Is Total Chaos The Middle Name Of The Middle East? – Analysis


“Civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness.”Werner Herzog

“Hegemony is as old as Mankind.” — Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. National Security Advisor

In December 2010, the Arabs, sick to death with the corrupt patriarchal and tribal regimes that ruled them since independence, took to the streets to express their discontent and to ask for democracy. Initially, nobody believed that such a movement would topple well-rooted dictatorships. But the anger quickly grew in size and scope and became a true tsunami that swept away the ruling dictators and with them the proverbial lethargy of Arab society.

The media quickly dubbed the successive uprisings “Arab Spring” but, alas, soon this became a mere wishful thinking as counter-revolution, civil war and chaos started to take the place of the much-desired democracy and freedom. Many countries of the Middle East have gone awry instead of initiating a fresh start in national democratic empowerment.

Creative or constructive chaos?

Chaos is coming to the Middle East in the aftermath of the failure of the so-called Arab Spring, and it is coming big. However, one wonders, quite rightly, that the chaos in question, brought about by the national chapters of the multinational of terrorism al-Qaeda and extremists of different Islamic colorations, is not the chaos prophesized or sown by President Bush Jr. and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after the fall of Saddam’s Iraq ?

On this issue, Global Research writes:i

Secretary Condoleezza Rice stated during a press conference that “[w]hat we’re seeing here [in regards to the destruction of Lebanon and the Israeli attacks on Lebanon], in a sense, is the growing—the ‘birth pangs’—of a ‘New Middle East’ and whatever we do we [meaning the United States] have to be certain that we’re pushing forward to the New Middle East [and] not going back to the old one.”1Secretary Rice was immediately criticized for her statements both within Lebanon and internationally for expressing indifference to the suffering of an entire nation, which was being bombed  indiscriminately by the Israeli Air Force.

The very al-Qaeda that was felt out by the Arab uprisings three years ago and that was beheaded by The American military machinery when killing, in a daring operation executed by the Navy Seals in Abbotabbad, Pakistan, its charismatic leader Bin Laden.

Al-Qaeda is coming back with the promise of more death and chaos in the region. Bin Laden might be dead but the nihilist philosophy of the movement is still alive and kicking, thank you very much.
Al-Qaeda does not want a democratic Middle East because that would mean its demise, since it is a theocratic absurdity and not a democratic movement. It is a faceless beast that thrives on chaos and it has lethal dormant cells in this part of the world in addition to many sympathizers and followers worldwide.

During the unfolding of the Arab uprisings, al-Qaeda was totally absent from the scene, many commentators believed wrongly that it was a thing of the past especially after the decapitation of its leadership by the American government. But like the mythical sphinx it is resurrecting from its ashes strong and more dangerous than ever because it feeds on chaos and the Middle East is in the grip of chaos right now.

How did Chaos come to the region?

Actually, many analysts believe that chaos came to the region when the Tunisian vegetable seller Bouazizi set fire to his body, and by so doing igniting the Arab uprisings, but the truth of the matter is that the door to chaos was opened by the invasion of Kuwait undertaken by the megalomaniac pan-Arab dictator Saddam Hussein. At the height of his career, after the war with Iran, he believed strongly that he could do anything and get away with it, and since he owed so much money to Kuwait and was not ready to pay it back, he decided to rob the bank named Kuwait and settle the problem once for all.

For Beyond Today, a digital publication of United Church of God, the Middle East is a name that scares:ii

“Mention the words “Middle East,” and several other words come to mind— violence, bloodshed, hatred, instability, refugees and terrorism. In short, the Middle East scares us! For most of us outside the region, it’s hard to make sense of the huge changes in the Middle East in recent years—the Arab Spring, governments overthrown, dictators toppled, the never-ending wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL)”.

Thus, on July 1st, 1991, he sent his army into Kuwait on the ground that it was part of historical Iraq before the arrival of British colonialism. On discovering oil in this territory, the British decided to create a mini state to serve their purpose of controlling oil flow in the region, maybe Brunei Darussalam is a similar case in South East Asia, and even today Malaysia has not swallowed the bitter pill of the British creation of this small state out of its national territory.

More than 600 Kuwaiti oil wells were set on fire by retreating Iraqi forces, causing massive environmental and economic damage to Kuwait. Photo by Jonas Jordan, United States Army Corps of Engineers, Wikipedia Commons.
More than 600 Kuwaiti oil wells were set on fire by retreating Iraqi forces, causing massive environmental and economic damage to Kuwait. Photo by Jonas Jordan, United States Army Corps of Engineers, Wikipedia Commons.

By invading Kuwait and robbing its wealth, Saddam Hussein inadvertently opened the gates of hell on the region. Fearing the fact that emboldened by his act in this small country, he would sweep through Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf States; the West expected the worst and started preparations to counter his moves.

If Saddam had succeeded in controlling the Gulf States, he would have controlled the oil routes and the flow of this important commodity necessary for the whole world and especially for the developed countries whose economies rely on it heavily. Has this have happened, the world would have gone anew on a recession as in 1973 when the Arab countries imposed an oil embargo on the West following the Ramadan War.

So to avoid this happening again, the West moved quickly to put an end to the threat represented by Saddam to its interests and to the security of the friendly countries of the area. America armed with the resolutions of the United Nations, put together a large coalition of 34 countries to liberate Kuwait. The Gulf War I, codenamed Operation Desert Storm took place from 17 January 1991 to 28 February 1991, and the coalition, in no time, achieved the declared objectives of this campaign. The Iraqi army was defeated and expelled from Kuwait and the door of hell and chaos on the area was opened wide.

While most the armies of the coalition returned home after completing the assigned mission, American troops remained in the area to protect their allies and with them remained an unanswered question: why did not President Bush Sr. order the American troops to go in hot pursuit of Iraqi defeated soldiers? The answer is that such a project is another episode for which the US had a different agenda.

However, the Americans still, indirectly, encouraged the Shi’ites to rise against Saddam which they did in the southern provinces but their revolt was crushed in blood. It seems that the Americans when encouraging such a move had two things in mind, knowing better the demonic psychology of Saddam in addition to making Saddam regain confidence in his power after the defeat and, also, increase the enmity of the Shi’ites against his rule to utilize them appropriately in the second episode of the onslaught on his rule.

Following this bloody episode, the Shi’ites became the fifth column of the Americans by which they would prepare the final assault on Saddam Hussein and his eviction from power for ever. The Shi’ites role was not only to assist the Americans in their designs but also lead the country after the fall of Saddam, given that they are numerically a majority in the country and was always ruled by a Sunni minority.

In the interval to the Gulf War II of 2003, the Shi’ites helped the American intelligence community in preparing for this final chapter of war on Saddam. They were instrumental in collecting military and civilian data for use by the Americans and in training their troops to have access to power and usher in chaos in the region.

Chaos in post-Saddam Iraq

Statue of Saddam being toppled in Firdos Square after the invasion. Photo Credit: US MIlitary.
Statue of Saddam being toppled in Firdos Square after the invasion of Iraq. Photo Credit: US MIlitary.

After the toppling of Saddam, the power was offered constitutionally to the Shi’ites in Iraq as a reward for services rendered but, on the other hand, the Americans indirectly punished the Sunnis for their support of the Iraqi dictator. Realizing suddenly that they are a minority, the latter displayed openly their enmity to the Americans and resisted their master plan for dismembering Iraq along sectarian lines.

The insurgency of the Sunnis started in 2003 and is still going on today, it has climaxed with the Fallujah resistance to American troops in 2004 which was quelled in blood and it continued with Abu Musab Zarqawi, the emir of al-Qaeda that gave the Americans hard time before he was eliminated by an American drone strike.

Chaos is in Iraq to stay for many decades to come. It is in the North which is under the control of the Kurd Peshmerga but, also, in central Sunni Iraq and southern Shi’ite Iraq. Chaos is reigning supreme because of the enmity between Sunnis and Shi’ites that might break into a sectarian war that would engulf the whole Middle East anytime. The unfortunate sectarian and irresponsible policies of Nouri El Maliki, who, acts more like the head of Shi’ite party than a national Prime Minister with responsibility for all religious groups and for all Iraqis, are fanning the flames of such future war.

Chaos will, also, thrive in Iraq for a long time to come due to the actions of terrorist groups from either side or from political parties and from the government proper because there is so much bad blood between the different opponents and very little disposition to national willingness for forgiveness and unity. Last but not least, chaos will thrive in this country because of the sectarian strife in Syria, which is not showing any sign of abatement for the time being.

For Allen Pizzey from CBS News, Jihadist-bred chaos is spreading in Mideast in, general, and Iraq in, particular, and nothing will be able to stop it, for now, at least: iii

“In Iraq, the government is losing significant ground to al Qaeda militants. On Sunday, fighting in Anbar province killed 22 Iraqi soldiers and 12 civilians. This is happening as Syria’s civil war is spilling into Lebanon.

Ongoing chaos in the Middle East is creating what nature abhors and fanatics love: a power vacuum.
Al Qaeda affiliated gunmen have taken over the streets of Fallujah, a resurgence of the civil war that the U.S. invasion of Iraq sparked off.

In what now looks like a wasted effort, more than 100 U.S. Marines lost their lives in Fallujah in 2004 in a fight to drive the militants out and hand control to the Shiites who now run Iraq.

Today, the U.S. has no leverage other than backing the Iraqi government.

Secretary of State John Kerry, mired in the increasingly problematic Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, offered the Iraqis moral support.

“We’re not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight, but we’re going to help them in their fight,” Kerry said. “This is a fight that is bigger than just Iraq.””

Chaos in Syria

Syrian refugee center on the Turkish border 50 miles from Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Voice of America News: Henry Ridgwell, Wikipedia Commons.
Syrian refugee center on the Turkish border 50 miles from Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Voice of America News: Henry Ridgwell, Wikipedia Commons.

The Syrian discontent started in March 15, 2011, in the wake of the Arab uprisings which were labeled as Arab Spring. Initially, the protestors demanded more freedom and democracy from the Sh’ite Alaouit minority represented by the Ba’th Party of Bachar al-Assad. The government reacted violently killing dozens of protestors and by April it became a nationwide movement of revolt.

From a protest movement, the situation morphed into a military uprising and a political rejection of the Assad regime. The opposition coalition made of a myriad of political groups fielded a military resistance. Initially, the resistance scored many victories with the help of support from Saudi Arabia and the West and when everybody thought that the Assad regime was about to fall, the Russians brought military help in 2013 to Assad because his demise will mean for Moscow the end of its presence in the Middle East. This much-needed help came at the right time to give the regime a lease of life.

According to the United Nations, the death toll surpassed 100,000 in June 2013, and reached 120,000 by September 2013. In addition, tens of thousands of protesters, students, liberal activists and human rights advocates have been imprisoned and there are reports of widespread torture and terror in state prisons.

The Iranian government realizing that the fall of Assad would mean the loss of their last outpost and would put them directly in the fire line of America and Israel, instructed the fighters of the Lebanese Hizbu Allah and their own Revolutionary Guard to bolster the defenses of their Sh’ite ally Bashar al-Assad, but, in the meantime, the latter committed a grave political error by using his chemical weapons on his own people.

Saudi Arabia outraged by this unpardonable war crime, called on America to strike out of existence Bashar and his clique. But America sensing a change of heart on the part of Tehran over the nuclear issue, preferred not to punish Assad, Iran’s protégé.

The American move gave Assad confidence in the survival of his regime and his negotiators at the Geneva II summit of January 2014 showed that they were not ready to envisage a Syria without Assad, the sine qua non condition of the opposition. As result, chaos will continue in Syria reaping lives of innocent people and more Syrians will flee the country.

Chaos in Egypt: The Islamists take the unfortunate path of violence

The Egyptian revolution is undoubtedly the most dramatic episode of the so-called Arab Spring. It is almost like the famed Egyptians telenovelas that are screened by most Arab televisions on their release, which are fictions containing love, hate tears and revenge.

The Egyptian revolution or revolutions have been best described in an Op-Ed by the famous American journalist Thomas L. Friedman:iv

“If you’re looking for any silver lining in what is happening in Egypt today, suggest you go up 30,000 feet and look down. From that distance, the events in Egypt over the past two-and-a-half years almost make sense.  Egypt has actually had three revolutions since early 2011, and when you add them all up, you can discern a message about what a majority of Egyptians are seeking.

The first revolution was the Egyptian people and the Egyptian military toppling President Hosni Mubarak and installing the former defense minister, the aging Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, as the de facto head of state. Tantawi and his colleagues proved utterly incompetent in running the nation and were replaced, via a revolutionary election, by the Muslim Brotherhood’s party, led by President Mohamed Morsi. He quickly tried to consolidate power by decapitating the military and installing Brotherhood sympathizers in important positions. His autocratic, noninclusive style and failed economic leadership frightened the Egyptian center, which teamed up last month with a new generation of military officers for a third revolution to oust Morsi and the Brotherhood.

To put it all in simpler terms: Egypt’s first revolution was to get rid of the dead hand, the second revolution was to get rid of the deadheads and the third revolution was to escape from the dead end.”

It so seems the Egyptians don’t know what they really want. First they took to the streets in a very responsible manner to bring down the dictatorship of Mubarak and his clique, and in no time his police state crumbled down. The army realizing that the dictator is condemned to go, refused his order to shoot the demonstrators and instead opportunistically sided with them, thinking of their image and standing in the future given that this institution has always been a key player in Egyptian politics since independence.

An Egyptian soldier and tank in Tahrir Square, during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
An Egyptian soldier and tank in Tahrir Square, during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.

Mubarak was overthrown; the army played the role of the nice guy and took over themselves to protect the people and the State and serve as the caretaker government to prepare free legislative and presidential elections.

The man of the street gave the army the green light to secure the state and the elections but the Muslim Brotherhood viewed the military with much suspicion, and this is true of all Islamists movements in the Arab world because they believe that such an institution is the den of secularists, enemies of their Islamic grand design within the area.

The Army organized the legislative elections that went to the Brotherhood and then the presidential elections that brought Morsi to the President’s office. The Brotherhood emboldened by two successive victories pictured themselves as depositories of the people’s will to set up an Islamic state in spite of the presence of a lethal enemy i.e. the army which is the ally of the Americans and the Israelis.

Nevertheless the Brotherhood had a long term plan to re-Islamize the country and the state and create an Islamic republic similar to the Iranian one, even in its military component.

Once in the President’s seat, Morsi set about to cleanse the army from the old Mubarak guard. His advisors suggested to put Sissi in the chief’s seat of the Army on the ground that he was docile and lacked fiery ambition of other army generals. However, the dream of Morsi and the Brothers was to have their own army, a copy of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to protect their revolution and keep an eye on the army proper.

The Brotherhood could have succeeded in achieving their objectives if Morsi proceeded gradually and carefully, but unfortunately for him, he moved on fast. His main deadly mistake was the imposition of the Islamic constitution, a logical prelude to the Islamic state in which the Brotherhood would play the key role.

Ghanouchi, Tunisian Ennahda’s Islamist party guide was more intelligent in delivering a constitution free of religious references that was welcomed by the majority of Tunisians and instructing his party people to hand the government to a group of technocrats to prepare for the post-constitution legislative and presidential elections, he wishes to win again. It might be the case that the intelligent move of Ghanouchi is the result of his life experience in Great Britain when in exile.

Fearing that Egypt would go Islamic, the Brotherhood way and threaten the stability of the whole region, the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel called on the army to take power. The secularists, at the instigation of the army circulated a petition nicknamed tamarrud “revolt,” the supporters of the initiative took to the streets calling on the army to take power, and thus the latter ousted Morsi and took control of the state.

For weeks the sympathizers of Morsi demonstrated in Rabia Adawiya square for what they called the return to legality but in vain, after weeks of uninterrupted sit-in, the army charged the Islamists killing dozens of them. This was the match that ignited the powder keg of chaos in Egypt.

Today, The Brotherhood has taken a different path that of terror, unfortunately. This will plunge Egypt in years of chaos and instability and the country will definitely loose so much in this venture: loose investment, loose business, loose tourism and loose Arab leadership and in return will gain nothing.

Things however, could go the other way if both sides, for the sake of stability, could have accepted to share power, the likelihood of this happening is, alas, nil because the army has the power and the Brotherhood has terror and both believe they are right and can advance their cause. How long the face-off will last, nobody knows?

Chaos in Libya

Libya, in few months, went from the dictatorship of a megalomaniac pan-Arab leader into the dictatorship of militias, Islamic in their majority and maybe with megalomaniac chiefs, yet again. What happened in fact is that Libya the state, feared for unpredictability and mega million dollars readied for all kind of causes worldwide suddenly went tribal, which means that in the end this country will break up into several provinces. Maybe it will be the first country to go from a country proper into tribal countries.

March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea. Photo: U.S. Navy, Fireman Roderick Eubanks
March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea. Photo: U.S. Navy, Fireman Roderick Eubanks

In Libya, there is a government that has, on paper, a police and an army, but this government exists only in Tripoli, outside of the capital, the country is ruled by the militias. Actually, the Libyan example is very close to the Somali experience. If the government fails in the months to come to assert its power on all the Libyan territory, the country will become de facto Somalia II, in the area. In principle, Libya is already another Somalia, the militias, in certain parts of the country, are already selling oil to foreign companies and pocketing the money to use for their own needs. Soon, these militias, if they have not already done that, will have their own government that will contest the decisions of the paper government of Tripoli.

Post-Qaddafi Libya is bent on becoming three countries or more, if nothing is done on the part of the Tripoli paper government. Indicators show that it is slowly fragmenting in three countries: Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan. The only bold initiative that could ultimately reverse this motion is the creation of a federal government that would delegate home affairs to local governments. Will the Libyan political class opt for that or go the way of the irreversible fragmentation?

The Somalization is looming over the Arab Spring countries

In conclusion, one can say that The Arab Spring has or is going the wrong way, instead of delivering the much-needed democracy and social justice; it is triggering the fragmentation of countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt and possibly setting up a Somali-type of Scenarios.

Iraq, though not a fully Arab Spring country is de facto three countries: the Shi’ites in the south, the Sunnis in the center and the Kurds in the north. Iraq will never regain its unity for Nouri El- Maliki is not doing anything to keep the country united. For many Sunnis, his aim is to have Iraq or the Shi’ite provinces join Iran. However, though Iran would want that, it will be dangerous for the country to accept it in the sense that such an act would encourage the Kurds to create their own country and their own Kurd brethren of Iran and Turkey would want to join the new entity, so this could start the dismembering of Iran itself and problems for the whole region.v

So far, the only countries that seem to be escaping the scenario of Somalization are: Tunisia that has produced a progressive constitution and also Yemen. If everything goes as planned, these two countries might become democratic in the full sense of the word and save the Arab Spring from total bankruptcy, but only time can tell.

Final thought

For Global Research, chaos in the Middle East is the ultimate responsibility of the Western world that wants to control the region and benefit from its resources in the best way possible. The inherent tensions of the region have been adroitly exploited to suit the “Anglo-American-Israeli agendas” and democracy has not been forcefully pushed in the countries that are subservient to American interests:vi

“The overhaul, dismantlement, and reassembly of the nation-states of the Middle East have been packaged as a solution to the hostilities in the Middle East, but this is categorically misleading, false, and fictitious. The advocates of a “New Middle East” and redrawn boundaries in the region avoid and fail to candidly depict the roots of the problems and conflicts in the contemporary Middle East. What the media does not acknowledge is the fact that almost all major conflicts afflicting the Middle East are the consequence of overlapping Anglo-American-Israeli agendas.

Many of the problems affecting the contemporary Middle East are the result of the deliberate aggravation of pre-existing regional tensions. Sectarian division, ethnic tension and internal violence have been traditionally exploited by the United States and Britain in various parts of the globe including Africa, Latin America, the Balkans, and the Middle East. Iraq is just one of many examples of the Anglo-American strategy of “divide and conquer.” Other examples are Rwanda, Yugoslavia, the Caucasus, and Afghanistan.

Amongst the problems in the contemporary Middle East is the lack of genuine democracy which U.S. and British foreign policy has actually been deliberately obstructing.  Western-style “Democracy” has been a requirement only for those Middle Eastern states which do not conform to Washington’s political demands. Invariably, it constitutes a pretext for confrontation. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan are examples of undemocratic states that the United States has no problems with because they are firmly aligned within the Anglo-American orbit or sphere.”

So, in conclusion, the so-called friends and allies of the Middle East would prefer perpetual chaos in the region to remain in control of the destinies of its people and the riches of its land. A clear manifestation of neo-colonialism.

You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter: @Ayurinu

v. Cf. Roy, O. 2009 Politics of Chaos in the Middle East (Ceri Series in Comparative Politics.) Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Olivier Roy argues that the unintended and unforeseen consequences of the “war on terror” have artificially conflated conflicts in the Middle East such that they appear to be the expression of a widespread “Muslim anger” against the West. In this new book he seeks to restore the individual logic and dynamics of each of these conflicts, the better to understand the widespread political discontent that sustains them. Instead of two opposed sides, an “us” and a “them,” he warns that the West faces an array of “reverse alliances”: in Pakistan the West backs General Musharraf, whose military intelligence services support the Taliban; in Iraq the United States shores up a government that has close links to its arch-enemy, Iran; the Iraqi Kurds, allies of the Americans, give sanctuary to an adversary (the PKK) of a fellow NATO member, Turkey; while the Saudis support the Iraqi Sunnis who are fighting Coalition forces. If these issues were not enough to contend with, the Shia-Sunni divide has emerged as one of the leading strategic factors in the Middle East. But the “war on terror” is not merely the geopolitical blunder of a lunatic neo-conservative fringe in Washington; it is also deeply rooted in Western perceptions of the Middle East. Chief among these is the belief that Islam, rather than politics, is the overarching factor in all such conflicts, which in turn explains the West’s support for either would be secular democrats or more or less benign dictators. Roy concludes by arguing that the West has no alternative but to engage in a dialogue with the political forces that count, namely the Islamo-nationalists of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education science at the university in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islam and Islamism as well as terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism.

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