never-ending shuttling of military and commercial alliances. Manipulating a few dozen national entities and a few core industries simply does not require a unique brand of "smarts".

The system is, of course, reasonably complex, but the good thing about complexity is that one can screw up one part of the game and adjust by shifting resources and objectives to another area. So if the Shah of Iran is unexpectedly thrown out of power, as he was in 1979, and his successors basically hate your guts because you (meaning the U.S.) supported his unpopular policies, you move the pieces around for awhile until conditions change and you get what you want a different way. Voil'a! An alliance! This is why Cockburn's version of the TNTS fallacy can be both correct and fallacious: the ruling powers do screw up all the time, but they have the resources, freedom from accountability, raw power, and – let's admit it – talent at their command to adjust in whatever way necessary, even if the adjustment becomes rather messy. Imagine a chess game: one side has a few pawns and a bishop and a knight, the other not only its full array of pieces, but four extra bishops, three more rooks, two superfluous queens, and a partridge in a pear tree. Blundering away a queen and two rooks doesn't necessarily derail one's plans.

The bottom line is that the United States wants access to Iranian oil, Iran's highly strategic geopolitical position (its counterpart in importance on the western end of the central Asian massif, Turkey, remains one of the U.S.'s staunchest allies), and the economic stimulus that full commercial relations between the U.S. and Iran will engender. Israel wants security and wouldn't complain about profitable arms and high-tech deals. Iran wants to be a world player, a major energy exporter, and security against Russia and China's regional influence. India is a world player but needs to raise up hundreds of millions of its poorer inhabitants if it is to purchase political stability and establish long-standing security in the face of potential threats from Pakistan and China. There is no significant way their interests collide, and strong historical and geographic pressures driving the four into one another's arms. Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, meet your match!

Iraq
So U.S./I3, makes sense for all parties economically, strategically, and geopolitically, especially long-term as a counter-balance to the uncertainties inherent in China's economic growth and virtual super-power Russia's wildly caroming destiny. The alliance also helps us make better sense of what's going on in Iraq.

In the United States, Iraq is generally seen as a miserably failed military adventure driven by lies and the delusions and miscalculations of men who have failed also as president, vice president, secretary of defense, secretary of state, etc. Instinctively, I share those views. But part of me thinks that the U.S. is getting precisely what it wants out of the Iraqi invasion. In many respects, the invasion is only an extension of Bill Clinton's policy of maintaining a strangling embargo on Iraq in which critical medical and food supplies were cut off for the entire two terms of his presidency, resulting in tens of thousands, some say hundreds of thousands, of unnecessary deaths. His policies continued those of his predecessor, George Bush Senior, whose administration lured Saddam into Kuwait, sold the war to the American public, betrayed the groups that took seriously our proclaimed desire to get rid of Saddam, and left the tyrant in power while letting, again, many thousands die at his hands in revenge for supporting us. We put Saddam in power by supporting his career in the Ba'ath party on his way up, the CIA provided him with names of political enemies whom he arrested, tortured and killed, and in general, he was what's known in the trade as a "good doobie" for us until, seemingly inexplicably, we turned on him. But was it Saddam Hussein that we turned on in the early 1990s or Iraq itself?

At some point, perhaps in the wake of the war between Iraq and Iran, strategic thinkers decided that Iran had far more to offer us than Iraq. The reversal was swift and complicated by such issues as the northern Iraqi Kurds' influence on eastern Turkey (Turkey's stability is a keystone of U.S. geopolitics and is inviolate). Selling Gulf Wars to the U.S. public was another difficulty that was resolved by 9/11 and its aftermath. Let's take a quick look at where today's Iraq fits within the strategic perspective provided by the U.S./I3 alliance.

Iraq is in ruins, U.S. corporate interests have taken the U.S. taxpayer debt incurred by the war and destruction and converted it into windfall profits, the U.S. has control of Iraqi oil, the country is in the midst of a violent conflagration that creates a power vacuum that strengthens both Israel and Iran, and we're building massive military bases and the world's largest and most heavily fortified embassy as a governor's mansion for our new 51st state. Of course, 3,000 U.S. troops have died with many more severely wounded, and who knows how many Iraqis. U.S. casualties are especially tendered by Americans as proof of the catastrophic handling of the war. But this concern represents a total misreading of the mindset of military command.

Perhaps it's time to get this straight: 3,000, even 10,000, dead soldiers means nothing to the Pentagon or the Defense Department. When will Americans get that through their heads? Take a look at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Wall in D.C. Take a look at 58,000 deaths, gone for a tragic lie for which few responsible have owned up. If Vietnam was worth 58,000 deaths to the U.S. military, how many is Iraq worth? The emotional camaraderie among soldiiers displayed in "Band of Brothers", "Saving Private Ryan", and their ilk has become a part of modern American mythology, but it does not extend to the military command of just about any army in history. Military commanders have never considered the welfare or lives of their troops over and against the operational success needed to fulfill their strategic objectives. Many – especially among field officers – have reflected with sensitivity and deep pain over the cost of a campaign, and been righteously outraged over the waste of young lives due to the stupidity of commanders further up the line. Yet from Napoleon's squandering of 98% of his army of 600,000 in Russia, to U.S. Grant's campaigns in the Civil War and on to the trenches of World War I and countless slaughtering fields since, the Command has always viewed soldiers as expendable, despite the crocodile tears they shed in public. Just look at the way the Bush administration started cutting back on veterans' benefits as soon as the Iraq invasion began.

So yes, militarily our commanders have screwed up royally in Iraq. Almost all would probably have preferred a "surgical" victory with few American casualties. But because of endless resources, Congressional and media passivity, public complicity in their retention of power, lack of accountability, the endless debt-making machinery of the U.S. Treasury, etc., the broader outlines of long-term strategy can be retained. That's how the game is played.

Could Well Be Wrong
If the U.S. winds up invading Iran and Israel bombs Tehran, well, I guess I've just wasted a few hundred kilobytes of cyber-space. Perhaps the religious lunacy of the U.S. right wing has over-ridden the influence of the long-term policy making matrix. Perhaps military strategists in Israel have finally lost their minds completely. Maybe the left has been wrong ever since C. Wright Mills penned The Power Elite in the 1950s and foreign policy is indeed made solely by buffoons like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, and Perle, although that would fly in the face of a lot of evidence. But frankly, even voicing the notion that we will attack Iran has a ridiculous ring to it: with what will we invade, and who will support us, and what do we gain and how far will Israel play its role as America's little attack dog before Israelis awaken to the impossible dead end the U.S. has helped back them into? My guess is that the Axis of Power is indeed in place and, to paraphrase June Carter and Johnny Cash, "it turns, turns, turns, a ring of fire."

One final observation, though. The most flawlessly played game might still proceed under such fundamentally flawed assumptions that the player might win all the battles and lose the ultimate decision. The ends we seek and the means we are using to achieve them ultimately destabilize the political integrity of the global system. We manipulate and betray for the sake of oil and an illusion of security in a world whose dangers we can barely assess without succumbing to hysteria and paranoia, and whose real sources we only dimly surmise. The U.S. uses Iraq and then Iran, and the rulers of each in turn manipulate their own people and long to join us on the playing field. The entire program is corrupt to the core, but policy decisions still rest with those addicted to making their mark in today's version of "The Great Game". As for the masters of the game, I agree with Bob Dylan's sentiments in his early masterpiece, "Masters of War": "All the money you made will never buy back your soul."

Authors Website: http://www.bartonkunstler.com

Authors Bio:
Barton Kunstler, Ph.D. is a writer of fiction, essays, poetry, and plays. He is author of "The Hothouse Effect" (Amacom), a book describing the dynamics of highly creative groups and organizations. His play, "An Inquiry in Florence", was recently performed at Westchester's Schoolhouse Theater in Croton Falls, NY. Barton contributes to OEN and the HuffPost on political and social issues, and has been involved in progressive causes and campaigns since early in his teens.

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