2012 Middle East Scenarios

By Alan Caruba

A bit of history—the troubles we are seeing today in the Middle East actually began following the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War One. The 1919 Versailles Treaty that followed carved up the Middle East into colonies to be controlled by England and France, each with their figurehead monarchs. The Arabs involved had no say in the matter.

The result was that Lebanon and Syria would become French colonies and Iraq, a totally invented nation, was to be a British colony. Egypt had been a British protectorate since 1882 and they had owned a majority share of the Suez Canal since 1875. A huge stretch of sand called Arabia was ceded to the Saudi tribe, while in 1917 Trans-Jordan was set aside for another Arab tribe, the Hashemites, who aided the British, but it remained a mandate and was later renamed Jordan.

Among the other Middle Eastern entities was a British “protectorate” called Palestine, a slice of land on the coast of the Mediterranean whose Arab inhabitants considered themselves to be southern Syrians. For many years it had been the British intention to cede it to Jews as a national homeland and this was confirmed by the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

Following World War Two, the British and French lost control over their colonies worldwide as the result of rising nationalism in which the local populations asserted independence. India was the largest, but perhaps the most famous was the declaration of Israeli sovereignty in 1948. By then the British had long known that the enmity of the Arabs for the Jewish population was intractable. It still is.

This history is cited to reveal that what we called the Middle East today, while ancient in years, is fairly “new”; the product of European powers and their conflicts in the last century. Included in this review is the Maghreb, the northern tier of nations in Africa.

The Western powers that emerged following World War Two were content to let the region’s monarchs and dictators rule so long as oil could be extracted and exported to the West. Thus, in addition to the Saudis, dictatorships in Syria and Iraq were tolerated while Lebanon which had fashioned a functioning democracy divided between its Christian and Muslim populations was extolled as the Paris of the Mediterranean.

If the survivors of a slaughtered European population of Jews had not fled that continent for a new life in Israel, followed swiftly by Jews driven out from Arab nations, as well as from Russia, the focal point of Muslim hatred would not exist today. It’s not like the Jews had a lot of choices. Today, it is Christians who are being forced out of the Middle East.

Muslims never wish to give up land they have conquered and they had been a presence in the Holy land for centuries. The Crusades are testimony to that, but neither Christians, nor Jews were going to abandon their sacred sites. When the Jews declared Israel a new nation in 1948, they were immediately attacked by five Arab nations. These days, Arab scholars are re-writing history to exclude any reference to the 3,500 years that Jews have lived in Israel.

The schism between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims dates back to shortly after the death of Mohammed in 632 A.D. The creation of Iraq drew boundaries that put them together and as in the case of the takeover of Syria by an oppressed Alawite tribe only ensured internal frictions. Turkey, that had embraced modernity after World War One, has been sliding backward to radical Islam in recent times. There isn’t a border in the entire region that is not closely watched.

In 2011, populations in Tunisia drove out a 40-year dictator and, in Libya, it led to the killing of another, Moammar Gadhafi. Egypt’s dictator, Mubarack, was forced to resign and there has been nothing but turmoil there while the creation of a new government has seen the Muslim Brotherhood emerge from decades of repression.

U.S. troops were not out of Iraq by twenty-four hours before the bombs went off and political turmoil ensured. Smart money is on the breakup of Iraq into perhaps three separate entities with the Kurds controlling the northern region. Turkey will not like that, having dealt with Kurdish insurrections for years.

In the wake of the creation of Israel, the other seminal event was the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Since then, working through Arab proxies, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, the Iranians—Persians—have done what they can to create armies with which to attack Israel or, assuming they secure nuclear weapons, to obliterate it. Close allies with Syria, the Iranians are doing what they can to assist the Assad dictatorship. Meanwhile, both Syria and Iran are facing increasing sanctions, including those from Arab nations.

From a purely American point of view, we have only one ally, Israel, in the Middle East and the Obama administration has treated it like an enemy. Israel has understandably concluded it cannot depend on the U.S. for support. In the midst of the turmoil, Israel is particularly vulnerable and will be until the current administration is replaced.

Poor diplomacy, the withdrawal of military forces from Iraq, bogged down in Afghanistan, incidents with Pakistan, and the complete failure to achieve its stated goals with Iran have caused the U.S. to lose much of the influence it once had in the region.

If World War Three does not begin in the Middle East, it will come as a big surprise to a lot of people. The pot is boiling and the potential for small conflicts to spread into big ones is huge. The West is not dealing with nations, but tribes.

The Moral Lib­eral Fea­tured Writer, Alan Caruba, writes a daily post at http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com. An author, busi­ness and sci­ence writer, he is the founder of The National Anx­i­ety Center.

Copyright 2012 © Alan Caruba