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The Middle East: A Dream turned into a Nightmare PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 21 November 2014 23:40

For a few months, from mid December 2010, the Middle East was going through some really earth- shattering uprisings which were called the Arab spring.  This was a series of absolutely extraordinary events, which started when a twenty-six year old peddler, Muhammad Bouazizi, in the small town Sidi Bouzid in the south of Tunis, set fire on himself on December 17, 2010 in protest against the cruelty he was receiving at the hands of the police in his city.  This act of self molestation by the poor hawker started a series of truly earth-shattering events that spread across the Middle East with stunning rapidity, resulting in very serious uprisings in many Arabian countries. The Arabs, have been fighting for their rights which have been usurped by their own leaders for a very long time.  These uprisings were essentially grassroots protests, which were led mainly by the younger generations, did not arise from thin air, they were protests against their corrupt, greedy and ignorant rulers.  But it was not to be a lasting spring, because within a very short time, the dream which has inspired the spring and made it a possibility turned into a terrible nightmare.

The history of the Middle East dates back to ancient times, the region was the site of great ancient civilizations, Mesopotamia and Egypt, it was the birthplace of several major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  It contains much of the world’s oil reserves and has many strategic trade routes like silk road, and more recently the Suez canal, now it is generally very hot, and has very dry, climate  but it is still capable like it was before to produce a good deal of agricultural products mainly at the banks of the great rivers it has, like the Nile delta in Egypt which provides support agriculture in limited areas such as the Nile Delta in Egypt, Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq , and in the watersheds of Mesopotamia, and in other areas in what is known as the Fertile Crescent, but it has been in the twentieth century and until now the scene of very serious political turmoil and major wars, but in spite of all that it has attracted very important foreign powers, mainly western ones, because of its great wealth and the strategic commodities it has above and below its huge deserts.  One of these in particular, which is becomingly absolutely essential to the west because of the dwindling of their reserves, is oil, which is under the control of the monarchies, the sheikhdoms and the other mini-states of the Arabian Peninsula which are becoming increasingly unable to secure the supplies the western powers need as a result of the vents of the Arab spring.  This was sending very worrying signals to the western powers, especially when it comes to their huge involvement in the matters which are related to oil, so they started playing a completely different game, they rode the wave for some time, and then they started very slowly to exhaust it, which allowed them in the end to divert it from its initial objectives and succeeding in number of cases to bring to power new rules which were equally subservient to them like the old ones.

The western powers who were engineering and masterminding those efforts were led by the United States, which came to replace the United Kingdom as the main security patron of the Persian Gulf states, after Britain was dismantling its empire around the middle of the last century, at that time they were becoming more active in the politics of the area following president Roosevelt’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 1944.  At a time when they were busy working to ensure their access to Gulf oil, at the end of that historic visit, the two sides, the Saudis and the Americans signed an agreement that guaranteed America’s monopoly on Saudi Arabia’s oil, and opened the way for them to control the energy resources of the area, which they were considering now as the most strategically important area of the world, and a great material prize to have.  But then, the region at that time was going through great social, economic and political turmoil resulting in an upsurge in the popularity of nationalistic politics and an increase in the number of nationalistic political groups across the region was creating grave headaches to them, but their attitude towards them was from the start, naïve, unprofessional, and with an inadequate understanding of history, and the lessons that can be garnered from studying it.

The recent American interference in the boiling situation of the Middle East made it much worse.  The area is threatening to explode into a very serious conflagration, with extremely serious consequences to the area and to the world at large, but I am going to concentrate today on the situation in view of the rise of the vicious and very violent fundamentalist Islamic insurgency, the so called Islamic State, which has introduced a new and a very dangerous element in the conflict in the middle east.

The Islamic State [IS] is a radical Islamist group which started as an outgrowth of the al-Qaeda in Iraq. It aims to establish a "caliphate", a state ruled by a single political and religious leader according to Islamic law, or Sharia. Although currently limited to Iraq and Syria, IS has promised to "break the borders" of Jordan and Lebanon and to "free Palestine”.  It demands that all swear allegiance to its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The group expanded its operations into Syria, and was able within a very short time to large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq, and started to call itself the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria [ISIS] has conducted suicide-bombing attacks against rebel bases and has beheaded members of other fighting battalions. Its brutal tactics, including mass killings and abductions of members of religious and ethnic minorities, as well as the beheadings of soldiers and journalists have sparked fear and outrage across the world and prompted US military intervention.

In June 2014, ISIS overran the northern city of Mosul, the second largest city in the country, and then advanced northwards and southwards towards Baghdad , by which at the end of the month it has been able to swallow huge swathes of land in Iraq, in addition to those it was already holding in Syria, and after consolidating its hold over those areas, it declared what it called an Islamic caliphate and changed its name to Islamic State [IS], which is believed to have something like eight million people under its control, the group implements a strict interpretation of Sharia [Islamic law], forcing women to wear veils, non-Muslims to pay a special tax or convert, and imposing punishments that include floggings and executions,  its brutal tactics , including mass killings and abductions of members of religious and ethnic minorities, as well as the beheadings of soldiers and journalists, have sparked fear and outrage across the world and prompted US return to the Iraqi mess  which they have extricated themselves from in December 2011.

America’s recent return to Iraq, is reminiscent of some of its old military involvements in distant and very multifarious situations started with sending about a hundred of their military personnel, which were boosted a week ago by adding another 1,500, these we are told, have been sent to help the Iraqi military in their war against the insurgents, with intelligence, training and other chores, they have also started targeting the insurgents with daily air bombardments. But these have proved to be no more than pin pricks, the Americans must have forgotten that this kind of war can never be won by military means, even those they possess, to add to the confusion, earlier this week, America’s most senior general, Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the US House of Representatives armed services committee that the door is open to sending US combat troops to help Iraqi forces retake the northern city of Mosul, which the insurgents overran in June. This pronouncement by the general might seem at first like a simple and a benign statement, but it can be more serious, because with the Republicans gaining control of both houses of Congress, and with the habit of some of their leaders to solve very thorny geo-political problems by military means, rather than diplomacy.  America is in a very serious danger of getting increasingly drawn into the Iraqi quagmire, which would be an extremely risky re-entanglement.

Najeeb Hanoudi

Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014


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