Wednesday, October 01, 2014


Jonathan Spyer pointed out an important insight, the wars in the Middle East today can be understood as the unresolved aftermath of the faulty division of the Ottoman Empire by the western powers, Britain and France, after WWI.  The artificial States of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan (Jordan), Palestine (that was replaced by Israel) and Hashemite Arabia (that was replaced by Saudi Arabia) are now all engulfed in conflict because natural and rational borders were not allowed to form.  The very idea of lumping Kurds, Sunni and Shia Arabs together to form a country, Iraq, by Winston Churchill as Colonial Secretary, was ignoring reality and storing up future conflict.  The so-called "Arab Spring" that swept from North Africa to the Middle East was the sweeping away of those dictatorial regimes that kept these artificial divisons frozen in time.  Now there is a shaking out of the branches, now we will see which entities can survive the test of time.  It is likely that the map of the Middle East will be as different in the future as Europe was after WWI and WWII.
Spyer also quoted a colleague who said that "Israel is the Yazidis with an army," a truism that gives pause.  Some of the Sunni Arabs are fighting to re-establish what they perceive as the status quo ante, namely how the Muslim world was before the western concepts of democracy, national states and human rights interfered with their perfect faith community.  Of course, the West also is opposed to their treatment of women, who are no more thatn chattels in the fundamentalist mind, and in fact the IS have instituted slave markets for women in Mosul and elsewhere.  Also, the IS have no toleration of minorities, such as Jews, Christians and others in their midst, but seek to destroy them by forced conversion and killing.
The Ottomans ruled their Empire with a repressive hand, and that is why the Arabs were persuaded by Lawrence (of Arabia) and the British to join the war against them in Arabia.  Although the British Army under Gen Allenby captured Jerusalem and then defeated the Turks at Megiddo, the Arabs were allowed to enter Damascus in 1918 as victors, even though their contribution was secondary.  But, soon they were kicked out by the French and they depended on the British to donate former Ottoman lands to the Arabs.  All the countries thus founded were ultimately given their independence, although they languished under the persecution of dictatorial regimes, as brutal as the world has ever seen, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Assads in Syria, who murdered hundreds of thousands of their own people. Now the processes of history are proceeding violently. 


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