Wouldn’t be it be extraordinary if all the claims about the instability in the Middle East having their roots in Western meddling were true?
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
In a July 17 oped in the New York Times the Middle East expert Nathan Thrall noted that “the West chose war in Gaza.” In the October issue of Foreign Affairs American professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago John J. Mearsheimer reminded readers “why the Ukraine crises is the West’s fault.” It reminds us once again that the world’s problems lie at the feet of the West. This is particularly true in the Middle East, all of whose problems have a Western origin.
Let’s start at the beginning in 1915-1916 which is when the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement was made between British and French diplomats which set in motion the current Middle East crises. Jolyon Howorth, Jean Monnet Professor of European Politics and Emeritus Professor of European Studies at the University of Bath, noted in July that this agreement was at the roots of the current mess in the Middle East.
In his article he argued it is not fair to point the blame only at George W. Bush and Tony Blair as “architects of the 2003 invasion fundamentally destabilised Iraq and ultimately led to the current crisis.” In fact he shows how “actors in both 1916 and 2003 have contributed – in very different ways – to today’s Middle East chaos.” He shows how greedy European powers in 1916 conspired, “arrogating to themselves additional colonial possessions against all the principles of self-determination.” The creation of Iraq, with its Sunni, Shia and Kurd groups was a huge Western mistake. “These three provinces had had virtually nothing to do with one another.” He says that the “chickens are coming home to roost with the creation of ISIS…That Bush and Blair burst [Iraq’s stability], with overwhelming military might, into a volatile and scarcely viable polity – with a war-plan (regime change) but no plan whatsoever for what happened next.”
Selim Can Sazak, a Fulbright scholar from Turkey, writing at The National Interest notes that “with the Middle East, the natural violence and rivalries that colonialism had masterfully manipulated to maintain itself are portrayed as the underlying causes of a justified imperialism.” He shows how “the Ottoman Empire had developed a system of peaceful coexistence” prior to the colonial order that was imposed from outside. Furthermore “The British Empire laid the foundations of the Arab-Israeli conflict by promising Palestine both to Arabs and to Jews.”
Sazak illustrates other problems with roots in European colonialism.
- “The overthrow of Egypt’s King Farouk and Syria’s Shukri al-Quwatli created the Baath and its oppressive nationalisms.”
- “Deposing Mossadegh made Iran a dictatorship that could only be overthrown by the forces of theocracy.”
- “Supporting Saddam against that theocracy brought the First Gulf War.”
- “The deployment of troops in Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War fuelled Al Qaeda.”
- “The invasion of Iraq created space for a sectarian bloodbath.”
- “The plight of the Kurds, to finally gain autonomy, also has its roots in colonialism: Iraq, Iran and Turkey’s feared the aftershocks of colonial promises to carve a Greater Kurdistan out of their countries.”
Terry Schleimer, a consultant from the US, has a different view on how the colonial powers ruined the region. “What must be remembered is there were basically no countries in the Middle East but a culture of mercurial tribes who robbed from each other, were nomadic and had no central leadership.” He notes that The West “drew countries on a blank map of the Middle East. Out of whole cloth they created Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran and Transjordan, then granted protectorship to their own countries. No regard was given to tribal warfare, religious sectarianism or previous claims to territorial ownership. We, the West, are still suffering from this classic blunder, as are the people who reside there.”
Creating dictatorship, Israel and Bin Laden
Let’s fast forward from Sykes-Picot to the period after the Second World War. The West had imposed not only fake borders on the region, but also various leaders, such as King Farouk in Egypt, King Faisal in Iraq and the Shah of Iran. As Tarek Fatah noted, the CIA coup in Iran helped fuel Islamism. The West created the Saudi state and the British supported its nascent rulers, the Saud family. One author notes “support for these family regimes has been a part of US policy for decades.” The West also created all the Gulf Monarchies. As Owen Jones notes in The Guardian “the west’s relationship with Middle Eastern dictatorships that have played a pernicious role in the rise of Islamist fundamentalist terrorism. And no wonder: the west is militarily, economically and diplomatically allied with these often brutal regimes, and our media all too often reflects the foreign policy objectives of our governments.”
By allying with the Gulf regimes and Saudi the West created a Wahhabi-funded Islamist-conservative ideology that spread around the region. In doing so the West created the beginnings of a romance with the Saudis that actually resulted, in what Norm Dixon at Green Left Weekly says is “how the CIA created Bin Laden.” This was “Reagan’s Jihad” of the 1980s. “Glowing praise of the murderous exploits of today’s supporters of arch-terrorist [Osama] bin Laden and his Taliban collaborators, and their holy war against the ‘evil empire’, was issued by US President Ronald Reagan on March 8, 1985.” Dixon illustrates how “[Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zvignew] Brzezinski’s grand plan coincided with Pakistan military dictator General Zia ul-Haq’s own ambitions to dominate the region. US-run Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe beamed Islamic fundamentalist tirades across Central Asia (while paradoxically denouncing the “Islamic revolution” that toppled the pro-US Shah of Iran in 1979).”
The West also was intimately involved in the creation of Israel. Europe and the US wanted an outpost in the Middle East and Israel was a perfect candidate. At Russia Today reports, “Israel turns 64 on May 14th. But it only seems to have made it to today thanks to unconditional life support from the US, UK, EU and powerful global Zionist lobbies.” The creation of the Palestinian refugee problem unsettled other regimes in the Middle East, and also forced many Muslim countries to eschew human rights in order to combat Israel. Israel, many experts conclude, has opposed democracy in the Middle East and supported dictators. Opposition to Israel, for instance, helped create Gamal Abdel Nasser and necessitated dictatorship in Egypt and gave rise to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Also the “axis of resistance” run by Bashar al-Assad had to be created to oppose Israel. The UN has blamed Israel for lack of reform and overall stagnation in the region. A UN report on Arab integration noted “the Western parties perceive the Arab region as vital to their achievement of three main goals, namely, maintaining oil flow at reasonable costs; preserving the security and military supremacy of Israel; and fighting terrorism.”
This feeds into another Western supported problem in the Middle East: The dictators. Abdennur Prado, President of the Junta Islámica Catalana, notes that “The pro-democracy protests against Western-supported dictatorships in the Arab world have shown, once again, the immense hypocrisy of our rulers. What side are the Western governments on, the side of the protesters or the side of dictators? The answer is simple: on the side of those that generate millions in benefits for large Western multinational corporations.” The author notes that this “highlights the decisive role of Israel in the maintenance of dictatorships in the Arab world, something corroborated by the statements of Netanyahu in support of [Tunisia’s ZIne el Abidine] Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, as well as by decades of collusion with the House of Saud and other monarchies fabricated by colonialism.” In the way the support of Mubarak by the West was primarily to serve Israel and vice-versa. Therefore “Islamist movements are nowadays the champions of democracy against the corrupt tyrannies funded by the West.” Irfan Ahmad has an excellent list of how the West ruined democracy in the Middle East at Al-Jazeera.
Gary Leupp at The Socialist Worker notes how the West’s tentacles were all over the dictators in the Middle East prior to the Arab Spring. “The U.S. State Department, which had counted Ben Ali a key ally in the War on Terror, responded with caution [to the Arab Spring.” Statements by Western policymakers back this up, French Defense Minister Alain Juppé noted, “every, let us say Western country … European and American, has considered Tunisia to be a politically stable country developing economically. … Doubtless, we have all underestimated the degree of exasperation of public opinion faced with a dictatorial police state. … I would like someone to name one big American or European government which, before the events in Tunisia sought the departure of Ben Ali.”
Thus the US and its Western friends play a double-game, pretending to support democracy as Shadi Hamid (director of Brookings Doha) concludes “the US and Western powers supported ‘reform’ but were not willing to overturn an order which had given them pliant regimes.” But as the expert Leupp shows, it is all about profit and self-interest: “Washington’s all for freedom of speech and assembly, until they threaten close U.S. allies. The U.S. ambassador to Yemen cautioned protesters to avoid provocation…he’s telling those seeking to topple [Yemen’s] Ali Saleh. They may well wonder why they should, while western governments contemplate arming the Libyan opposition…Various reports early this month indicated that Hillary Clinton approved the Saudi intervention in Bahrain.” Another author notes “the West encouraged the revolutions that overthrew the brutal regimes it had so carefully attempted to stabilize.”
Some commentators have argued that the West’s traditional support for Sunni regimes is the problem, one Eldar Mamedov calls “Shiaphobia.” He argues “The West should live up to its own self-proclaimed reputation as the protector of religious liberty and pluralism worldwide.” The Economist sees the Shia-Sunni problem as well, “many of the West’s potential or de facto allies are scarcely more savoury. Some of the most capable anti-IS forces are the Shia militias that once fought American soldiers and waged a vicious sectarian war against Sunnis.”
Noam Chomsky looks more closely at only the Iraq conflict of 2003 as a fountainhead of the region’s problems. “The US and British invasion of Iraq was a textbook example of aggression, no questions about it. Which means that we were responsible for all the evil that follows like the bombings. Serious conflict arose, [and] it spread all over the region. In fact the region is being torn to shreds by this conflict. That is part of the evil that follows.”
Hidden hand behind ISIS?
Considering how the US blundered in Iraq and although it might have wanted to protect Sunni allies, it handed the country to Iran, Khaled Diab reminds us that the West helped create ISIS. “When we remember that Prime Minister Cameron himself has posed a far greater threat to British values and the safety of British citizens. After all, Cameron supported the illegal and bloody invasion of Iraq, against the will of millions of Britons. And this disastrous enterprise, which which triggered serious blowback, created the vacuum from which ISIS emerged and helped radicalize some Muslims towards Britain, could not have gone ahead without his party’s support.”
Similarly, although the US supported Mubarak, its hidden hand also supported the Muslim Brotherhood. Many have illustrated how the West toppled Mubarak on behalf of the Brothers. Dr. Essam Abdullah, an Egyptian intellectual, notes “the popular revolts in the Arab world — and the Obama Administration’s position towards them — were determined by political battles between various pressure groups in Washington.”
The West not only created ISIS by toppling Saddam and then not employing the Baath regime officers and forcing them into the hands of radical Islam, but the West actually supports ISIS according to William Engdahl at Russia Today. “The financial backing for ISIS jihadists reportedly also comes from three of the closest US allies in the Sunni world—Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia…it now emerges were trained by US CIA and Special Forces command at a secret camp in Jordan in 2012.” He quotes Jeffrey Silverman, Georgia Bureau Chief for the US-based Veterans Today (VT) website, that a ISIS leader Batrashvili “is a product of a joint program of the US through a front NGO called Jvari, which was set up by US Intelligence and the Georgian National Security Council, dating back to the early days of the Pankisi Gorge.” Thus it “has been the objective of leading neo-conservatives in the CIA, Pentagon and State Department all along. The CIA transported hundreds of Mujahideen Saudis and other foreign veterans of the 1980s Afghan war against the Soviets in Afghanistan into Chechnya to disrupt the struggling Russia in the early 1990s, particularly to sabotage the Russian oil pipeline running directly from Baku on the Caspian Sea into Russia. James Baker III and his friends in Anglo-American Big Oil had other plans. It was called the BTC pipeline, owned by a BP-US oil consortium and running through Tbilisi into NATO-member Turkey, free of Russian territory.” So the West condemns ISIS but also created it, just as it was shown above that it created Al Qaeda.
The secret hand of the West is also hiding behind Boko Haram and Nigeria’s policies. Jean Herskovitz showed in a 2012 piece in the NYT that “there is no proof that a well-organized, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram even exists today” and that in fact it was a conspiracy to expand the “war on terror.” This Western intervention is part of a new imperialism. As expert Max Fischer showed: “A theme of Nigeria’s post-colonial history has been the divisions between ethnic and religious groups, which lots of others have argued has its roots in the country’s somewhat artificial, British-imposed borders.” As with the Middle East, the problems in Nigeria are Western-driven.
This is part of the “blowback” that Stephen Kinzer sketched and predicted in a 2012 article in the Boston Globe. He noted that the West was responsible for spreading Jihadists throughout Mali and the rest of North Africa, through to Somalia. “It is the direct result of an episode that may at first seem unrelated: the US-led intervention in Libya last year. Rarely in recent times has there been a more vivid example of how such interventions can produce devastating unexpected results.” He sees it as part of the larger pattern; “building a jihadist army in Afghanistan, the United States helped create a transnational terrorist force that has plunged an entire region into war. The invasion and occupation of Iraq set off a shattering civil conflict. Now Mali can be added to the list of countries that have been pushed into instability by American-led military action.” As the Telegraph concludes about the recent havoc in Libya, it was “created by the West” because the West “abandoned” Libya. Ironically the same West that toppled Qadaffi also collaborated with him and caused the current mess.
At the root of course is oil, the West only cares about oil, hence the interest in ISIS, not Libya as The Independent clearly shows in a 2007 article that is prescient today. And of course, some commentators have shown how “Western Liberals created Islamism.” For instance, one expert write: “Not only have the western liberals revived an ancient fanaticism in the Muslim world, but they have created – in several ways – openings by which this fanaticism has been able to reach the West and flourish here.”
Return to Anfal
A report at The Daily Mail shows how then Special Envoy for Reagan, “Rumsfeld helped Saddam build his chemical weapons arsenal.” It reminds us that in the 1980s the West was not only involved in helping Saddam but also in the ill-conceived Iran-Contra affair. And the West invaded Lebanon in 1982 and in so-doing helped provoke Hezbollah. And of course that is on top of the British invasion of Egypt in 1956 and intervention in Jordan in 1958.
It isn’t a surprise therefore that during a recent discussion on the BBC about “the New World Disorder” the guest Sir Hew Strachan was asked to evaluate the US role in the Middle East. He claimed Obama didn’t have a policy and that his lack of a policy was harming the Middle East. Throughout the region the view is the same. Khaled Diab recalls “I witnessed the disruptive influence of returning Egyptian jihadists – then from Western-sanctioned Afghanistan.” There is widespread recognition that the rise of ISIS is due to a failure of US policy in Iraq. Rami Khouri, an professor at the American University of Beirut, notes on the BBC “the US gave rise to al-Qaeda and ISIS started with Americans in Iraq, and support for non-democratic brutal Arab governments, those things gave rise to Al-Qaeda.”
Every regime in the Middle East is a creature of the West, in this analysis. Saudi was supported by the British and then propped up by the US. Wahhabism is therefore also made in the USA and Al-Qaeda which was supported by the US in Afghanistan and after the 1991 war the reason for Bin Laden’s anger was the Western military bases in the holy kingdom, which were themselves there to prop up Western interests against the Western ally Saddam, who was fighting the Western-backed Kuwaitis and also the Iranian Ayatollahs who only came to power because of the Western-supported coup in the 1950s. Similarly the West supported King Farouk in Egypt and then supported Israel which gave birth to Nasserism and of course the West then supported the Brotherhood, while at the same time supporting Mubarak and then supported his toppling and the by the Brothers and then supported the coup against Mohammed Morsi as well. From Yemen to Oman; ISIS to Hezbollah, there is a Western hand behind them all, either they exist as rebellion against the West or because of the West, democratic forces unleashed in the Arab Spring undermined the region’s stability because of the West while the West suppressed democracy; Western meddling in the Cold War ruined the region and set its peoples against eachother as well as re-drawing of the maps during the colonial era. The Sunni-Shia divide was stoked by the West, and Islamism was created by the West. CIA hands were behind most Middle Eastern leaders, including Ali Hassan Salameh, the Palestinian ‘Red Prince’, and Saddam Hussein was even a CIA asset as revealed by Rashid Khalidi. Genocides were supported, such as against the Kurds while the Kurds were also supported by the West to destabilize regimes. The West, via its ally Israel, helped sponsor Hamas, while also propping up the government of the Palestinian Authority through training security forces.
The West…the West…the West…the West…the Gaza war, Syrian Civil War, Iran-Iraq war…the West…The West…1915…1922…1948..1953…1956…1958..1967…1973…1982…1991…2003…2011…2014…