Wednesday, August 04, 2021

(Judean Rose is taking off for several weeks.)


Weekly column by Vic Rosenthal

Today the world we live in is dominated by a Western alliance that includes the US and much of Europe, along with some smaller players. This alliance is threatened by two major forces: radical Islam, whose most dangerous expression is the revolutionary Iranian regime; and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), still smarting from its oppression by the West prior to its emergence as a great power. I’ll discuss Iran first.

Last week, Iranian drones attacked a ship near the coast of Oman, killing the captain and a crew member. Apparently the motivation was a tenuous Israeli connection. More recently, a ship in the same region was hijacked, and several others were disabled, apparently by a cyberattack. Although Iran denies being connected with any of these incidents, most observers believe that the Iranian regime was responsible for them.

The Iranian regime finances and arms terrorist groups throughout the region, including in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Lebanon, which survived a brutal civil war, an attempt by the PLO to set up a “Palestinian state” within her borders, an Israeli intervention to throw out the PLO, and the systematic murders of members of its government by Syrian agents, has finally been brought to her knees by her exploitation by the Iranian-controlled Hezbollah. The Covid epidemic, and a massive explosion of a cache of Hezbollah’s explosives at the port that leveled a third of her capital city didn’t help.

Israel, which fought a vicious little war with Hezbollah in 2006, now lives in the shadow of 130,000 rockets located in South Lebanon. These rockets, which include ones with precision guidance systems that can strike within a few meters of targets anywhere in Israel, are deeply embedded in the civilian population, including private homes. Israeli defense officials have said that if Hezbollah activates its rockets, the IDF will be forced to employ massive firepower that will essentially destroy the country. The possibility of war breaking out due to escalation between Hezbollah and Israel is a constant threat.

Westerners who visit relatives in Iran or go there for business, educational, or  other reasons are often arrested on trumped-up charges and held hostage, either for ransom or political advantage. Sometimes they are tortured. Conditions in prisons for Iranian political dissidents are atrocious, with torture and rape common. Hundreds of Iranians are executed every year, some for serious crimes like murder or rape, but also for “being gay, committing adultery, sex outside marriage and drinking alcohol.” Political opponents of the regime are sometimes charged with spying and executed as well.

Iranian women protesting Islamic dress codes that are forced on them are beaten, arrested, jailed, and tortured. Masih Alinejad, an Iranian feminist now living in exile in the US, was the target of a plot to kidnap her and bring her back to Iran. The plan was foiled by the FBI. Kidnapping and murdering dissidents abroad has been standard procedure for the regime since it came to power in 1979.

The new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, has been nicknamed “the butcher of Tehran,” because of his responsibility for the execution of thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of people during a reign of terror in 1988. Raisi is considered one of the top candidates to succeed Ali Khamenei as Supreme Leader.

Last, but not least, is the regime’s plan to develop nuclear weapons, which is advancing rapidly. Whether such weapons would be directly used – something which is difficult to judge, due to the religious aspects of Iranian ideology – or whether they would be employed as an “umbrella” to shield its more conventional military aggression, it’s likely that the imminent attainment of nuclear capability would greatly change the balance of power in our region, and make war likely. The regime has consistently and explicitly threatened to “wipe Israel off the map,” and Israel takes these threats seriously.

The Iranian regime, while it is economically and militarily weak, has developed means of leveraging asymmetric warfare, which along with its aggressive and even messianic ideology makes it a serious threat – not just to the region, but to the Western alliance and its leader, the US, which it calls “the great Satan.” The threat is immediate in the short term, due to its nuclear program. It is a highly repressive society, and although there is a strong domestic opposition, attempts to overthrow the regime will be (and have been) met with great brutality.

As an Israeli, naturally I am concerned about the local and immediate threat of Iran. But the PRC is a far greater threat to the Western alliance. China is already a nuclear power, and has recently been reported building up its stock of weapons. China’s military and economic power is thousands of times greater than that of Iran, and is every bit as brutal in its repression of internal dissent.

Although China does not publicly announce that the US is Satan, it is quietly moving its pieces – military and economic – on the world’s chessboard to increase its power and influence. It operates an unprecedented system of industrial espionage that has already neutralized the technological superiority of the US. It is building infrastructure throughout the world under its “Belt and Road Initiative” that will not only provide its industries access to markets, but the large debts incurred by the recipients will provide China political leverage over them.

Chinese technology that is used in the most critical communications infrastructure may contain “backdoors” that allow access to traffic on the networks. Everything from mobile phones to PCs to military communications systems have been suspected to be compromised.

The US and other developed countries are experiencing a long-term transition of their economies away from agriculture and manufacturing and toward service-based economies. Manufacturing has moved to China and to other countries, most of which are, or soon will be, in the Chinese sphere of influence. At the time of the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic, the US suffered a severe shortage of personal protective equipment and medical devices such as masks and so forth. It was simply not produced in the USA.

China does not (as far as I know) export violent terrorism as does Iran. But it has been engaging in territorial expansionism in all directions. Chinese pressure on Hong Kong and Taiwan make headlines, while China quietly “nibbles away” at Japanese islands, territories under Indian control, bits of Nepal and Bhutan, and so on. In the South China Sea, China has built artificial islands which have greatly extended its territorial waters and provided locations for military installations, including missile silos.

I have not discussed the possible exploitation of the Covid-19 epidemic. Certainly the misinformation and disinformation that was provided by China at the time of its outbreak exacerbated the harm to Western societies. There is even a credible argument that once the disease had become established in Wuhan, authorities there – under the direction of the national government – deliberately allowed the residents of the city to travel worldwide during the Chinese New Year period, knowing that this would spread the disease.

The Chinese strategy is safer and surer, if somewhat slower than the Iranian one. But the West has done little to protect itself, either against the immediate danger of nuclear weapons in the hands of a proven rogue aggressor state, or the long-term combined economic, military, and possibly biological domination of a rising totalitarian superstate. Western nations should be confiscating the Iranian regime’s nuclear toys, reestablishing self-sufficient economies, protecting their technological intellectual property, and strengthening their military forces. They are not doing any of these things.

Instead, the most advanced states of the West are self-destructing over issues of race and gender identity.


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