Clearly, No-one Was Thinking (part 5: Contra-Iran)

As the shit was brewing in the Middle East over the last few weeks, one man was especially tormented over what his next course of action should be.

Karl Erjavec with Chief of the General Staff, Maj. Gen. Alenka Ermenc (r) (source)

You might suspect pengovsky is thinking of Donald Trump or Ayatollah Khamenei, but you’d suspect wrong. The tormented person in question was none other than Slovenian minister of defense Karl Erjavec.

As it happens, Muddy Hollows partakes in Operation Inherent Resolve (aka anti-Daesh operation) with a grand total of six military instructors, attached to the German contingent in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

As things were seemingly going to hell in a handcart after the U.S. assassinated Iranian commander Qassem Suleimani, Erjavec was apparently starting to look at options facing Slovenian troops in Iraq. And when Iranian military responded with missiles launched including at the Erbil base, Teflon Karl acted quickly.

Too quickly, as it turned out.

The general public in Muddy Hollows has a very specific view (or, views) of the Middle East which should probably be the subject of a separate blogpost.

But suffice it to say that in terms of day-to-day politics, the powers that be are basically caught between the country’s stated grand strategic priorities on one hand, the lingering non-aligned reflex harking back to the days when Yugoslavia was more than just a regional power on the other, combined with the general public’s perennial sympathy for the underdog, no matter how justified or unjustified that sympathy might be.

So when Iran fired its rockets at coalition bases in Iraq, it seemed like a no-brainer for Slovenian military to get the hell out of Dodge. The brewing chick-fight between the US and Iran was not what they were there for and – for that moment at least – the fight against Daesh was put on the back burner.

But in pressing the eject button, Erjavec was trying to project himself of being in control of the situation. With Chief of the General Staff, Major General Alenka Ermenc, in her battle fatigues at her side, he was effusive in his praise of all the military services involved in executing a quick pull-out.

As a result, the defense minister spoke in no uncertain terms about how the Slovenian unit in Iraq doing what it was there for in the first place, that while no-one was in a life-threatening situation during the attack, he was glad everyone was OK and how the time had come to go home, which was about to happen any minute now.

While the largest opposition party was voicing its distaste for the withdrawal,

the government parties seemed united in a foreign policy goal, once for a change, with the president and the foreign minister leading the charge.

Curiously, prime minister Šarec remained quiet on the matter.

Now, had things ended there, Erjavec would no doubt be on every media outlet that would have him, touting his leadership abilities, statesman-like behaviour and his care for the common man.

Which, incidentally, is exactly the kind of message he needs the upcoming DeSUS party congress to hear. Because while he is still a favourite to win, his continued party leadership is no longer a shoo-in as agriculture minister Aleksandra Pivec continues to make all the right noises in mounting a challenge to Teflon Karl.

But then the Germans decided to stay in Iraq

Suddenly, what was seen as a quick and clean way to score brownie points with the general public and not appear to be straining the relationship with allies (and, specifically, the US), turned into an amateur shit-show less than 24 hours later.

Suddenly, Teflon Karl is nowhere to be seen, president Pahor is trying to look busy and Miro Cerar is publicly removing his foot from his mouth.

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a text-book example of Slovenian politicians demonstrating a distinct lack of situational awareness, talking at length and categorically when they should hedging their bets and vice versa.

While not the only one suffering from this condition, Karl Erjavec exemplifies it. From his boasting about the arbitration process outcome long before it was over, to his involvement in the Patria Affair or his irresponsible remarks on Brexit or the Ukraine crisis, the seemingly irreplaceable leader of DeSUS has gotten himself, his party and the various governments he served in so much trouble with his inability to shut the fuck up that people have lost count.

This time around things are no different. Instead of what should have been a garden-variety “we’re following the situation and adapting our activities accordingly” response, we got yet another fiasco making Muddy Hollows looking unnecessarily wavering and non-committal, all because Erjavec and a few other people wanted to score some cheap political points.

Clearly, no-one was thinking.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.