World economics seer Louis-Vincent Gave, of the Gavekal Partnership, has explained the pivotal meaning of the Crimea Incident in a larger context which he calls a looming “World War IV” —the conflict between the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam, in which Sunnis control larger reserves of oil, but Shia populations are restive in the very places where that oil is pumped. If a rising axis of Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq takes hold – (the latter three Shia-ruled, currently) – then fear will tighten across the Sunni belt.
(* Clearly, in its decades of tension and expense and geopolitical importance, the Cold War was a tepid-simmering “World War III.”)
Tensions will drive arms sales and raise oil prices, which is the only condition under which Russia prospers. U.S. efforts to sap the strength of that alliance make a major reason for the Obama Administration’s peace efforts with Iran… which Vladimir Putin will try to wreck.
It is also a good reason to ponder whether Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan — himself politically embattled — might do the one thing that would settle matters in Syria… sending in the Turkish Army. Even with the excuse of humanitarian reasons, it would be risky. (The threat to Russia’s Tartus naval base would raise tensions to stratospheric levels, though.)
The real locus of what-if pondering must zero in on Saudi Arabia. Are they sufficiently unnerved by the Russia-Iran-Iraq-Syria axis… and simmering problems with their own restive Shia populations… to decide upon a change in policy? To back off from their blatant efforts to manipulate and poison American political processes, for example, and to instead meddle in more constructive ways?