Trend commentator Sam Storey
Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec. 19 / Trend /
Recently, under the assurance of confidentiality, Trend learned what U.S. officials will likely lose the most sleep over in 2013. Many issues our source mentioned could be guessed rather easily, they included U.S. national debt, a deteriorating education system, a slew of Middle East related topics, North Korea and other emerging Pacific peace concerns; even obesity was mentioned.
The one thing that was not so conventional about this New Year's forecast was our sources outlook on coming U.S. policy towards Iran and the Middle East, as well as future U.S. Defense spending and activity in Afghanistan. For years now, some of the most aware minds in the U.S., the President himself and the U.S. Intelligence Community have spoken of considerable U.S. disengagement in the Middle East and a gigantic shift in focus towards strong and assertive yet cooperative power projection in the Pacific Rim. However, some in the know see USCENTCOM (The United States Central Command), the apparatus that overseas all U.S. Military activity between Central and South Asia and the Western borders of Africa's Red Sea States, as remaining area of interest number one.
Despite widespread talk of and excitement over a Pacific Century and an (arguably lukewarm) desire to avoid another conflict in the Islamic World, our source felt that due to defense spending cuts, the U.S. Military as a whole would actually become more focused on the Middle East in the coming year. There will not necessarily be more money for U.S. activity in the region, but rather a somewhat ironic, unintended and regretted decline in attention to areas such as Africa and Latin America.
On Iran specifically, our source, with good humor admitted that several years ago the clock was not as close to midnight on the issue as they and many people in the U.S. Government felt. They also referred to North Korea, not Iran as the country most capable of quickly generating crisis. However, they said the Iran question is now concern number one in many of the Gulf States and that talks of "returning to the table" with "unreasonable" Iran are nothing to get excited about, whereas the "unintended consequences" of a nuclear Iran are. What was meant by "unintended consequences" was left unclear, perhaps analysts feel that Western sanctions have weakened Iran to the point where Tehran's ability to protect nuclear materials and operations are questionable.
The source did not have any counter points or even bat an eye when reminded that Israel has allegedly over 230 nuclear weapons and in a worst case scenario, Iran, if it is developing weapons at all, would have a figure in the single digits. Rather, they merely went on to say that the U.S. can no longer let nuclear nonproliferation efforts go by the wayside, because the threat of M.A.D. (Mutual Assured Destruction) that kept the two super powers from nuclear war during the Cold War does not work against non-state and rouge nuclear actors. In regards to an armed Western strike on the Iranian nuclear program, our source fears "huge consequences that no one understands" and the fact that neither the U.S. nor Iran will be able to "get it right" in the immediate aftermath of a strike because there is "no way (for the two nations) to communicate". However, they called the more peaceful policy of containment a Cold War relic because of the same factors that have driven M.A.D. into obsolescence.
Although the source frequently made grave references to the Russian dominated Soviet Union, they expressed a belief that the United States needs the help of the modern Russian state in securing its global security objectives in the Middle East and adjoining regions. The source did not comment on the likelihood of the U.S. getting the cooperation they desire from Russia, but did state that in recent years, Russo-American relations "have gone from bad to worse", which if following their logic would be rather unfortunate, because they expect the Arab Spring to continue for another 10-20 years.
In regards to the war in Afghanistan and of course, its logistical lines in i, our source seemed to distance themself (possibly unintentionally) from the prescribed 2014 withdrawal date, and said that "a responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan is necessary" and that "if (the US gets) Afghanistan wrong, (the US is) going back".
Our source perceives and regrets a U.S. tendency to lead with its military, jump into military action without full exit and action plans and an American habit of neglecting and leaving non-military work such as aid and diplomacy to the military, which they feel is harder than the military job. Our source also indicated their wishes for the bolstering of the U.S. State Department and related diplomatic apparatuses in the future and welcomed military cuts of $800bn-$900bn over a ten year period. Although large, they see cuts at this level as a healthy way to reduce the nation's deficit, strategically make the most out of the U.S. armed forces and push the U.S. and its military into the future.