If you missed it, "Syriana" concerns the disappearance of a U.S. missile in Iran, the heir (Alexander Siddig) to a Middle Eastern emirate giving a lucrative oil contract to China, thereby cutting out a major U.S. company, the major oil company merging with a smaller company and firing its Pakistani oil field workers, a Department of Justice investigation led by an eagle-eyed attorney (Jeffrey Wright) into the merged company headed by sharks (Christopher Plummer, Chris Cooper and William C. Mitchell) for a multi-million dollar bribe in connection with an oil contract, an American economist (Matt Damon) parlaying the death of his son into a deal to advise the heir, whom the CIA wants dead, the fired Pakistanis joining a violent fundamentalist group and training for a suicide mission, a CIA agent (George Clooney) who is double crossed and tries to stop the heir's assassination . . .
It is not difficult to see why the White House is so at sea.
Yes, there's a lot going on in this gem of a movie. But the bottom line is the limitless power of the people who run the oil industry to influence global politics, as well as the ebb and flow of economies and the financial markets, and their inherent treachery in an era that happens to be dominated by the growing menace of international Islamic terrorism.Although oil rich
plays a relatively minor role in "Syriana," it is playing an increasingly important one in global politics. It is the leading state sponsor of terrorism, yet the Bush administration seems uunable to get beyond name calling. (Islamofascists is currently in vogue.) Iran
* Iran is a rogue Islamic state that subjugates its own people at point of gun and does not play by the rules of international diplomacy, whatever they are these days. Of course, neither does the U.S., or does only when it suits it.This pretty much leaves the old standby of diplomacy cum sanctions.
Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that Iran has an enormous stockpile of ballistic missiles, a number of which recently were given a pretty good workout by Hezbollah, a growing nuclear program and the deep pockets to keep its terrorist patrons in IEDs. For good measure, stir in the consequences of the U.S.'s pathetic Iran "policy" since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 and the long shadow that casts.
* The U.S. has lost its way in the Middle East.
It has been unable to stabilize Iraq, which has become a catastrophe of its own making in part because of the power of the Shiite insurgents that Iran bankrolls. It. has been an ineffectual player in the Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Why then should it be able to formulate a cogent policy in Iran?
* The administration is so adrift that it has gone into scapegoat mode.
Just this week, senior White House officials and top Republican lawmakers have gone public with a report charging that U.S. spy agencies have (again) been asleep at the wheel and have not issued appropriately ominous warnings about the threat that they say Iran represents. (If this seems counterintuitive, it's because it is: U.S. spy agencies up-played the threat that Iraq represented after the fact to suit the Bush administration's ends-justify-the-means decision to invade.)
* There are way too many people pressuring the administration -- including some inside the White House -- to attack Iran. You know the scenario: The Irani people would then rise up, overthrow the ayotollahs and throw flowers at the feet on the conquering Americans.
Uh, wait a minute. Didn't the U.S. try that somewhere else recently?
* Leave resolving the whole stinking mess to the next president as President Bush is doing with Iraq.
Alas, buying time is no more an option than wasting it has been.
If that sounds familiar, it is what the international community used with Iraq in the years between the first Gulf War and the U.S. -led 2003 invasion.
In retrospect, this tandem approach worked better than anyone knew at the time.
Alas (again). Iraq then is not Iran now, which brings us back to "Syriana," which includes several scenes involving a group of influential Americans who want to liberate Iran -- for its oil. (Any similarities with the Washington gang beating the war drum is merely coincidental. Then again . . . )
Sanctions would be only as effective as the ability to bottle up Iran's capacity to export the stuff, and it is beyond imaginable that China, Iran's biggest customer, would join in an international effort to turn off Teheran's revenue tap.
There's also the little matter of the Strait of Hormuz, which is the only sea passage for most of the petroleum-exporting Gulf states. Iran would blockade the straits in a heartbeat if it couldn't export its own oil. That would affect the delivery of almost everyone else's oil and send the U.S. economy into the crapper faster than you could say Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
This leaves only one other alternative:
Since the clowns aren't doing the job. Send in George Clooney.