Today we provided for your consideration our exclusive interview with Mr. Ali Al Shihabi, a distinguished businessman who recently retired from managing an investment bank in the Gulf to take up the writing trade. [Provided separately] His first book, “Arabian War Games: Cataclysmic Wars Redraw the Map of the Middle East,” a fictional account of intrigue and conflict, was published in March. He also writes non fiction — his thoughts on Middle East politics and economics — at his blog, www.alishihabi.com. In addition to providing perspectives on current regional issues in the SUSRIS exclusive interview – “From Board Rooms to War Games: A Conversation with Ali Al Shihabi” – he is sharing an excerpt from “Arabian War Games,” with you here. He has also given permission for SUSRIS to reprint his blog, “Al Saud and the Future.” Both the exclusive interview and the essay are provided separately.
- “Al Saud and the Future,” Ali Al Shihabi – Blog
- “From Board Rooms to War Games: A Conversation with Ali Al Shihabi – SUSRIS Exclusive Interview – Jun 30, 2012
- More information about the book, “Arabian War Games”
Arabian War Games: Cataclysmic Wars Redraw the Map of the Middle East
Ali Al Shihabi
The political fuel that is propelling societies to war over the next few years should be clearly discernible today.
— Professor Colin Gray, Centre for Strategic Studies, University of Reading
This is a future history, a fictional work that makes political and military predictions. It takes the long-festering Israeli-Arab conflict and growing Arabian- Iranian tensions and extrapolates them into a possible future conflict scenario..
..While the Arab Spring has understandably focused attention on internal revolutionary change in the Arab countries, it is the simmering political fault lines across the region that continue to present the greatest geopolitical risks.
To wit, both Israel as a “Jewish state” and Iran as the “Islamic Republic” face emerging existential threats to their survival, as they see it, which they may find virtually impossible to address without provoking war. In Israel, the “Jewish state” is slowly sinking in an ocean of its own rapidly growing Arab minority—a problem that, despite all the peace talk, many of her elites believe can only be “solved” through the use of force. At the same time, Iran—her imperial ambitions already aroused by the elimination of her historic rival, Sunni-led Iraq—is slowly choking on sanctions and could therefore become more emboldened to risk invading Arabia, in what would be a desperate attempt to avoid economic ruin and possible regime change.
If such ominous scenarios were to actually occur, they would be taking place in an environment where America’s ongoing commitment to uphold the established political order in Arabia is increasingly being questioned in U.S. policymaking circles.
* * *
[Israel’s] nightmare is Palestinian population growth, that cancer rapidly spreading among them, which Professor Safran [Israel’s paramount expert on Palestinian demographics] has publicly argued will have to be expunged if their young state is ever to have a chance at survival. … “Today, 20 percent of Israel’s seven million citizens are the descendants of the Palestinian Arabs who managed to avoid being expelled in the 1948 war. … We have been paying the price for that huge mistake ever since. In fact, not only have those Arabs remained in Israel, but we have also had to give them Israeli citizenship and hence ‘the vote.’” …
[Defense Minister] Peled … is a Zionist of the “muscular” persuasion, a fervent believer in the concept of the “new Jew,” the strong, powerful and, if necessary, brutal Jew who can and will fight rather than suffer quietly like the frightened and intimidated caricature of the Jew in European history. He is a cynic, a realist who has no time for idealists who search for the “inner good” in their fellow man. He knows that man, despite a thin veneer of civility, remains at his core a savage. Peled is, after all, a student of history, not the history of textbooks but that of the raw, painful emotions belonging to one who is but a generation beyond the Holocaust. …
“This is why,” Safran urges, pounding his index finger on the tabletop, “the only realistic final solution to retaining a Jewish-majority state in perpetuity is to kick out the Arabs, all the Arabs, from Eretz Israel—and do it now. … This is not pretty, let’s not kid ourselves; it is ugly, very ugly, but we have no choice. Fifty years from now, only one people will be left here: either the Arabs or us. Let’s have no illusions about that.” …
[Peled says,] “We are a ‘one-bomb’ state today. … For the Arabs or Iranians, this is a game they can afford to play, given the vast territories and millions of people at their disposal. Also, if you factor in the Islamist element, and the possibility that one of these countries may eventually come under the rule of an Islamic leadership that will operate as an existential gambler, willing to lose millions of its people to destroy us—an ‘Islamist Stalin,’ for example—then the risk becomes even more deadly.” …
“[T]hat is the point,” Safran barks. “We cannot be bound by … constraints any longer! Israel cannot be a status-quo power. We need to provoke regional and even global chaos to distract the world if we are to succeed in expelling the Palestinians. … We need to become, in the words of Moshe Dayan, ‘the mad dog’ of the region, lashing out wildly at our enemies, destroying them once and for all. … We are on our own. The Jew has always been alone, and we have to act accordingly. … We cannot afford the pretense of belonging to the club of ‘civilized’ Western nations, upholding lofty values of human rights and democracy. That crap you can only afford to practice, as a state, once you have eliminated the existential threats to your survival, but not before that time.” …
“I agree with Mordechai [Peled],” Safran adds, addressing [Israel’s former ambassador to the U.N., David] Halevy. “The reason the Palestine issue has been festering for sixty years is that the Palestinians were never fully integrated and assimilated into any Arab country. What has kept this miserable issue alive for decades are the millions of refugees rotting in camps all over the region, eliciting world sympathy and breeding extremism. This did not have to happen. Look at the example of successful population transfers after World War One. … The Arabs, however, kept and still keep millions of Palestinians stuck in miserable camps and afford them only refugee status. We have to realize now, after sixty years, that we cannot successfully kill this issue unless we force Palestinian assimilation down the Arabs’ throats, and that is possible only in Jordan, because they are already the majority there. We will give Palestinians control of Jordan and make sure they rule it.” ….
“Look, David,” Peled responds impatiently, “we have to approach Israel’s future security in a radically different manner. We need to engineer a paradigm shift in the way the Arabs perceive us. Whatever concessions we make will never satisfy them all. They will continue to be pissed off about something. … We will never be able to solve all the problems we have with them, never get them to forgive, forget and accept us as a happy member of the regional family. … What we need to do, instead, is fundamentally change the way the Arabs come to terms with our presence among them. Peace with Israel has to be seen as the price the Arabs have to pay for survival, as a people and as nations. Peace cannot be the ‘gift’ they graciously extend to us if only we agree to every single one of their demands. Instead, they have to stare nuclear holocaust in the face and realize that either they capitulate and accept us unconditionally, as a Jewish state, and recognize our newly expanded borders, or else we will incinerate them.”
* * *
The Islamic Republic is strong in faith, determination and its ability to absorb extreme punishment, [the supreme leader] reminds himself. … We will fight and fight hard, willingly sacrificing hundreds of thousands of casualties for our ultimate glory. The Americans, however, lose a few boys and then, like women, melt into a collective emotional breakdown. They have no stomach for the long war. That is our real strength, and we need to use it. Until now, we have allowed the Americans and the Zionists to set the rules of the game. I will change that to make sure that the game is played in the sport we, not they, are best at: that of total war, a war of human endurance, suffering and sacrifice, not the high-technology, video-game war at which the Americans excel. We will set the rules of play, not they, and then God will grant us ultimate victory. …
“We need to subjugate the Arabs,” [National Security Advisor] Jalili begins, resettling the wire-frame spectacles against his temples, “and retake the whole Persian Gulf and its oil; ultimately wrest control of Mecca and Medina; and take over the leadership of Islam. … This fissure among the Arabs is one we intend to take full advantage of, by invading Arabia under the guise of protecting its Shia from Sunni oppression.” …
[General Rowhani begins,] “Operation Imam Hussein … is a military takeover of Kuwait, eastern Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as the first step in a plan to ultimately assume control over the whole Arabian Peninsula. … Today, the government of Prime Minister Al Mosawi in Iraq is virtually under our control. … The Iraq of today, gentlemen, is a client state, a vassal of the Islamic Republic. It is also our sword and land bridge into Arabia, since it gives us an Arab ‘face’ to use against our Arab enemies.” …
“For the last twenty years,” he continues, “the Americans and the Arabs have been preparing for naval and missile attacks originating from our forces in the Persian Gulf. They have focused on what they call our ‘asymmetric’ skills—our capacity for guerilla warfare and our success in infiltrating Lebanon and Iraq—all the while gaming and training for an attack on their fleet in the Gulf, missile attacks on Arab oil facilities, and our mining the Strait of Hormuz. … What none of them expect, however, and hence for which they are unprepared, is a brazen ‘conventional’ land invasion into Kuwait from Iraq. The Gulf Arabs and their American masters have not yet understood the depth of hatred that the Iraqi leadership and Shia majority feel toward the oil sheikhs, hence the opportunity before us today. They cannot imagine that Iraq will now open for us the vulnerable back door to Arabia.” …
“Now, don’t misunderstand me, they [the Americans] certainly will not like the idea of an Iranian empire controlling the world’s oil. They and the British before them have been highly successful in following the divide-and-rule strategy in the Persian Gulf, and with us in control, they will obviously lose that valuable advantage. But the question is: Will it be so unacceptable to them as to force them to pay such a high price to stop us? That, we believe, is very unlikely.”
* * *
It is now early evening in the Oval Office as a demonstrably worried president is ensconced with his national security team. Reelected by a thin margin in 2012, he has no desire to get stuck in another war in the Middle East. He had, after all, taken the credit for finally bringing America’s boys home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and he has no wish to tarnish that precious legacy. A war with Iran, he knows, would define his presidency permanently, and probably in a negative light. His gut instinct is to do everything possible to avoid such an outcome. …
“Let’s not kid ourselves,” [Defense Secretary Leon Panetta] concludes, walking back to the sofas, “the Iranians are a bull that just burst into the china shop. We can eventually take him out, but you can then kiss that china shop goodbye, for a good while, at least. Frankly, I think these bastards truly have us by the balls, Mr. President,” he says, looking directly at Obama, whose hands are clasped tensely before him on his desk. “At least that’s the view from Defense at the moment.”
* * *
Nine generals and the intelligence chief are now gathered with [Pakistani army chief of staff] Kayani in the conference room next to his office at the military cantonment in Rāwalpindi, which houses army headquarters. “Gentlemen,” Kayani begins, “I will get to the point immediately. You all know what has been happening in the Persian Gulf over the past two days. King Abdullah [of Saudi Arabia] spoke to me yesterday from Mecca, where he and his government have taken refuge. He has formally requested that Pakistan use her nuclear missile capabilities to stop the Iranians.” …
“We have been studying options over the last few hours, and, to be plain, there is little that can be done at this point to force the Iranians to withdraw from Arabia, short of hitting Tehran and thereby crippling the heart of their state, bringing this Persian juggernaut to a halt. ….
* * *
On the “day after,” the world wakes up to an Israel ethnically cleansed of her Arabs and firmly in control of a territory four times her original size; a Jordan taken over by the Palestinians; and an Islamic Republic of Iran brought to its knees by Israeli and Pakistani nuclear missiles.
In Tehran, a coup d’état takes place. A group of officers from the Revolutionary Guard move in and assume power amid the smoldering wreckage of Iran’s capital city. ….
In Iraq, Prime Minister Al Mosawi, with an embarrassing political, diplomatic and military debacle on his hands … appears on state television and, with a straight face, strongly condemns the deposed government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for having “illegally” invaded Iraqi territory and attacked Iraq’s “brothers,” Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. He then pledges to arrest and bring to justice any Iraqi “traitors” who participated in this outrage.
In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Netanyahu receives in his office Marwan Hamoudi, the young and charismatic Palestinian leader whom he has just had released from an Israeli prison. Hamoudi, who has been called by many the “Palestinian Mandela,” is now about to be sent on his way to assume leadership of the newly formed Republic of Palestine, previously the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
SUSRIS thanks Mr. Ali Al Shihabi for permission to share this excerpt from “Arabian War Games: Cataclysmic Wars Redraw the Map of the Middle East,” with you.
About Mr. Ali Al Shihabi
I recently retired from managing an Investment Bank I had founded and now focus on writing. I am a graduate of Princeton University with a B.A in Political Science and Harvard Business School with an MBA. I am a Saudi Arabian citizen. I grew up in Turkey, Lebanon, Switzerland and the U.S. In 1985 I returned to Saudi Arabia and began a career in banking and finance, subsequently moving to Dubai in 1998. My late father, Samir al Shihabi, born in Jerusalem, was a Saudi diplomat for close to fifty years, serving as ambassador to Turkey, Pakistan, Switzerland and the United Nations, and was elected president of the U.N. General Assembly in 1991. My mother, Widad Kari Stonjum, born in Bergen, Norway, met my father in 1948 at Cambridge University. They settled in Saudi Arabia in 1950. I am married to Nadia Hisham Shihabi, and we have three children.