Russia vs. Iran vs. the United States
Dan Amoss of Strategic Investment surveys the geopolitical landscape after the sudden death of Saparmurat Niyazov, the dictator of Turkmenistan:
I see good potential for Russian military action somewhere in the FSU (maybe in Turkmenistan or Georgia) in 2007.
Especially considering how upset the Russian population will be about having to pay Gazprom closer to market prices for natural gas over the next few years .
The BTC pipeline [through Georgia, bypassing Russia] just came online a few months ago, representing a chink in the armor of Russia's energy export domination.
All Putin would need is an Islamic fanatic group to pursue in the FSU (after another potential Chechen or Beslan school-type incident)… one huge precedent the U.S. set with the new "pre-emptive" military strike policy — now every other sovereign state can claim the same right in the eyes of the world community.
Also, if Iran is stupid enough to engage Russia in the fight over Turkmenistan [a possible scenario laid out today by the folks at Stratfor], it would give Bush the perfect diversion. With nothing to lose politically as a lame duck, he could sign a presidential order for strategic bombing of Iranian nuke development sites. What's Congress going to do — cut military funding? I don't think so.
It's interesting to think of it in terms of Bush's mindset. His legacy will rest on whether Iraq becomes just a mess or an unmitigated disaster. He might as well double down his bet and "do Iran" too. In his mind, the next president might not have the "guts" to do it!
As for Ahmadinejad, he might become even more irrational after the recent loss of support in the "experts" election. He may strike out at Israel like a caged animal, realizing that his opportunity to hasten the "Islamic apocalypse" may not be long!
It will be an interesting year.