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posted on 18 December 2016

A Brief History Of The Middle East

by Doomstead Diner

-- this post authored by Pal Loy

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

The whole world is like a chessboard, the two main players are the US and Russia, (formerly the Soviet Union), but there are other players too.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are important regional players in the Middle East, and Turkey wants to be important again as well. The objective of the game is to raise your own score, in terms of political influence and control of resources, and/or lower your competitor's score. Thus reducing a country to chaos can be bad for your opponent and hence good for you.

Saudi Arabia is Wahhabist Muslim and is the creator of Al Qaeda and Islamic State. Iran is Shi'ite Muslim, who are the principal enemy of the Wahhabists. Iran's allies include Iraq's Shia, Syria's Alawites (Assad), Lebanon's Hezbollah, Palestine's Hamas, Yemen's Houthis.

After WW1 the British and French, having defeated the Ottoman Empire and dissolved the Caliphate, redrew the map of the Middle East, settings up a mix of different ethnicities and religions in each country, so they would be difficult to rule, and therefore weak and dependent on imperial support. In return the West wanted their oil.

So in the 1970s, the US had a plan to undermine the Soviet Union by supporting Muslims against the godless Russians in what it called "the arc of instability" - Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Not being Muslims themselves, they needed the cooperation of a Muslim ally, which was Saudi Arabia (which turned out to be a very bad choice).

Saudi Arabia set up their Wahhabist proxy force, Al Qaeda, and sent them to Afghanistan with logistical support from Pakistan, and weapons from the US, to fight to Russians. This worked, but once the Russians had gone, the US lost interest in Afghanistan, though Saudi Arabia didn't. They cultivated the Taliban, and moved Al Qaeda all over the place in the Middle East and North Africa, and set up madrassas to teach their particular brand of Wahhabist Islam, looking to destablise regimes and bring about a new Caliphate with Saudi Arabia controlling Mecca and Medina, and naturally supplying the Caliph.

In 1979 Iran had had enough of the brutal US puppet dictator, the Shah, with revolutionary movements formed around the communists and the ultra-conservative Shi'ite clerics. The US chose to support the clerics, and assisted Ayatollah Khomeini to return from exile in Paris. The CIA helped him continue the Shah's work of killing off the extremist communists, and form a government with the moderate communists. Having consolidated his government, he then turned on the remaining communists, threw them in jail, where they were later murdered. Things were going well for the US - they had managed a real revolutionary situation and were still in there. Then Khomeini revealed that his Islamic Revolution was for all Muslims, both Shi'ite and Sunni, and the common enemy was the interfering western powers, with the US as "the Great Satan".

This was a major set-back for the US, and forced them to keep relying on Saudi Arabia as an ally against Iran, even though Al Qaeda was an enemy too in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The first country for Iran to start exporting their new ideology to was Iraq, which was a Ba'athist (secular) state, run by the 20% Sunnis under Saddam Hussein. They were already strongly anti-Israel, "the Little Satan" and majority Shi'ite. The US supported Iraq in its war with Iran, but could only manage a draw.

Then in 1990-1 came Saddam's big mistake - Iraq considered Kuwait to be a province of Iraq (Basra under the Ottomans) and Kuwait was slant-drilling in the Rumaila oilfield to take Iraqi oil. Saddam thought it had a green light from the US to invade Kuwait, but somehow they got it wrong, or were misled. Instead they were quickly driven out of Kuwait by the US, and subsequently the CIA used a Shi'ite Iraqi proxy force under Allawi to try regime change which failed. Saddam remained under sanctions and CIA plots till the invasion in 2003.

In 2001 the US used the 9/11 attacks to justify invading Afghanistan and expelling the Taliban. This put the US at odds with Saudi plans. The Taliban melted away and left the US scrambling to find a puppet to run the place. This of course didn't work well, due to corruption and the opium trade, and the Taliban re-emerged to sew chaos which continues to this day.

In 2003 the US then invaded Iraq, overthrowing Saddam. Ironically this turned Iraq over to Iranian influence - Iraq was 60% Shi'ite, and Allawi became PM. Allawi had been given asylum in Syria during Saddam's final years, so was an ally of Assad.

So now Russia was close to getting Syria, Iraq and Iran back on its side, cutting off Israel from Europe plus Turkey. With former-Soviet Armenia onside, and Georgia partly dismembered by South Ossetia, it would be easy to form a bloc Russia-Georgia-Armenia-Iran-Iraq-Syrian. This would cut off Azerbaijan and all its oil from Turkey and the West - for a big win on the chessboard.

To make matters worse for the US, Turkey has Sunni Islamic ambitions too and obviously this doesn't fit well in NATO or Europe. Turkey has a Kurdish problem too, because the WW1 map split the Kurdish lands between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Kurds don't have any friends, but the US are using them as their proxy force at the moment in Syria and Iraq.

This of course angers Turkey, so Erdogan has invaded northern Syria to block the Kurds from controlling the entire Syrian border, and within Turkey the crack down on the Kurdish Turks continues. Meanwhile the (entirely credible) accusations of US involvement with the attempted coup, and membership of NATO and the EU, and the flood of refugees from Syria, are increasingly destabilising Turkey.

As the remaining civilians and rebels are being extracted from East Aleppo, and being let go in rebel-held Idlib, an important battle has been won, but the war continues. The US is putting more "trainers" and weapons into Syria, and the Russians are moving in two companies of their elite Chechen fighters, the Syrian tragedy is set to continue, and we remain on the brink of WW3.

So no white hats at all anywhere in the Middle East, and not in US or Russia either. However the duplicitous US and its tame media are so clearly struggling to find a coherent policy, and coming out with so much crap about caring for the children of Aleppo (but not about the children of Mosul, who they are bombing) that it makes Putin look really statesmanlike. Let's hope a new President Trump will sort it all out.

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