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Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia-the Middle East Triangle

culture geo-politics iran mecca nuclear power Jan 23, 2012

The Middle East is a complex arrangement of nation-states with different identities and religious expressions.  Directly impacting the cultural complexities is the reality of geo-strategic interest.  At the start of 2012, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are central to the growing tensions throughout the region. Saudi Arabia is the center of Sunni Islam with the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.  It is also a key ally of the United States.  Syria maintains a strategic relationship with Iran and is positioned to strike at Israel with efficiency.  Iran is an archenemy of  Saudi Arabia and is home to a Shi'a majority Muslim population who do not want to see conflict with the U.S.  Are you beginning to see the outlines of the triangle? The tensions between the U.S. and Iran have radiating and serious consequences.  The Arab world is undergoing its own geopolitical shift as Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia lead the way in the aftermath of populist revolutions.  The effort to establish a more democratic governing system has proven to be challenging and fraught with problems.  But the Arab world would likely coalesce against Iran should it achieve nuclear weaponization along with long-range delivery systems. (There is evidence that Iran currently maintains the Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of 1,300 kilometers--enough to hit Israel or Saudi Arabia, which explains the Israeli and Saudi position at this time.) Syria and Iran would likely exercise unconventional tactics against the U.S. and its allies as a means to counter the Arab show of power.  Directly drawing Israel in to the conflict would ignite the region at which point containment would be difficult. While some U.S. politicians pander to their constituents with rhetoric that includes the use of force, it is important to realize that the consequences for military action against either Syria or Iran will radiate throughout the region. There are no easy solutions, but forget the political pandering.  The triangle of Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia is more than geometry.  It is a dangerous, and heretofore, unsolvable problem more akin to K-sets which have independent lines, but overlapping boundaries.  The Middle East, once again, requires pragmatic calculations that factor in the X for "unintended consequences".

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