A History Lesson: the recent Middle East

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The first misstep the US took in the Middle East was to get involved in it, at all.

Oil and competition with Britain for it in Iran, and our continual maneuvering against the USSR on its periphery, led our CIA to overthrow a nationalist government led by Prime Minister Mossadeq in 1953, because he advocated nationalization of foreign oil operations (British and US). The US backed the Shah, who gave them oil fields for their efforts on his behalf. However, luxury at the top didn’t improve the lot of those on Iran’s lower rungs; it got worse, but the Shah’s American and British supporters didn’t notice: they were making money.

The Islamic Revolution was the inevitable result of the Shah’s repression, his overreaching and his attempts to keep the lid clamped down tight: Iran exploded.

The Shah was the first to go probably because his reemergence was a foreign creation to begin with.

After that, the Middle East became a lot less stable. It was held together by strongmen: Nasser’s successors in Egypt, the Assad’s, the Saudi monarchy and Saddam.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution?

Arabs and Persians (Iranians) rarely get along, and neither do Sunnis and Shiites; they fought a bloody war between Iran and Iraq, in which the US allied with Saddam!

We drove out Saddam Hussain, who had been CIA’s man until he got too ambitious and tried to take over Kuwait, and then the unforgivable: plotting to assassinate George HW Bush. By overthrowing Saddam and his whole Baathist organization we turned Iraqi society upside down by empowering the majority Shiites. They promptly began discriminating and abusing their former rulers, the Sunnis, probably what they had learned from them. The Sunnis, therefore, were fertile ground for Daesh (also known as ISIS).  American bad judgement gave Daesh its professional military—Saddam’s army dissolved by American forces: soldiers and officers were eagerly recruited by Daesh. Fitting, when they captured so many of the successor Iraqi “Army’s” US-supplied weapons.

I doubt Obama thinks the Libyan strategy (a coalition under his leadership) was a success. Qaddafi was summarily executed by his militia captors and the whole nation-state fell apart. Now, Libya has no functioning state. There are two regional governments, each claiming to be the legitimate government, while the vast majority of the country is controlled by militias of all stripes, often fighting each other. Qaddafi’s collapse, despite vast caches of arms, also armed Islamic militants as far away as Nigeria. And 150 miles of Libyan coast (on the Mediterranean) is controlled by a Daesh offshoot. We’re bombing them, so far with little success.

When Reagan sent aid and training to the “Freedom Fighters” in Afghanistan, they were the mujahedin, but some of them, the non-Afghans, morphed into al Qaeda and many of the Afghan mujahedin formed the Taliban.

So, our military interventions in the Middle East since 1953, created: an enemy Iran, a Shiite Iraq informally allied with it, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and then, Daesh in Iraq and Syria, as a result of Shiite arrogance and American stupidity, chaos in Libya and a Daesh foothold, still chaos in Afghanistan and a ferocious rebellion in nuclear armed Pakistan.

We still count on our “friends,” including the Saudi monarchy, the monarchies of the Gulf plus Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, but some of our “friends” are much more concerned with stopping Shiite (Iranian) gains, than with stopping Daesh. They’re bombing rebels and civilians in Yemen and have locked down Bahrain. Iran, of course, is aiding the rebels in both places.

And Turkey, our longest, closest military ally, is bombing our most effective fighting force against Daesh, Kurdish allies in Iraq and Syria.

Quite a mess, isn’t it.

We should get out of the Middle East and leave it to its own chaos. Islamic radicalism, was fomented by our interventions—and our support of the Saudis, the core of Wahabist radicalism.
We should create a cordon sanitaire and announce a non-interventionist position. Then, the US and Europe would be less likely targets, and non-radicals among both Shiites and Sunnis would realize they were going to have to handle the radicals themselves, or be exterminated. We’d sell them weapons, but what gives both the US and Europe long-term leverage: we don’t need their oil, especially since we should be converting to non-fossil fuel energy sources as rapidly as possible.

In Europe, not only is Germany leading the way with solar and wind, Norway is reconfiguring its hydropower system, so it can become the battery for all the solar and wind energy collected above current daytime use.

Refugees generated from Mideast chaos should be seen for what they can be: dynamic replacements for aging populations in both Europe and North America. If we are no longer intervening in their region, we should have much less to fear from them.

Even when we were dependent on Mideast oil, we simply could have purchased it (it’s fungible), instead of thinking we had to control it. That’s especially true now. If American oil companies are scared of losing their investments, that’s their business, not ours.

As for Israel, from my perspective, they’re making the same mistake the Iraqi government is making: alienating their Muslim population, and squeezing it, instead of attempting to peacefully separate, or peacefully integrate (two states, or one unified state with citizens of different faiths). One or the other must happen, but the US cannot and should not attempt, anymore, to interfere.

On the other hand, it should not support Israel if it oppresses its non-citizen subjects, and that includes military aid. To do so, continues to make us anti-Muslim, in the eyes of most of the Middle East, and therefore involved and a target, perhaps the primary target, of the dispossessed.

Chaos creates more and more of the latter.